The Not-So-Tough Tuff
I first became acquainted with tuffeau when I visited Clos Roche Blanche in 2002. The domaine house and yellow caves beneath the sauvignon vines were made of the glowing stone. There were knobs of the stuff in the cot vines as well. Vigneron/philosopher Didier Barrouillet explained that the soils’ properties help create lower acid, higher pH wines, which in the cool climate of the Loire (at least pre-climate change) was a good thing. He also believes the soils’ properties help his grapes achieve ripeness at only 12° alcohol, a range in step with my own palate. But I was to find out that the lion’s share of tuffeau actually lies west of the CRB vineyards, in the heart of Dive land, over in Saumur, Chinon and Bourgueil. In other words, that part of the Loire is home to lower-alcohol crystalline chenin blanc and especially, velvety cabernet franc.