Domaine Pichot Vouvray Sec Coteau de la Biche 2015
Back to Vouvray this weekend, and proof (not that any were needed) that even after more than twenty years of tasting, drinking and reporting on wine I am certain that I have only just scratched the surface of this, perhaps the most noble of all Loire Valley appellations. Domaine Pichot is not one I have given much (or perhaps any) space to on these pages over the years, although I have long been aware of its presence in the appellation, not least because one or two other Vouvray vignerons I know have spoken highly of its wines.
The domaine has a fabulous history, stretching back to pre-Revolutionary times, beating even François Pinon who has documents attesting to the creation of the Pinon domaine in 1786, a few years after the Revolution. The Pichot domaine dates to at least 1770, at which time there was just a 3-hectare nugget of vines in the possession of the Dattée-Troupeau family. During the ensuing centuries the vineyards passed, through marriage, to the Pichot family, and as more vines were purchased the family’s holdings grew to over 25 hectares, including parcels in Le Marigny, an under-appreciated première côte vineyard which sits directly above the town of Vouvray, and Le Peu de la Moriette, which lies slightly higher in the same valley.
Those original 3 hectares of vines were on the Coteau de la Biche, and they remain in the hands of the Pichot family today, subsequently enlarged with the acquisition of further plots, most recently a purchase of 2.5 hectares in 2013. The Coteau de la Biche is located high up in La Vallée de Nouy, a shallow valley which cuts through the plateau north and west of the town of Vouvray. Its presence creates a run of south-east-facing slopes, a deuxième côte just behind Le Clos du Bourg and Le Mont on the première côte. The best-known of the Vallée de Nouy vineyards is François Chidaine’s Clos Baudoin, the very first vineyard on the slope at the mouth of the valley. The Coteau de la Biche sits about a kilometre further up, above the Pichot cellars. Here the soils are mostly clay and flint, although the region’s Turonian limestone is close to the surface on the lower parts of the slope.
Keen to get to know the wines of Domaine Pichot I am starting here with the 2015 Vouvray Sec from the Coteau de la Biche vineyard. This is vinified mostly in stainless steel, with a small portion of the wine aged in 400-litre barrels before a final blending and bottling. After more than four years in bottle it displays a very pale, delicate, straw-tinged hue in the glass. The nose is very expressive, suggesting the generosity of the vintage. with a rich aromatic array of smoky citrus fruits with a pithy edge, along with notes of crushed limestone and flint, as well as more interesting gun powder notes. It feels smart, confident, refined and a touch reductive, a character I like very much. The palate is full and pithy, and not bone dry; the sec category in Vouvray permits residual sugar levels up to (and including) 8 g/l, and although I don’t have the wine’s technical details to hand I suspect this is at the top end of that range, a feeling perhaps reinforced by the wine’s gentle acidity. The focus of the palate is therefore breadth and substance rather than incisive structure, the style communicating the richness of the vintage with transparency. It feels pithy, phenolic and yet fresh. The one thing it lacks is a little length, nevertheless I feel consistently drawn back to the glass, so there is certainly something good here. This is a domaine I am looking forward to getting to know a little better. 91/100 (24/8/20)
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