Monday, March 2, 2015

Clos Roche Blanche 2013

I have long been obsessed by the wines of Clos Roche Blanche, which are produced in the Touraine region in the middle Loire. I first discovered their wines fifteen years ago. It was the first wines I bought imported by Louis/Dressner Selections, which were then locally distributed by Bock Vines. It was hard to find these wines in the West Coast and hardly anyone knew about them.

The vintage of Clos Roche Blanche I started selling was 1998. A terrific vintage. I bought several cases of both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cot. I was naive to think in the late 1990s and early 2000s that people are going to like the taste of unmanipulated wines like Clos Roche Blanche and that people would get excited about wines costing just $10 a bottle. Thus, the wines gathered dust on the shelf. The Sauvignon I almost managed to sell through because it was easier to understand, but the Cot--made from vines over a century old--was a hard sell. It had tannins and high acid, the very antithesis of fruit bombs. I pulled the remaining 1 case of Sauvignon and 2 cases of the Cot and put them in our temperature-controlled storage.

Six years later Louis/Dressner Selections had become a celebrated importer and many of the wines they bring in, including the Clos Roche Blanche, have developed a cult following. I put the 1998 Clos Roche Blanche back on the shelf and, of course, they sold out like crazy. They both tasted pristine. People never even think of aging these wines because they're not expensive. Well, these Sauvignon and Cot from Clos Roche Blanche showed that price has nothing to do with quality or ageability.

My long love affair with Clos Roche Blanche is coming to an end soon. 2014 will be the last vintage to be released by the domaine, as the owners, Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet are retiring. Much of their vineyards have already been leased out or sold. Thankfully, we still have the newly released 2013 wines, as well as the 2014 wines to look forward to.

Clos Roche Blanche was started by the Roussel family in the 19th century in the Touraine hills next to the Cher river. Three generations later the estate was taken over in 1975 by Catherine Roussel, who was soon joined by her husband, Didier Barrouillet. Since 1995 the vineyards have been farmed organically and some biodynamic treatments were also applied. In the cellar, vinification is done with native yeasts, without additives, and no added sulfites (except on rare occasions) even on bottling. Instead, CO2 is applied to protect the wine.

If you are any kind of wine lover, you owe it to yourself to discover the brilliant wines of Clos Roche Blanche while there's an opportunity to do so.

Touraine "Sauvignon No. 2", Clos Roche Blanche 2013 $20.00 (order here)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from vines planted on one of the great terroirs in the Loire, the Touraine hills above the Cher river. The grapes are macerated for 48 hours and the wines are aged on the lees. Fermented with native yeasts and vinified without additives and no addition of sulfites. Instead, CO2 is used during bottling to protect the wines.

Touraine Rouge "Pif", Clos Roche Blanche 2013 $18.00 (order here)
A blend of about two-thirds Cabernet Franc and one-third Cot from organically farmed grapes above the Cher river. The bunches were destemmed and vinified with native yeasts, without additives, and no addition of sulfites. Instead of sulfites, CO2 was used in bottling to protect the wines.

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