Bourillon-Dorleans: A Cave with a Sense of Humor

Carvings in the limestone cave at Dom. Bouillon-Dorleans.
Carvings in the limestone cave at Dom. Bouillon-Dorleans.
Each of the 34 carvings help tell the story of wine in the Loire Valley over the centuries.
Each of the 34 carvings help tell the story of wine in the Loire Valley over the centuries.

The drive in the summer sunshine from Tours to Rochecorbon provided me with one of those transcendent moments that make my travels so fulfulling. I had a zippy new car, a Volvo hatchback, I had music streaming from my phone to the well-tuned speakers, and I had an exciting destination, meeting a winemaker in his cave.  All in all, it added up to a great way to spend the morning.

I was en route to meet Frederic Bourillon, third-generation owner of Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans. We met the garrulous winemaker in his very deep cave.  Carved out of the limestone, this particular winery boasts one of the longest caves in the Loire.

Frederic had lit candles and Mozart was playing throughout the cave for what he calls the “Gastronomic walk,” and we dug into some smoked salmon and the first tasting of many wines at stations we’d find as we made our way deeper into the cave. Normally he’d be serving us oysters on the half shell but today the salmon was an apt substitute. “Touring this cave takes five senses,” Fred said.

Fred Bouillon samples some very young wine in his cave.
Fred Bourillon samples some very young wine in his cave.

Many famous people have taken this tour, Fred told us. Ambassasors and celebrities, along with people from every country. Last week he had a group from Kazakhstan, and he’s entertained many people here. After our visit, I can see why, since he’s a very entertaining fellow, the wines are tasty, and the snacks and art are first rate.

These were called Rupestrian caves, the name refers to the carved artwork that adorned the soft limestone walls that we observed every time we turned a corner. Each of the 34 carvings helps tell the story of wine, from the Cambrian era 500 million years ago with the ancestors of vertebrae, to St Martin, the patron saint of the Loire, to the effects the wine can have on humans to Jonah inside the whale enjoying a glass of wine.

Fred’s commentary added to the fun, and he had snacks at strategic stops along the way as we went further and further into the cave.

Not only does Domaine Bourillon have the most fun of any wine tasting tour I’ve ever been on, he’s an innovator. Fred showed us a wine label that contains the Vouvray scent on the label after you scratch it!

Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans, 30 bis rue de Vaufoyard, Rochecorbon. 33 (0)2 47 52 83 07

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