Catherine organising the pickers: September 2014
This autumn saw the last harvest for one of the. Cher Valley’s iconic domaines – Le Clos Roche Blanche. Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet will be retiring, so after 2014 there will be no more bottles of their Sauvignon Blanc, Côt, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis Rosé and an occasional red Pineau d’Aunis as well Cuvée Pif a blend of Cabernet Franc and Côt.
I first met Didier back in 1989 and then Catherine shortly afterwards when they were farming conventionally, although it wasn’t long before they converted to organic viticulture and then for a time they went biodynamic. Already their wines stood out – I can still remember how good their 1989 Gamay was. Didier started working at Roche Blanche in 1981.
This account from the site of Louis Dressner, their US importers, fills in some of the background. http://louisdressner.com/specialfeatures/Peasants/Catherine+Roussel+and+Didier+Barrouillet
They moved away from biodynamics and increasingly Catherine and Didier followed their own instincts and remained independent of vinous sects. Their vineyards became a riot of colour with lots of wild flowers to attract a multitude of insects to keep a natural balance. This is such a wonderful contrast to the high percentage of lifeless vineyards in Touraine that are systematically blitzed by weedkiller.
Michel Smith@Le Clos Roche Blanche in June 2012
Didier discovered that by planting a single wild leek close to a plant suffering from Esca – a wood fungal disease that attacks and kills vines and which is now a major problem – the vine would sometimes recover. It may be that the wild leek provides micro-bacteria protection around the vine’s roots.
Catherine and Didier have been down-sizing for a number of years now – selling off vineyards with some going to Noëlla Morantin, who is a very worthy successor to Catherine and Didier and is also imported into the US by Louis Dressner, where their wines enjoyed a richly deserved success.
The remaining vineyards have been divided between Julien Pineau and Laurent Saillard, Noëlla’s partner. Each will make their own wine, so it will be fascinating to follow the ‘descendants’ of Catherine and Didier – Noëlla, Julien and Laurent! While N.J.L. can be said to be Catherine and Didier’s direct descendants they have inspired a number of the most interesting producers in the Cher Valley – Jean-François Merieau, Jérôme and Dominique Sauvété and Vincent Ricard are three examples.
Reports on Jim’s Loire of their last vintage are here:
Fortunately the wines of Le Clos Roche Blanche keep well and we still have some stock so will be able to enjoy Catherine and Didier’s wines for a number of years yet. Recently we enjoyed one of the last bottles of the lovely 1996 Gamay.