Domaine François Plouzeau (Domaine de la Garrelière), Touraine
|Country & Region||France, Loire Valley|
|Producer||François & Pascale Plouzeau|
|Founded||Purchased by the Plouzeau family in 1973; François & Pascale took the helm in 1985.|
Alone on a hilltop in the southern reaches of the Touraine appellation, not far from the town of Richelieu, resides the small domain of Garrelière. This is one of Touraine’s leading biodynamic domains, managed by Pascale and François Plouzeau. During Cardinal Richelieu’s heyday in the 1630s, vineyards on this hilltop supplied his court (and probably his workers too) with wine. He had his town built at that time, dismantling much of the great castle of Chinon—one of the finest in all of medieval France—for its finely cut stone to use for the town’s defensive wall and for the better houses lining the grid streets laid out by his architect. The local market was such that by the latter half of the 19th century, the vineyards on Garrelière’s hill were several times larger than the 20 hectares (50 acres) farmed by the Plouzeaus today. Phylloxera wiped them out, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that this historic viticulture began to be resurrected.
The winery occupies an old bank barn, a long, rectangular stone building that was built into the hillside. You enter on the uphill side on the second level, and exit on the downhill side on the lower level. The uphill side faces the Plouzeau’s household and between them is a small courtyard. This is the domain of chickens, a dog and a cat, while the airspace overhead is taken by swallows who fly ceaselessly in and out of the barn from rafters where they nest.
The original 19th century screw press still exists on that second level, built into the floor with gutters to direct the grape juice into bygone fermenters on the level below. On that lower level, burrowing into the hillside and predating the current structure by several centuries, is a stone cellar built in 1645. It’s little more than a long narrow corridor, and in its rear is where the domain ages wine in barrel.
François is a modest yet passionate man, and his wines reflect this. He normally waits until October to harvest for optimal ripeness and he picks at rigorously low yields (40-45 hectoliters per hectare in an appellation where the norm is over 60), ensuring excellent ripeness in contrast to so much of Sauvignon from Touraine. He also works well with lees, with the result that his wines have very fine length and finish with a subtle uplifting zesty spice. Those things, combined with naturally occurring full-malolactic fermentations and François’s very light hand with sulfur, make for textured, opulent, relaxed wine that is such a pleasure to drink.
|Touraine "Le Blanc de la Mariée||Sauvignon Blanc||Absolutely not the run of the mill high-yield, machine-harvested, green and acid Touraine Sauvignon. And that can be a problem—because many people are so used to the hyper brisk norm that they don’t know what to do with a textured wine like this. La Mariée is the right stuff.|
|Touraine "Le Rouge des Cornus"||Cabernet Franc||Classic, delicious Loire Cabernet Franc that goes down so easy in the summer with a slight chill on it.|
|Gamay "Sans Tra La La"||Gamay||Gamay without bullshit!
|Touraine "Cuvée Cendrillon"||Sauvignon Blanc with a dollop of Chardonnay||This takes the domain’s best Sauvignon from tank and pairs it with 10-15% Chardonnay from barrel along with some 5% of Sauvignon from barrel. The wood is a minimum of three years old. Cendrillon is French for Cinderella, the folk tale of the oppressed girl who rose from ashes (cinders) to become a figure of beauty and grace in glass slippers. The label for this cuvée comes from a painting done by a friend of the Plouzeau family. Note that the label for this wine indicates the domain as 'Domaine de la Garrelière'.|