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The Clos du Tue-Boeuf in Les Montils (AOC Cheverny) is one of the most important domains of the Loire Valley, particularly for those who value organic farming and natural vinifications with zero or minimal added sulfur. Winemaking at the Clos dates back to the middle ages - the wines were enjoyed by King Francois 1er in the 16th century. The Puzelat family has been present in Les Montils since the 15th century - it was Jean and Solange Puzelat who took over the estate in 1947, and transformed the polyculture farm principally into vineyards. Their sons Jean-Marie and Thierry grew up in the vines, and after working at estates in France and abroad, returned to take over the family domaine, first Jean-Marie in 1989, joined by Thierry in 1994. Quickly becoming part of the growing natural wine scene in France, the brothers stopped all additives in their vinifications in 1994 and became certified organic in the vines in 1996. I remember how exciting it was to taste their wines at the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers in 1997, after the headache of tasting hundreds of wines from conventional farming, with 100+ mg/liter of sulfur! The work of Jean-Marie and Thierry has inspired dozens of vigneron(ne)s throughout the Loire to follow their path, and with new parcels and many experiments, the Puzelats' wines have gained in elegance, consistency and finesse while retaining the excitement and freedom of their early productions.
The affable Jean-Marie has now supposedly retired, and Thierry's daugher Zoé has officially taken her place in the family cellar. We tasted 15 wines, most of which have arrived in NY, with Thierry and Zoé at the Salon Les Pénitentes in Angers last winter. It was a fabulous tasting with wines ranging from simply delicious to unique, complex, fascinating and age-worthy. We are excited to offer these outstanding wines, but we're sorry that many are in short supply. These are among our very favorite natural wines of France, and despite the inane tariffs imposed by our government, they remain reasonably priced - we urge you to try them! (Wines arrive August 27th)
Read on for details about the vineyards and vines…
Isolated from other agriculture, the vines of Tue-Boeuf are part of a mosaic of hedges and forests which make up a balanced ecosystem. While some vines are 115 years-old, the majority of the parcels date from the renovation of the vineyards in the 1960’s by Jean and Solange Puzelat.
Wines produced by the Clos du Tue-Boeuf are roughly divided into three parts:
Wines from the original Clos consisting of about 5 hectares in the commune of Les Montils, made from Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc, Fié Gris, Chardonnay and Menu Pineau in AOC Cheverny, as well as wines receiving the Vin de France label made from Romorantin, Pineau d’Aunis and Pinot Gris. The terroir here is clay with silex over limestone of Blois on south/southeast facing slopes above the river Beuvron. The Romorantin, an “eccentric” variety, is grown on sandy soils;
Wines from 3+ hectares in the commune of Monthou-Sur-Bièvre, about 2 kilometres away, in the appellation Touraine, acquired after Thierry’s arrival in the 1990s. Beginning in 2019 these wines are labeled Vin de France and are made from Côt, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay, Meslier, Sauvignon Blanc and Menu Pineau (Orbois). Here, “Brin de Chevre” and “Guerrerie” are parcels of clay with silex, while “Buisson Pouilleux” and “Petit Buisson” are on sand and gravel soils.
Wines from purchased grapes sourced from organic growers, mostly in the Cher Valley of Touraine, used for the cuvees “Vin Blanc, “Vin Rouge” and “Vin Rosé.” The devastating frosts now occurring almost every year in the Loire Valley have forced most small estates to buy grapes in order to survive. The results, in these three wines, are uniformly delicious…
The estate is particularly proud of their patrimony of “local” grapes – Thierry talks about Menu Pineau in the “Brin de Chevre” vineyard – "This grape is super resistant. Esca has never been a problem and it resists mildew. The three really local varieties - Menu Pineau, Romorantin and Pineau D'Aunis - are always the most resistant to illness. Gamay and Sauvignon have only been planted here for 100 years, and they are always sick. This is why we've started replanting only these old varieties."
Grapes are harvested by hand, no additives are used during vinification, a tiny dose of SO2 is added at bottling if needed. Fermentations with wild yeasts are long, aging is primarily in used barrique or tronconic wooden vats.
At the Clos du Tue-Boeuf “to make wine is to position ourselves as the intermediary between the soil and the glass of wine.”
100% Sauvignon Blanc. The Vin Blanc is the starting point for Tue-Boeuf's whites. The fruit is sourced from farmer friends in the Cher Valley (the Puzelat home turf in the Touraine); the vines average about 20 years old and are organically farmed, on clay soils with varying degrees of sand, gravel, flint and quartz. As for all Tue Boeuf wines, the Vin Blanc fruit is hand-harvested, whole-cluster-pressed, fermented spontaneously with natural yeasts in tank and not racked until bottling. It is aged in stainless steel tank only. The Vin Blanc is the only Tue Boeuf to be fined and there is a small addition of SO2 (20mg/liter) before bottling. 2019 saw a 60% reduction in production due to May frost. Tasted with Thierry in January of 2020, the wine showed beautifully pure Sauvignon fruit, with hints of pear, fig and citrus, a round, supple mid-palate and a refreshing finish, really delicious and really benefitting from the low level of SO2.
1/3 each Sauvignon Blanc/Fié Gris/Chardonnay (possibly with Menu Pineau in 2018). The name of the site, Frileuse, roughly translates as "little cold one," a nod to the flat, frost-prone nature of this vineyard. These three varieties are co-planted in one 3.8-hectare estate site, Fié Gris being the historical name for Sauvigon Gris, itself an old variation of Sauvignon Blanc originating in Bordeaux (it tends to be fuller-bodied, softer, richer and more melon-mango in flavor vs. the better-known Blanc). The vines are planted on flinty clay soils, range from 4 to 47 years old and are organically farmed and hand-harvested. The wine is fermented with natural yeasts and aged on its lees with bâtonnage for 8 months in used demi-muids and Burgundy barrels; bottled unfiltered and with a minute amount of sulfur. Because Frileuse lies within the original Clos, the home estate of Tue-Boeuf in Cheverny, the full estate name features prominently at the top of the label; the wine is classified as Cheverny AOC. Quite open and exhuberant, the 2018 Frileuse shows dense white fruits with herbal and mineral flavors - it's a delicious and versatile wine to serve with full-flavored fish and white meats.
