The Domaine des Ouches is located in the Bourgueil appellation of the Loire (between Saumur and Tours). A total of 17 hectares (about 42 acres), it has been the home and the passion of the Gambier family for eight generations. The current managers are Thomas and Denis Gambier, who have made it their mission to create wines that express the multifaceted spirit of Cabernet Franc. While the appellation does allow some Cabernet Sauvignon to be blended in, the brothers only use this variety in their Grand Réserve, sticking with wines of 100% Cabernet Franc for their other cuvées. This variety, known locally as Breton, has been in the Loire since 1152, making the wines of Domaine des Ouches an expression of the family’s heritage and regional pride.
At the Domaine des Ouches, Cabernet Franc is sourced from different vineyards, allowing the Gambier brothers to highlight the impact of terroir and show off the range of possibilities of the variety. The 20, for example; is sourced from vines that grow from gravel soils, which warm up quickly and speed up the ripening process of the grape, giving forth supple wines. The clay and limestone hillsides of the Coteau des Ouches, however, result in slower maturation with more concentrated grapes. Sandy soils give solid but silky tannins to the wines (as seen in Le Clos Boireaux).
To best express their terroirs, Thomas and Denis work carefully in the vines and cellar to avoid using unnecessary chemical treatments while still ensuring quality wines. Tilling their soils, canopy management, and hand harvesting ensure healthy soils, happy vines, and the best selection of grapes possible. In their vinification, the brothers employ a variety of techniques to make cuvées with distinct personalities. For example, the shorter maceration periods in the winemaking of the 20 Rouge ensures that it is approachable, suited to consumption by-the-glass. The estate’s underground cellar keeps their wines cool during maturation, which for red wine occurs in oak barrels and lasts for 12 to 14 months.
The result is a showcase of Cabernet Franc. A delicate aromatic rosé, and elegant, concentrated red wines. The reds range from the juicy, entry-level wine to drink younger (20 Rouge) to the denser, more tannic, age-worthy wines (Coteau des Ouches, Grande Réserve, Le Clos des Ouches).