When I think of the Loire Valley my thoughts turn first to wine, but this is of course a region with so much more to offer. There is history engrained in the walls of many of the region’s grand (and also some that are not so grand) châteaux, stories of kings and queens, with many famous and familiar characters popping up, from Cardinal Richelieu through to Joan of Arc. And it is also a region with many great culinary delights to offer the epicurean visitor, the rillauds, rillettes and rillons of Anjou and Touraine, the Anjou cheese-and-cream specialty of crémet, the blood-thickened sausage known as gogue, pâté de prunes made with local plums (complete with stones in the last one I was fortunate enough to devour), I could go on. Astute locals know of all these treats, of course, and the best sources for each.
Along the length of the Loire, France’s grandest river which boasts on either side many thousands of hectares of unspoilt bocage, many locals are very prepared to source their own food from the wild. There are pike, eels, perch and bream waiting to be caught in the Loire, and boar, deer and countless game birds secreted in the woods on its banks. One man who knows all this, and indeed takes advantage of it, is hunter and fisherman Francis Blanchet. Of course, Francis is also a vigneron (why else would he be appearing on these pages?) and his domaine is waiting to be discovered on the main road that passes through Le Bouchot, a small village that sits on the slopes above Pouilly-sur-Loire. Here in this profile I look at Francis Blanchet’s story, and I get to grips with the wines he makes from his 10 hectares of vines. That’s when he isn’t fishing, or hunting, of course.
“I am the son and grandson of vignerons” says Francis Blanchet, although in fact there seems to be much more history here than a mere three generations. Francis tells me that an acte notarié dating to the end of the 17th century, 1684 to be precise, indicates that the Blanchet ancestors were making a living as vignerons even at this time. Even so, although Francis is seemingly descended from a long line of vignerons, it is really only during his tenure that the domaine has been built up to what it is today.
Born in 1962, Francis seems to have been bitten by the wine bug at a very early age. Presumably influenced by the sea of vines among which he lived, he told his own father that he would like to become a vigneron when he grew older. So it was only natural that, as a young man, he subsequently enrolled at the Lycée Viticole de Beaune where he studied for a Brevet de Technicien Agricole qualification. It was in 1984 that he returned to Pouilly-sur-Loire, starting out with just 2 hectares, a micro-domaine.