The Château Soucherie may be the most physically beautiful property of all the domaines with which we work. The house itself is a unique architectural gem that sits on a rise overlooking the vineyards that snake down towards the Layon river. My first visit at the estate was in early 1982, a frigid, damp day that I will remember forever. I was exploring the truly verdant slopes and valleys of the Layon region, intensely “green” no matter the season, in search of that special regional version of Chenin Blanc that, at its best, can be one of the most compelling of wines. My research led me to Soucherie and I was greeted by the ebullient presence of the proprietaire, Pierre-Yves Tijou. On that cold day, with the winter chill surging through the earth and cement floor of the chai installing itself deep in my bones, the warmth and graciousness and simple good cheer of Monsieur Tijou leavened the frost and coddled the body. Thirty years later we remain friends.
That day I was introduced to the complex and savory nature of these wines born of the Layon and its marriage to the noble Chenin Blanc. For every year since, we have been engaged with this magnificent domaine and its dry and sweet versions of wines of the Coteaux du Layon and of Savennieres. As well, there are the simple and satisfying reds and rosés that render the fruits of the local Cabernet Franc and Grolleau … overall a quite complete vinous experience.
Under Roger Beguinot’s direction, the buildings and the vineyards have been renovated and this 36 hectare property is more exquisite than ever before.
As life would have it on occasion, not everything goes according to plan. During the early part of the decade of 2000, Pierre-Yves took ill and the stress of his recovery pushed him to sell this magnificent domaine to give his son and successor, Mathieu, the freedom to “downsize” and control his destiny. The Tijous thus acquired a neighboring estate, the Chateau L’Eperonniere, that belonged to Mathieu’s uncle and sold Soucherie to Roger Beguinot. The transition for all may have been psychologically difficult but the end result for us was the ability to continue to work with Château Soucherie and add the wines of Château L’Eperonniere to our portfolio, an utterly satisfying result made even more pleasing by the eventual recovery that Pierre-Yves made to return to good health. So, a difficult story turns out to have a lovely ending.
Under Roger Beguinot’s direction, the buildings and the vineyards have been renovated and this 36 hectare property is more exquisite than ever before. Four of the thirty-six hectares are situated in the prime vineyard of Chaume and then two hectares are in Savennieres in a single-vineyard known as “Clos des Perrieres”. The remaining vineyards which encircle the chateau are in the Anjou and Coteaux du Layon appellations. Soucherie is surrounded by the villages of Rochefort-sur-Loire, Beaulieu-sur-Layon and Saint Lambert du Lattay. The soils are principally limestone, clay and schist.
Beguinot’s assistant, the maitre de chai, is the young Thibaud Boudignon who is leading the charge towards 100% organic viticulture through the principles of “agriculture integrée”. The domaine is divided into a series of single-vineyard sites, several of which are isolated to produce “lieu-dit” denominated wines.
Copper sulfate only
Annual ploughing to maintain vineyard health
Schist/shale, clay, sandstone, flint, and limestone
Planted at 5,000 vines/ha and trained in Cordon de Royat and Gobelet, vines average 35 years old.
Controlled through severe winter pruning, debudding, and green harvesting, yields average 14 hl/ha for sweet wines
Entirely manual into small cagettes, usually late September to early October
Entirely estate fruit
White wines ferment spontaneously in stain- less-steel tanks or 225-l barrels, with up to 1/3 new. Red wines see total destemming and a 1-2 day cold soak before fermenting spontaneously in stainless-steel tanks. Rosé wines ferment with selected yeasts in stainless-steel tanks.
Red wines see pumpovers during cuvaison.
Pneumatic, whole-cluster direct pressing for white wines, pneumatic pressing for red wines
Spontaneous, following alcoholic fermentation for red wines, blocked by naturally high acidities for white wines, and blocked by temperature for rosé wines
Basic wines age in stainless-steel tanks for 8-9 months. Savennières spends 9 months in 500-l demi-muids (33% new) and 9 months in stainless-steel tanks. Chaume spends 18 months in barrel (33% new). Champs aux Loups spends c. 12 months in neutral oak foudres.
Wines remain on their fine lees until assemblage prior to bottling.
FINING & FILTRATION
Wines are unfined and filtered with diatomaceous earth.
Applied after fermentation and at bottling, with 25-35 mg/l free sulfur