There are many Loire Valley vignerons I have met and tasted with on numerous occasions, but I suspect I visited and tasted with Claude Papin, of Château Pierre-Bise, more often than any other. I can recall visiting him at the domaine in the little hamlet also named Pierre-Bise, and I can recall tasting with him and Vincent Ogereau at La Table de la Bergerie, hosted by Yves Guégniard, where I would join the trio for dinner, the evening usually involving pulling the corks on older bottles from all three domaines, including some of what might be regarded as Claude’s experimental cuvées.
My numerous meetings with Claude Papin (pictured below) stick in my mind perhaps because they can be so challenging and yet, at the same time, so thought-provoking and rewarding. It is not the language barrier, although I have to follow Claude’s words with a greater degree of concentration than I do some other vignerons, but rather his rich and multi-layered philosophies on viticulture, all of which are interwoven with a deep and considered knowledge of the many different terroirs which he works. It can be hard work, but a meeting with Claude will always leave you feeling enriched. And if you find his viticultural theories a little too confusing, you can always concentrate on simply tasting his wines. In recent years the style has become more honed, more pointed, with greater purity and brighter minerality, and the quality remains very high.
In this profile I look at all aspects of Claude Papin’s work, in the vineyards and in the cellars, and also at the range of wines he makes. Before that though I begin, as always, with what history I have been able to elicit for Claude and Château Pierre-Bise.