Domaine Jourdan, Chinon

Domaine Jourdan & Pichard label

Country & RegionFrance, Cravant-les-Côteaux
ProducerAnnick and Francis Jourdan
Founded19th century

T hen said Pantagruel, Come, my lads, let us begone! we have stayed here too long about our victuals; for very seldom doth it fall out that the greatest eaters do the most martial exploits. There is no shadow like that of flying colours, no smoke like that of horses, no clattering like that of armour. At this Epistemon began to smile, and said, There is no shadow like that of the kitchen, no smoke like that of pasties, and no clattering like that of goblets. Unto which answered Panurge, There is no shadow like that of curtains, no smoke like that of women’s breasts, and no clattering like that of ballocks. Then forthwith rising up he gave a fart, a leap, and a whistle, and most joyfully cried out aloud, Ever live Pantagruel!
        —Rabelais, Chinon’s favorite son

In 2012 Francis and Annick Jourdan left their home in Normandy to start a new life in Chinon. They were cereal farmers and grain brokers with a passion for the vine, so much so that Francis actually tried to get the rights to plant a vineyard near Caen but could not persuade the authorities to let him (he admits that he has two feet in the soil but a head sometimes in the clouds). Consequently, they jumped at the chance to exchange the production of grains for the production of wine when the opportunity came in the form of Philippe Pichard, who was the fifth generation to run his family’s domaine in Chinon. But he had no heir, and when the Jourdans offered to buy into the domaine as partners, he agreed.

Domaine Jourdan Francis and Annick

Pichard went organic in 2000, eventually applied for and received certification from Ecocert in 2011. After the Jourdans came on board, the domaine received biodynamic certification from Demeter in 2015. The Jourdans embraced the philosophy—it was their wish to make wines as naturally as possible—and the only immediate change they made was to add white to the domaine’s red by planting one acre of Chenin Blanc. That happened in 2013, and they planted it on a highly regarded hillside site known as La Croix Boissée, where Domaine Bernard Baudry has its parcel of Chenin. The slope is particularly dense with limestone and perfect for Chenin. In fact, the domaine’s parcel is adjacent to the Baudry parcel, and it was Matthieu Baudry who persuaded Francis and Philippe to plant Chenin.

In the years that followed, Francis and Philippe added modern windmills and a water spraying system for frost protection. Today, the domaine farms 44 acres divided into 20 parcels. Nearly 80% of these vines are within a mile and a quarter of the winery, which lies in the eastern part of the Chinon appellation near the village of Cravant-les-Côteaux. This is the small Vienne River valley, and the domaine’s vines start pretty much at the river, range across the plain (or benchland, if you prefer), and extend up to the plateau above Cravant. At the river, the soils are sand and gravel; the plain is limestone and much more clay; and the hillside heading up to the plateau has clay with a lot of limestone. Each cuvée is grounded in its geology. All the vines are hand-harvested and the grapes are de-stemmed.

After working with the Jourdans for nine years, Philippe Pichard retired in 2021.

Domaine Jourdan Francis with barrel

The painting on the barrel above comes from Chinon’s favorite son Rabelais and his story of the giant Gargantua whose unquenchable thirst for milk forced his father to find thousands of cows (Rabelais named a figure of 17,000!) for the boy.

The Wines

Chinon Cuvée Clair de Lune
Chenin BlancTheir one acre of Chenin is planted in 2013 on the limestone hillside of La Croix Boisée climbing up to the plateau above Cravant. La Croix Boisée's local reputation was such that it was the first lieu-dit officially recognized by the Chinon syndicate (this, back in the last century). The site spreads across 42 acres of the flank overlooking the plain and river, and boasts 17 growers. Francis lets the wine ferment naturally in old demi-muids, and stirs the lees, racks, and bottles according to the lunar cycle.
Chinon Cuvée Les GravinièresCabernet FrancThe domaine’s vin de soif, bottled in spring following the harvest. It comes from the alluvial gravels near the Vienne, 18.5 acres divided among seven parcels of vines averaging 35 years of age. Ferments are in steel and the wine is aged in concrete vats.
Chinon Cuvée Varesnes
Cabernet FrancPronounced var-renne, this cuvée comes from roughly six acres on the plain, where the heavier clay soils give more spice and structure to the wine. The vines are mature, averaging 45-years; the wine ferments in steel and undergoes around 14 months of aging in concrete vats. Production averages 850 cases.
L'ArcestraleCabernet FrancThe top cuvée, their homage to fine Bordeaux, made only in good years. This comes from the domaine's best Cab Franc vines, which grow in two parcels on the plain and the hillside, and the wine is aged in wood, 25% of which is new. The 2011 was served at a celebratory D-Day anniversary dinner involving François Holland, Barack Obama, and Queen Elizabeth. When it's made, production ranges from 350 to 700 cases.