The weather has turned rainy and even quite cold for the season (late may), with temperatures at about 10°C in the middle of the day in the Loire, slowing down the 2-weeks advance in the vine growth brought by an exceptional summer-like month of april. Francois Blanchard's vineyard is located on the highest plateau in Touraine, 15 km southwest of Chinon, with a total surface of about 3 hectares at an altitude of 110 meters, and the strong winds on the day I visited made you feel on the atlantic coast. He says that the altitude brings lots of air and ventilation on the plateau, even on normal days, which helps for the health of the vines and the grapes.
He has been committed to the organic farming techniques from the start and this went smoothly with what he had learned from his years of playing and feeling the music. Even though he came to his second life as a vigneron after years as a musician, he sort of naturally felt the intuitions and vibrations that the interaction of the nature, weeds and vines brought to him. When he came back here for his new life he brougt with him the sense of listening that he experienced in the music and art. He says that what makes the world take a wrong turn today is this consumerist direction that many people take : they loose the sense of beauty and truth in favor of short-term productivism, forgetting that they are part of a larger ecosystem. Things like simple music sounds, world- and ethnic musics where empty cans can be converted in music instruments helped him better understand how the vines, the weeds and the insects can interact for the best result in the grapes and in his own life. He had to feel whole with every single part of his new job otherwise he would have preferred to do something else. What is important is truth and that's what is lacking in many modern wines: there's no magic in these wines, and the real life of the vineyard, of the wine's own energy, have been hindered, and many people vaguely feel it, even though they usually don't put words on that feeling.
He doesn't plow, he just mows and leaves the weeds under the rows. It gives shelter to useful insects and dries up in summer anyway. He noticed many different types of insects and birds in the vicinity, like yellow ladybirds, red ladybirds, stick insects and praying mantis. It is now the 3rd year without any preventive chemical spraying. He chose the arcure technique, a training/pruning mode that lets the stem take a gentle bending : this way, the shoots find naturally their way to the light and he considers it better for the vine and the grapes. He mostly lets the yields go, but they stay at a low level, depending of the millesime, from between 15-20 hectoliter/hectare to 30 ho/ha.
A few wines that I tasted :
__1 Sauvignon 2006. From a cask. Yields for the Sauvignon were 15 hectoliter/hectare in 2006. This turbid, yellow wine takes his time and tastes like the "bernache" or new wine. The fermentation started again recently when the temperature rose. No SO2 at this point.
__2 Quintes Bémol 2005. Sauvignon (Table Wine). 50cl bottle. 15°. Nice balance, high alcohol not felt. Unfiltered, tartaric sediments in the bottom. Labelled as Vin de Table because the wine is ready one year after the agreement schedule and also because it would be seen as way out of the norm by the tasting panel of the Appellation.
__3 Cabernet Franc 2006. From a resin vat. Nice nose. Spicy, with a strong clove aroma. Malolactic fermentation not yet complete. Nice tannins.
__4 Cabernet Franc 2004. Wood on the nose. In the mouth, nice substance and with the wood more discreet. 2004 is a light millesime.
__5 Cabernet Franc 2005 "La Contrebasse". The malolactic fermentation came for this wine after the september full moon of 2006. Very concentrated nose. Dark color, close to black. Gingerbread, chocolate notes. The nose and the mouth of this wine say together: very nice wine indeed. He may bottle it later this year, maybe in magnums. He has 3 casks of it, or about 800 bottles.
__6 Sauvignon 2004. To refresh the mouth. From the year when he began to de-bud the vines, to sort of tame it back to its wine line.