Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Domaine de Villalin
Despite the rather Anglicised surname, Maryline Smith’s vigneron ancestors have been working the vines around Le Petit Villalin on the right bank of the Cher since 1806. The past five generations were not Smiths though (the surname came via her marriage to Jean-Jacques). In fact, Maryline’s great uncle was Emile Roux, considered by many to be the father of the Quincy appellation, and her family is interwoven with other notable growers, no less than Jacques Rouzé who is her cousin.

Maryline has been installed at Villalin, the only producer to vinify their wines on this side of the river, since 1998 when she took over the running of her grandfather’s domaine. Keen to maintain the traditions of her ancestors, she has reverted to working all of her vineyards with horse and plough and has reintroduced hand picking for her entire crop; it takes 25 vendangeurs typically around eleven days to make the harvest. In addition, the vines are worked organically (although she refutes the concept of certification) and in the purpose-built cellar, she is one of only two growers in the appellation, to my knowledge, who rely solely on conducting their ferments using indigenous yeasts.

Although Maryline has worked hard to establish her unique credentials of being the sole vigneron based on the ‘wrong’ side of the Cher, the domaine does have vines on both flanks of the river. From a total of 8.5ha, there are just two hectares planted in Les Grandes Vignes, while the balance are on the plateau of the left bank. Here there are 5.5ha of Sauvignon and a further 25 ares of Pinot Gris and 75 ares of Pinot Noir, both forty years old and acquired from the now defunct domaine of Raymond Pipet (see separate entry under ‘past growers’). In addition, she has also experimented with the Grand Noir du Berry, Le Genouillet, and the domaine has 150 ceps planted at present, so this hardly poses a commercial proposition for the moment, but trials with the variety continue.

In addition to a little Vin de Pays Coteaux du Cher et de l’Arnon red and gris, Maryline produces three expressions of Quincy . The Cuvée Tradition is an assemblage of vines on the left bank of the Cher, whilst Les Grands Vignes de Villalin represents the two hectares of Sauvignon planted in Les Grandes Vignes. The third is Anastasie, first released in 2006 the wine is named after her grandmother. This cuvée corresponds directly to the Tradition and was instigated initially at the request of a client who wanted a wine bottled directly from tank; without either fining or filtration. Demand for this has grown with her other clients and Maryline now produces between 2,000 and 3,000 bottles a year.

As for the wines (tasted in June 2010), the 2009 generic Quincy was well focused, chalky and direct, whilst the 2008 was more earthy and mineral; less varietal but intriguing nonetheless. The single vineyard Villain cuvée from 2008 appears more restrained and less expressive in its youth, and the Anastasie is clearly different and illustrates well what happens in the cellar due to the somewhat commercial necessity of fining and filtration. As for the two Vin de Pays wines, the 2008 Pinot Gris is made via pressurage direct and displays a good silex-like minerality (there was no 2009 produced). The Pinot Noir yields between 2,500 and 3,000 bottles a year and offers a delicious early drinking red.

These are all commendable wines and certainly worth seeking out. Their philosophy in respecting the ways of the ancestors alone would catapult them into my list of top producers, but the wines only serve to endorse Maryline and Jean-Jacques position as one of the best growers in the appellation.

Domaine de Villalin
Maryline et Jean-Jacques Smith
Grand Villalin
T: + 33 2 48 51 34 98
F: + 33 2 48 51 09 74


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