The Chateau 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.
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 Chateau Soucherie and add the wines of Chateau 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.
Anjou RougeThis lively, fruity red retains a strong minerality to its finish that lends class and balance to this simple and reasonably priced wine. Cabernet Franc forms the backbone of this wine (90%) but is blended with a touch of Grolleau (10%). The vines are planted to gravel and schist soils. The elevage is in cuve on the fine lies for approximately eight months. We purchase on the order of 5000 bottles of this wine annually.
Anjou Blanc “Cuvée Les Rangs de Longue”This cuvée is essentially vinified exclusively for our use in the US market. The grapes, 100% Chenin Blanc, are sourced from the vineyard site “Les Rangs de Longue” which is on the northern part of the estate but with south-southeastern exposure. The soil is a mix of clay and sand and limestone with some schist. The wine is vinified totally dry in cuve and aged on the fine lies for eight to nine months before being bottled. Approximately 12,000 bottles per annum are produced for the US market.
Savennieres “Clos des Perrieres”This 1.8 hectare vineyard in the heart of the Savennieres district on the northern side of the Loire is planted exclusively to Chenin Blanc and produces a classic version of this entrancing appellation. The soil is a mix of sand, volcanic rocks, schist and granite. Fermentation and the first nine-months of elevage occurs in barrel but the wine then spends about four additional months assembled in cuve resting on the fine lies before being bottled. Approximately 1500 bottles per annum come to the USA.
Coteaux du LayonThis wine is produced from several different lieu-dits on the estate which share soils of clay and schist. Fermentation and elevage occur in cuve with extensive contact with the fine lies. The degree of residual sugar that remains in the wine varies depending on the vintage but, it is important to note, the vibrant acidity and intense minerality of this wine leaves a lingering, dry finish.
Coteaux du Layon “Vieilles Vignes”This cuvée is produced from some of the oldest vines on the estate, the majority of which are more than seventy (70) years of age. The vines are planted to a clay-schist soil. The wine is fermented in barrel and also aged therein for about nine months before bottling.
Coteaux du Layon “Chaume”The exceptional Chaume vineyard produces the grandest wine of Soucherie. The vineyards border the Layon river and are often swathed in an early morning fog. The soil is clay and schist. The special micro-climate that exists in Chaume creates a tendency for botrytis to develop and the grapes from this vineyard in Chaume are almost always blessed with 100% botrytis. Harvest is done by multiple passes through the vineyard that can frequently cover several weeks of work. The wine is fermented in barrel (about one-third of which is new) and then spends 18 months in barrel for the elevage. We purchase approximately 1200 bottles per year for the US market.
Rosé de LoireThis dry, mineral-driven Rosé is produced from Grolleau (70%) and Gamay (30%). The vines are planted to clay, sandstone and schist soils. The wine is a product of the direct press method of vinification and the elevage is in cuve with bottling occurring usually in April of the spring following harvest. We purchase approximately 7800 bottles for the US market.
Anjou Rouge: This lively, fruity red retains a strong minerality to its finish that lends class and balance to this simple and reasonably priced wine. Cabernet Franc forms the backbone of this wine (90%) but is blended with a touch of Grolleau (10%). The vines are planted to gravel and schist soils. The elevage is in cuve on the fine lies for approximately eight months. We purchase on the order of 5000 bottles of this wine annually.
Anjou Rouge Village “Champs Aux Loups”This is a single-vineyard cuvée from an old vines parcel that fronts the Château. The soil is a mix of limestone, sand and clay. Cabernet Franc is the sole vine planted in this lieu-dit. The grapes are destemmed, then they are fermented in cuve. The wine is then racked into barrel to age for 24 months before being bottled without filtration.