Chinon – Les Picasses
Domaine J-M Raffault is the largest single owner in the 15-hectare Les Picasses vineyard, with six hectares. His 15-to-60-year-old vines are spread over ten parcels. Rodolphe Raffault converted the first parcels of Les Picasses to organic viticulture in 2009 and completed the effort in 2015; certification is expected in 2019. The Les Picasses lieu dit is situated on a plateau at the summit of the hills overlooking the Vienne. The site is the highest point between the Vienne and Loire Rivers and is very well exposed. It was home to many windmills in the 19th century. Vines were already planted here by the 15th century. The name Picasses derives from a vineyard tool with two points (pics) used to work on vines planted on stony soil. The soil in the Les Picasses vineyard is a blend of limestone and clay with small stones over a subsoil of pure limestone, imparting intensity and structure to the wine.
The grapes for Les Picasses are destemmed, and fermentation happens spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Malolactic fermentation takes place in casks. The wine is aged in 3-to-10-year-old barriques for 18 months on its fine lees, racked, fined with egg white and bottled. It is a wine of great intensity of flavor – minerally-tinged black cherry and kirsch – and can be aged for many years. 2000 cases produced.
About the Producer
The Chinon appellation covers both banks of the Vienne River, which is a tributary of the Loire. The appellation encompasses 19 communes and has a total area of 2400 hectares. Its soils and climate are perfectly suited to the cultivation of the Cabernet Franc grape.
The Raffault family began cultivating vines in Chinon 14 generations ago, when their ancestor, Mathurin Bottreau, bought his first parcel of vines in 1693. Today, they owns 50 hectares of vines in 7 communes. The Cabernet Franc vines average 35 years of age and 10 hectares within these sites are 50 years of age. The Chenin Blanc vines average 20 years of age.
The late Jean-Maurice Raffault, father of the present manager and winemaker Rodolphe, was one the great personalities of Chinon. Upon taking over the family domaine in 1973, he revolutionized local practices. First, he abandoned polyculture in favor of the cultivation of only wine grapes. Beginning with only the 4.5 hectares he had inherited from his father, he purchased and planted some of the finest known sites of Chinon, expanding the domaine to 50 hectares - J.M. Raffault is the largest shareholder in Les Picasses vineyard. But most importantly, he began to vinify each parcel separately to ensure the typicity of each terroir and he used the name of the individual sites for the respective wines. No one has done this before! The practice of naming Chinons with site names is now commonplace in the appellation. Rodolphe Raffault succeeded his father in 1997, after completing his studies at the Dijon University school of oenology.
Vinification practices: the maceration period ranges from 15 to 28 days. Rodolphe continues the tradition of aging the Chinons in neutral oak casks that are more than 10 years old. The impressive cellar houses 900 barrels and is the largest in the region. Maturation takes place over 18 months in three huge caves cut into the limestone cliffs, protected from light and remaining at a constant temperature of 56 degrees and 85% humidity. Racking is done from barrel to barrel, in the traditional method, which helps to clarify the wines along with a later fining with egg whites. The wines are not filtered.
Farming practices: Certified organic.
Equine Décaivaillonage at Clos de l'Hospice
Note: "décaivaillonage" is plowing.