It is always a privilege to visit the remarkable Christophe Foucher, who has been working in the little hamlet of Couffy since 2000. Amongst local vignerons he is incredibly well respected, regarded as one of the best producers in the region. We are happy that Christophe retains cult status in the UK, which is slowly cottoning onto the magic coming out of his tiny cellar.
Christophe always seems happily ignorant of this demand, happy that it is easy fo him to sell his wines and he can concentrate on his work. Since he started there have been two disastrous vintages; 2012, when he produced just one barrel and this one, 2021 - Christophe said he may not pick anything.
Fortunately his small chai is bursting with wine from 2019 and 2020 and he seemed quite content with the situation at hand.
You have to basically crawl to get into his tiny barrel cellar, an experience perhaps enhanced by the lack of light, but always mostly impressive for the sheer quality fo what is in the barrels. We tasted mostly from 2020, a slightly cooler year which has brought wines of lower alcohol, more typical of the region in the past, it looks like a stellar vintage.
There were many barrels of Rossignoux, his Sauvignon, usually bottled as one wine, but in 2020 like 2019, we will see it bottled more by parcel. We also tasted his Menu Pineau, a sadly rare varietal that can produce intensely mineral taut wines that age beautifully, from the beautiful Hauts Plessis parcel of vines over 80 years old.
Then we ducked out of the tiny barrel cellar and tasted more, mostly from tank, Gamay, Gamay De Bouze, blends, a rose, more Sauvignon and La Flou his incredible Cabernet Franc, he has both 2018 and 2019 still in barrel. This wine is made using a very old method, where he macerated the fruit in barrel, taking the top off de-stemming the cabernet, leaving it in the barrel for months and months, until he believes it ready and then racking into another barrel. A lot of work, but the finished wine is incredibly elegant and both vintages will be quite special.
Finally we tasted his tardive Sauvignon, a sweet wine produced from a late pick of Sauvignon produced in this traditional tar dive style. Very rare to see this style in wines made without additions, as you need to give the wine plenty of time to stabilise in the barrel to avoid refermention in bottle. This looks quite remarkable. and Christophe thinks to bottle soon, in 500ml bottles. It will be a very special wine.
After a long tasting we headed outside to help set up lunch, not aided by his Christophe's new acquisition a rather protective goose named Paloma. She was not very welcoming and after numerous attempts to attack us, eventually Christophe caught the goose and shut it in this shed while we ate.
His cat Nougatine, on the other hand, was much more welcoming.
We tasted a Petillant made from, the same juice as the just released Printemps Rose (80% Cot, 20% Cabernet), Rossignoux 2020 a Sauvignon aged only in tank & Ormeaux 2020 his lovely Gamay which we are promised an allocation of this year.. Lunch was mutton and potatoes, the meat from a local organic farm and the cheese from some local producers.
Eventually we departed for a brief drive down the road to check in with Julien Pineau & Laurent Saillard who had both just started harvest on the beautiful Clos Roche Blanche, a vineyard they share.
They also had a very tough year in 2021, frost, mildew, hail in August and now fruit flies and wasps attacking the grapes. Nothing has gone right. Both producers have had to buy fruit to survive, some locally and some from down south, different producers in Provence. Julien worked there for a few years at les Terres Promises, where some of this fruit is coming from, he says we will make his own Bandol!
Here is Julien putting a brave face on things, in the middle of picking Pineau d'Aunis, yields are down 90%.
Checking the fruit for the fruit flies which can burrow in and cause spikes in volatile.
Julien will also buy some fruit in the Loire from friends who had a better yield than him. 2021 wines will be mostly negociant as they is so little fruit on his surface, let's hope for a better 2022. In the meantime, his 2020 Sucettes a l'Aunis is one my favourite wines this year.
We also found Laurent in his parcels checking the fruit, this is the parcel for La Pause.
Laurent here is studying his Chardonnay, which goes into Lucky You! Again yields are disastrously down, there will be very little of this wine next year.
As well as continuing his purchases from Domaine De Cambalu down the road Laurent has bought Syrah, Grenache & Ugni Blanc from provence.
He is aiming to make straightforward light macerations in a similar style to his recent negociant wines from Domaine De Cambalu. Having not much experience with Ugni Blanc, he is experimenting with maceration and direct press and will make decisions on assemblage later on.
This is Syrah, the juice tasted great and all being well with ferments, we hope to see these new wines in spring.
Along with the 2020 Blank, from his oldest vines of Sauvignon, the quantity of 2020 allowed him to give it a longer ageing and it looks like a wonderful vintage.
Spirits remained high in Laurent's crew and it will at least be exciting to see how these new wines turn out. In the meantime we still have a little of his 2020 wines left.