Guide to the Loire regions

Côte Roannaise

Grower Profiles

Domaine de la Rochette
The first mention of vines being planted on the slopes behind the Château de la Rochette was in 1397, but it was Pascal and Olivier Néron’s grandfather, Antoine, bought a 40 hectare plot and the some old farm buildings from the Château owner in 1939. The Néron’s themselves are an old Roannais family, with a winemaking tradition that dates back to 1630. Cousin Claudy (see separate entry) makes wines just half a kilometre down the hill. Three generations of Nérons have now been at Domaine la Rochette; grandfather and father, also called Antoine, worked the both the vines and tended the Charolais beef cattle. Antoine junior died in 1979 and it was Pascal, one of his seven children, who was to take control of the domaine. He was joined in the cellar in 1991 by Olivier, whilst a third brother, Jean-Paul, is responsible for raising the cattle in the barn next door.

The brothers work a total of 12 hectares of vines, split equally over two parcels of land. Behind the property is the original 6 hectares of La Rochette, planted with 40 to 60 year old Gamay Saint-Romain. The other vineyard is two kilometres away at the point where Villemontais meets the communes of Saint-Alban-les-Eaux and Lentigny. The vines here are all trellised to Cordon Royat, including the old gobelet plantings which have been somehow adapted. All the grapes are harvest by hand.

The wines are produced in an impressive ancient wood and red brick barn with a subterranean earth floor cellar cut out of the granite. A total of six different wines are produced here in a normal vintage; the range dictated by the age and location of the parcel along with the specific winemaking method employed.

The majority of the reds undergo eight to ten days of maceration, prior to fermentation in stainless steel and concrete tanks. Whilst carbonic maceration is the main technique employed, there are variations of the theme depending on the style desired. The wines are then all raised for differing lengths of time in old foudres, with the inevitable one cuvée raised in barrique.

The rosé makes up to 20% of the total production, and this is produced from an equal blend of saignée juice and by direct pressure. Of the four different reds, ‘Bératard’ takes its name from a lieu-dit planted in 1985 on the low, clay dominated, slope on the communal border between Villemontais, Lentigny and Saint-Alban. This is a lighter but more mineral cuvee that is partly put through the magic thermovinification machine and is designed for early drinking. ‘Relais du Chateau de la Rochette’ comes from vines planted in 1997 on south facing slopes for early drinking and is also designed to be drunk within 3 years of the vintage. ‘Les Vieilles Vignes du Chateau’ is from 80 year old vines with yields of around 35hl/ha, whilst ‘La Rochette, Fûte de Chêne’ is raised for four months in three year old burgundy barrels. The last two wines follow a more traditional production method with approximately 50% of bunches destalked. Finally, there is around 4,000 bottles a year of Vin de Pays Chardonnay from vines that were planted in 1990.

Despite all this effort in producing a complex range of wines, a total of 4-% of their sales are as bag in box, and a total of 60% their entire production is sold at the cellar door.

My last visit coincided with the release of the particularly difficult 2007s, and the wines displayed the weakness of the vintage; all were a bit grippy and stalky. Having tasted at the domaine in 2006, I am sure the brothers Néron are capable of better things, although the style of their wines does err towards the firmer end of the spectrum.

Pascal et Olivier Néron
Domaine de la Rochette
La Rochette
T: + 33 4 77 63 10 62
P: + 33 6 72 70 79 29
P: + 33 6 75 87 69 41
F: + 33 4 77 63 35 54

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