espite being a moderately sized domaine, Domaine du Clos des Rocs in Loché is the largest owner in the Pouilly-Loché appellation. With its 32 hectares Pouilly-Loché is the smallest village appellation the Mâconnais. Six of these belong to Olivier Giroux and his Domaine du Clos des Rocs.
– I bought the domaine in 2002. Like many in the Mâconnais the previous owner had used a lot of weedkillers, so there was a lot of work to be done. I immediately stopped using weedkillers and in 2007 I began to see more life in the soil.
Loché is a small village just west of Mâcon. In the village there are only three growers that bottle their own wine – Olivier Giroux, Domaine Tripoz and Domaine Delaye. There are of course other producers of Pouilly-Loché, but they are located in other villages. To the immediate west of the village is the considerably larger appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé. While Pouilly-Loché covers 32 hectares, Pouilly-Fuissé covers well over 20 times that area, a total of 761 hectares. Right south of the Pouilly-Loché appellation you’ll find Pouilly-Vinzelles, a slightly larger appellation with its 43 hectares.
Olivier Giroux is born and raised in the Mâconnais, but he started his career in the Rhône valley. The set-up was completely different to what he has got today. He worked at a domaine which covered a total of 650 hectares. 350 of these were planted with vines, making it a whole different beast than Domaine du Clos des Rocs.
– It is just me here, he says. I’m a peasant. I tend the vineyards. I make the wine. I take care of the marketing.
– Here in Burgundy the idea of terroir is much more developed. We are much more into the differences in character between the vineyards. In the Rhône valley 80 per cent of the growers never talk about terroir or the soil.
The domaine of Olivier Giroux takes its name from its main holding, the Clos des Rocs. It is a monopole, part of Les Mûres, covering three and a half hectares. The red, stony soil is not very deep. The clos is biodynamic, while the rest of the domaine is organic.
– The previous owner, Philippe Bérard, was an engineer living in Lyon. His children were not interested in taking on the domaine, so he decided to sell it. He would make the wine and deal with the marketing, but he did not work the vineyards himself. So there was lots of work restoring the vineyards.
The Pouilly-Loché comes in three different cuvées – the main cuvée, the No. 2 and the Révélation. The main cuvée sees 60 per cent oak and 40 per cent stainless steel. The No. 2 cuvée is all stainless steel and the Révélation is all oak.
– I don’t make the No. 2 every year and the annual production of the Révélation cuvée is very small, only about 600 bottles. In 2008 wine in tank was stunning, so I said to myself, why not give it a try. So I bottled some of the wine that had only been in stainless steel tanks separately. It turned out to be a very crisp wine with good fruit. The Révélation cuvée is a wine to drink with a nice sausage. A bottle to share with a couple of friends.
The vines in the Clos des Rocs are 70 years old. It’s a gentle slope, facing east. Just 100 metres to the north you’ll find En Chantone, a lieu-dit where the domaine’s vines are 90 years old. Here, poor soil produces small grapes and low yields. The wine is vinified in 500-litres barrels.
– In addition to the three cuvées from the Clos des Rocs I also make a straight Pouilly-Loché, Les Mûres coming from a one-hectare parcel. 35 per cent are vinified in barrels, the rest in tank. Some of the grapes I sell to the Bret Brothers in Vinzelles. So there you have the chance to compare two different wines coming from the same grower. Mine is usually more austere.
Olivier Giroux is firmly rooted in the Pouilly-Loché appellation. There is a bit of Pouilly-Fuissé, Les Pierrotes, as well as some Mâcon-Loché, which is in the commune of Loché but not inside the Pouilly-Loché appellation.
– The Pouilly-Fuissé, Les Pierrotes is all barrels, but no new oak because that would be too much for this wine, he says. I bought this parcel back in 2007. It’s not the best terroir, facing straight south. It’s difficult to understand how to work this parcel.
– When I started out making the Mâcon-Loché it was a wine that was fat and strong on alcohol. It was a terroir that wasn’t very interesting. The balance was missing in the wine. In the end it was a wine that was difficult to sell.
– So one day I decided to stop and change everything. Instead I chose to let it ferment at a lower temperature than before. The result was an easy-drinking wine, something you can share with friends sitting out on the terrace. I was not trying to do the impossible with this wine, I was not trying to make a grand vin. But with these changes it started to sell. This particular parcel is a bit more interesting than the ones surrounding it. This area is mainly cornfields so shouldn’t expect a Mâcon from Vergisson or something like that.
© 2015 Ola Bergman