Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Domaine de la Fontainerie

Recently we paid a visit to Catherine Dhoye-Déruet at Domaine de la Fontainerie. She is a well regarded winemaker within the Vouvray appellation. We had never met her before, but since our usual Vouvray stop with clients was hosting a group of 70 people that afternoon, we thought we would try someone else. Our friends Niall and Antoinette recommended Catherine some time ago, so I rang her and made an appointment.

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.



Niall & Antoinette said...

Hope the domaine lived up to our recommendation and that your clients from Chicago enjoyed the experience. She gets regular mentions in the Guide Hachette for her wines which we feel is a real achievement as the domaine is so small.

GaynorB said...

This looks like an interesting place to visit with some friends we regularly meet up with. Thanks for the info

Ken Broadhurst said...

It does look interesting. Is C.D.-D. in the little farmhouse up against the cliff on the right as you drive up?\

A place we keep returning to in the Vallée Coquette is Aubert (Jean-Claude et Didier), on the left at no. 10 as you drive up the road. Very nice people, very authentic, and more agricultural than touristy. Good wines too.

Susan said...

N&A: the clients thought she and the winery were fairly special. We were fascinated and very glad of the recommendation.

Ken: No, she's on the left as you drive up, at no. 64. The place is quite grand looking from the outside, but not so much once you are through the gates.

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