Michel and Beatrice Augé's estate lies in the Cher valley , in what is part of the Loire Valley wine region . Their house sits on a slope a kilometer from the river, with fallow fields, wooded lots and vineyards
around ( 9 hectares altogether ) . A huge concrete water tower with "Touraine" and a stylized grape on it, hovers on a hill at some distance . A couple of gooses threaten us from the other side of a fence, doing a better job than the friendly dog ( named Plume ) to guard the place .
Michel Auge shows us the first vineyard plot . Guess wich variety . B. opts for Gamay . Right . A 2 hectare plot on a light slope with woods on the other end . Plowed, at first glance , but with still a lot of grass . As he will explain later, the machine does'nt exactly plow, but aerates the soil so as to preserve its life . As he told me on the phone when I asked for a visit, everything you see or feel in a wine has its roots in the vineyard and so he thinks it is primordial to walk in the rows and understand how life there translates into wine qualities . He says, this is not just a fashionable way to please journalists and poets, but when people make natural wines, the vineyard side is the most important one .
The estate follows the biodynamic principles . Speaking of indigenous yeasts ( he of course does'nt use any external yeast ), he says this matter is still uncharted territory . He says an ITV ( acronym for a french viticulture engineering entity ) research study stated that indigenous yeast' existence was not proved because none could be found on the grape skin, but only in the vats . Actually, the most important research and experiments were made in the 19th century, first by Pasteur, and by other people, like the german scientist Eduard Buchner, who stated that fermentation was made by a yeast secretion caused by a zymase, actually an enzyme . But interesting researchs were made also by the french scientist Antoine Bechamp ( 1816-1908 ), an anticonformist scientist in medical chemistry who created the theory of microzymas in the Montpellier faculty . This is deeply connected to the fundamental quests of this time ( with questions like : Are the diseases external or already inside the body? ) . Michel Auge says his views were antagonist to Pasteur's . He stated that ( for humans as well as for the vines ) the disease is already in some form or another pre-existing . Implications are many , it means that by working on the terrain, on
the vines and the soil, to vitalize them ( rather than try to cure with chemicals afterwards ), you protect the vineyard in a much better way in the long term . The subject here is disease, not yeasts , but for both , the question is, are they already there before their appearance ?...
Until today, Bechamp's research is central in the new way to fight cancer , for example .
Showing us the grass between the rows being kept along something that looks like plowing but is actually different, he says that the micro-organisc life in the ground must be preserved . Ordinary plowing disturbs this life wich then needs 5 weeks to come back . So, he opts for a more respectful intervention, with clods left uncrushed . Life is even more important in organic viticulture and so the microbic life of the upper soil layer must be protected . That's why he does'nt favor the traditional plowing that he sees as too violent on its life . He says another dimension that must not be disregarded is the aerial one . The vineyard finds 80% of its feeding through the air . The plant needs warm winds , the water , the fog, the temperature changes and many other elements that touch its leaves . For example here, he says he is sure the wooded lot at the other end has a direct influence on the vineyard, and that the different trees positioned at the edge, like these two holland poplar trees, or this chestnut tree, translate into different characteristics in the closest vines . Walking to another plot , we pass a donkey that he keeps on a fenced lot . Baby donkey soon to come...
He uses a dynamizer to make biodynamic preparations . It looks like a big mixer with two symetric vats where water is disposed and agitated in a whirlpool and where selected ingredients are added . This water is then sprayed on the vineyard . Looking at the fallow fields with high grass, he says the many insects there help fight the pests that can harm the vineyard, wich would be otherwise a monoculture . By monoculture, he refers to regions where the vineyards cover the landscape without any other competing diversty ( high grass, orchard, woods ) . In the Maisons Brulees landscape, the multiplication of insects and other butterflies drowns the pests' pheromones and make it harder for them to come here en masse . Pointing to vineyard plots far away on the other side of the Cher river, he says tha abbeys ( Aigues vives and Pontlevoy for this region ) helped agriculture come to life in the pivotal 13th century . He says the size and orientation of several of the visible vineyards we see date from this time : No more than 1 hectare , a carefully chosen orientation , ditches and hedges, all of the things we today recognize as so wise . The monks of this time were experts and had the knowledge and the science to share .
