Writing of Sancerre in the mid-20th century Pierre Bréjoux, author and onetime Inspector General of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, described a relatively small vineyard around Bué, with just 100 hectares of vines. Writing in Les Vins de Loire (Parisienne d’Editions Techniques et Commerciales, 1956) he tells us that there were 62 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, and about 10 hectares of Pinot Noir, curiously implying that about 28 hectares were planted to other varieties, I suspect most probably Gamay but perhaps also Chasselas (which was not confined to the vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire, no matter how intriguing that story might be).
That there are many more vines in Bué today is testament to how this appellation and in this village in particular has continued its post-phylloxera recovery and ascendency since Bréjoux’s visit. Today, for example, Gilles Crochet, who took over the running of the Lucien Crochet domaine in the early 1990s, tends more than 30 hectares, equivalent to about one-third of the entire 1950’s vineyard.
Turning to the writings of Pierre Bréjoux to introduce Lucien Crochet, and the incumbent Gilles, is no coincidence. Bréjoux wrote of a small handful of vignerons in his little guide to the wines of the village, but two who he mentioned are of great relevance to the story of this domaine. The first was Lucien Picard, who Bréjoux tells us was based near the Place de l’Église in the heart of the village. Picard tended a number of local vineyards, in Bué and in neighbouring villages, including a parcel in Chêne Marchand, and he also worked as a courtier, connecting vignerons and buyers and no doubt taking a cut for himself when he did so.
Clearly enamoured with the wines, Bréjoux praised the character of Picard’s rosé, which he described as “among the best of the Sancerrois”, as well as his white, it being “difficult to imagine one better”. He does all this before lamenting the fact that he and Lucien have drunk up all the 1945 vintage (or, being cynical, at least that is what Lucien has told him). Lucien was a pioneer in domaine bottling in the Sancerre appellation, so for all we know he could have been hiding an entire cellar full of the 1945 away from Bréjoux’s eager palate.