Chateau du Petit Thouars – tradition, respect & passion
Sometimes things just work out right. I was sitting at a cafe in the centre of Chinon on Sunday afternoon and decided to let the world know about it through the medium of Twitter. The next thing I knew, I received a response from Chateau du Petit Thouars (@chateaudptwines) and had arranged a visit for the following Tuesday… And what a great appointment that proved to be!
We were welcomed at the beautiful chateau by winemaker Michel Pinard and the gorgeous chateau dog, Forlan (named after the Uruguayan footballer). Michel was the perfect host and his company was an absolute pleasure. Michel is originally from the north west of France and moved south to learn about wines, including stints at Chateau Ausone in St Emilion as well as leading Chinon domaine Charles Joguet; he has been the winemaker at Chateau du Petit Thouars since 2007. I hadn’t realised that the wines of the chateau were classified as AOC Touraine, as the vineyard sits outside the original Chinon borders, even though it only a 15 minute drive from the centre of the town. I have since read that the borders have recently been amended and Chateau du Petit Thouars will be able to use AOC Chinon on its label from the 2014 vintage.
The estate only has 15 hectares under vine and until 2012 only produced wines using Cabernet Franc. The 2012 release will see the debut of the estate’s Chenin Blanc output, which will be an ambitious oaked white, which I am very much looking forward to trying. The real beauty of the domaine however comes in the winemaking cave. After spending a week in the shiny, polished cellars of Bordeaux, this was quite an experience. There is no temperature control system except that of nature. The caves keep a constant cool temperature and the mould growing on the cellar walls and ceiling provides the perfect natural conditions for making wines. Michel scaled some mould off the walls to show us where the natural wine tannin has stained the walls – he believes in letting the terroir do the talking. Michel is also making age worthy wines and won’t release them until they are ready. We tried the 2011 Reserve selection which is still ageing in one of the steel tanks; I asked when it will be ready and Michel’s reply was simple: “I will only know if I keep on tasting it”.
It was a humbling experience to talk to such a talented and passionate winemaker about his craft and his wines, which were patented to us by his daughter. And the wines? Well they certainly spoke of the tenderness and patience that has gone into the cation of these very old world wines. Merci Michel.
Chateau du Petit Thouars Rosé NV, Touraine (€5.00)
100% Cabernet Franc. Made from a blend of 2009 and 2010 fruit, this pleasant rosé showed nice red fruit and had a very soft, gentle texture with a pleasant dry finish. And it costs €5. 85 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Selection Rouge 2010, Touraine (€5.00)
100% Cabernet Franc. Very ripe and concentrated fruit. There’s cherry and a fruit I was struggling to name and ended up with pomegranate. There’s lots of minerality, a touch if smoke and a warm hint of leather. Ridiculously good value 87 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Selection Rouge 2009, Touraine (€5.00)
100% Cabernet Franc. The 2009 actually tastes younger and fresher than the 2010 – its certainly more rounded. Tart red fruit, that same smoke and mineral and a decent finish. This could (and will) make a great summer house wine. 88 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Reserve Rouge 2010, Touraine (€8.00)
The Reserve is toasty and bursting with bright red fruit. There is lots if structured tannin here and needs a couple more years – its not often you say that about a wine that costs €8. 88+ points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Reserve Rouge 2009, Touraine (€8.00)
More rounded and elegant than the 2010 but still with a crunch if tannin. The crunch is in the firm of raspberry and pomegranate and it has such a burst if refreshing acidity. I love this wine. 92 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Reserve Rouge 2008, Touraine (€8.00)
A bit less bite than the 2009 – smoother but slightly less structure, but still loads of red fruit and that mineral finish. 88 points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Cuvee Admiral Rouge 2009, Touraine (€15.00)
The owners of Chateau du Petit Thouars come from a naval history, hence the name of the flagship (sorry) wine. This wine us made to last – 24 months in oak barrels. Bags of bright fruit again, like a summer compote of raspberries, cherries, strawberries and crunchy pomegranate. At the moment the tannins are fierce but there is so much acidity here that I have little hesitation in suggesting it will round out nicely. I’ve bought a few if these as I really want to see how it develops over the next few years. 92+ points
Chateau du Petit Thouars Cremant de Loire Blanc NV (€8.00)
A Blanc de Noirs made from 100% Cabernet Franc and without a doubt the best value wine of the whole trip, if not the best value wine of all time. There’s soft red fruit but a refreshing bite of Granny Smith apple. A delightful fuzz if tiny bubbles and a honeyed, slightly toasty finish. If your planning a summer party then order a dozen! 92 points
Note: I opened a bottle as soon as I got home to check it was really that good… It was!
Chateau du Petit Thouars Cremant de Loire Rosé NV (€8.00)
Sweeter than the Blanc but still a lovely balance with lots of soft red fruit and the same attractive mousse. Another belter, if not quite at same level as the Blanc. 89 points