Ch. du Hureau

Anjou and Saumur, Loire, France

This historic property is considered one of the top producers in Saumur-Champigny. The château has been in the family for 5 generations, and today, is run by Philippe Vatan. The estate is located four miles east of Saumur and 15 miles west of Chinon. Though the Loire Valley is replete with historical castles, a wine-producing château is actually a rarity. True to form, the Hureau estate comes complete with jaw-dropping Loire-esque architecture: along with its octagonal tower and boar-headed weathervane (from which the estate derives its name), there are 13th century wine caves built into an enormous tufa-limestone shelf that borders the back of the château. On top of this tuffeau shelf - which is level with the château’s 18th century Mansard roof - grows the estate’s Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. This underlying tuffeau (a soft chalk from the Cretaceous Period) is the common thread that gives the Saumur-Champigny its distinctive quality. Château du Hureau encompasses 18.5 hectares of 21 individual parcels throughout the appellation: Dampierre Sur Loire, Souzay, Champigny and Saumur. With topsoil layers that vary from fertile clay to sandy soils, as well as varying sun exposures, each vineyard parcel has a unique terroir that inspires four principal cuvées from the estate. Château du Hureau has been steadily moving towards a natural approach to viticulture—indeed, the estate is officially 100% organic as of the 2007 vintage. In the vineyard, a thick layer of grass grows between the vinerows which are tilled by hand. The vines are also meticulously pruned by hand: Philippe rigorously crop-thins his vineyards, dropping fruit and retaining only very ripe bunches. He diligently passes through the vineyard numerous times, hand-harvesting so late that the final picking is often touched by passerillage (drying) or even noble rot (for the white). Once the grapes arrive in cellar for vinification, Philippe hand-sorts one final time, guaranteeing utmost quality and ripeness of fruit. All the grapes are vinified with indigenous yeasts. The wines are all aged in tank except for his top cuvée, “Lisagathe”, which includes a small percentage of older oak. These are dark, intense and sappy Cabernet Francs, with plenty of lovely fruit balanced by acidity and minerality from the underlying tuffe soils.

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