Domaine Pichot Vouvray Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette 2008
With aromas of seashells, citrus and white peach blossom, this shows how low yields bring out the best of Vouvray which is beyond question the best of Touraine. Chenin Blanc as a variety can offer up myriad scents and tastes but Pichot shows its playful, sprightly side. With a clean, bright, polished peach and taut mouthwatering mineral on the palate, it is round in the mouth and charms you with an everlasting aroma of white peach on the polished finish.
Jean-Claude Pichot’s family is one of the oldest in Vouvray, with origins as viticulturists and restaurateurs dating back to 1739. The family cellars are located in the charming village of Vouvray, in caverns hewn from the rolling hills which were once quarried to provide stone to construct the grand chateaux of the Loire. In fact, the Pichot home is itself part house and part cavern, with a dramatic hearth carved from the rock. Jean-Claude was one of six sons, but the only one to continue the family tradition of vigneron. Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette was built from three main vineyards by Jean-Claude and his son, Christophe. The name is explained by Monsieur Pichot to originate from the old French, Puits du petit Maure, or ‘Well of the little Moor’, dating back to antiquity when the Moors had settled in this region of France.Coteau de la Biche is the Vouvray domaine founded by Pichot’s maternal great-grandfather and now run by Christophe Pichot. The legend is that a doe once took refuge in the cellars of this domaine, hence the name. Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette has expanded over the years from 30 to nearly 52 acres of hillside vineyard, cultivated without chemical pesticides. Planted entirely with Chenin Blanc, the vines vary in age from 20- to 55-years-old.
An important white wine appellation in the Touraine and one of the top in all of the Loire, Vouvray uniquely specializes in a wide range of styles from dry to sweet, and still to sparkling, each with its own definitive character. Vouvray is almost always 100% Chenin blanc (however up to 5% Menu Pineau is theoretically allowed but not often used).
Vouvray is also the name of a pretty little town just east of Tours on the northern bank of the Loire—its vineyards surround it to the northeast. Houses and cellars are carved out of the local tuffeau, a chalky or sandy, fine-grained limestone. Vineyards inhabit clay and gravel topsoil over tuffeau on the plateau, the best of which have a slight slope with a southerly aspect.
Chenin blanc’s high acidity and natural adaptability allow it to produce a wide range of styles with enormous success. Styles under the Vouvray name include sparkling, both Brut and Demi-Sec and still: Sec (dry) and Tendre (off-dry) as well as Demi-Sec (noticeably sweet), Moelleux (very sweet) and Liquoreaux (botrytized). Most can age about five years but the best quality versions will continue to improve over decades.
Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. While most would agree it reigns supreme when from its birthplace of the Loire Valley, Chenin is the most planted variety in South Africa. California’s Clarksburg appellation is also winning more notoriety for its Chenin.
In the Glass
Chenin's drier versions commonly have characteristics of passion fruit, lemon, quince, green apple, saffron and chamomile while sweeter version express aromas and flavors such as yellow pear, white peach, persimmon, melon, ginger and honeysuckle. When aged in oak, qualities like meringue and brioche can be found. Sparkling versions often have yellow apple, ginger and floral notes.
Cool-climate Chenin blanc has the chalky acidity to work with light seafood such as oysters and shellfish. Off-dry styles work well with the sweet-and-sour nature of Thai and Vietnamese food. The sparkling versions such as Saumur Mousseux, Vouvray Petillant and Crémant de Loire make amazing aperitif options that won’t bruise the pocketbook.
South Africa actually has double the amount of Chenin blanc planted compared to France. It is believed that either the Dutch navigator, Jan van Riebeeck, brought the grape to Cape Town in 1655 or the Huguenots fleeing France brought it in 1685. Either way, the South Africans have favored it for many centuries and make it in almost every style. Today a new wave of dedicated producers has committed to restoring old Chenin vines and finding the most ideal new spots for this prized variety.