Les Terres Bleues (Xavière Hardy)
Type of agriculture
1 ½ ha
We’re still working that out
Country, Region, Subregion
La Chapelle-Glain, Loire-Atlantique, France
Xavière Hardy is a tough, determined woman who makes amazing juice while leaving as little mark on the land as possible.
She hasn’t taken an easy path. There were no vines for miles around her 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 refused to be deterred from 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 relented and gave her permission to plant her vineyard. After analysing the terroir she chose Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Grolleau.
Les Terres Bleues is the name – reflecting the blue schist that predominates on her 1.5-hectare plot. Her 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 individually 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.
Connection to the plant is paramount, so Xavière tends her vines by hand. 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.
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 Bleues to sample. 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.