Domaine Lemaire Fournier is a 30 hectare estate in Vouvray . To be precise , it is located in Vernou sur Brenne , close to Vouvray , in a village on the slopes along the Loire river . We met Marie-Annick Lemaire and winemaker Nicolas Renard at a Caves Augé saturday tasting and decided to drop there at our next visit in the region . Discussing with Nicolas Renard while tasting , I would say we were impressed by his ability to produce beautiful Chenin wines . But when Chenins are in the way anyway , I am favorably biased and not very neutral...
Nicolas Renard began working in the Estate when the owner, Mrs Lemaire, bought the Domaine . He is about 40 and has this quiet passion to explain his work when with people . The estate and its vineyards have been through a lot of work and evolution since they took over the place . The 30 hectare vineyards are split into 40 different plots . In the future, he foresees the total surface going down for an easier work . All is in Chenin Blanc . Organic viticulture controlled by Ecocert. Late blossoming time this year : Estimated june 20th ( our visit occurs in late may_sorry for the delay ) . When we arrive for our appointment , we enter the chai along the street , a recently built facility backed to the hill , where the cellar and underground galleries are .
In the back of the chai , near a black hole that leads to the depth of the hill, we see 6 tronconic vats ( 25 hectoliter each ) . The place seems cool, coming from the outside ( sunny warm day ) , but that's nothing compared with the cellar galleries... He says they practice stirring of the lees every year for some cuvées . But not systematically . Pneumatic press . Some racking of the must, then juice goes into casks . Casks are cleaned with hot water and steam, and then rinsed profusely with cold water . Cold water rinsing helps prevent giving an oak-marked wine . Relatively long fermentations favored here : What we see today is going on since october ( we're in may ) . Successive rackings, not too massive each time, just to tone it down and have a longer fermentation . Temperature may play a role in that : This cellar, deep into the hill , is indeed very cold . 95° humidity and 12°C temp , year around . Going once to the toilets in the chai, "outside", I felt I took a bath of comparatively warmer atmosphere . He says there are 15 meters of rock over our heads in these galleries . Speaking of the rock over our heads, I notice these beautiful glistening reflections on the celing, like condensation, and take a picture of it [ picture bottom right ] . On both sides , alignments of 225 liter casks . They come from Burgundy. He says here they are loyal to the same supplier ( Damy ) , for the cask quality . He could pile them up on several levels but prefers to have them disposed like that, on the ground level only : Easier to manipulate individually , plus, he still has enough room in the cellar to do it that way .
Let's taste the first wine . For this one , we go back to the chai and its tronconic vats in the front :
__1 Vouvray ( dry ) 2002 . Chenin Blanc, like for the other wines . This is an assemblage of 8 to 10 plots over a 10 hectare surface . Makes a 12-15000 bottles volume . Lemon colour . On this base cuvée, they maintain the continuity so that customers can keep finding year after year Lemaire-Fournier's traditional Vouvray taste . Speaking of the taste, he says that for some plots they got from some one else, he saw a big difference in the wine after just
3 years without chemical treatments in the vineyard . This has an impact on the wine . He tells about one of the workers who already worked ( 20 years ) in the Domaine with the previous owners, and who was used to the "old" way of abundantly spraying chemicals in the vineyard : He needed 2 years to adapt to the new philosophy and way to work in the vineyard . In fact, the hardest for him was that the vineyard did not look "neat" and "square" with this organic viticulture ... The first millesime, when the Lemaire-Fournier estate started, he vinified all the plots in seperate cuvées because he did not know the particularities and style of each of them, yet . Now he works on 10-11 cuvées . Terroirs that go well together are harvested together, then pressed and go to fermentation together . Speaking of the soil, lots of silica, especially in " Les Perruches", with big size stones there . The wine we're tasting, he filled the glasses from a fiber resin vat . The wine was previously part in tronconic vats , part in casks . He did not wait the end of the fermentation process to blend the different parts . Fiber vats let the fermentation gas out, just like the casks, they are quite porous .
__2 Vouvray . half-dry 2002 . There was 20 g sugar left . Now , he thinks there is still 14-15 g . Nice slightly gaseous feel , wich goes well with the aromas in the mouth .
__3 "La Coudraie" Vouvray 2002 . A bottle from the reserve, wich he decorks on a cask , in the cellar . A plot on a northern slope with a clay-silica soil . 80 year old vineyard plot . In spite of its orientation, it takes the sun as a southern slope . 14,5° alcohol . Serve cold and get something to eat with it . Delicate nose . He says 4-5 g residual sugar left . He says it tastes fine after this 1 1/2 year long laying down . Got its clear colour naturally , no filtration here . He says this is a powerful wine that dwarfs many dishes . He
tried it with restaurateurs he knows and it paired beautifully with lobster, also with white meats , with rabbit . No carafing for this wine, he says , as it oxidize quite fast . Subtle and powerful at the same time, B. says .
__4 "Les Tartemains" 2002 . Half-dry . Bottle . About 30 g residual sugar at bottling . Nice terroir on southern slope . Less silica and more calcareous stones than in "La Coudraie" . 45-50 year old vines . 13,5° alcohol here .
__5 "Les Tartemains" 2003 . from a cask . Very different . Volontarily on a very very long maturing time . 160 g right now . Will stay at about the same level . To drink for itself, as aperitif . To be bottled soon .
__6 "La coudraie" 2003 ( Cask ) . On the nose, some hints of yogurt and cheese : Malolactic fermentation is on, it may have begun 8 months ago, he says . A delicacy, B.0 says : Like soft fudge or milk chocolate . 200 g residual sugar, but not this sugary feeling that could come with . Bottled in june .
__7 "La Reveillerie" 2003 . A combination of two types of terroirs : One with a calcareous type of soil, the other with a silica one . No malolactic fermentation here, the nose says . 180- 200 g resid. sugar . Vinified together out of the press . After sediments are taken out of the vats, the wine goes in caks. His dog, Peps, is the silent witness of all our wine tasting activity and babble . Sometimes laying and drowsy , sometimes up and attentive when comes from the other end of the cellar ...
__8 Vouvray (dry) 2004 . From a resin vat . Turbid, nice light honey colour . Will be racked and bottled . This one will be filtered . 5 g . Surprisingly vivid after the previous wine we tasted . But happily , we spoke lengthly between the two, and it sort of softened the move... Still in fermentation, not easy to, appreciate ( for me, at least ) . He says it is better to wait next september to taste and appreciate the 2004 wines .
The wine is exported to Japan , the UK , also to Belgium , Germany and Switzerland .
Lemaire Fournier . 21 Rue Neuve 37210 Vernou sur Brenne . Phone 33 (0)2 47 52 12 46