Xavier Weisskopf is clearly a star on the rise in the Loire. He produces wonderfully pure wines from of captivating depth and style in the tiny appellation of Montlouis - only 300 hectares and well known for producing great dry and sweet white wines from Chenin grapes.
The small vineyard of 9 hectares was mostly planted before 1940. The oldest vines are now +125 years. The yields are naturally low and all harvesting is done by hand
Xavier is lucky to own a collection of exceptional grapes : Sauvignon (Touraine Sauvignon), Côt (Touraine Red) and Chenin (Montlouis). The entire estate is farmed organically without the use of any chemicals or artificial fertilisers.
The wines are fresh, mineral and long.
Le Rocher des Violettes
TOUCHE MITAINE Chenin
From a 10-acre parcel named 'Touch of the Mitten' because it’s cold up there during pruning season.
At 40+ years of age, this is Xavier’s youngest parcel of Chenin, growing in limestone flint soil. This is normally raised entirely in older barrels, although the very productive year of 2015 outpaced his supply of barrels so a third was raised in steel.
The élevage goes for six months with regular lees stirring, after which the wine is bottled to preserve fruit and elegance.
Montlouis faces Vouvray across the broad Loire. These are Touraine’s two great white wine appellations, and both have plateaus where most of the vineyards grow high above the river. Montlouis has somewhat more sand and less clay in its soils and its wines, very generally, can consequently be fresher and straighter, requiring more time in bottle to round out. Vouvray’s advantage in clay favors botrytis, which can add any number of layers of fat to a wine.
Xavier converted to organic farming in 2009, and now plows his rows and doesn’t use herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. He prunes his younger vines for low yields of 30-35 hectoliters per hectare (the old vines give about 25 hl/ha), and harvests by hand. He favors 500-liter demi-muid barrels over steel tanks for the exchange of oxygen the wood permits, which is particularly useful for Chenin because its wine is prone to reduction. He’s careful to preserve fruit without letting oak intrude; he likes his wines to be fresh, mineral, and long and vertical rather than fat.
This is the old-vine cuvée, brought up in demi-muidbarrels for 18 to 20 months with regular bâtonnage. About 30% of those barrels are new.
The grapes come from two adjacent parcels, one of which is named Négrette, that total 3.7 acres. The topsoil is a mix of sand, clay and limestone, and runs about eighteen inches deep to rest on more than six feet of dense clay, which in turn rests on the tuffeau.
The wine needs aeration in its youth to show its stuff and is best decanted. It is dry, richly layered and textured, and terrifically mineral.
Montlouis Semi Dry
From a 2.5-acre parcel named Les Borderies, where most of the vines date from 1922 and the average age is 80.
The wine is raised for six months in older demi-muid barrels. The range for residual sugar for demi-sec is 8-30 g/l; Les Borderies stays around 10 g/l, hence the tendre designation, which is the informal class between sec and demi-sec.
COT VIEILLES VIGNES Malbec
This comes from two parcels of Malbec totaling 3.5 acres. The vines are all very old, with the oldest section planted in 1891! In ripe years, this is made with up to 100% whole clusters, which helps a lot in avoiding reduction problems. In cooler years, this is de-stemmed (for example, 2014 was entirely de-stemmed; 2015 was entirely whole cluster).
The élevage lasts for roughly six months and takes place in older barrels. This wine is deep, dark and dense, yet surprisingly elegant and floral. Not for the shy of heart.
"Across the river from Vouvray, the tiny appellation of Montlouis has been home to one of the most amazing and exciting wine revivals of modern France, and at least three Montlouis growers--Blot, Chidaine, and Xavier Weisskopf (of Rocher des Violettes)--are challenging the local qualitative pre-eminence of Vouvray."
–David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate #172