Château de la Roche en Loire, 2018 Update

After expounding the virtues of Lionel Gosseaume and Henry Marionnet in this week of Touraine tasting updates, I thought I should now turn to another favourite domaine in this appellation. I find it hard to believe that it has been four years since I last stopped off to taste the wines of Louis-Jean Sylvos, of Château de la Roche en Loire. While he might not enjoy the same high profile within the Touraine appellation as Henry Marionnet, or indeed many other vignerons of this rather broad and sprawling appellation, I have always been enamoured with the purity of fruit and expressive character of his wines. The whites are frequently fresh and filled with citrus, orchard fruit and floral elements, while his reds simply burst with the scents and flavours of black cherries, violets and blackberries. It is difficult not to smile when you encounter wines such as these.

Château de la Roche en Loire

The château itself is located near the mouth of the Indre Valley, before the Indre itself flows out onto the flood plain of the Loire. This places the domaine in a very different landscape from that in which Lionel Gosseaume and Henry Marionnet reside. We have left behind the sandy river-framed soils of the Sologne, which during the 19th century were little more than a swamp (it was the extensive planting of pine trees and new drainage works there, all carried out during the 19th century under the orders of Napoleon, which brought the land up to the standard required for agriculture, including viticulture). Here, looking down on the Indre, the vines send their roots down not into reclaimed sandy soils but into deep seams of fissured limestone (the roche in the name of the estate should give us a clue to this). These vines are dotted around the château in several parcels, amounting to 6 hectares altogether, mostly Chenin Blanc (a reflection of the terroir and another contrast with the Sologne, where Sauvignon Blanc dominates), as well as a number of smaller plots dedicated to the traditional Touraine varieties, including Grolleau, Cabernet Franc and Côt. The vines are tended using certified biodynamic methods.

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