2015 Le Rocher des Violettes Pétillant Montlouis Sur Loire
Region: Montlouis Sur Loire < Loire Valley < France
Grapes: Chenin Blanc
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: certified organic, hand harvested
Winemaker: Xavier Weisskopf
The dashing young Xavier Weisskopf, who studied winemaking in Chablis and Beaune then cut his teeth as making four vintages for the famous Château de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas, founded Le Rocher des Violettes in 2005. A Chenin Blanc nut, he settled in the grape’s epicenter, Montlouis, a historic appellation that was no longer in vogue and therefore could be had on the cheap. He acquired 9 hectares of sacred old vine sites (mostly planted pre-WWII), which he immediately converted to certified organics. I had the pleasure of visiting Xavier in 15th century stone cellar dug out of the Loire’s chalk limestone bank in Amboise. His passion was contagious, and his wines, which literally sparkle with clarity and focus, remain Chenin benchmarks for me. This softly sparkling wine is technically Pétillant Original, which, by AOC law since 2007, means bubbly wine made in bottle with native yeast and without any sugar additions (which Champagne method allows at three points in the process) – at disgorgement the bottles are simply topped off with the same wine and corked. But Xavier joined three other Montlouis growers and took the legal dictates one step further by drawing up a quality charter mandating low yields, greater ripeness than normally attained for sparkling wine, and a minimum of 9 months on the lees before disgorgement. Currently, they are the only four producers in Montlouis making this amped-up Originel. Xavier’s is made from old-vine Chenin growing in AC Touraine, and it rests on its lees for 24 months. Because of this extended lees contact, the wine is soft and welcoming, with gentle bubbles, floral and orange blossom notes, chalky minerality and a full, cream-soda plushness.