The rare and superb 2018 Romorantin "Frileuse" from Tue-Boeuf is 1/3 from 110 year-old vines and 2/3 from 40 year-old vines on clay/silex soils, ages 12 months in Burgundy barrels, 15 mg/l SO2. The 2018 is a dense and earthy Romorantin that will age beautifully - we've tasted 50 year-old Romo in the cellar at Clos Roche Blanche and we suspect this wine will go on forever as well. If drinking now please decant well in advance to bring out the stone fruits, almond, mineral and anise flavors. 18 btls available.
The unique and vibrantly delicious 2018 "Brin de Chèvre" is 100% Menu Pineau grown on clay soils with silex and gravel, 70% 65-80 year-old and 30% young vines, aged for 12 months in demi-muid and Burgundy barrels, 15mg/L SO2. This is always one of my favorite Loire whites with it's combination of ripe, dense pear and quince, with sharp herbal flavors and bracing citrusy acidity with fabulous length. It's a wine to sip and contemplate, perhaps with some halibut, monkfish or full-flavored ceviche. Don't serve it too cold and please decant or cellar for ten years. 18 bottles available.
100% Gamay. The Puzelats source organically farmed fruit from friends in the Touraine as well as in the Beaujolais. The bunches are hand-harvesed and direct-pressed into tank, where the wine ferments spontaneously with native yeasts and goes through malo as well. It is aged briefly in tank and bottled without fining or filtering and with minimal sulfur. The 2019 offering of the Vin Rosé from our friends the Puzelat brothers is totally dry, with ripe red raspberry and strawberry, and a touch of blood orange. There is a subtle structure on the juicy mid-palate - which makes this a very food friendly wine - and a super mineral finish. (Only 10 mg/l SO2) A great vintage for the Tue-Boeuf Rosé!
100% Gamay on clay and flint over limestone, organic and biodynamic farming. The 2019 La Butte shows a level of ripeness never seen before in this wine (except in 2018!) with bright, deep strawberry and raspberry aromas with pretty floral notes. Quite dense red fruits on the palate, supple and textured, really lovely with the lush fruit lifted by refreshing acidity. This is just plain yummy and will accompany just about anything. David Lillie
90% Côt/10% Gamay. La Guerrerie is an estate parcel named in reference to its history as a battlefield in the Hundred Years' War. It is a flat, clay-rich site co-planted with Côt, aka Malbec, and Gamay in the 1980's. The wine shows a bright red/black color, with beautiful lush blackberry and black raspberry aromas, floral, minty, ripe and deep; the palate is sappy and supple with bright blackberry and red currant liqueur, a bit lighter than the extremely ripe 2018, very long and balanced with lemony acidity - just a beautiful wine - luscious now, although very young, it should be quite interesting with 5 to 10 years of aging. We tasted the 2015 last winter with Thierry and it was really singing! Highly recommended. (Only 2 cs available) David Lillie
The Puzelats source tiny quantities of Pineau d'Aunis, mainly from neighbor vigneronne Valérie Forgues, who organically tends and hand harvests her hundred-plus-year-old vines. 2015 was their first vintage of this bottling. The wine is aged for 6 months in old barrels and was bottled and vinified with zero added sulfur. The aromas are floral with ripe raspberry, blackberry and blood orange, with pepper, brown spice, and animal notes. The palate is lush and bright with plum skin and blackberry fruit, very earthy firm acidity and berry fruits in the finish. Very delicious now, served cool, but probably best after a few years of cellaring - a superb Pineau D'Aunis for lovers of natural wines. (2 cases available)
50% Pinot Noir/50% Gamay. Named Rouillon or "rusty" for the reddish tint of its clay-limestone soils, this 1.9-hectare estate vineyard is made up of two parcels, one of Pinot Noir planted in 1991 and one of Gamay planted in 1996. 2019 is a great vintage for the reds from Jean-Marie, Thierry and Zoe Puzelat at Clos du Tue-Boeuf as the wines show deep ripeness while retaining lovely balance and freshness. The 2019 Rouillon shows bright, floral tart plum, raspberry and wild strawberry aromas with citrus and earth. The palate is light but sappy and ripe with wild strawberry, plum skin, earth and spice. The finish is long with citrus and mineral flavors and a bit of tannin. Irresistible now, this should be very interesting after a few years in the cellar. Serve cool, zero or minimal added SO2. (4 cs available)
100% Pinot Noir. La Caillère is a 1.35-hectare estate plot of 35-to40-year-old Pinot Noir vines planted on very deep clay over limestone. The argilo-silex soils are sandy and rocky and in fact the parcel takes its name from caillasse, meaning "hard rocks." The Puzelats farm La Caillère organically and harvest it by hand. Vinification begins as semi-carbonic for 10 to 14 days, then finishes traditionally after pressing followed by 10 to 12 months aging in demi-muids and old barriques. The 2018 shows very complex tart cherry, red-currant, violet and earth aromas, quite pretty and with more ripeness than usual in this vintage. The palate is intense but light with fascinating black cherry, blood orange and spice flavors that linger with earthy acidity in the very long finish. This is an unususal and delicious Pinot that should develop well over the next 5 to 8 years. Minimal, or perhaps zero added SO2.