Five Wines from Domaine Pichot, 2020
By Chris Kussack
Sometimes, reflecting on all I have written on the Loire Valley over the last twenty years, I feel I have only ever managed to scratch the surface of this wine region. Looking back solely over the last twelve months I have encountered cuvées never until that moment tasted, and been introduced to vignerons I had never before met (or even heard of in some cases), despite more than two decades of obsession with the region.
Some of these were young vignerons starting out in their very first vintage, like Alexandre Giquel, so it is no surprise they were new to me. Others, however, have been around a little longer, and sometimes I have to ask myself how I have managed to survive so long without ever encountering their wines.
The Pichot family certainly fall into the latter category. This long line of vignerons can trace their viticultural activities in Vouvray back to the 18th century, as I described when I wrote up the 2015 Domaine Pichot Vouvray Coteau de la Biche just a few weeks ago. The domaine as it exists today, however, was not created until the 1990s, when the father Jean-Claude and the son Christophe Pichot joined forces.
The former had vines at Le Peu de la Moriette, close to the town of Vouvray, while the latter was running a domaine inherited from grandparents and situated in the Vallée de Nouys, just up the road from Domaine des Aubuisières. Uniting the vineyards gave Christophe more than
24 hectares to work with, some in familiar and under-rated lieux-dits such as Le Marigny and the aforementioned Le Peu de la Moriette, others in less familiar vineyards such as Clos Cartaud and Clos Berger, both of which are situated well back on the plateau.
Thanks to Christophe Pichot I recently had the opportunity to taste through some recent and older releases from the domaine, which I report on here.
Alongside the 2015 Vouvray Coteau de la Biche I tasted another five wines. First up was a sparkling Vouvray from vines in the mysterious Clos Saint Mathurin (I am still not quite sure of the location of this clos). Bright and sinewy, this is very much Vouvray in the modern style, which just happens to be endowed bubbles, through a second fermentation in bottle using the méthode traditionnelle. From vines dedicated to the cuvée, the end result is very good, and could easily compete with a number of sparkling wines from some well-known domaines in the appellation.
Two demi-sec wines communicated quite elegantly what Vouvray is all about. Both from vines at Le Peu de la Moriette, the younger wine from the 2019 vintage shimmers with primary fruit at the moment, but it seems clear it should evolve well. Certainly the character and quality of the
2009 vintage suggests as much, a wine showing delicious dried and caramelised fruit character with fine acidity for balance. Both wines were a delight, and I suspect the 2019 may warrant a higher score given time.
Bringing up the rear were two moelleux cuvées which demonstrated the dedication and commitment to quality and tradition chez Pichot. The 2010 Le Marigny Moelleux, from what is perhaps Vouvray’s most under-rated vineyard, was a charming delight. Full of quince, dried fig and botrytis character, moving into caramelised nuts, with fine balance. This is drinking beautifully now, but it surely has another decade in it (and probably much more than that). Finally, the 1993 Vouvray Les Larmes de Bacchus shone with botrytis character. A cuvée made from a harvest of individual botrytised berries, this combines Vouvray classicism with quince, praline and fig, alongside a scented rose-petal complexity. This is a great example of a high-level moelleux cuvée, but truth be told the entire set of wines was very impressive.
On the evidence of these wines, this is a domaine that cannot be ignored. I have tasted a lot of Vouvray over the years, a lot of it less than inspiring, wines that are lean and emaciated, or insubstantial wines tarted up with residual sugar, pale imitations of the appellation’s classic demi-sec style. None of these accusations can be levied at this domaine and its wines. In their impressive quality these wines would certainly square up to those from some of the best domaines in the appellation, including the likes of Champalou and Domaine des Aubuisières. In terms of their confident style and structure, however, they remind me more of the wines of Domaine du Clos Naudin or Domaine Huet. These are proper wines which leave me wondering how I have not noticed this domaine before.
