Before the age of 30, Chinon-native Bertrand Sourdais had already made an impressive name for himself at Spain’s upstart, Dominio de Atauta. It was his first post at the helm, following stints at Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux, Santa Rita in Chile, and with Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. His work and experience at Atauta, discovering a new terroir of remote ancient, ungrafted vines far away from the heart of the Ribeira del Duero appellation, gave him many invaluable lessons. The most important of these was the need to think critically about every single step in the viticulture and winery work, being careful to honor tradition, and sometimes question it, and to avoid mistakes often made by a more standard and modernist approach.
By 2003, Bertrand was determined to return to France and take up the challenge of his beloved Cabernet Franc. His family estate, Domaine de Pallus, is located in Cravant-le-Côteaux, in the heart of the appellation, and is blessed with some of Chinon’s choicest vineyards. With vines averaging over 45 years of age, Pallus held all the potential Bertrand could hope for. Taking what he had learned from Atauta, he began his quest to find the ultimate limit for Pallus and by 2010, conversion to biodynamic practices was underway. Additionally, he reduced yields to approximately 30 hl/ha.
In the cellar, Bertrand completely rethought the winemaking process. He employs an extended maceration of up to an thirty days, quite long by Loire Cabernet Franc standards, to capture the “true” personality of Chinon. Elévage is similarly long and gentle and primarily takes place in second passage barrels from elite Bordeaux estates. All in all, the wines are handled less, and bottled later, than almost any others in Chinon.
The flagship cuvée “Les Pensées” represents the diversity of the domaine’s soils. Bertrand seeks a blend of limestone and clay for aromatics, heavier clay for power, and sand for finesse. With each passing year, he incorporates more of the estate vineyards into the blend, but only after a parcel has proven its worth…just as Bertrand had to do when he returned to the family domaine.