Loire Valley - Touraine - Domaine Ricard
|Charles Neal Selections||
|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Ricard lies on the north side of the Cher River, about a 45-minute drive from Tours. Chenonceaux, the famous castle that juts into the river, is about twenty kilometers to the west. We have left the Chenin Blanc territory of Vouvray and Montlouis near Tours and passed into firm Sauvignon Blanc terrain.
Grapes have been grown on the property for 5 generations, and the Ricard family were founding members of the local Oisy-Thésée wine co-operative. The co-op, like many in France, was mostly interested in quantity over quality, with grapes being paid for by the kilo and wine being made in a factory setting.
In the early 1990’s, Vincent Ricard studied viticulture and did an apprenticeship in Chinon, then finishing his enology degree in 1996. Fresh out of school, he returned to Chinon, where Philippe Alliet (for whom he had worked earlier) offered him a job. For a couple of years, Vincent learned to vinify red wine and follow it in barrel. More importantly, however, he learned the obsessive vineyard details practiced by Alliet (ground cover, plowing, green harvests, organic farming—to name some), methods that were not taught by his teachers at school. Vincent decided to move closer to home and took a job in Montlouis with Claude Levasseur, the uncle of François Chidaine, in 1997. It was here that he learned to vinify white wine in barrel and follow its progression in oak.
Vincent Ricard, 2010
In the spring of 1998, Vincent returned home and was employed by his father Alain in his hometown Théssé. The following year, they bought themselves out of their cooperative contract, formed a GAEC together, and Domaine Ricard was born. Since that time, many things have changed at the property: Alain has retired, Vincent has married and become a father, several new parcels of vines have been purchased, the vineyards have become fully organic, and the domaine is now one of the most esteemed in the appellation.
The vineyards lie on southern facing slopes, with nearly 15 hectares planted in Sauvignon Blanc, along with a bit of Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Cot (Malbec). Vincent lets grass grow between his rows of vines instead of removing it with herbicide. No pesticides are used to combat insects. Vines are replaced using the shoots of neighboring vines. Pruning and occasional de-budding helps to limit yields.
Inside the cave at Domaine Ricard
Vincent has expanded his cave, once a simple, small space built into the side of a hill that's now a rather modern winery (although still built into the same side of the hill and attached to the old cave). The majority of his production is white, and most of that is split between 3 dry Sauvignon Blanc cuvées. He also makes a couple of sweet wines, as well as a couple of solid red wines. Nearly three-quarters of his production is exported, and his wines have been praised by the international press. Like many other young producers in the Loire, he has chosen modern labels for his wines based on canvases painted by a friend, all of which are on display in his small and tastefully decorated tasting room.
Ricard's wines are all about balance—the fruit is always lifted by just the right amount of acidity, and his wines never come across as being heavy. They are, however, precise with their fruit and defined on their finish, and are amazing values to boot.
Domaine Ricard Touraine "Le Petiot"
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Hand harvested from 30-year old vines with a yield of about 50 hl/ha. A selection is made of the best juice, which is then fermented at a low temperature for 3 weeks and aged on its fine lees in stainless-steel tanks. About 20% is aged in well-seasoned barrels that have already seen 3 wines. Bright citrus aromas (grapefruit, lemon) along with a savory herbal touch. Great balance of fruit and acidity.
Domaine Ricard Touraine "Le Vilain P'tit Rouge"
After abstaining from Vincent’s red wines for a couple of years, we were thoroughly impressed with this little ugly wine made with 100% Cot (Malbec). Fermentation occurs in cement tanks; the wine then goes into a variety of new, 1- and 2-year old barrels for a total of 9 months. Bright black fruit along with some vanilla and spice are the flavors you will get from this hearty yet versatile red.
Domaine Ricard Touraine "Les Trois Chênes"
100% Sauvignon Blanc from old vines (the oldest planted in 1947) on a gentle slope near the top of the hill. The vineyards face directly south, and the soil is clay and limestone. The grapes are hand-harvested and pass through a sorting table. Yields average about 35 hl/ha. The wine is barrel-fermented for 3 months, then aged in barrel for 8 months, with lees-stirring every 4 days or so. A delicious mouthful of Sauvignon Blanc that overachieves not only its appellation but also those to the east, notably Sancerre. Great texture, bright white peach fruit, classy vanilla notes and good underlying acidity make this an absolute pleasure to drink.
Domaine Ricard Touraine Chenonceaux “Tasciaca”
The estate has some vines in this newly created (2011) AOP Touraine Chenonceaux, which is characterized by its clay-silex soils marked with flint and limestone. This wine comes from 30-40-year old Sauvignon Blanc vines aged in both stainless steel and large neutral oak barrels, making it a typically unique Ricard creation. It has enticing aromas of stone fruits and ginger, medium body, and a long finish filled with juicy citrus fruits.
Domaine Ricard Touraine "Pierre à Feu"
100% Sauvignon Blanc, from very low-yielding, 30-year old vines. Grapes are carefully selected and then the juice undergoes a long fermentation at a low temperature, and is aged on its fine lees partially in stainless steel tanks and partially in large 4th-use oak barrels. The resulting wine has a fascinating texture, as well as intriguing aromas of white peach and candied ginger. Its juicy citrus flavors make it perfect for seafood dishes or goat cheese.
Domaine Ricard Vin de France Sparkling “Le Vinsans Ricard”
A novelty from the always creative Ricard, this sparkling wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and naturally begins fermentation in 3rd use barrels, then continues in bottle. A quirky little pet-nat made with a grape rarely seen in this form.