Sauternes de Château d'Yquem tasting case
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In 1978, Louis Cheze took the reins of his family’s farm with the initial aim to manage 10 hectares of grapevines. Today the same estate covers 35 hectares over a variety of appellations, a testament to the owner’s determination, passion and natural curiosity. The Domaine Louis Cheze vineyards are situated in the heart of the Rhone, and the estate produces a dazzling range of Syrah, Viognier, and Marsanne-Roussanne wines, known to be some of the region’s very best. Louis Cheze relies on practices of sustainable winemaking in order to allow each vintage to fully express the terroir of origin and the conditions of the growing season.
The story of Domaine Louis Cheze really begins in 1978, when Louis Cheze first took over the family estate located at the very top of a hill in the commune of Limony, on the right bank of the Rhone. Just 60 km south of Lyon, the property is set in the heart of the Northern Rhone wine region. An almost completely self-taught winemaker with very high ambitions, Cheze made it his mission to transform the family farm, which had been used until that time to breed animals and grow vegetables, into a productive vineyard. Beginning with just one hectare of land in the Saint-Joseph appellation, Cheze had in mind at that time a maximum of 10 hectares for his future estate. With no access to a bottling facility and limited financial means for distribution, he decided to work together with a wine merchant.
In the early years, Louis Cheze was mentored by the legendary Georges Vernay (considered the "Pope" of the Condrieu appellation and the saviour of the Viognier variety), who believed in his project from the beginning. He also developed a close professional relationship with the highly influential Jean-Luc Colombo and accompanied him to Bordeaux, where he was inspired by the wine revolution taking place at the time (in the 1980’s). After this learning experience, Cheze returned to his estate, fully convinced of the potential of his vines. He started by choosing the right vineyard-specific viticultural techniques with which to treat his vines and by redesigning his wine cellar. He also invested in oak barrels of high quality. He began the laborious project of clearing and replanting the plots, surpassing his initial goal of 10 hectares and eventually acquiring 35 hectares across several different appellations, among them Condrieu and Saint Joseph. A passionate and dedicated winemaker, Louis Cheze built the prestige that Domaine Louis Cheze enjoys today from the ground up. His hard work has been rewarded with a gorgeous array of red and white wines, some of which have become the most sought-after references in the region.
The vines of Domaine Louis Cheze are managed according to principles of sustainable vine cultivation. Each of the estate’s vineyards is handled separately, with vine management depending on the unique features characterizing each parcel. For example, the slope of the parcel determines whether grapevine trelling or stakes are employed. The parcel’s characteristics also affects whether mechanical or manual weeding with are chosen. Such personalised treatment shows great respect for the grape vine, as it assumes to fully understand the vine’s natural environment and treat it in a way that least disturbs that environment.
The vinyards of Domaine Louis Cheze also undergo green harvest (or epillonnage) before the veraison of the fruit (the change from green to red and purple in the late summer months). The grapes are harvested manually throughout the entire property. The fruit is collected in 35 kg boxes (or 10 kg boxes for white varieties) after a very meticulous first selection is carried out in the vineyard. A second selection then takes place at the winery, using a roller table for the reds and a vibrating table for the whites. Red grapes then undergo a third and final selection on a vibrating table. Such a thorough selection of grapes is crucial to ensure high quality in the finished wine.
The red grapes of Domaine Louis Cheze undergo alcoholic fermentation in thermo-regulated tanks using exclusively natural yeasts. Malolactic fermentation is then carried out in barrels. The wines are aged for a period of time between 8 and 22 months, depending on the cuvee and the characteristics of the vintage. White grapes go through cold settling and clear must vatting before malolactic fermentation, which takes place in barrels with 1 to 3 previous uses. The white wines are matured in barrels for a period of 6-10 months, depending on the cuvee and vintage, with regular batonnage (stirring of the lees) carried out during this time.
Domaine Louis Cheze produces a varied line of white wines with emblematic varieties of the Rhone Valley. These include wines from Viognier vines planted on 4 hectares in their native Condrieu appellation, Marsanne and Roussanne planted on 4 hectares in Saint-Joseph, Marsanne and Viognier planted on 3 hectares of Vin de Pays vines and Viognier planted on 1 hectare of Les Vignobles de Seyssuel. The white wine portfolio of the Louis Cheze estate offers 2 single-varietal Viognier wines from the granitic soils of the legendary Condrieu appellation (one of which is called Pagus Luminis, boasting gorgeous white flower and peach aromas), a Marsanne-Roussanne blend from Saint-Joseph (the floral and mineral Ro-Ree), a 100% Viognier from the schist terroir of the Les Vignobles de Seyssuel IGP, and two additional Vin de Pays IGP wines (a 100% Viognier and 100% Marsanne).
The red wine portfolio of Domaine Louis Cheze consists of wines made from 15 hectares of Syrah vines planted in the Saint Joseph appellation, 6 hectares of IGP Syrah and another 6 hectares of Syrah vines in Les Vignobles de Seyssuel. These sought-after references include a 100% Syrah from Saint Joseph, a 100% Vin de Pays Syrah from AOP Les Vignobles de Seyssuel, a 100% Syrah from the prestigious Cote-Rotie appellation, a 100% Vin de Table Syrah and two Vin de Pays wines (a 100% Syrah and 100% Merlot).
The wines of Domaine Louis Cheze have become known for their straightforward varietal character and fruity charm. A fruit-forward style is preferred and the use of new oak kept to a minimum in order to more genuinely express the characteristics of the wines’ terroirs of origin. In this way, the smooth tannins lent to Cote Rotie Syrah by the region’s schist soils, come through more clearly, as do the lovely mineral notes on whites gro