There’s something about the puckish grin of Christophe Foucher that makes you believe he knows something the rest of us don’t. This engineering teacher-turned-winegrower made an abrupt career change after working alongside his father-in-law in his wife’s family’s vineyards. A year later, in 2001, he began the conversion of the vineyards to biodynamic farming and began exploring the natural wine movement. In his corner of the Loire Valley, not far from the Cher River, vineyards are typically classified as AOC Touraine. However, Christophe’s disgust at the quantities of chemicals permitted by the AOC in the vineyards gave him pause to reconsider his own involvement with the almighty appellation system in France. Christophe may prefer to take the more generic Vin de France designation in exchange for his creative freedom outside of the bounds of AOC rules, but the wines meet a higher standard of quality and respect for the soil than many others who have the AOC on their labels.
Christophe farms 5 ½ hectares on clay, sand, flint and silex soil, half of which are planted to Sauvignon Blanc, the other half to Gamay de Bouze, Cabernet Franc, and the native variety Menu Pineau (aka Arbois). Like many organic farmers, he leaves a cover crop in between every other row to allow for better cultivation of soil nutrients. In this humid climate, mildew can be a nuisance, but Christophe uses an absolute minimum of copper sulfate to combat it, believing that the vines know how to fight it in small doses. Working without synthetic chemicals requires extra care, which is why he believes the vineyards are far more important than the cellars to the overall success of the wine.
Once harvested, the white grapes are pressed in a traditional press, then fed by gravity into the fermentation tanks. His Gamays undergo whole-cluster fermentation, essentially fermenting them from the inside out to create a soft and thirst-quenching expression of fruit, and his Cabernet Franc is partially de-stemmed. The wines are lightly macerated by remontage, or pump-overs. Christophe only uses native yeasts, does not add sulfur, and does not fine or filter. Depending on the year, he may bottle as many as seven cuvees, and each one is given its own unique élévage. As a member of the growing natural wine movement in the Loire, he is making an indelible mark. Inveighing against a regional style he describes as “smooth and homogenous, faultless but without quality,” Christophe is seeks out a unique expression of his terroir.