Club Big House - January

Bandol Rouge – Chateau Sainte Anne (2012)

Winemaker: Jean Baptiste Dutheil
Soil: Granite
Age of Vines: 25-75 rs
Grape Variety(s): Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache
Style: Dry Red
Region: Bandol, Provence, France


Spanning nearly two centuries, the Dutheil de la Rochere family’s stewardship of Chateau Sainte Anne traces the modern evolution of viticulture in Provence. In the 1940s, the family was active in efforts to establish the Bandol AOC, part of a broader political effort to convert the generally high-yielding and disorganized vineyards of the South into codified and protected terroirs.  But by the 1970s the growing popularity of agro-chemicals presented itself as a new problem for the family. Parting ways with the majority of other growers in the appellation and region, Francois Dutheil (father to current proprietor Jean-Baptiste) rejected the use of fertilizers and pesticides, just as his father had, believing that micro-biological diversity in the soils was a precursor for good wine. He joined other household names of the time such as Gramenon and Overnoy to champion the budding natural wine movement. From the 1990s onward, Jean-Baptiste has been tasked with steering the domaine through the vexing currents of an “americanized” international wine market while doing justice to his father’s legacy. In this respect, he has thrown in his lot decidedly with the traditionalists, continuing to turn out extraordinarily cellar-worthy mourvedre at 12.5% alcohol, fermented native, aged in very old foudres in the domaine’s 400 year-old cellar and cautiously sulfured only at bottling.

Terra Incognita – La Lunotte (2011)

Winemaker: Christophe Foucher
Soil: Clay/Limestone
Age of Vines: 40-50 yrs
Grape Variety(s): Sauvignon Blanc
Style: Dry White
Region: Touraine, Loire Valley, France

This past September, my wife and I would be over three hours late for our first meeting with Christophe Foucher at his home and winery in the tiny town of Couffy, just outside of Tours.  We arrived well after dark, immediately seeing the winemaker still working, pressing juice from the white grape harvest that week.  Without hesitating, Christophe invited us not only to hang around with him as he worked in the cellar, but take up a couch in his house for the night!  We watched as the former engineering professor and his assistant, Stéphane finished up their busy day by pumping freshly pressed juice into large oak barrels meant for extended élevage.  Despite it being one of the busiest weeks of the year, Christophe and his crew explored many of his wines and others with us late into the morning hours accompanied by the ever-present and eclectic mix of French pop music.  

I had tried Terra Incognita some months before and that wine was always a mystery to me.  Delicious Sauvignon Blanc aged for three long years in barrel from old vines yielding so little juice that almost every other vineyard in the area has long done away with; this just didn’t make much sense to me.  Wanting to know more about this mystery wine, I asked Christophe to tell me more about it, we he made a wine like that, etc..  The seemingly always carefree Foucher became instantly quiet and took on a stern tone in response to my question.  “It is a special wine,” was his complete answer.  Nothing else needed to be said.