Tue-Boeuf, Clos du
- Touraine, Loire, France
Thank you to importer Louis/Dressner for this profile of Clos du Tue-Boeuf:
(Click here for Louis/Dressner's Tue-Boeuf entry on their website)
Since the Middle Ages, there have been records about the lieu-dit “le Tue-Boeuf” and its excellent wines which were enjoyed by the local nobility and the kings of France; the family name Puzelat is mentioned in 15th century documents. History, though, is not the story here. It’s about two brothers, Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat, who tend their 10-hectare family estate in Les Montils (part of the Cheverny AOC) and rent four hectares in a village nearby to produce AOC Touraine.
The region, near the hunting grounds of Sologne, has always used a wide variety of grapes. Since the 60’s, the Puzelats' father had been making his own selections of vines to replant, leaving his sons with vines of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (since ripped out), Menu Pineau (or Orbois), Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Côt (or Malbec). A visit to their cellar feels like a tour de France of varietals, each wine with its distinct personality, lovely label and wonderful name. Some cuvées are so small that there is never enough to go around.
Jean-Marie was joined on the estate by his younger brother Thierry in the early 90’s and they began converting their vines to organic viticulture. When the Cheverny AOC was created with the 1993 vintage, some varietals became outlawed from the blends, and the brothers started a yearly struggle to get their wines accepted under the new appellation (it bears to mention that they were also in their earliest stages of experimenting with sulfur free winemaking).
While firm believers in the AOC system, this began a trend of the brothers selling some of their wines as declassified Vin de Pays (now Vin de France). For us, it was one of the first examples of customers knowing and trusting the estate's work methods over the appellation itself. And while we cannot claim the Puzelats were the first to do this, it clearly served as a monumental influence in the world of natural wine, setting an example for those having problems or feeling stifled by their appellations' criteria.
Speaking of natural wine, Clos du Tue-Boeuf, along with Marcel Richaud, Dard and Ribo, Yvon Metras and a handful of others were at the heart of the nascent movement in mid-90's Paris. They are undoubtedly the impetus for spreading this philosophy in the Loire, which remains a hotbed of the style to this day. As Hervé Villemade, himself part of the the second wave of natural winemakers in the late 90's, puts it: "What really made me start to believe I could make wines in this style were Thierry Puzelat's. Marcel Lapierre's were the spark, but he lived 450 kilometers away from me and was working with very different terroirs; having a neighbor pull it off right next door was the inspiration and motivation to follow in his footsteps."