While I have chosen to write up these wines and publish my notes today, clearly I can’t leave it here. This is a domaine which demands further investigation, so I will have to visit Christophe to see his vineyards and cellars for myself. This won’t be the last you hear of Domaine Pichot. (15/9/20) Tasting Note
The wines described below were tasted in September 2020.
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Clos Saint Mathurin 2016:
There are just 1 hectare of 35-year old vines at Clos Saint Mathurin, planted on clay and limestone soils. The fruit is picked by hand, and after pressing the first fermentation is in 70% stainless steel and 30% barrel, the second fermentation is in bottle, followed by 36 months sur lattes. This has a pale straw-gold hue in the glass and a firm bead.
There follows a convincing nose, rich in dried citrus fruit, sweetly polished, with white currant and white pepper. It is smouldering and smoky, modern and reductive. Fruit rich on the palate, and lean in terms of texture, this has great acidity and a fresh mousse. Bright, sinewy and peppery, with a youthful and full stance, this is hugely impressive.
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Peu de la Moriette Demi-Sec 2019: From vines in Le Peu de la Moriette, situated just behind Jean-Claude Pichot’s original cellars, alongside the road which heads northwest out of the town of Vouvray, up towards Domaine Champalou. The soils are clay and limestone, the fermentation mostly in stainless steel, with perhaps 20% in barrel. It has a very fresh and super-pale hue in the glass, an appearance which belies the explosion of fruit I find on the nose, which seethes with melon, freshly cut pear, tangerine and sweet desert apple, all underpinned by a floral, crushed-chalk character. Texturally it is fresh and filled with pithy substance, demi-sec generosity and plenty of acid drive. A fine and vigorous finish. 93/100
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Le Peu de la Moriette Demi-Sec 2009: This is the same cuvée as the 2019 poured alongside, although this has ten years of bottle age behind it. Other than the vintage, the main difference (with my well-worn pedant’s hat on) appears to be the presence of the definitive article in the name. Despite being a decade older it still has a fresh, mid-gold hue. Aromatically it remains wonderfully tight and incisive, modern and looking quite reductive in style despite its age, the threads of stone fruit swirled with a flinty and matchsticky character, with just a lightly caramelised edge. This is followed by a fabulous start on the palate as despite the wine’s aromatic restraint in the mouth it explodes with stone and citrus fruit, peach, mango, cantaloupe melon and tangerine, all backed up by a firm, pithy and energetic grip. It has a full demi-sec texture, cut with fine mineral and acid structure. This is brilliantly styled. 95/100 Moelleux
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Le Marigny Moelleux 2010: The lieu-dit of Le Marigny is perhaps best known through the wines of Domaine des Aubuisières, but Jean-Claude and Christophe have some vines here too.
The vineyard is tucked in to the west of the town of Vouvray, on the première côte, and as such it deserves to be better known. Now ten year’s old, this wine displays an orange-gold hue in the glass, richly pigmented yet shimmering and bright. The nose is rich in botrytised and evolved fruit character, with scents of dried figs, quince, griddled pear and white peach, along with traces of white raisin and caramelised nuts. A wine which is rich in substance and purity, nicely botrytised but cut with fresh acidity, giving it a very elegant, taut and vigorous style. Very well done. 94/100
Domaine Pichot Vouvray Trie de Grains Nobles Les Larmes de Bacchus 1993:
This cuvée is sourced from a broad area of vines, on a variety of soils including clay, limestone and flint, across the entire domaine. As the name suggests it is a late tri, of hand-picked botrytised fruit, the juice vinified in barrel. In the glass it displays, at 27 years of age, a lightly burnished orange-gold hue. The nose combines Ligérian classicism with botrytis hedonism in a convincing style, leading with notes of herbal tea over toasted and dried fruits, caramelised nuts and praline. The palate has a simply fabulous texture, sweet yet sinewy, brimming with toasted and dried fruits mirroring the nose, figs especially, touched with notes of rose petals and grapefruit, the latter element coming through with a delicious and quite savoury acidity. All in all this is bright and focused, with a long, tense, sinewy and acid-bright finish. A great success. 96/100 Vouvray