Variety: Chenin Blanc
Country, Region: France, Loire Valley
This is the first edition of L’Electron Libre, a new ‘super cuvée’ from Christophe Pichot and inspired by the best young sommelier of 2021, Marie Wodecki from Hôtel Crillon in Paris. The concept is to fully represent the domaine by selecting one small parcel of fruit from each of the domaine’s ten vineyard plots, which include some of the best premier coteau sites above the village and those above the winery in the Vallée de Nouys.
The parcels are whole-bunch pressed as one batch and the juice cold-settled for 24 hours, before racking to ten new 300-litre barrels for ferment. Christophe allows the ferment to proceed to its natural conclusion and in 2020 the wine finished with 14 g/L of residual sugar, which beautifully balances the naturally high acidity of the Chenin Blanc fruit.
And such is the power of the fruit that after 12 months maturation, the new oak is completely assimilated, resulting in a wine of remarkable purity, concentration and complexity.
With just the ten barrels produced, L’Electron Libre is a resounding success. Indeed it’s a wine that will reward decades of cellaring (in a properly cool cellar) and elevates the wines of Domaine Pichot to a new level, certainly the equal of any in the region.
'Less well known than Huet or Clos Naudin, the Pichots merit as much praise.' Le Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France, La Revue de Vins de France.
The Pichot family is one of the oldest in Vouvray with origins as restaurateurs going back to 1739 later followed by the purchase of the superb Coteau de la Biche vineyards in 1770 establishing them as growers to help supply the restaurant. Their vineyard holdings are mostly located all at the top of the village with the largest holding which makes up their classic Coteau de la Biche in the prime Vallee de Nouys which is perfectly sited for making drier styles of wine and faces south-east. The Pichot family also own most of the “premiere coteau” site of Le Marigny located just above the village opposite Clos du Bourg. These are quite simply regarded as being amongst the very best vineyard sites of the appellation.
All vineyards are farmed organically with grasses grown between the rows to reduce the uptake of moisture and vigour to the vines. The average age of vines is high with the Clos Cartaud vines around 75 years old. While Vouvray as a whole produces about 40 % sparkling wines and 60 % still wines at Domaine Pichot more than 85 % are still wines made into sec, demi-sec or moelleux and less than 15 % being made as sparkling wines. The style of the wines here is among the driest of the appellation for each style with sec typically being from 3-7 g/L residual and demi-sec from 13-17 g/L with moelleux most often around 60 g/L. Harvesting is mostly done by hand and yields are kept low at an average 25 hl/ha.
One of the first domaines of Vouvray to export to the U.S.A. Domaine Pichot are perhaps better known in export markets than at home in France as Christophe spends most of his time ‘hands-on’ in the vineyards and winery and being such a small producer he is very focused for each step of production. Domaine Pichot are very well known for the brilliant quality of the stunning sweet wines, although their dry and demi-sec wines are also superb. Right across the range these are remarkable wines that will age effortlessly for decades (as vintages back to 1950’s very generously shared from the family cellar have demonstrated) and will also provide great satisfaction from a young age.