As is the case with Domaine des Aubuisières, we have here another domaine which – despite being at the very top of the game in the Vouvray appellation – is a relatively recent creation. Whereas Domaine Huet and Domaine du Clos Naudin can both lay claim to a winemaking heritage that stretches back at least several generations, in the case of Champalou (and Domaine des Aubuisières) a visit here will see you shaking hands with the very first generation of winemaker. Although they can all can trace viticulture back through their family tree, in each case they have struck out anew, building up a domaine from scratch (or at the most, in Bernard’s case, a few inherited rows of vines), seeing the process right through to the end, not just growing grapes but overseeing the fermentations, making the wine, and then selling it once in bottle. And they have seen more than modest success; incredibly, they have both taken their respective domaines to the very top of the appellation. For this reason every time I have visited this domaine I have felt privileged. Catherine (pictured below) and Didier Champalou (and Bernard Fouquet too) are not just vignerons; they are pioneers.
In the case of Didier and Catherine Champalou the story begins in the 1980s, at the same time Bernard Fouquet inherited his father’s vines, and it was also when Philippe Foreau was in the process of taking over from his father André. Both Didier and Catherine studied at the agricultural college at Montreuil-Bellay, to the south of Saumur, and it was here that they met for the first time. Their studies completed they decided that they wanted to establish a domaine together and, more importantly, that they wanted to start out afresh. This may have come as some surprise to their families, as Catherine is the 12th generation in a long line of viticulteurs, the family having been around Vouvray for many years. Didier can also lay claim to a long winemaking heritage; he is a 6th-generation viticulteur, although his ancestors lived and worked in Poitou, a province of west-central France to the south of the Loire.
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