Domaine de la Petite Mairie
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Country of Origin: France
Location: Bourgueil, Loire
People: Connie & James Petit, Owners
Domaine de la Petite Mairie is owned and managed by Corinne and James Petit, an enthusiastic couple devoted to their little corner of the Loire Valley and its wines so celebrated by Rabelais. They have an uncompromising vision of the expression of the Cabernet Franc grape married to the unique terroir of Bourgueil. This vision is learned, in part, from their long-term relationship with the master of this appellation (and president for many years of the syndicate of growers), Jean Gambier, who is James Petit's uncle. The Gambier - Petit collaboration is more than just familial as it is Petit who works with Gambier to tend the vineyards and make the wine that originates from the property held for several generations by the Gambier family on the plateau just east of the village of Bourgueil. Now that Jean Gambier has officially "retired," James Petit capably fills the role of successor, marrying the Gambier holdings in Bourgueil to his own in Ingrandes and Restigné.
The Gambier estate sits on a gentle, south-facing slope that leads to the banks of the Loire. The domaine is known as "Domaine Les Galluches" which is a reference to the rocky, slightly sandy soils that underlie the vineyards around the domaine. Over the centuries, the river has etched out a wide arc leaving behind a swath of sandy gravel and exposing chalk terraces higher up. The limestone pebbles and sandy soil provide excellent drainage and are ideal sites for vine growth. The southerly exposure gives the Cabernet Franc grapes the sun and warmth necessary to fully ripen in this northerly region.
There is no fuss and needless drama from James Petit. He is a conscientious grower whose handwork in the vineyards is impeccable and falls within the boundaries of the “lutte raisonnée” approach to viticulture. The Cabernet Franc struggles to achieve ripeness and harvest frequently occurs in early October. This long growing season has its benefits: the fruit develops a complexity of flavors and aromas and tannins that are rarely found in wines at this relatively modest price level.
Petit, as did Gambier, follows traditional vinification techniques. The fermentation and maceration period last for approximately 15 to 18 days. The wines are aged in a mixture of old oak foudres and smaller oak barrels, none of which are new. Two reds and a rosé are produced at the domaine, and all of the wine is composed entirely of Cabernet Franc. Although quite fine and charming in their youth, the red wines will surprise in their tenacity and their remarkable ability to age and reveal additional elements of their respective personalities.