This is the soil from François Crochet’s single-vineyard cru, “Les Amoureuses”. It is called that because the vines grow on soils that have heavier clays than his othe parcels. As you can see, when I’ve smashed them together, they stick together. Les Amoureuses translates to “the lovers”, in French. It is a reference to the clay in the vineyard sticking to the boots. Les Amoureuses is the most hedonistic of François’s Sancerres. It has the most grit, texture and power of the three. This is mostly attributed to the density of the clay. This is very typical of clay soils compared to other soils with better drainage.
The hands of François Crochet and the tiny limestone pebbles of Le Chene, his greatest wine. François picked up these little guys, which they call “caillottes” to show me the general composition of Le Chene. It has a perfect balance of limestone and clay. The soil is laden with these degraded caillottes which are loaded with calcium. The vineyard lies on a bit of a plateau as well, which keeps it both exposed and cold at the same time. Le Chene Marchand has it all –purity, acidity, nobility, texture and unmistakable mineralic impressions.
Les Exils =The Exils. Silex is the soil here –clearly stating the obvious. Located on the southeast portion of Sancerre, this is a bit of a drive for François Crochet from his home in Bué. François says that when he plows this vineyard, he has to change the blades four or five more times than in his other vineyards. This super-hard silex stone is abusive to both the plow and the boots of the vineyard workers. The stone is super hard and sharp. Silex is an extremely hardened stone that is made of, in this case, clay, limestone and silica. It is also referred to as a “flint” stone. This particular wine from François is the most mineral expression. The vines are still young, so it doesn’t have the follow through like Le Chene and Les Amoureuses, but there is always a trade-off between wines. Minerality and acidity are the strengths from this vineyard.
These are schist soils from the vineyard “Cornillard”, a single vineyard bottling from Patrick Baudoin. Almost 100% of the topsoil is made up of decomposed schist –much like most of the Coteaux de Layon.
Schist and quartz rock from Quarts de Chaumes in one of Patrick Baudouin’s two parcels in the appellation. Quarts de Chaumes is a fabulous appellation that makes botrytis dessert wines. Baudouin’s is the bomb.
This little rock collection is what one would mostly see coming out of the Coteaux du Layon appellation. Schist rocks on the bottom, quartz/schist killer combo. On the top right is a volcanic rock from a vineyard that is bottled as “Effusion” –which is a reference to effusive magmatic rock. Effusive rock is magma flow that has cooled on the surface of the earth. Rocks such as granites or diorite, which are also volcanic but have cooled under the earth’s surface are called “intrusive” igneous rocks.
Classic soil composition of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. Alluvium from years of the Loire river and all of its tributaries depositing a massive collection of stones. There are patches of limestone in Saumur, but they are far less than one would like.
This soil is the stuff that makes up the basic soil composition in “Les Terres Rouges”. It is not red soil, but much more dark than most in Saumur-Champigny. It has a little bit less calcium in the soil, but more clay, which really gives the wine a little more umphf than the basic Saumur-Champigny from Domaine de St. Just.
This formation is classic “Portlandian” limestone. This little piece of earth is at the top of the hill of Epineuil, just outside of Chablis to the east. They make Pinot Noir there. It’s pretty cool to see how the stratification of the limestone sediments just sat there and got compressed. This is a limestone that is not as active as Kimmeridgian.
Classic Kimmeridgian limestone –the backbone of the freshness and mineral-like components of Chablis. Kimmeridgian rock is generally a mixture of calcium-rich clays that have hardened with a mixture of tiny bits of oyster shells in them. It is not really the oyster shells that give the magic, it’s the age of the limestone and what created it in that moment in time about 140 million years ago. Kimmeridgian limestone is much more friable than Portlandian limestone, so it is easier for the vines to access the nutrients, such as calcium that are available for the plant. It’s really the soil laying around the rock that gives it the magic, not the stones themselves.
This is a nice little batch of Portlandian limestones that are most typical in Petit Chablis, and probably surprising to most to find out that the vast majority of the grand crus in Chablis are also sitting on a bed of deep clays that are mixed with Portlandian limestone. The famous Kimmeridgian rock lies actually about 20 to 25 meters in some places below the topsoil. This photo was taken in Domaine Collet’s Chablis Grand Cru Valmur.
Here’s a great shot that will help you sum up the tactile differences (well at least you can imagine the tactile differences!!) between Portlandian limestone (on the left) and Kimmeridgian (on the right). As you can imagine, the “freeze-thaw” effect of erosion could easily fissure the Portlandian stone, but the stone would mostly just fissure, whereas the Kimmeridgian has something to give once more intensely fragmented. A theory, but a very practical one.
This is granitic soil from the very top of the hill of Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. You can see how lacking in clay base it is up here. Once you toss the dirt, very dry dirt powder remains. No sticky stuff. This means a lot about water retention, or the lack there of. If you zoom in, you can see the little shinny mica flakes left on my hand too.
This is bunch of broken down granite on the hill of L’Olivaie in St. Joseph. This is one of Jerome Coursodon’s most serious wines. It is located in Mauves (perhaps more technically in Tournon), just across the river from Hermitage to the north. Mauves and Tournon are two of the most important and are of the original six communes of St. Joseph before the massive expansion. The soil is purely granitic and gneiss based soils. These soils are super high in acidity and available metals for the plant. The granite soils of this area, Hermitage included, are extremely friable and erosion is a major problem. Every rainstorm threatens the terraced walls. These vigneron spend an awful lot of time rebuilding walls.
This beautiful red soil is laced with limestone fragments. This is where François Crochet grows in Pinot Noir grapes, in Sancerre. He likes this soil the best for Pinot Noir because it has the best drainage of all the land he owns. The soil is much more like a sandy loam. It is pretty dry soil, even when it is wet. This is ideal for Pinot Noir from here as it is much more extreme than in Burgundy. It’s true that Sancerre is pretty much the same latitude as Dijon, but the climate is more extreme and less protected. Pinot needs all the advantages it can get just to get to phenolic ripeness.
On the left are vines of François Crochet and on the right are someone else’s. François’s neighboring vineyard owner doesn’t like life in his soils. François doesn’t proclaim any association to any established practice or dogma. He proclaims common sense – work with nature, not against it.