Le Domaine Richou

Le Domaine Richou

Sometimes when you battle the elements, you are rewarded for your efforts. Such is the case with Oz Wine Co. and Le Domaine Richou.  We actually risked our lives to get to Richou for that first visit many years back.  A basic 6 hour drive from Alsace to Anjou turned out to be a two day white-knuckled ordeal through a blizzard.  The fact that the car was the size of a go-cart didn’t help, but I remember the snow stopped falling and the sun broke through just before pulling into the Richou driveway.   We were then warmly greeted by Didier and Catherine Richou and then ushered into their lounge for our meeting.   The Richou family and their wines are very dear to me.  They are among some of the first wines I imported from France, and also the first time I asked a producer if I could import their wines on the spot.  Never before had I tasted such a excellent line of wines that inspired me so much.  It was at that point that I decided to focus on Loire Valley wines for many years to follow.

Le Domaine Richou is a 3rd generation family affair.  Today two brothers; Didier and Damien operate the 74 acre estate and a majority of the work continues to remain within the family. Older brother Didier handles the winemaking and usually carries around with him the rocks of his vineyards to animatedly show everyone the distinct soils of their domaine.  Damien works meticulously in the vineyards.   The two make a great team and share a common vision which is to make the best wines possible and adhere to the Francis Bacon quote “the only way to command nature is to obey her”.   Since 2000, the vines have been farmed organically with formal certification in 2013, and they are currently following biodynamic vineyard practices.

Anjou is a large region in the Loire Valley with various soil compositions.  To the east there is the famous limestone chalk soils called Tuffeau, volcanic schist soils in its center, and granite-based soils to the west near Muscadet.  Le Domaine Richou is located in the center of Anjou in the small sub AOC of Coteaux de L’Aubance.  This region is  known as “Anjou Noir” primarily for its dominate slate soils, or schists that formed from very old volcanic activity.  You can actually see the transition in soils by looking at the homes as you travel from east to west.  In eastern Anjou (near Saumur) the homes are white from the Tuffeau soils, and as you drive west into Anjou’s center and continue on the homes take on a darker color from the slate soils.  It’s these soils along with excellent farming and winery work that make the Richou wines so pure, mineral-driven, complex, and simply gorgeous.  I am proud to say we have built a great following for these wines here in MA.

Le Line up:

AOC Anjou Chauvigné Blanc:  100% Chenin Blanc from three different vineyards on the estate which all have varying degrees of schist soils.  Approximately 1,700 cases are produced annually, which makes this cuvée their largest production.  If you like mineral wine- this is the one for you. If I had to pick my favorite 5 wines in our portfolio this would be among them.  Just try it…..

AOC Anjou Les Rogeries: 100% Chenin Blanc.  It comes from a single vineyard with rhyolites soil. The parcel had  vines in the 16th century and was more recently planted in 1989-90-91.  I’ll bet the wines are better now than then 🙂 All vinification here is stainless steel with a fairly long elevate: some years up to 18 months on the lees.  The production is less than half of the Chauvigné.  More complex and powerful fruit but still all the minerality so common of all the Richou wines.

L’ R osé:  Declassified Cabernet d’Anjou, which is a majority cabernet sauvignon, and declassified because the amount of residual sugar doesn’t meet the AOC requirement.  No matter, this is full bodied rose wine that you should have a case of in your basement all summer.

Rose de Loire:  Already sold out.  Sorry… We only got 50 cases this year.

AOC Anjou Rouge 4 Chemins:  Mostly cabernet franc and a touch of cabernet sauvignon.   This is my go-to “Bistro” red which pairs with everything I eat on a weekday it seems.  Medium-bodied wine and if you like pinot noir (I mean if you really like “real” pinot noir, and not shit for under $18 from California blended with 25% syrah making it look and taste like a syrah….) you should appreciate this wine.   Remember: LESS Computer = MORE Cabernet.

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3 thoughts on “Le Domaine Richou

  1. Great article Andrew! I LOVE these wines. Can you talk a little bit more about why the schist or rhyolites soils cause the minerality in the wines? How does this work?

  2. Hi Dini, Thanks for reading! I’ve emailed Didier and Damien to see if they can reply. I’ve never inquired as to why, but have always gotten mineral qualities in wines grown on Schist soils. IE- Domaine Rimbert in St. Chinian Berlou has a majority of his vineyards planted in schist, and his wines (especially his Carignan) take on a mineral quality. Also, Clos Cibonne in Provence has their Tibouren planted to schist and I also feel the wine is minerals and salt. Back to you soon from the horses mouth.

  3. Dini- here is Didier Richou’s response:
    “The taste of wine is characterized by the way the vine is fed water, and the characteristics of its taste is related to the texture and structure of soil,
    mineralization is carried out by dripping of rain water through the soil, so minerals charge to render the plant.”

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