Normally we visit family run wineries that have about 50-70 hectares. That is a medium sized operation for the Loire Valley in general. By contrast, Catherine's operation is tiny, with only 6 hectares. It always astounds me that such a small area can make a commercial winery, but Domaine de la Fontainerie is by no means the only small producer in the district.
Célestine parked at the gates of Domaine de la Fontainerie.From her premises in the Vallée Coquette, which have been in the family for 300 years, Catherine produces 20 - 30 thousand bottles a year - just her and one employee. Being in Vouvray, she only grows a single grape, Chenin Blanc. This is the grape that Saint Martin brought to the Loire from Hungary in the 4th century, and his abbey is only a few kilometres down river.
Fungus around the base of the cuve (vat).Like many producers in this area, Catherine's winemaking is done in a cave (cellar) dug into a cliff. The grapes grow directly above. Walking into such an old cave is quite an experience - everything is covered in fungus, a patina gained by centuries of winemaking in this place. No need to add yeast to these wines - it's here on the walls and in the air all around. The aroma is fruity and intense with just a little edge of sourness.
The walls and ceiling are black with fungus, the fûts (barrels) are old and oak.Catherine herself is quietly spoken and gentle. She understands a bit of English, but is too diffident to speak more than a few words. In French she is happy to describe the wine, offering a wide choice of vintages to taste, in a variety of styles from sec (dry) to demi-sec (semi-sweet), moelleux (sweet) and pétillant (fizzy). We bought some 2009 sec (€6.50/bottle) and 2005 demi-sec (€7.50/bottle). Our clients bought a couple of bottles of 2005 demi-sec from her old vines grown in a section of the vineyard called the Coteau les Brulés. The clients, from Chicago, had never been to a winery anything like this, and I'm always amazed at how much time to visitors our local winemakers are willing to give, and what good value and high quality the wine is.