I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais, the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.
“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.
Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.
At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.
So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!
At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.
Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.
Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).
Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.
We also tasted, for the first time:
Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.
Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.
Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.
Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.
Arnie Millan is Esquin’s European Buyer. In July, 2014, Arnie was featured in the Seattle Times as “The Finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”