Domaine Laroche La Chevaliere Viognier 2000
The vineyards of Domaine Laroche are spread out across the entire region of Chablis, located in the northernmost section of Burgundy, 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Paris, between Champagne and the Côte d’Or. Chardonnay is a vigorous variety that therefore requires careful fruit-quantity control. The Domaine Laroche philosophy relies on one-man plots, meaning that one person is wholly responsible for the care of a single vineyard parcel, from the pruning, soil conditioning and control of yields to the sorting of the harvest. Springtime frost, less frequent now with climate change, remains a constant risk that conditions the viticulture. Thus, pruning takes place twice, in order to prevent early budburst that would expose the plants to an April or May frost, as well as to shape the vines and control yields. Domaine Laroche implements a systematic debudding in order to space the branches, ventilate the grapes and control yields. This work is completed by a green harvest if the quantity of grapes is excessive. For five generations, the Laroche family has produced top-quality wines from the Chablis appellation, and today Domaine Laroche ranks among the most prestigious of Burgundy’s wine producers. The origins of the estate date back to 1850, when a vineyard worker names Jean-Victor Laroche bought a small plot of vines. Three generations of modest expansion were followed by a boom in the 1960s when, father and son Henri and Michel Laroche expanded their holdings considerably in the region. The past three decades have seen the domaine flourish under the guidance of Michel, whose commitment to authenticity, purity and typicite has popularized the steely, elegant wine in general – and the Laroche brand in particular – the world over. In April 2011 Greory Viennois joined Laroche as Technical Director, enhancing Laroche distinctive style through all the wines. He is helped by technical teams of all estates to carry out the most recent advances made in viticulture and oenology.
An extensive appellation producing a diverse selection of good-quality and value-priced wines, Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the world’s largest wine-producing region, spanning the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border to Rhône. Languedoc forms the eastern half of the larger appellation, while Roussillon is in the west; the two actually have quite distinct personalities but are typically grouped together. Languedoc’s terrain is generally flat coastal plains, with a warm Mediterranean climate and a frequent risk of drought. Roussillon, on the other hand, is defined by the rugged Pyrenees mountains and near-constant sunshine.
Virtually every style of wine is made in this expansive region. Dry wines are often blends, and varietal choice is strongly influenced by the neighboring Rhône Valley. For reds and rosés, the primary grapes include Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. White varieties include Grenache Blanc, Muscat, Ugni Blanc, Vermentino, Maccabéo, Clairette, Piquepoul and Bourbelenc.
International varieties are also planted in large numbers here, in particular Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In Roussillon, excellent sweet wines are made from Muscat and Grenache in Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury. The key region for sparkling wines here is Limoux, where Blanquette de Limoux is believed to have been the first sparkling wine made in France, even before Champagne. Crémant de Limoux is produced in a more modern style.
Full-figured and charmingly floral, Viognier is one of the most important white grapes of the northern Rhône where it is used both to produce single varietal wines and as an important blending grape. Look for great New World examples from California, Oregon, Washington and cooler parts of Australia.