Anjou, Loire Valley, France
Founded in 1920, Domaine Richou is a modest place off a country road deep in the Anjou Noir, known primarily for its slate soils, or schists that formed from very old volcanic activity. The 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. Domaine Richou is located in the center of Anjou in the small sub AOC of Coteaux de L’Aubance. It’s these soils along with excellent farming and winery work that make the Richou wines so pure, mineral-driven and complex.
The estate, managed by brothers Didier and Damien Richou, has been in the family for three generations, producing an outstanding range of Anjou wines from Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Elder brother Didier has been winemaker here since 1979 while Damien took over responsibility in the vineyards in 1993. The brothers have long eschewed chemical fertilizers, converting to organics in 2000 and receiving certification with the 2013 vintage. They are now taking steps towards biodynamic viticulture.
In addition to their excellent holdings in the Anjou AOC, the domaine acquired a three-acre parcel across the river in Savennières in late 2010, on the plateau just behind the Roche aux Moines vineyard. Replanted in 2008, this parcel produced its first wine in the 2012 vintage. For an excellent, and still relevant piece on Savennières, click here for Eric Asimov's tasting panel from 2010.
Richou Anjou Chauvigné Blanc 2017
A beautiful example of Chenin Blanc with the emphasis on freshness and minerality; featuring bright aromatics, lemon high notes, and elegant fruit. Chauvigné comes mostly from a 7.4 acre vineyard named Violettes growing in volcanic schists soils, first planted in 1980. The remaining portion (one third) comes from the Rogeries vineyard, growing in a streak of glassy volcanic soil known as rhyolites. Harvest is by hand with two passes through the vines, and the wine is made mostly in tank, with some 20% done in older barrels. Malolactic fermentation rarely takes place because of Chenin’s innate acidity and Richou’s cold cellar. Notes of citrus and apricot aromas with a touch of saffron are backed up with a rich, full, velvety palate and great length.
Review of 2016 vintage: “The Richou brothers’ 2016 Anjou Blanc “Chauvigné” is a fine bottle of chenin blanc, offering up a vibrant bouquet of pineapple, quince, chalky soil, white lilies, citrus peel and a topnote of fresh almond. On the palate the wine is bright, full, complex and very nicely balanced, with impressive depth at the core, bouncy acids and impressive length and grip on the complex finish. This is a fine value. 2018-2030+. 90+.” John Gilman, A View From The Cellar, Oct 2018 #77
Richou Savennières La Bigottière 2016
La Bigottière is the name of the three-acre parcel Richou farms in Savennières, right behind the Roche aux Moines cru. The brothers acquired the parcel in 2009 and replanted it that year and the next. The wine ferments spontaneously and is raised in a mixture of 350-liter barrels (a small percentage of which is new) and amphora (!). Malo normally doesn’t take place. Production averages 550 cases.
"From a vineyard of schist, quartz and wind-blown sand, this needs air to develop past its lanolin creaminess, revealing litchi and loquat nuttiness. It gains freshness and mouthwatering richness, lasting on orange-blossom scents and tense, smoky acidity. For the cellar. 91 Points" - Wine & Spirits Magazine - Best of 2018