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Château Pierre Bise – Coteaux du Layon Les Rouannières vertical & latest releases

Sarah Ahmed,
My mission is to help others unlock these clues to enhance their appreciation of wine
UK



The Loire region has become an exciting hotbed of activity for the natural wine movement, whose aim is to produce wines with minimal intervention which have an authentic sense of place or goût de terroir (soil, climate etc). The weekend before the Salon, members of Renaissance des Appellations, the group spearheaded by Coulée de Serrant’s Nicolas Joly, showcase their terroir-focused talents. I’ve reported on the wines of members Domaines de Bellivière and le Briseau already (see here) and there’s lots more to follow. In this report, I want to focus on the wines of Château Pierre Bise in Beaulieu-sur-Layon in the heart of AC Coteaux du Layon.

Though not a member of Renaissance des Appellations, Claude Papin of Château Pierre Bise is as tenacious a terroirist as they come and he’s immensely articulate on the subject as I discovered in 2004 when I first visited. Papin introduced me to the concept of UTBs – Unités de Terroir de Base (Terroir Base Units). It’s a form of viticultural zoning aimed at identifying homogenous areas of land within a vineyard whose specific qualities will influence, for example, the ripening process and, it follows, the wine style.



Using this concept, Papin has divided his 54ha estate into 25 different climats (mini parcels) by reference to different factors (UTBs). These include soil type and aspect – no surprises there – but apparently most importantly, distance to the horizon (because this impacts on the angle of the sun and light interception) and soil depth. Papin pointed out that the plateau above his slopes looks homogenous but, below the surface, the geology is folded and soil depth can range from 10cm to 1.5m. As for relationship with the horizon, lower parcels may be only 1km from the horizon while more elevated sites are up to 15km distance from the horizon.

These climats inform his portfolio of climat-specific wines. As Papin put it to me back in 2004, “if I blend from different climats, even 1%, there’s no harmony, no breeding.” Last month his son, René, was in London to present a mini-vertical of the exceptionally ageworthy and complex Coteaux du Layon Les Rouannières. It hails from an elevated, windy site with very shallow rocky soils – the volcanic rock spilite to be precise. You’ll find my tasting notes below, together with notes on recent releases tasted with René and with his parents at the Salon.

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