La Grange Aux Belles

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Winemakers

Marc Houtin, Gérald Peau and Julien Bresteau

Type of agriculture

Organic

Vineyard area

14 ha

Country, Region, Subregion

France, Angers, Soulaines-sur-Aubance

Wines

The seeds of La Grange aux Belles were planted in 2004 when Marc Houtin gave up a career in the oil industry to follow a passion for wine. He purchased a dozen hectares on the slopes of the Aubance river in Anjou.

At first they mainly supplied the co-operative of Brissac but Marc also experimented, vinifying and bottling some parcels individually. After two great vintages, a difficult harvest in 2006 prompted Marc to seek the help of a partner. Julien Bresteau was interning at Domaine de Montgilet, the spark was right between them and they became friends. In 2007 Marc invited Julien to join the Domaine and La Grange Aux Belles was born.

In 2008 they converted to organic agriculture. But Mother Nature's love was tough. A hard frost followed by vicious mildew meant the yields were catastrophic.

Then, two more characters joined the story: a need for further investment brought in old friend Rémi Fournier of "Chez Rémi” in Angers. Also, Gérald Peau – aka "Jesse" – the first bartender of the legendary "Le Circle Rouge” wine bar in Angers lent a helping hand. Marc says that at the time he just focused on making his wines the best he could.

The turning point for his farming approach was when he enrolled in a short 2-day training on the Herody method in 2009. The method is a soil diagnosis designed by a Jura-based geologist named Yves Herody. It changed a lot of the way he works his vineyard. Following what he learnt, he then put low doses of compost on the soil at the end of winter to relaunch the microbial activity, which led to improvements in terms of vine vigor and yields.

Today the 14ha estate has Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d'Aunis, Gamay, Grolleau and Chenin Blanc, farmed organically of course, using herbal infusions against mildew and vinified with minimal SO2. Short macerations are practised, with minimal extraction, seeking light-bodied aromatic wines, low in tannins and alcohol.