There are certain domaines in Chinon which I know are held dear by many fans of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, particularly those who value the traditional, old-school expression of this variety. One domaine I would place in this category, without a moment’s hesitation, is Olga Raffault. This estate still carries the name of its well-known and respected mid-20th century proprietor but today it is run by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie Raffault (pictured below), with the help of her husband Eric de la Vigerie and their son, Arnaud.
In this profile I examine the vineyards and wines of the domaine today, but as the domaine is doubtlessly regarded as significant within the appellation, it seems only correct to begin by exploring a little of its history.
Olga Raffault hailed from a family of smallholders, a commonplace agricultural activity in France; you grew enough vegetables for your family, with eggs from your chickens and cheese from your goats, but you also grew enough produce to take to market, to eke out a living. Among the vegetable plots and livestock no self-respecting cultivateur would be without a few rows of vines, and on more than one or two occasions these few rows were the starting point for many of the Loire Valley’s most famed domaines. The domaine of Olga Raffault is no exception.
In 1931 Olga married Pierre Raffault, another cultivateur from Savigny-en-Véron, which today we recognise as being part of the Chinon appellation, to the west of the town, north of the Vienne. Combining the two families’ smallholdings the couple found themselves in possession of 3 hectares of vines, although their main activity was the cultivation of asparagus. This is not a surprising choice if you have ever seen the soils of Savigny, which are superficially very sandy and thus well-suited to this particular crop. The young couple prospered, and their annual asparagus harvest saw them through the war years without any great hardship.