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Le Rocher des Violettes

Le Rocher des Violettes’ Xavier Weisskopf has had a remarkably precocious track record in the world of wine. He went to school in Chablis, where his passion for the vine took root and led him to the wine school in Beaune. After earning a degree in viticulture and enology, he went to work for the dynamic, hard-driving Louis Barruol at Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas. He quickly became Louis’ chef du cave, and made four vintages there. Louis told me in no uncertain terms that Xavier was the best he’d ever had.

In January 2005, Xavier bought 22 acres of vines in the Saint Martin le Beau sector of Montlouis and an enormous, raw 15th century stone cellar—originally a quarry dug deep into the Loire’s chalk limestone bank in Amboise. Since that time he has increased his holdings of Le Rocher des Violettes to just under 40 acres of vines, with most being classified in AOP Montlouis while the rest are divided between Touraine (7.5 acres) and Vin de France (2.5 acres) appellations. The vines are scattered about in various parcels and were planted at different times, but the majority were put into the ground before WWII. There’s Chenin, followed by small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Grolleau for rosé, and Malbec (Cot).

Weisskopf is a quiet man who knows what he wants to do and how to go about it. He left the Rhône in favor of the Loire because of his love of Chenin. He converted to organic farming in 2009, and now plows his rows and doesn’t use herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers–he’s hardcore about organics. He prunes his younger vines for low yields of 30-35 hectoliters per hectare (the old vines give about 25 hl/ha), and harvests by hand. He favors 500-liter demi-muid barrels over steel tanks for the exchange of oxygen the wood permits, which is particularly useful for Chenin because its wine is prone to reduction. He’s careful to preserve fruit without letting oak intrude; he likes his wines to be fresh, mineral, and long and vertical rather than fat.

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