Chateau du Petit Thouars
We were greeted at the Chateau by Sebastien du Petit Thouars who inherited the title of Count from his father. We last visited this estate when his father was alive, but Sebastien has now assumed control of the winery, and after our visit, I believe the winery is headed in the right direction.
The estate has been in the family for 400 years while the chateau dates to the 1400s. The vineyards are mostly clay and limestone and they have evidence that grapes were grown on the property since the 1500s, with the only break of 30 years during the 2nd World War.
It’s a relatively small winery with production of 60/70,000 bottles annually, 90% red. Red Chinon has to be made 100% from Cabernet Franc .The primary vineyard is a 26 acre plot which is machine picked and fermented for 2 weeks. The 1.5 acre Chenin Blanc plot is hand picked.
Sebastien predicts that 2018 will be a stellar vintage, despite the recent drought and the July mildew issues suffered throughout the Valley.
We tasted 5 of their wines before an alfresco lunch under a glorious sky and perfect wine touring temperatures: Rosé 2017, dark berry fruit aroma and flavors, bone dry; Les Georges 2016 (also served during lunch) made from free run Cabernet Sauvignon, with dark fruit aromas and sharp tannins- Sebastien called them ‘macho tannins;’ Cuvée Réserve 2014, dark red color with the aroma and flavor of dark red fruits, blended with 1/3 press wine; Cuvée Amiral 2015, similar dark red color with more vegetal nose, all press wine, concentrated and complex, 24 months barrel aging with softer tannins and high acidity; Cuvée Amiral 2010, a perfect vintage, spent 4 years in oak and 4 years bottle aging, deep red color with spice aromas.
Chateau de Coulaine
Jean and Tatiana Bonnaventure are the young owners of Chateau De Coulaine. They were married just 3 months ago at the Chateau and have already established quite a reputation for their wines, which are exported to the States by Skurnik. They produce 80,000 bottles, mostly red Chinon but a few bottles of white made from Chenin Blanc and a sparkling wine.
Theirs is a certified organic winery and since the Cabernet Sauvignon is a ‘green’ grape which by its nature gives ample aromas and flavors of grass if not controlled. They control it partly by removing the stems.
We tasted all of their wines which were quite different than the Chinon that we tasted at Petit Thouars. Coulaine’s wines are not as aggressive with softer tannins and more fruit forward. It’s a matter of personal taste; some people preferred Petit Thouars’ style but I liked Coulaine.
The Chateau dates to the 1600s but the caves where the wines age date back to the 1400s. They use 400 liter old barrels for the reds and 600 liter old barrels for the whites which also undergo batonnage of the lees.
Here is the line up of our wines tasted: Chateau de Coulaine 2017 with dark berry aromas and taste, very little tannin and very approachable; Bonaventure 2015, a great vintage, average age of the vineyard was 50 years, medium clear red color, more vegetal than floral aromas, with more body; Les Picasses 2015, aged 24 months in large barrels, richer, more complex flavors, a wine intended for aging; Clos de Turpenay 2014– this vineyard has an average age of 50 year old vines, aged 2/3 years in large oak barrels with a rich and complex structure; Pieds Rotis sec 2016, made from the Chenin Blanc with a deep yellow color and a distinct fruitiness; Chateau de Coulaine Blanc 2015, aged in oak, with 5 grams sugar, dried fruit aroma, creamy texture with excellent acidity.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our hotel while we visited the Eastern section of the Loire: Domaine de la Tortinière. A former private castle converted to a luxury hotel, this hotel spoiled all of us. Gorgeous, meticulously decorated rooms, the owners spared no expense in converting this piece of history into a hotel. We were sad to leave.