With origins dating back to the 1700s, when current winemaker Philippe Vatan’s ancestors moved along the river from Sancerre to the town of Dampierre to the area where the beautiful Chateau where they now live is to be found, the family decided in 1987 to branch out from fruit farming to vinification and the bottling of their own wines. With intense focus the Vatan’s have become one of the top Domaines in the Loire Valley and certainly one of the very finest producers of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. They have received no less than an unprecedented 11 “Coups de Coeur” in France’s leading wine review, the Guide Hachette!
The perfect cellars for storage and vinification were carved out from under the Chateau from the famous regional stone called “Tuffe” (or Tuffeau) which is the result of the ancient fusion of volcanic ash. The tuffeau is renowned to be an ideal base for vineyards soils: it heats up easily after the winter and regulates beautifully the water supply during summer. The tuffeau drains well, and during the summer droughts, the vine roots can still find enough humidity to help the grapes ripen well. Differences in the soil texture, in the depth of the tuffeau, in the exposition, in the distance from the Loire, in the altitude, plus the plant’s origin and, of course, the age of the vines, all these things give a different potential to each plot. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the ideal grape varieties to benefit from the “Tuffe”!
Chateau du Hureau is all organic. The Chateau du Hureau vineyards spread over about twenty plots covering around 20 hectares, over the villages of Dampierre sur Loire, Souzay-Champigny and Saumur. 18.5 hectares are planted with Cabernet Franc, all of them within the appellation of Saumur-Champigny. The Saumur Blanc and Coteaux de Saumur come from 4 little plots of Chenin, representing 1.5 hectares.
Saumur Blanc. The Domaine’s 4 tiny plots of Chenin Blanc are worked to keep yields low (30-40 hl/ha) and to see the grapes ripening to a point where sugar is not added (chaptalisation) to bring up the alcohol content. The harvest is entirely manual into small baskets, and the grapes are then sorted, pressed and fermented in vat with indigenous yeasts. The soil is Clay/limestone and average vine age is 30 years+. The wine has a richness and texture that is well supported by fresh pure acidity and works well with white fish and meats, which contain richer, more buttery sauces.
Saumur Champigny “Tuffe”. A mixture of old vine and younger Cabernet Franc vines from different “Terroirs” in the Saumur and Dampierre area. All have the famous underlying “Tuffe” in common, which can be generally found between 1-2 metres below the surface. The result is the perfect expression of Saumur Champigny, with its freshness, fruity inner core of sweet red berry and graphite, but with an underlying minerality that makes it the perfect wine with food. The grapes are harvested by hand, severely sorted, destemmed and have a 25-35 days maceration period. Ageing is majority tank, a small volume in large foudres for 12-24 months.
Saumur Champigny “Fours a Chaux”. From one of the appellation’s leading “terroirs”, the “Fours à Chaux” cuvee is one of the Domaine’s top cuvées. The soil is sand with clay above the tuffeau. Due to the southeast exposure and the light texture, the soil warms up easily and manages to give very ripe grapes whatever the vintage. Vines are aged from 20 to 50 years old. Aromatic complexity, elegance, light and round tannins are the signature of “Fours à Chaux”. As with the “Tuffe”, the vineyards are hand harvested. The vines are organic, the soil is worked, the vines debudded. Leaf-thinning and green harvesting are also practiced. After severe sorting and destemming, there is a maceration period of 25-30 days and ageing takes place over 24 months in 32 hl wooden foudres. 2011 was bottled without filtration and has an additional richness, spicy leather and licorice notes, and depth, which allows it to accompany richer, spicier foods.