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The beautiful Château de Targé is one of the most recognizable wine châteaux dotted along the exposed limestone cliffs of Saumur. Paul Pisani-Ferry is the second generation winemaker in the family. But the Château itself has a much longer history in the family. At least 365 years of history in fact. It’s a fascinating, partly matriarchal, family history. From a hunting lodge to a family holiday house and ultimately to a regal château, the family home grew and became more grand as time went by.
The Saumur Appellation
Saumur itself is a historically important winemaking region. It has the benefit of the limestone soils and limestone bedrock that gives character and structure to the wines. Wines of all three colours and also sparkling wines are made in this region. Château de Targé is no exception and makes a range of very high quality wines from Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Both grapes are naturally at home here but it may be the Cab Franc reds of the sub-appelation Saumur-Champigny that is most celebrated. Hugh Johnson talks about it in his World Atlas of Wine. “This is one of Cabernet Franc’s most refreshing expressions from tuffeau-dominated land that is effectively an extension of the best red wine country of Touraine.”
The Family’s History In The Region
Even though the family’s history in the region is long, their history as winemakers is quite short. Although located in one of the Loire’s important winemaking regions, the family came into winemaking only recently. Paul’s father, Edouard Pisani-Ferry, was born with a high degree of deafness. So instead of going into the family’s historic profession of politics, he was able to pursue his passion for horticulture and agriculture. And ultimately wine growing. Edouard collected together 24 hectares of land over time and eventually created one contiguous vineyard. As Paul explains in the podcast, this size of vineyard gives Château de Targé scale and enough independence to control the viticulture and winemaking. And it allows them to innovate and focus on quality.
Paul himself was not actually consumed by a passion for winemaking as a young man. That interest took time to grow. Paul’s more immediate interest was a commitment to the family heritage and the Château. He recognized a responsibility to ensure that the family legacy, particularly embodied by the beautiful Chateau de Targé, would survive and thrive. So he took an interest in business. But during his time as a business student he came around to the family passion for wine. This led Paul to travel and to work in the wine industry in different capacities. Paul has worked in Sonoma, Argentina and South Africa.
Wine Education in Sonoma, Argentina and South Africa
While travelling Paul witnessed how innovation can be so important and central to a major winemaker like Zuccardi in Argentina. This helped Paul develop a sense of critical thinking in wine growing and winemaking. He also developed a keen sense of the need for innovation in his own home wine region. Then, during a harvest stint at the famous Raats winery in South Africa, Paul observed how a native Loire variety like Chenin Blanc can be allowed to express itself in the local climate and terroir. He saw that wine varieties need to be encouraged to take the best character out of the place that they grow.
A Guided Tour of Saumur and The Wines of Château de Targé
In this episode of The Wine Beat podcast, Paul Pisani-Ferry is going to lead us on a very thoughtful and articulate tour of the Saumur wine region. He will tell us about the vineyard characteristics and the famous limestone soils. He will also introduce us to the key varieties, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. There is a lot packed in here including introductions to sparkling wine production methods and rosé wine production. We get an insight into the differences between the méthode traditionelle (or Champenoise) and the méthode ancestrale in sparkling wine production. Then in a heartbeat we are into a discussion of rosé winemaking and the difference between the press method and the saignée method. Then, boom, we are into a talk about the character of Cabernet Franc in the Saumur-Champigny appellation.
There is a colourful and exhilerating range of wine varieties, styles and appellations. So hold on to your seat and listen to Paul Pisani-Ferry tell us about the wines of the beautiful Château de Targé in Saumur!