On the Trail

It All Started in a Bathtub

Olivia Ragni

Loire Valley’s region of Montlouis-sur-Loire is just across the river from the famed Vouvray and—unbeknownst to many—some of the most exciting new winemakers are coming out of this region. Take Xavier Weisskopf of Le Rocher des Violettes, for example; he is a part of a small, yet growing number of producers in the appellation who are motivated to make a name for the wines of Montlouis. Tasting through the line-up of wines with him is an unforgettable experience.  Xavier is soft-spoken, yet captivating and charming; the same can be said for his wines. His wines are classic old world style wines, reserved, intriguing, and reflective of the terroir. He is a Burgundian-trained winemaker, but his entry into the field is anything but conventional. Unlike most producers in France, Xavier does not come from a family of winemakers. While renting a flat in Chablis, he and some friends you could say ‘procured’ some grapes from Chablis and made wine in their bathtub. The rest is history.  

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In 2005, Xavier founded Le Rocher des Violettes where he has just nine hectares of land, much of filled with pre-WWII vines, planted mainly to chenin blanc, cabernet franc, côt, and gamay. Although situated just across the river from Vouvray, Montlouis producers have been banned from using the Vouvray designation, even if they purchase grapes from Vouvray. Chenin blanc is the grape of the region and while overshadowed by those of Vouvray, the chenin wines of Montlouis rivals the wines of Vouvray any day; especially those of Xavier. His ‘Touche-Mitaine’ is concentrated yet elegant and mineral driven and bone dry. Compare his ‘Les Borderies,’ a demi-sec version of chenin blanc, to a typical Vouvray demi-sec and you would think the ‘Les Borderies’ is dry, the balance of acidity and sugar provides for a complexity that is mind blowing.  Xavier’s love of chenin blanc is what drove him to the region, but curiosities push him to experiment with other varietals able to bottle under the Touraine appellation. Xavier makes elegant reds from grapes like côt, the regional name for malbec, and a bright, yet savory red from gamay

While it all started with homemade Chablis in a bathtub, it’s the underrated region of Montlouis-sur-Loire where Xavier found a home—in an old, forgotten appellation where Xavier hopes to help revive the reputation by making truly gorgeous wines.

-Olivia Ragni