Didier Barrouillet, former chemical engineer turned vigneron, and his partner Catherine Roussel, who inherited the land from her family--which had worked the land since the end of the 19th Century--run Clos Roche Blanche, a property of about 44 acres in Mareuil-sur-Cher, a village along the Cher river in the Touraine appellation. The soil there is clay and flint. Barrouillet practices minimal cultivation--the plough is used sparingly if at all. Everything is hand-picked, and fermented in a miscellany of vats and barrels. He prefers CO2 to SO2 as an anti-oxidant. He is a true believer in the power of terroir, as he explains in this quote from an interview:
"The wine I make is the consequence of my work in the vines. I almost never taste in the cellar, because I know what the end result will be. When I first started, I took no interest in the vineyard.
But my natural evolution has led me to spend less and less time in the cellar.
And this evolution continues in that today, I almost don't pay any attention to the vines and focus principally on what's happening in the soil. The vines are a direct consequence of what is happening in the soil." Read the whole interview here.
Clos Roche Blanche L'Arpent Rouge Touraine 2010: Made from 100% pineau d'aunis, from whatever juice is left over after making rosé (surely the only instance of this in all of winemaking!).
I tasted this with Les at Vinsite. On the nose, we got herbs, cinnamon stick, face powder, floral bath salts, orchid, and lily. In the mouth, spicy clove ("Red hots!" said Les), sour cherry, barely ripe strawberry, and a distinct mineral character vaguely reminiscent of aspirin. The wine seems very fresh, very vibrant, very alive. I have been known to say that certain reds from the Loire had "the wild green thing." This one has it. It has been billed as a great "summer red" to be drunk slightly chilled on a warm afternoon. I plan to open some over the course of this winter, to remind me that summer will come again.
I was sorely tempted to not publish any tasting notes on this wine; the specific components of aroma and flavor are really beside the point. The reason to drink L'Arpent is to take your senses on a kind of virtual tour of the vineyards of the village of Mareuil-sur-Cher. When you hold the glass to your nose, and then to your lips, the wine is telling you what it's like to actually be there. It's a lot cheaper than plane tickets.
Another reason to enjoy this wine now is that Clos Roche Blanch is shrinking--a decision of the owners, who want to maintain close control over what they're doing in the vineyard. Scarcity will become an issue. (And a quick note to say that all is well on some of the property they sold off--it is being cultivated by the young and talented Noëlla Morantin.)
For more on Clos Roche Blanche, read Chris Kissack's thoughtful report and read the notes and look at the pictures at Bernard Celce's website.