Domaine de la Garrelière

Alone on a hilltop in the southern reaches of the Touraine appellation, outside of the town of Richelieu, resides the small Domaine de la Garrelière.

During Cardinal Richelieu’s heyday in the 1630s, vineyards on this hilltop supplied his court with wine. In the late 19th century, these vineyards were several times larger than they are today, but were abandoned with the onslaught of phylloxera.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s, when Pascale and François Plouzeau founded Domaine de la Garrelière, that the historic viticulture was resurrected. Today this 20-hectare (50 acres) domaine is one of Touraine’s leading biodynamically-farmed domaines.

The winery occupies an old bank barn, a long, rectangular stone building that was built into the hillside. You enter on the uphill side on the second level, and exit on the downhill side on the lower level. The uphill side faces the Plouzeau’s household and between them is a small courtyard. This is the playground of a flock of chickens, Hulot the giant dog and a young cat, while continually flying in and out of the barn are swallows that nest in the rafters.

The original 19th century screw press still exists on that second level, built into the floor with gutters to direct the grape juice into bygone fermenters on the level below. On that lower level, burrowing into the hillside and predating the current structure by several centuries, is a stone cellar built in 1645. It’s little more than a long narrow corridor, and in its rear is where the domaine ages wine in barrel. 

François is a modest yet passionate man, and his wines reflect this. He normally waits until October to harvest for optimal ripeness and he picks at rigorously low yields (40-45 hectoliters per hectare in an appellation where the norm is over 60), ensuring excellent ripeness. He also works well with lees, with the result that his wines have very fine length and finish with a subtle uplifting zesty spice.

Those things, combined with naturally occurring full-malolactic fermentations and François’s very light hand with sulfur, make for textured, opulent, relaxed wine that is such a pleasure to drink

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