and Didier Champalou both came from vigneron
families, yet their mutual sense of independence prompted the couple to brave
it on their own right after completing viticultural school in Saumur. Since
starting the domaine in 1983, they have not only grown their business, but
their label is one of the most highly-acclaimed in the appellation. Vouvray is home to the noble Chenin
Blanc, more commonly known as Pineau de la Loire in their part of the world. As
widespread as Pineau is, both soil and climate play key roles in the diversity
of its incarnations, and a Chenin from California gives one no hint of what the
grape is capable of in the right soil.
inland along the Loire, in the region of the Touraine, Vouvray enjoys a warm,
continental climate during the summers. Slowly dropping temperatures in autumn
make for a long ripening season. Microclimates with high humidity can also
bring about the beloved noble rot. The gravel and chalk in the vineyards also
play a role absorbing the sun’s rays, lending increased ripeness to this part
of the Touraine. The Pineau of Vouvray can be pétillant (sparkling), sec (dry
and crisp), demi-sec (off-dry) or in
a botrytized state called moelleux.
Catherine and Didier make all four styles.
Champalou family farms twenty-one hectares of vineyards on clay, limestone, and
siliceous soils. They embrace sustainable farming while also integrating the
use of the lunar calendar more traditionally associated with organic
viticulture. The soils in their vineyards are rich, deep, and aerated though
regular plowing. Cover crops are planted in between vineyard rows to help with
excess water absorption and to encourage microbiotic activity in the soil. The
Champalou house style produces wines of great elegance and tenderness, highly
aromatic with impeccable balance. No one comes close to copying their distinct
and Catherine’s daughter, Céline, has recently joined the domaine after
spending her internships in New Zealand, South Africa, Languedoc, Corsica, and
Canada. Daughter Virginie lives in London, and is also in the wine business.
There is no question that the tradition and quality for which this domaine is
known will continue for many years to come.
|Vouvray Brut Méthode Traditionelle
||20 years average
||35 years average
|Vouvray "La Cuvée des Fondraux"
||45 years average
||Clay, Limestone, Flint
|Vouvray "La Moelleuse"
||45 years average
|Vouvray "Trie de Vendange"
||45 years average
"ha"=hectares; one hectare equals roughly two and a half acres
VITICULTURE / VINIFICATION
Vouvray Brut “Méthode
The grapes for the Vouvray Brut are picked at maturity, and early in the morning to best respect the quality of the fruit. The must is then fermented in stainless steel and the wine is raised on fine lees before bottling. A second natural fermentation takes place once the wine is in bottle that gives its effervescence. The bottles are aged sur lattes for two years before disgorgement. After disgorgement the wines age for six to eight weeks. Dosage varies from vintage to vintage with a maximum residual sugar of about 3 grams.
Harvest occurs early in
the morning and the fruit is then immediately pressed. Fermentation takes place
in stainless steel cuves. A low temperature is kept while the wine is raised on
fine lees in the cuve for eleven months and then is bottled in September.
Vouvray Le Portail:
The Portail is the parcel of vines located between the gate to the Champalou’s property and their winery, on top of the caves that house the wines. Grapes are picked by hand and pressed immediately. The juice is then vinified in wooden barrels. After fermentation, the wine sits on its lees for twelve months in barrel before bottling.
Vouvray “La Cuvée des
Like the Vouvray, harvest happens early in the morning for the Fondraux and the grapes are immediately pressed. The juice in then transferred into wooden barrels. The wine is aged in the same vessel on its lees for eleven months before bottling.
Vouvray “La Moelleuse”:
Grapes are sorted by
hand in order to best select botrytized berries and the ones with the largest
concentration of sugar from raisining. After harvest, the wine undergoes a very
Vouvray “Trie de Vendange”:
The fruit is sorted,
grape by grape, to find the best and most concentrated grapes. After a very
delicate pressing, the wine undergoes a long fermentation.
The Champalou’s dry and off-dry Vouvrays have become among the
most frequently seen on the American restaurant list, and no wonder, given both
their phenomenal quality:price rapport and their style.
Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate