Vigneron Philippe Brisebarre farms his 25 hectares using what he describes as “think before you do” principles of Agriculture Raisonée, and produces exquisite wines from the Chenin Blanc. His guiding philosophy is to stay true to what the terroir, and the vintage, gives to the wines he produces. He has great respect for the appellation system that protects Vouvray's unique wines and so Philippe puts his time where his mouth is, serving as the current Président du Comité Régional de l’INAO - the regional committee of the National Institute of Appellations of Origin.
A large, friendly man, he is a joy to taste with as he continually disappears into the cellar to retrieve yet another, older vintage, another cuvée. He is humble, and allows the wines to do most of the talking. One sees how important the imprint of vintage is in this northern, cool climate appellation; indeed the same bottling may be quite different from one vintage to another. As it should be, would say Philippe - no two vintages offer the same conditions of weather and climate, and the wines are created by the vintage. One can be sure, however, that each wine from each vintage chez Brisebarre will show incredible precision, accuracy, verve. Philippe likes to wait to release his wines until they have some cellar-age, which is a boon to the consumer since these are wines for the long haul - even the basic Vouvray Sec will improve in the cellar over 20-50 years!
Philippe uses no pumps (since 1998) and minimal sulfur treatments. He uses no enzymes and no aromatic yeast inoculations, choosing to let fermentations begin with the grapes natural yeast. His sparkling wines, “Fines Bulles” in the local lexicon, are produced by the traditional method with the slow secondary fermentation, occurring in the bottle over a period of months, after which the bottles rest on their lees, “sur latte” or on their sides on latticed shelves. Every sparkling wine he produces, even the “Non Vintage” brut, is in fact a vintage product, even if he must call it non-vintage in order to have such a product for the market.
His cellar, like many others in the region, is a stone cave cut straight into a cliff of tuffeau, the soft limestone famous in the Loire Valley. In this case they can trace the history back to the 1500s, when the cave was originally excavated for stone for building. It was thereafter used to store ice for refrigeration, but for generations has been the cellar for the Brisebarre family domaine. The cellar is above the town of Vouvray and all but 7 of the domaine's 25 hectares lie just adjacent.
Winery: Domaine Philippe Brisebarre
Region: Loire Valley
Farming: "Agriculture Raisonée" (low impact farming)