Domaine de Pallus
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A Loire Valley native, Bertrand Sourdais is the fifth generation to produce wine at Domaine de Pallus in Chinon.
However, Bertrand’s stardom did not start in Chinon. While studying enology at the University of Bordeaux, he met Ricardo Perez Palacios of Descendientes de Palacios. Their meeting and friendship led Bertrand to Dominio de Atauta in 1999. He had been drawn to Atauta by its ancient, pre-phylloxera vines of the local Tempranillo clones. The Atauta post was Bertrand’s first as winemaker, having worked as an understudy at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile, and for Alvaro Palacios in Priorat.
In 2004, France’s most respected critc, Michel Bettane, got together with Spain’s legendary journalist, Jose Peñín, to taste the two countries’ thirty-one best wines blind. Bertrand’s 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro” tied 1994 Vega Sicilia for Bettane’s top red wine, edging out 2000 Ch. Latour. He was only 25 at the time.
Praised for his Spanish wine, Bertrand remained passionate about his native Chinon, and for its emblematic variety, Cabernet Franc. It was inevitable that he would someday apply his gifts at his family’s estate Domaine de Pallus in Cravant-les-Côteaux in the heart of Chinon.
In the early 2000s, with his father’s retirement nearing, Bertrand took up the challenge of creating something great at Pallus. At Atauta, he had learned to question orthodoxy, and at Pallus he believed he could chart a new course. His goal was to honor Chinon’s soil and its ancient traditions. To do so he would need to correct both the flaws that persisted in the region’s traditional methods while avoiding the mistakes typically made by modernists.
Betrand began his quest in the autumn of 2003. Vineyard work changed to create harmony and balance. Even today, he tirelessly works to find the potential of each vine. While biodynamic methods are an important tool for many Loire Valley growers, they are merely a starting point for Bertrand to set his vineyards on the right path. Winemaking techniques were rethought too. Extended maceration is employed—up to an astonishing forty days—to capture the “true” personality of Chinon. Elévage is similarly long and gentle; it primarily occurs in 2nd passage barrels from elite Bordeaux estates. The wines are handled less and bottled later than almost all others producers in Chinon. The results of his efforts have been a string of utterly profound and critically acclaimed wines.