Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Philippe Pichard

Domaine de la Chapelle

The quiet, shy and modest Philippe Pichard is a fourth generation vigneron, who inherited directly from his grand-parents in 1983. The ancient chapel from which the domaine takes its name no longer exists, but an early 19th Century press offers a point of interest. 

I remember tasting Philippe's wines in 2003 and not being particularly overwhelmed, but he appears to have had a cathartic moment at some point in the past decade, since he has now converted his vineyards to biodynamic farming (he began hand-harvesting in 2009 and was certified with Demeter in 2010) and there has been a vast improvement in the wines. There are 17 hectares, all of which are in Cravant and under the families ownership, with Philippe stating that 80% are located within a two kilometre radius of the cellar. The majority of these are located on the plain, very close to the Vienne, although he does also own vines on the coteau above the village. Everything is planted to Cabernet Franc. 

In terms of the wines, there is a tiny amount of rosé produced which Philippe appears content to sell this off en-vrac or as bag-in-box, something of a shame since the 2010 (tasted in April 2011) was one of the best examples I encountered. Produced by pressurage direct, the wine accounts for around 5% of the total production. There are four Chinon rouge, starting with Les Gravinières which, as the name suggests, comes entirely off the gravels soils on the plain. The age of the vines here range from between 15 to 30 years. The wine is fermented and aged in tank, before being bottled for early drinking in March following the harvest. The wonderfully named Les Trois Quartiers comes from four hectares of vines on both the plain and the coteau which range in age between 35 and 50 years. The wine is raised partly in barrique with the balance in 3 to 7 year old fûts for 11 months. L’Ancestral represents a further four hectares of vineyards from four separate parcels with an average vine age of 45 years. Also raised in wood, there is a greater proportion of new barriques used here - between 25 and 30% depending on the vintage - which are blended with larger, older casks after a period of 15 months. Both Les Trois Quartiers and L'Ancestral have their malo-lactic fermentations performed in barrel. Les Varesnes is the cuvée name rather than any reference to a specific parcel of vines. It is described by Pichard as a 'summer wine', designed to be drunk between one and four years after the harvest. This too is aged in cask, although large old tonneau for a total of eight months. 

I liked Philippe and his wines, which were very much in the character of the man himself; gentle and understated. With one brief relapse, the 2009s (tasted at the cellar in April 2011) were very pure with a racy, red fruit profile that made them a joy to taste. Although there is plenty of oak in evidence here, the wood is generally well judged, although could be toned-down further. Pichard is certainly a grower who deserves wider recognition.

It should be noted that the address published below is the tasting room location. The vineyards and cellar are located on the plain close to Briançon.

Philippe Pichard
Domaine de la Chapelle
9 Rue Malvault

T: + 33 2 47 93 42 35
F: + 33 2 47 98 33 76

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