Walking up the hill, we reach a Sauvignon plot . That's where his "Poussiere de Lune" cuvée comes from . He chats with three female workers doing some work in the vineyard . This is a nice quality of Sauvignon, with thick skin . Last year , it reached a potential of 14,5° .
He now drives us to the cellar in the village on the other side of the hill . Great place... You enter the door and walk in galleries deep into the hill : 2 to 3 kilometers of galleries carved into the chalk . very cool cellar with casks along the walls, under a sometimes 5 meter high ceiling . The hill over our heads provides this stable cool temperature .
__1 White . From a cask . Chardonnay 2004 . Only quite recent cask ( one wine old ) . His other casks are at least 3 wines old . Will stay there till september . He has not decided yet if it will be blended or left alone . At first, he wanted to make sparkling of it, but the wine took a different direction, fermenting faster than expected after the harvest .
__2 White . "Poussiere de Lune" 2003 . Sauvignon . We saw the vineyard . Lightly buttered, says Haruko . Very delicate . Very very nice . He says the goal is to have a very silky finnish in the mouth . He then takes a sample from another cask of the same wine : Amylic notes on the nose, then it goes away, someone says . There is a sugary side, but there is no sugar . This is the long maturing time that brings this silky side . He says he never filtered his wine till today, but used natural decanting instead . The wine is indeed quite clear for a non-filtered one .
__3 White . "Suavignon" 2004 . Sauvignon . Nice turbid yellow color . Very different profile . Suave side for this wine wich will mature 1 year ( the former : 18 to 24 months ) . More on primary aromas . On this wine, the focus wil be on the acidity . The acidity side can me connected to the concentration . Lemon side on the nose .
__4 White . Another Suavignon 2004 cask : More suppleness . Lemon side in finnish in the mouth .
__5 Red . Herdeleau 2004 . Nose : On the fruit . Mouth : Pepper, says B.
__6 Red . A bottle : Prim' Herdeleau 2004 . Press wine only . Bottled a week ago . This press wine is more fruity than a free run wine would be . Seems tannic, but that's the substance that gives this feeling . Short maturing, but already fine , one week after bottling . Can lay down a while too .
__7 Red . L'Erebe 2004 . Cask . Cabernet Franc and Cot ( Malbec ) . First edition of this wine, in 2003 . Had taken a bizarre evolution ; He stopped tasting it until january . Then he discovered a wonder wine . Named it Erebe : Means chaos and Renaissance.
__8 Red . Noire 2003 . Cask . He gathers there all the left-overs from the other casks and cuvées : Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cot, Cabernet Franc . Only one cask of it . Superb wine . Very few customers can put their lips on this wine : A few restaurants, plus customers in Japan ( Village Cellars ) . 2 years in cask . Speaking of his prices, they are quite affordable, about 10 Euro a bottle .
__9 White . No name yet . From the Suavignon plot ( Sauvignon ) . Very late harvest 2004 . Nice dense colour, turbid, some gold . Nice ripe pomelos on the nose . If you had seen the grapes, he says, you would have thought nothing could be made of them... Only one cask . 22-25 potential with the sugar . Harvest was in november , with lots of problems , rain alternating, two days in a row , with short dry days . They could at last find the righr window, harvested 22 boxes with strict sorting . After some hesitations, the wine took a beautiful turn and got this pomelos aromas . 10° right now, not more . But the balance is there . What he would like is add nothing in SO2 .
This great visit ends here , and he drives us back to our car .
Béatrice and Michel Augé
Les Maisons Brulées , 5 Impasse du Loing 41110 Pouillé
Phone +33 (0)2 54 71 51 57