Spotlight on: Les Cailloux du Paradis: Etienne & Claude Courtois

by blog on September 17, 2021

Photo credit: wineterroirs.com

Situated in the heart of Sologne, 35 km from Blois, Claude Courtois and his sons elaborate their wines according to ancestral methods and are zealous advocates of natural wine.  “Nature admits no lie”, as Carlyle said, and Courtois (Claude) often says that his wine is made from “true grapes.” The wines he crafts are a pure and vibrantly alive, testament to outstanding biodynamic winemaking. He is one of the wild men of the region, fierce, generous and capricious, guiding beautiful, naturally expressive wines to the bottle.

Claude Courtois has created a small farm which exemplify what biodynamics is all about in terms of biodiversity and self-sufficiency, although he does not consider himself to be a biodynamic grower and is not fond of being pigeon-holed or having his methods categorized. Recently, he has handed the reins to one of his sons, Etienne, and just kept a couple of hectares for himself. Together they farm a balanced and completely chemical-free 6 hectares of vines in the heart of the Sologne. Courtois also grows organic wheat, which he feeds to his cows who provide the manure for the vines. “Nothing comes into my vineyard,” he says, meaning no chemicals ever. He has created a well-balanced, biodiversity with trees, fruit trees, vines, and woods. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. He has his own methods for promoting the diverse life of the soil.

He is one of the wild men of the region, fierce, generous and capricious, guiding beautiful, naturally expressive wines to the bottle.

How do you like them grapes: The widest array of historical Loire grapes imaginable. On the white side: Sauvignon, Chenin, Semillon, Romorantin, Menu Pineau, Chardonnay and Melon, and amongst the reds, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Côt, Pineau d’Aunis, Syrah and Gascon.

In the vineyard: A small farm on flinty clay-limestone soils and quartz sand that exemplifies what biodynamics is in terms of biodiversity and self-sufficiency, with fields for vines, fruit, animals as well as for growing wheat to feed the animals. Certified Natur en Progrès. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertiliser or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. All wines would be entitled to Touraine appellation but they are always rejected as being atypical. Some of the vines are own-rooted.

In the winery: All the grapes are carefully harvested and placed into small crates. White grapes are destemmed and gently pressed in some cases, or undergo maceration in others. Reds are destemmed and undergo lengthy maceration. All ferments are wild and ambient. Blends are co-fermented. All wines undergo a 20-40 months ageing with topping up in used Bordeaux barrels and sometimes spend a further period in bottles. There are some experimental wines (Secalaunia and Evidence) that are aged for up to 10 years in barrel. Wines are bottled without filtration or fining and with zero addition of sulphur or just a very small quantity.

QI: Racines Rouge is an archive of over 30 grape varieties associated with the Loire. The blend is a secret.

Etourneaux is dedicated to the starlings that devoured an early crop of this particular grape.

The Key Wines:

Quartz

Plume d’Ange

Or’ Norm

Romorantin

Racines Blanc

Etourneaux

Pinot Noir

L’Icaunais

Evidence

Food match: The crunchier mineral whites with shellfish and smoked river fish, the richer skin-contact versions with charcuterie and grilled vegetables, the reds with roast pork, venison and slow cooked rabbit or hare. The Evidence, a take on Vin Jaune, would be excellent with mature hard cheese.

Philosophy: Purity – chemical-free farming, biodiversity and patience are the watchwords here.

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Interested in trying the wines of Les Cailloux du Paradis? Contact us directly:

[email protected] |  [email protected] |
01483 538820

*Note: We are still open for business, doing deliveries, and keen
to help everyone with their booze needs in this difficult time.
Natural wine lovers can visit our online shop and order online!

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