Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Stéphane Mureau at the entrance to La Roche-Honneur

Domaine de la Roche-Honneur
I can't claim that my photograph of Stéphane Mureau captures the spirit of the man himself. This serious pose belies the fact that he is one of most welcoming and jovial characters of the Chinon appellation. 

The name Mureau and his distinctly dark appearance lends a clue to his ancestry; describing himself as a 'Bedouin', Stéphane's comment relates directly to the incarceration of defeated Muslim invaders on the Véron peninsular after the battle of Poitiers in 732, with their descendents integrating themselves into the local bloodline. Once glance is enough to confirm that Stéphane is living proof of the Moorish legacy. This particular branch of the Mureaus have been in Savigny since at least 1832; the earliest recorded history of the family buying vineyards in the commune. However, it could have been either Saviniacum or Sabiniacum who was the first owner of what we now know as the domaine of Roche-Honneur, dating back to the early Christian era; evidence coming from a Gaelic dictionary from that period. 

Stéphane represents at least the 8th generation since the early 1800s to have made made in the Véron. The ownership stems from the paternal side of his family, joining his father, Yves, in 1982 following his studies at Talance in Bordeaux. But the viticultural link connects with the maternal line too, since his mothers family own Domaine de la Gaucherie in the commune of Ingrandes (within the Bourgueil appellation) where Stéphane's cousin, Régis Mureau, is also the mayor. 

There are a total of 20 hectares planted exclusively to Cabernet Franc (three of which are rented) and currently in conversion to organic farming methods. All fall within the two communes of the Véron peninsular; two thirds within Savigny and one-third in Beaumont. The wealth of different soil types and expositions here offers the vigneron a wealth of different options in the assembly of different blends, with Mureau claiming that the Véron is the Pomerol of the Chinon appellation, producing much more feminine wines.

In 2005, Mureau constructed a purpose-built warehouse-cellar on a small industrial estate on the edge of Savigny, replacing the makeshift facilities that occupied the outbuildings at the family residence in the centre of the village. In addition, just on the edge of Beaumont, there are half an hectare of caves, La Roche-Honneur (from where the domaine takes its name) which are big enough to accommodate Stéphane's white van. The caves double up as the barrel cellar and it's where Mureau likes to entertain his visitors and clients. In 1996 he was approached by two friends who asked if they could carve some sculptures into the tufa. Today, there is a series of racy frescoes adorning the wall of his subterranean tasting room.

It was here that I tasted through the range of Mureaus wines in April 2011. Starting with Rosé (which represents around 10% of his production), the 2010 vintage was made using pressurage direct, although in lighter years he tends to bleed off juice from some red cuvées to help concentrate the must. There are three reds, starting with Cuvée des Pâques, an early drinking style from vines planted on the lighter sand and gravel soils, ranging from 15 to 25 years old and raised in cement and stainless steel. The 2010 tasted from tank was just lovely: light, clean and pure. Rubis represents around 25,000 bottles a year and is the mainstay of Mureaus production. This comes from vines that are between 25 and 45 years old, although the blend changes from year to year, but the general rule is that two-thirds of the wine is sourced from the more serious limestone soils of Beaumont with the balance from the sand and gravel plains of Savigny. The wine is raised in older barrels for between 6 and 12 months. Stéphane suggests this cuvée reaches maturity at around eight years, although a bottle of 1989 he opened to close my visit was light and delicate but still in pristine condition. Diamant Prestige comes from three hectares of 45 to 80 year old vines planted on a complex array of gravel, silica, clay and limestone soils. The wine is raised in older casks for between 14 and 18 months, although there was barely any evidence of oak on any of the wines that are currently still available: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2003. Investment in new barrels in 2009 means that this vintage was quite heavily marked with oak, but this flight impressed overall with their restraint. 

For anyone spending any time in the region I highly recommend a visit to Domaine de la Roche-Honneur, since the caves, the man and the wines are all worthy of attention. I have no reservations in naming this domaine as one of the top dozen or so producers within the Chinon appellation.

Stéphane Mureau
Domaine de la Roche-Honneur
1, Rue de la Berthelonnière

T: + 33 2 47 58 42 10
F: + 33 2 47 58 45 36

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