A Visit to Domaine de la Noblaie, October 2020

“Do you fancy a walk in the vineyard?”, asked Jérôme Billard, within milliseconds of my crossing the threshold of his cellars. “I have something to show you.”

Never one to refuse an opportunity to get out into the vines – there is, after all, only so much you can learn in a tasting room – five minutes later I found myself standing at the heart of a small vineyard on the slopes above the left bank of the Vienne. I had a good view across the valley to the outskirts of Chinon itself, and just downstream the town’s ancient royal fortress shimmered in the autumn sunshine.

Clos Galon

The old château was impressive enough, especially since its no-expense-spared restoration a few years ago, but I found my eye drawn towards another building, one much closer at hand. Among the vines there stood a narrow two-storey building, obviously of some age. We were standing in Clos Galon, a small partly walled vineyard right next-door to Domaine de la Noblaie, which comes complete with its own micro-château. It is a vineyard which Jérôme (pictured below, in the Clos Galon vineyard) had long admired. And now he had just bought it, complete with its tumbledown maison.

A Visit to Domaine de la Noblaie, October 2020

“Or at least I will have, when we sign the papers next week”, he confessed.

We ventured into the house, and made our way up the tightly wound spiral staircase. Every footstep was a gingerly made advance into the unknown; the steps, carved from blocks of limestone, were heavily worn and cracked by centuries of use, while on the first floor the floorboards were dry and papery with rot, those that had not disintegrated entirely. Our journey thus came to a halt at the top of the staircase. Looking up to where, conventionally, there should be a roof, I saw a combination of open sky and plastic tarpaulin.

“It needs a little work”, said Jérôme. Some vignerons ascend to the title Master of Wine, but Jérôme was displaying some potential as Master of Understatement.

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