Friends from Saumur

Mélaric / L' Austral / Folle Berthe / Château Tour Grise

Phillippe Gourdon

Phillippe Gourdon

Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, Loire, France

Our friends from Saumur all have something in common: They are connected through Phillippe Gourdon (Château Tour Grise) - a pioneer in biodynamic farming. After Phillippe retired they have started renting off bits of his vineyard to new, younger generation winemakers in an attempt to keep the blood flowing in Saumur. So, what's the story?

Melanie Hunin, from Paris, and Aymeric Hillaire, from Saumur, established Domaine Melaric (a weaving of their names) in 2006 at the Chateau de Baugé, near the village of Puy-Notre-Dame. In 2008, they purchased four hectares of vineyards in Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame with advice from Philippe Gourdon.

Laurent and Pauline (Domaine L'Austral) worked for one year as engineers in France but were not very happy stuck in front of a computer. They travelled and worked in Australia in different farms and in a winery on the west coast. Pauline then studied in Burgundy to become an enologist. During her first internship, Pauline worked with Melaric who introduced them to Françoise and Philippe Gourdon in Le Puy-Notre-Dame, who in turn had vines to lease.

David Foubert (Domaine Folle Berthe), formerly a Parisien journalist, moved to Saumur for a life change and to study winemaking. Aymeric and Melanie have been a key influence; Melanie was David’s teacher at winemaking school, and David’s first vintage in 2014 was made in their cellar. David moved into his own – once-abandoned but now lovingly restored – cellar in 2015. He now farms a mix of parcels leased from Philippe. 

Château Tour Grise

Château Tour Grise

Phillippe's eight-hectare vineyard is made up of six hectares of Cabernet Franc and one each of Chenin Blanc and Pineau D’Aunis. It has been entirely biodynamic since 1998, a crucial status for Phillippe, who wants to create wines that express a true sense of their terroir. In the vineyard life flourishes; the grass remains long and wild all summer long; the vines remain untrimmed and are treated with various special herbal tea preparations of nettles, presses and willows to keep sickness at bay.

The weather systems coming in off the Atlantic are forced upwards by the Mauges hills to the west of Anjou. This causes a rain shadow which gives Saumur more of a continental climate. Le-Puy – being practically the most southerly point – averages less than 200mm/year. The elongated growing season this allows enables the wines to achieve ripeness.

 

Wines now in stock


Domaine Mélaric

NEW 2016 Billes de Roches  - Chenin
Some serious Chenin, soft balanced use of oak. Lean and tense.

NEW  2011 Liquoreux de la Cerisaie  - Chenin   
Powerful, intense and deep with a spicy, savoury edge to the concentrated raisin and marmalade flavours. Incredible concentration and notes of straw, herb and syrup. 


Domaine Folle Berthe

2016 Petit Berthe  - Pineau d'Aunis
Bright, showing just a touch of development. Slightly more body than Pineau d'Aunis from more northerly vineyards, still with characteristic redcurrant fruit and a white pepper finish.


Domaine L' Austral

NEW 2017 Manta  - Cab Franc 
Whole grape vatting. Alcoholic fermentation in indigenous yeasts, nine-month ageing in concrete eggs.

NEW 2017 Jolie Brise Blanc - Chenin 
Direct pressing, alcoholic fermentation in indigenous yeasts. Beginning of the alcoholic fermentation in the tank, finishing in the bottle.

NEW 2017 Jolie Brise Rosé - Cab Franc  
Direct pressing for half of the grapes and short maceration (about three hours) for the other half. This is what gives the intense colour and structure in the mouth. Alcoholic fermentation in indigenous yeasts, beginning of the alcoholic fermentation in vats, finishing in the bottle.

2016 - Cuvee 253 - Cab Franc 
Planted in 2002-03. Manual harvest, Destemmed. Maceration for 60 days – infusion only, indigenous yeasts, aged nine months in concrete eggs.

For wholesale prices, please email hello@winesutb.com

New Wines in Stock!

