20 March, 2022

I’m back at the Loire, to help Thomas and to learn more from him, only a few weeks after my visit at the end of January. We arrive in the vineyard at around 10 a.m. Thomas and his (now) two helpers have pruned two-thirds of the vines. It’s a gorgeous look, bare and clean, completely different to the exuberant, lush and green impression you get in summer. Thomas shows me that the vines are ›crying‹ (pleurer). It’s a sign for the awakening of the vine plant and usually occurs in March and April. Soon, the sprouting phase will begin. As temperatures are rising with the earth warming up the vine resumes its activity. The consequent reactivation of the sugar metabolism and the resumption of cellular activity causes the sap to reactivate. The sap begins to flow and come out in the areas where the pruning was done to heal the open ›wound‹. The sap looks like water but when you touch it the sugar makes your hand sticky. We prune. It takes a while to get into it but then I manage fine. Sometimes I don’t cut close enough to the wood which Thomas then corrects. Also, sometimes it’s just very difficult to decide where to prune. Do we go for structure and take away a branch that will give fruit? Or vice versa? After two hours we stop pruning and tighten a few metal ropes, the upper ones. Once a rope has been tightened it’s important to make sure it doesn’t stick out because it can hurt you badly.

On our way to lunch we pass the legendary Clos du Bourg which is where the Domaine Huet farms its famous Chenin (dry and sweet). It’s near Thomas’s vineyard, opposite Vouvray’s cemetery.

After lunch it’s my job to attach the upper metal rope with staples to the wooden poles using a hammer. Preferably, you attach it on the side but sometimes that’s impossible so you go for the top. Afterwards, I use metal clamps to make sure the two metal ropes in the middle of the wire frame in which the vines grow don’t touch the ground. This can sometimes be quite tough on the fingers!

We finish at 5 p.m., and Thomas takes me to Domaine Huet’s tasting room. I’ve long wanted to to taste their biodynamic wines. The domaine was founded in 1928. They’re especially known for their semi-sweet and sweet wines. We taste ten of their wines, the moelleux (meaning ›soft‹, i.e. sweet) »Clos du Bourg« from 2009 I like the most. We take a stroll through the domaine’s cellars and then leave to visit a new ›cave‹, a wine shop, named »La Cave du Théâtre« which has just opened. The owner had asked to taste Thomas’s new vintage, the »Le Rayon Blanc« from 2020 which we bottled in early February. The shop’s great and we buy six different bottles to take home. It’s important to know how other wines taste, you know! Our day then ends at »Dame Jeanne«, a proper bar à vin. (It’s only there I realize that we’re in Tours – all the time I had thought we were in Amboise, the town near Thomas’s home.) Back home Thomas shows me the fantastic book “Es brutal !” which includes very interesting interviews with winemakers producing natural wine in Catalonia.

P.S.: The detailed info on the weeping vines I got (and shamelessly copied) from docvenezia.com.

Pruned vines

Pruned vines

A pruned vine

A pruned vine

An abandoned parcel with beautiful, old Chenin vines

An abandoned parcel with beautiful, old Chenin vines

A ›crying‹ vine

A ›crying‹ vine

Making sure that the upper metal rope doesn't stick out and hurt you

Making sure that the upper metal rope doesn't stick out and hurt you

Domaine Huet's Clos du Bourg

Domaine Huet's Clos du Bourg

Vouvray's cemetary

Vouvray's cemetary

Staples in a bucket. And a hammer

Staples in a bucket. And a hammer

The right way to attach the upper rope to a wooden pole

The right way to attach the upper rope to a wooden pole

The alternative way of attaching the upper rope to a wooden pole

The alternative way of attaching the upper rope to a wooden pole

Attaching a clamp

Attaching a clamp

Tulips! Recently, Thomas planted tulips between the vines. The whole area is famous for it

Tulips! Recently, Thomas planted tulips between the vines. The whole area is famous for it

Thomas Puéchavy studying Domaine Huet's price list – in the background, on the chalkboard, you can see some of the wines we tasted

Thomas Puéchavy studying Domaine Huet's price list – in the background, on the chalkboard, you can see some of the wines we tasted

The wine I liked most (quite pricey)

The wine I liked most (quite pricey)

A photo from the late 1980s, hanging on the wall of Domaine Huet's tasting room: Thomas's parcels are situated in the upper left part of the photo

A photo from the late 1980s, hanging on the wall of Domaine Huet's tasting room: Thomas's parcels are situated in the upper left part of the photo

Domaine Huet's cellar

Domaine Huet's cellar

Visiting »Le Cave du Théâtre«

Visiting »Le Cave du Théâtre«

»Dame Jeanne«

»Dame Jeanne«

The logo of »Dame Jeanne« is a dame-jeanne, a demijohn (bottle)

The logo of »Dame Jeanne« is a dame-jeanne, a demijohn (bottle)

Famille Pfifferling's gorgeous Rhône »Véjade

Famille Pfifferling's gorgeous Rhône »Véjade", 2019, a delicate, velvety assemblage of Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes

A very informative book

A very informative book