The Pebbles of Paradise & The Clos de la Bruyère
In the natural wine movement, Claude Courtois is a historical figure, both essential and marginal. Essential because he has never wavered from his total and uncompromising commitment as a farmer who respects the life of the soil and biodiversity, from his first vines in Provence in the 1980s – abandoned due to recurring fires – to the creation in 1992 of his estate Les Cailloux du Paradis in the Loire Valley, in Soings-en-Sologne (Loir-et-Cher) on the borders of Sologne and Touraine, on clay-siliceous soil.
Marginal because he leads his estate (18 ha, including 6 of vines) – his farm, more exactly, with animals, fields, orchard, woods – outside the constraints of AOC, with various grape varieties, the traditional ones of the region ( sauvignon, menu pineau, romorantin, gamay, côt, cabernet franc) but also unusual or little-known varieties: a diversity illustrated by the emblematic cuvée Racines. Among these non-local grape varieties, the winegrower shows a particular predilection for Gascon, a red grape variety perhaps originating in Orléans but which above all once had its heyday in Yonne, the family cradle of the Courtois: it is he who constitutes the aptly named cuvée L'Icaunais.
More audaciously, he also took an interest in syrah – he would have failed in the Loire Valley in the past – which did not go without many problems with the wine authorities (trials, fines)… and ends with the top grafting of forbidden feet with the famous gascon. Another form of marginality compared to the dominant conventional viticulture, the working philosophy of the domain which excludes any chemical product in the vineyard as in the cellar.
During the 2010s, Etienne Courtois, Claude's youngest son, gradually took over the reins of Les Cailloux du Paradis without changing anything in the philosophy of the estate.
From 1998, Julien Courtois, Claude's eldest son, created with his partner Heidi Kuka his own estate, Le Clos de la Bruyère, in the same village of Soings-en-Sologne. The vineyard covers 5 ha, also clay-siliceous, with a typical Loire grape variety in white (Esquiss and Évidence cuvées) as in red (Ancestral cuvée, with the contribution of the inevitable Gascon), and with the same totally natural working philosophy. .
Singular, sometimes “atypical”, even disconcerting in the absolute sincerity of their elaboration, such are the wines of Courtois father and son.