Domaine Hubert Brochard – Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé
This excellent family estate has been one of our partners for the last thirty years, in which time we have seen the development of their business and also their cellars. However, one thing has remained constant during this time; their ability to create wines that express both their origin and grape variety and which have consistently been of the utmost quality.
The estate in its present form dates back to the early 1900s and today it is managed by the three grandsons of Hubert Brochard, Daniel, Jean-Francois and Benoit with each having their own separate roles within the winery and vineyards. Daniel is the overall manager, Jean-Francois is in charge of the vineyards and Benoit is the wine-maker.
As a team, they work well together and they have more recently been joined by two of Daniel’s daughters, Caroline and Anne-Sophie, the former working on the commercial side whilst Anne-Sophie uses her degree in oenology to help Benoit in the cellar with wine making and has brought to bear her experience working in cellars in Burgundy, Bordeaux and also New Zealand, the second home of Sauvignon Blanc.
The family own just over 60 hectares of vineyards split between the communes of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire together with vineyards just outside the appellations in the regional Vin de Pays. The whites therefore are all made from Sauvignon Blanc and the roses and reds are made from Pinot Noir.
The cellars are in the picturesque village of Chavignol, not only famous for its wines but also the Crottin de Chavignol, a goat’s cheese that comes either fresh, slightly aged or well aged. This tangy, well flavoured cheese, like Sancerre, also enjoys an international reputation and for many years there was a dispensing machine in the centre of the village that ensured they were available night and day! Nowadays, the locals and tourists alike make a trip up the hill to the Dubois Boulay estate where the finest cheeses are on offer. These cheeses in all their forms make superb partners to the white Sancerre wines.
The first tasting we had there was on the feast of St Vincent, the Patron Saint of wine back in January 1986. We had driven from Calais and arrived at lunchtime, two hours before our appointment so, with nothing else to do, we had lunch. We then went down to Chavignol for the tasting which was in their shop as no other tasting facilities had been built at this time. It was the jovial Daniel who gave us the tasting and excellent it was too. At the end of the afternoon he invited us to dinner but we had no accommodation booked so he persuaded a friend to open his hotel. Kind but as we were to discover, as it had been closed for the winter, there was no hot water! After a cold shower, we headed off to the restaurant which turned out to be the same one where we had lunch! It was a wonderful evening and the start of what was to be a lasting friendship between ourselves.
Back to Chavignol and behind the winery is perhaps their finest vineyard, La Côte des Monts Damnés, so called as it is so steep it must be worked by hand and the land is swarming with vipers! This vineyard was originally planted in the 10th century by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St. Satur. Here, their white wine is quite exceptional and contrary to popular belief, it is a wine that can age gracefully for many years. In a recent tasting we tasted 8 vintages dating back to 1997 and all of which were simply wonderful and still in perfect condition. The vines are around 40 years of age and are now giving of their best, the resultant wine being complex with a wonderful balance between depth and freshness. It always shows great ripeness with a tendency for the fruit to be more exotic than for most Sancerre whites.
The rest of the whites are more classically framed with the Les Collines Blanches being so typical of the majority of wines of the region; fresh, mineral and with delicious gooseberry fruit balanced by notes of new-mown grass. Apart from a vieilles vignes cuvée, this wine was the basis of their range back in 1986. However, with the demand over the last fifteen years for more terroir related cuvées some new additions to the range have been brought in and which have proved to be very popular. The Terroirs de Silex, coming from vines planted in the silica based soils of the area, has a flintier edge which makes it the ideal partner to smoked fish dishes. Aujourd’hui Comme Autrefois is made in homage to the older generations of the domaine. It originates from the older vineyards of Chavignol where the soil is limestone based and it is made without temperature control and excessive pumping of the must. It is bottled without fining or filtration direct from the tank and thus can throw a small tartrate crystal in bottle, always a good sign, and it is perfect to enjoy as an aperitif. It can age well too for a handful of years.
Over the river in Pouilly-sur-Loire they have expanded their vineyard holdings and now produce some excellent Pouilly Fumé whites and the latest addition to their range is called Akis, a wine that is fermented and aged in Acacia barrels which give the wine a roundness and elegance. It has great finesse as you would expect as it has been made by Anne-Sophie and the notes of honey, peach, lime and acacia flowers make it a fantastic partner to lobster. Although the vines for this cuvée are on average 30 years of age, this is not sufficient for them to call it an old vines cuvée. That title is reserved for another offering where the vines are an average of 40 years old. They are naturally low cropping and produce grapes of the very highest quality. The must is fermented and aged in oak puncheons of 600 litres, sufficient in size to allow a gentle oxygenation without marking the wine with wooden flavours or aromas. It too can age for a decade or more in top vintages and when served with a grilled fish, it’s quite sublime.
The rosé and red wines are, as we previously said, all Pinot Noir based with the rosé having a salmon pink colour that is derived from skin maceration for 12 hours or so. The aromas are abundant with small red fruits such as strawberry and red currant yet there are also notes of spice. Great with salmon or simply enjoy it by itself. The red wines which we don’t currently stock make excellent alternatives to red Burgundy at a more affordable price. Watch out for these later in the year.
Finally, they have a range of simple wines that they sell under the Carisannes label, the name derived from the two girls who have recently joined the business together with their sister Isabel. They’re great value and lots of fun to drink with the Sauvignon Blanc having a slight New World edge. It’s dry and extremely fruity with hints of blackcurrant leaf and grapefruit. The rosé is elegant and also fruity with hints of raspberry and strawberry dominating. Last but certainly not least is the red Pinot Noir. Packed with black fruit flavours and balanced by ripe and unobtrusive tannins, it makes for great quaffing when served with a simple roast chicken or perhaps a guinea fowl.
In summary, we are extremely proud to have been associated with both the family and their wines for so long. For any of our clients thinking of taking a pilgrimage to the region, there’s a great hotel called La Côte des Monts Damnés in the heart of the village which also has a gastronomic restaurant. These days we tend to eat at Daniel’s house (his wife Christiane is a fine cook) and with every bottle we open back in the UK, great memories of special evenings come flooding back. We hope you’ll have some too!
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