This visit in the far flung eastern wing of the Loire Valley was one of the highlights of our recent winery visits. Marie & Vincent Tricot who manage their small winery with enthusiasm and seriousness at the same time epitomize this new generation of Auvergne vignerons who are bringing this corner of the Loire back in the forefront of the wine landscape. Again, one must take notice that Auvergne taken as a separate region (it's actually part of the Loire but it's so far on the east that few people know it) has the highest rate in France for vignerons making additive-free wines from organic grapes.
What brought Marie and Vincent in the region was a coincidence. They were living near Nimes in the Gard département in the south of France where Vincent was working in a winery, and they visited a family relative of Marie who lived there, near this beautiful village of Orcet (pic on left). As Vincent had heard about Auvergne also being a wine region, they jumped on the opportunity and looked around during these few days for any available wine estate. Through their relatives, they learnt that a small family estate was on sale, it had been up for sale for a few months with no takers in view. They met the owners and this first visit was the start of a new life.
but they had to change things in the vinification side, like put on the side the harvest pump (which is very violent on the grape clusters) and buy a conveyor belt to fill the vats, for example. They also bought cement vats because as they made carbonic macerations, they needed more containers. Also, they moved the vinification room from under the house (pic on top) to the barn which was more practical (pic below), especially after they put a cement floor there.
Even though the former owner had been farming organic for a very long time (by a precursor certification system named COMAC) and used wild yeasts for most of his wine, Vincent changed important winemaking procedures (he helped the former owner in the transition harvest in 2002, so he knows what was different). The wines were mostly sold locally, in bulk or in one-liter re-usable bottles for 3,2 € a liter, and Vincent & Marie kept on supplying these customers.
On their first vintage, 2003, they had 70 % of the vineyard surface stricken by hailstorms, a hard blow for their young business. So he decided to vinify the remaining grapes on carbonic maceration with several of the cuvées without any SO2 (les Marcottes particularly). 2003 was the heat-wave year in France with astronomic temperatures day and night, but in Auvergne they had some relative cooling in the night and apart from the hailstorm it was not that bad a vintage.
Typically, the harvest which is manual and in boxes takes place with 15 pickers, they have been the same group of people for several years, coming from nearby Clermont-Ferrand and they do a good job. The Gamay is put in a vat for a carbonic maceration, usually whole-clustered with CO2 on the whole. They try to pick in the cool, like for example this year it was fine with only 13°C, and while in the vat waiting for the start of the fermentation, the outside temperature dropped almost to frost outside, bringing the vat to 9°C only, which is good. If necessary, if the weather is to warm during the harvest, he can use a milk tank to cool the juice (usually the whites that he harvests in the afternoon).
The carbonic maceration of the Gamay lasts between 10 days and 3 weeks depending of the cuvée or the vintage, with the goal being to avoid excessive extraction.
When he presses the grapes, he cools down the press juice before letting it finish its fermentation in a vat or in small foudres for the cuvée Marcottes (typically in two 12-hectoliter foudres). When the fermentation is over, he racks the wine and waits for the malolactic fermentation. Then, all the mid-range and upper-range cuvées are raised in wood, either foudres or barrels. To say it short, all their bottled wines have their élevage in old oak containers, the bulk having it in fiber or stainless-steel vats.
Speaking about the Chardonnay, after the pressing, he decants the juice and have it wait the start of the fermentation in a vat, and when it has started, which can take some time when you rely only on indignenous yeasts, he puts it in casks. The élevage lasts from 10 to 12 months, depending of the organization of the cellar. Sometimes, he manages to fill the casks immediately after emptying the previous vintage, which allows not to use any sulfur wick in between.
We enjoyed a few of their wines sitting around the table in a room on the first floor :
__ Marie & Vincent Tricot Pinot Noir 2008, "les Trois Bonhommes", with a nice drawing made by the daughters representing thre bonhommes (guys). Vin de France (the new term for vin de table). Very nice mouth. Aged 10 to 12 months in old casks. Vincent says that this estate was organic since 1971, and the previous owner also used only wild yeasts for the fermentation (the guy was a passionate vineyard worker). A bit of SO2 in this particular wine, 20 mg.
__ Marie & Vincent Tricot Pinot Noir 2009. Table wine too. Bottled early august 2010. 3000 bottles of this. Nose : concentration. Zero SO2 here. He says that a bit of SO2 at the end of the malo can be good though. 13 ° alcohol in this vintage, otherwise less. Vines on clay/limestone.
__ Marie & Vincent Tricot Chardonnay 2010, from the cask. Striking aroma of pink grapefruit. Love the mouth. Vincent says that it's in the end of the ferm. No malolactic yet but they let it go if it starts.
__ Marie & Vincent Tricot Gamay "les Marcottes" 2009, the upper cuvée. Lovely mouth, very Pinot-Noir like actually. Spicy. The vines of this cuvée were planted in 1964. Sold out.
As we left, we walked to the organic market in the lower courtyard of their estate : Marie and Vincent Tricot have a weekly market of organic food (everything from meat to vegetables, charcuterie, cheese, homey and other things, including their own wines of course) on their own property, the producers living and producing their stuff in the region. It's a real friendly atmosphere and people seem to come and buy. I noticed that the prices were so much cheaper than the organic food you find in Paris.
We went to their wine stand after buying a few things to other stands and I discovered two other cuvées that we didn't taste : les Milans 2009, a wonderful Gamay that costs only 6 € and that I profiled recently (Wine News). The other wine was a natural sparkling, Jour de Fête, also with a nice drawing, a 2009. Makes only 8° or 9° in alcohol, and no SO2 at all. Costs 7 e only, real good value too.
25 % of Marie & Vincent Tricot wines are exported : to Japan (Cosmojun - Junko Arai), to Canada (Quebec, Bertrand Mesotten), Holland (Vleck), the United Kingdom (Club Vin Bio).
They sell 55 % of their wines directly at the estate, the 20 % remaining are sold to the cavistes and restaurants.
Marie and Vincent Tricot take part to several (mostly local) organic wine fairs : Sanaterra in the Beaujolais, Pollen in Sermentizon (Auvergne), Humus in Chateldon (Auvergne), les Dix Vins Cochons in Chateldon in Auvergne next december 2nd (it's in 10 days !!!) and also another natural-wine fair in Glaine Montaigut in Auvergne too.
This visit took place late october.