In the Middle of Nowhere in Loire Valley

Marie’s vineyard in Azay-le-Rideau

FEB 4, 2014

by andrew bishop

Had an amazing visit to Marie Thibault- Cabriz’s estate in Touraine Azay-le-Rideau.  This sub appellation of Touraine has only 60 hectares under vine and less than 20 producers.  Most of the soils here are clay, sand and silex, and at Marie’s estate the vineyards are planted on silex and white clay, which is similar to the clay in Montlouis.

The AOC is a bit confusing and incomplete because the only two wines you can classify as Azay-le-Rideau have to be either 100% chenin blanc, or rose made with  a minimum of 60% from grolleau, with the other two red grapes gamay and côt, otherwise known as- OMG I luv malbec.   When I asked why these were the two wines allowed to be classified in the AOC I was told that the mayor, or local official that submitted the original paperwork made only these two wines, so he submitted them to the federal authorities who then put into law. That’s France for you- now it will just take another century to change the laws again.

Marie’s estate is small- 4 hectares and is farmed organically.  Set in between a couple of her neighbor’s vineyards you can see the difference between hers and those sprayed with chemicals.  In the non organic vineyards between the rows and on some of the vines moss has grown which needs no oxygen to grow and therefore doesn’t allow the earth below to breath.  Marie’s rows are moss free and very healthy.

The Winery is the bottom floor of an old mill and consists of nothing more than 100 sq feet to fit a press and some small stainless steel and fiberglass tanks.  Across the courtyard is a small cave holding a dozen 300-500 liter old barrels where her wines ferment and age.  Little to no sulphur is added to the wines and they are fresh, clean and pure.   Marie worked many places before deciding to make her own wine, and she carefully selected Azay-le-Rideau as ideal for the wines that she wanted to make- give the similar soils to Montlouis.

We had a wonderful lunch at Marie’s place with Franz Saumon (Marie’s Beau & Montlouis producer of killer wines), Fanny Breuil (Marie’s cousin and owner of Genuine wines France), and Hans (importer from Belgium with whom I had lunch with at La Stoppa last year).  First course was a shredded carrot, turnip and garlic salad, followed by parsnips, potatoes and pork medallions and a apple pudding desert.  A great visit and escape from the monotonous fair tastings that have taken so much of my time this trip.

More notes to follow…….


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