Of all the profiles of Loire vignerons I have on this site I think this one, of Thierry Puzelat, to be one of the most complex, and most difficult to write. Keeping abreast of Thierry’s vinous activities is akin to hitting a fast moving target, and given the fact that I only visit the Loire Valley two or three times a year it sometimes feels as though I am trying to hit that target from a very long distance. The issues are many. First, Thierry is committed to natural, minimal intervention, low-sulphur winemaking, which introduces some variability into his portfolio of wines. Cuvées which offer bright and crystalline fruit one year are textured and oxidative the next, and the blends of any one wine may differ from one vintage to the next. And any one cuvée may be a Touraine one year, Vin de France the year after. For the Puzelat adherent picking up a single bottle off the shelf this might not matter too much, but when trying to provide a coherent summary of the domaine and what it offers it makes things very complicated. Secondly, a significant part of Thierry’s vines are entitled to the Touraine appellation which is in a state of flux; there are many changes in permitted grape varieties and other aspects of the appellation in the pipeline, with once-permitted varieties now illegal, and so on. Wines which have until recently worn the Touraine appellation will either have to evolve to meet the appellation’s incoming criteria or, more likely, be rebadged as Vin de France, adding further complexity to the Puzelat picture.
On top of this Thierry Puzelat seems to be in possession of a boundless quantity of energy and enthusiasm for new vinous projects, so that to understand the man and his wines we must look beyond Clos du Tue-Boeuf, the domaine with which he is best associated but which is merely the nucleus of his activities. Put another way, a profile of Thierry Puzelat is complex because the man himself is complex. The first of Thierry’s extra-curricular activities that I became aware of was a programme of vineyard rescue he commenced, working with local vignerons to salvage small plots of vines, often indigenous and under-valued Loire varieties such as Romorantin or Pineau d’Aunis. This noble task subsequently grew into a full-scale négociant business, one big enough for Thierry to have taken on a partner, long-term Puzelat employee Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, thus creating the Puzelat-Bonhomme label. With time this label evolved into a domaine of its own; more detail on that further down the page. In parallel, Thierry has also imported wines from outside France, particularly from Spain and Chile. These wines tend to have a natural theme, often made by vignerons Puzelat knows personally or who once worked with the late Marcel Lapierre, who was himself an inspiration to Thierry. Most recently he has also taken a stake in a natural wine bar in Orléans. And who knows what other project lies just around the corner?
So Thierry’s story is a multifaceted one. For the purpose of this profile, I will try to maintain a focus on the man and his wines, those marketed under the Clos du Tue-Boeuf label. Before that though, a little background information on the family domaine, and how the Puzelat brothers came to it, is warranted.