to the Loire regions
The eight hectares he inherited through the Boissinot side of the family (some of which he still rents from his uncle) are all located on the plain around the hamlet of Briançon, an area not renowned for the longevity of the wines it produces. Now approaching an average of 50 years old, Alliet handles these grapes in pretty much the same was the rest of his range; committing the wines to his Vieilles Vignes cuvée which forms a major part of his production (around 40,000 bottles a year). It was this wine that helped to secure Alliet's reputation in the appellation from the start, although the obsession with Bordeaux and its wines ensures that the style is more akin to modern Claret than anything that could be considered typically Chinonnais.
With such ambition, it was clear to Alliet that at some point he would need to expand his vineyard holdings beyond the plain and start to exploit the more serious slopes. The opportunity came in the early 1990s when, with the help of a beneficiary, he purchased land in the Coteau de Noiré. Although one hectare had been established in the early 1980s the remainder of this steep south-facing slope was planted in 1996. The winemaking here echoes the techniques used for modern Bordeaux: a 4-5 week cuvaison in tank followed by malo-lactic fermentation in barrels; four-fifths of which are new and the balance second-fill. The wine remains in wood for between 12 and 18 months, depending upon the style of the vintage.
By 2000, Alliet was working nine hectares of vines. He added to this with the acquisition and planting of the two hectare L'Huisserie on the argilio-silicieux soils that adjoin Le Clos Guiollot on the Chinon-Cravant border and not too far from the Coteau de Noiré in 2001. The first vintage was 2004 and the wines have typically been raised for 18 months in demi-muid (of which 15% are new) before release. These are obviously young vines and Alliet elects to syhon off a certain proportion for the production of a generic Chinon which he labels as Tradition.
In addition to the four reds there is also a little rosé from younger vines which Alliet planted in 1998 (although there was none produced from the 2010 vintage as there was too little juice in the hard-skinned berries). As with his other wines, it's a serious example that deserves some bottle age to allow it to show some character.
There are now a total of 17 hectares and the wines have historically been produced in three separate cellars, although there was a period of consolidation in 2005 with the construction of a purpose-built warehouse-cuverie on land owned by Philippe's uncle in Briançon.
Alliet has built up a loyal following over the past 25 years with many of
his supporters being high profile commentators from the English speaking
world as well as the French. His objectives have changed little since he
started out; to make wines that share the same concentration and density
as those produced in his beloved Bordeaux, although he claims to have
changed his wood regime between the 2007 and 2008 vintages to tone down
the toasted character of the wines he produces. Detractors, of which I
have to confess I am one, argue that the wines are not capable of
supporting such oak ageing and that the resulting wines tend to be too
over-extracted, dry and tannic. One cannot deny that Alliet is a serious
producer or that his wines are impressive. Personally though, I find them
atypical and I don't enjoy the style. In addition, I have also found that
some older wines (not noted below) have been tainted by Brettanomyces,
although this is less evident in the more recent examples I've tasted. I
have to respect what Alliet has achieved to date, even if I don't
necessarily agree with end result or enjoy (or buy) his wines. Despite
this, I would include him as one of the reference points of the
appellation even if to my mind the wines are not at all representative of
the Chinon appellation.
Coteau de Noiré
Coteau de Noiré