There is simply no accounting for fashion, especially when it comes to wine. We all know the story of Sancerre, a town once known for the predominantly red wines made from Pinot Noir, all grown on the surrounding slopes and steep-sided valleys. With time Sauvignon Blanc came to dominate, a shift in local culture accelerated by the need to replant after the devastation of phylloxera. We can perhaps find many reasons for the shift, including perhaps a growing realisation that the white varieties were perhaps better suited to the Kimmeridgian and Oxfordian limestone terroirs of the Sancerre vineyard, but ultimately I suspect it came down to fashion. If white Sancerre sells better than red Sancerre, be it in the bistros of Paris or beyond, vignerons are bound to plant more Sauvignon Blanc.
Curiously, however, this change in vinous culture from red to white is in contrast to post-phylloxera events in Saumur, in Parnay to be more specific, where Antoine Cristal (or Père Cristal as he was known) encouraged replanting phylloxera-blighted vineyards not with the previously predominant Chenin Blanc, but with grafted Cabernet Franc instead. As one famous region upriver moved from red to white, here in Saumur the vignerons all moved in the opposite direction. In recent years, however, the production of white Saumur seems to have undergone a subtle renaissance in the region, and indeed a handful of domaines such as Domaine du Collier specialise in white over red. One domaine where white certainly has a significant role, Chenin Blanc accounting for more than a quarter of the vineyard, is Château Yvonne, located in Parnay of course, where else but on the Rue Antoine Cristal.
The estate has ancient origins, although specific detail on the history of the domaine is difficult to come but. Today the property is in the possession of a young vigneron named Mathieu Vallée (pictured above), but the grand château in which lives and works is certainly not so young. This logis dates to at least the 16th century, at which time it was already surrounded by long-established vineyards, the vines purportedly tended by monks from the nearby Abbaye de Fontevraud. This arrangement will have come to an end after the Revolution, during which it was not only the nobility who were relieved of their possessions, but also the church. This explains why in 1813 the château and some of the local vineyards came into private ownership, and wine was made in the logis buildings here for the first time.
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