Mathieu L'Hotelier

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Les Champs Jumeaux – Montrelais, Loire-Atlantique, France

Matt set up shop in 2012 and is one of our favourite characters in the Loire. His village – Montrelais – is at the far eastern edge of the Muscadet zone in a maritime climate. It used to have around 300 hectares under vine. Less than three remain and Matt farms most of them.

His vines – Chenin with some Gamay, Grolleau and Hybrid 54-55 – are nurtured without synthetic products, local plant concoctions only. In the winery he has a very similar approach, slow-pressing to gain texture in the wines, followed by fermentation and ageing in fibreglass.

We are very lucky to be able to bring you some of Matt's 2017 vintage. Mildew is a tough enough enemy for the winemaker to face, without bringing wild boars to the party. Fortunately, Matt could rely on the generosity of winemaker friends from Le Coteaux d'Ancenis, who came to the rescue with extra grapes.

Wines now in stock:

NEW 2017 Cuvee Marcel – Gamay, Grolleau, Melon

NEW 2017 Chais – Gamay - Crunchy, aromatic, with dry soft tannins. Easy drinking slightly wild gamay.

2017 Plage – Gamay, Chardonnay - Refreshingly light and juicy, deep fruit and definitely something a little different.

NEW! Nantes, naturally.

Xavière Hardy

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Les Terres Bleues - La Chapelle-Glain, Loire-Atlantique, France

We were sat at Xavière's table, tucking in to slow-roast lamb shoulder and garlicky potatoes, both from her partner’s farm. There was fresh bread from the village baker and even cheese - which one of their children makes from the farm milk.


The food was fantastic. But we had come to taste her wine. And Xavière didn't have any.

Some creative thinking was required. Much like eight years ago, when the problem was more basic. There were no vines for miles around the village - La Chapelle-Glain, about 60km north of Nantes. In fact, planting vines there was officially forbidden. 

That wasn't about to stop Xavière, who was determined to persevere with her dream of a career change after 20 years running her own business.

Enlisting the help of Ancenis grower Jacque Caroger, she lobbied the local council, who eventually decided to give her permission to plant her vineyard.

She started with an analysis of the terroir before choosing to plant Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Grolleau. The soil of her 1.5-hectare plot is predominantly blue schist, hence the name of her project - Les Terres Bleu.

Xavière hasn’t taken an easy path. The plants (around 8,000 per hectare) are trained in the Albarello style, common on Mount Etna. With help from family and friends, each vine was indivually staked with a whacking great lump of wood. This type of training gives all-day exposure to the sun, very helpful in this northerly location.

Xavière chooses to perform all the work in the vines by hand so she has a connection to the plant. She would use a horse to plough if she could but the soil is too rocky so she has to use a little tractor. In the cellar she works very delicately, using no sulphur or filtration.

She uses biodynamic treatments and herbal teas made from local flowers and honey instead of copper or sulphur in the vineyard. This green evangelism has the same inspiration as her old business - working to clean and reuse waste water and restore the biodiversity of rivers.

It hasn't been an easy ride. In 2017, she was forced to buy grapes from a friend who is an organic grower in Anjou to ensure her venture could survive huge 80 per cent losses from that year’s frost.

That hurdle inspired more environmental innovation. She bought a solar-powered device that sits in the middle of the vineyard. When the temperature drops below zero it  pumps out warm air, covering most of her planted area.

Her first tiny harvest was in 2015, producing a small amount of Pinot Noir, which was what we had come to Les Terres Bleu to sample. It would be perfect to wash down that slow-cooked lamb and garlicky potatoes.

So, with typical ingenuity, Xavière had called one of her customers with an odd request: "Can I buy back one of my bottles?"

The Pinot had us hooked straight away from the colour. It was seductive, delicate and slightly gamey. We've also tasted her negoce wines, which share the same delicate style.

Xavière is a tough, determined woman who strives to leave as little mark on the land as humanly possible while making amazing juice.

Wines now in stock:

NEW 2017 O Joséphine - Chenin
Mineral, round, aromatic.

NEW 2017 Groll d'Oiseaux  Grolleau
Light, crunchy, juicy & mineral.

NEW 2017 Vergo  Cabernet Franc
Harvested in October, 7% pinot gris added.
Rich & juicy, aromatic, mineral with soft green tannins.