Short january visit along the Loire at Domaine Breton, in Cabernet Franc country... Winter visits at vignerons help have an opinion about the current vintage whereabouts, even if tasting a wine not yet finished has its down sides. Winter is also more relaxed for growers, the pruning is the only task, a semi-urgent one as it is usually spread between january and march. Knowing the vigneron helps as he will not always receive the anonymous visitor, and Pierre Breton was kind enough to receive us for a couple of hours (I was accompanied by someone in the trade) for an instructive indoor and outdoor experience. What I like with wineries like this one beyond the wines themselves, it's that the owner lives right in the same building as the facility itself, he's not just a manager with a team of subordinates and enologists to take care of all he dirty work.
Pierre Breton was a bit tired, we learned that the previous day he had spent the evening with 4 friends in a local restaurant (excellent food and wine list, see below) and that the party had downed 15 bottles. My source may have exaggerated the number of bottles involved, but having a vague idea of the type of wines they chose, I think that might be plausible and without horrendous health consequences.
__ Breton Avis de Vin Fort 2011. From a cask. A thirst wine first, with a very clear color. Carbonic maceration, fermented in casks. Good to drink wine, he says. Very fresh wine, with fruit, light tannins. Easy drink indeed. Among the cheapest cuvées at Breton, sells well, he says. Bottled soon.
__ Breton Trinch 2011. From a cask. Bottled soon, in february. Pierre Breton says that it's important to leave the wine too long in casks, just the winter, no more.
__ Pierre Breton Vouvray 2011 (Chenin). 3 or 4 grams of sugar remaining, just finishing the fermentation. Great vintage for the whites in 2011. Very bad weather in july, otherwise quite good. Harvested 15/18 of september when usually it's october 10th. End of blossoming was 1st week of may, which was considerably sooner than usual (around june 24). The cool and rainy july delayed a little bit the supposed-to-be-earlier harvest. The fermentation was easy in 2011. They use refrigerated containers to cool down the grapes and ease the cold maceration. The fermentation lasted 3 or 4 days, same thing many people witnessed around. Autumn and mid-september was quite wet and humid, a bit tropical one could say, which helped yeasts develop rapidly. Nice white.
__ Breton, les Galichets 2010. From a bottle. This Cabernet Franc wine will show its best during the 3 newt years. Already quite nice, including on the nose. Tasty wine. Gravel soil, here. Pierre Breton says that he uses quality corks from northern Spain (Catalonia), some as long as 49 mm for the best cuvées. He uses also synthetic corks for the cuvées intended to be drank young.
__ Breton Bourgueuil Clos Sénéchal 2009 (bottle). The 2010 is to be bottled sometime in the following weeks (around march maybe), when the right conditions are gathered. Beautiful wine, very refined and onctuous, the vineyard must be on some good terroir. He says this goes well with eating meat. Best is to decant it, he adds. Soil is 30 centimeters of clay more or less, named argile éolienne in French, or clays sedimented by the wind in a geological era. Beneath this clay lies the tuffeau stone, a chalk-like type of limestone, that's where the roots dig in. Pierre Breton says that they've a few months to prune the vines on the whole of the vineyards. Vines are aged between 30 and 40 years there. It's a family vineyard since the French revolution time. This particular climat makes 10 hectares in all, and he owns 1,5 hectare of it.
They're two people to do the job. His son may also help from time to time, during his holydays time. In winter, they also have the topping-up thing to do, which they do when it's too cold outside : he says that just for topping up the casks, which is replacing the wine that sort of evaporates through the casks, he uses the equivalent of 3000 bottles a year, that's a a lot of wine... That's one of the reasons why people don't always like to age wine in casks.
We actually drove with Pierre Breton to this Clos Sénéchal vineyard. He took us in his vintage Renault 4L (I heard it's actually Catherine Breton's car). The vineyard is on a gentle slope, it's easy to recognize its location thanks to this small ruin on the side.
__ Breton Bourgueuil Les Perrières 2008. Chalk undersoil. Stayed 30 months in barrels. Just beginning to reach the market. Very good indeed, full bodied and elegant. 49 mm cork for very long laying down. The top cuvée at Breton, comes with a price but this Cabernet Franc is a long-term investment which can go through a long laying down. But we all know that we never keep the bottles that long, except for those who can afford buying a case.
__ Breton Chinon Beaumont 2010. Cabernet Franc from a different terroir compared to Bourgueuil. These are rented vineyards near Chinon, organic farming (not biodynamic). From what I understood, Pierre had a prior rented vineyard in the area but the people weren't happy that the vineyard was organicly grown (too unkept-looking maybe ?), so he let it down and two years later he found a young guy in 2006 who was happy to farm this way and to be paid twice the price for organic grapes compared to what the local coop paid. 4 hectares on Beaumont.
__ Breton Chinon Saint Louans 2008. Very old vines, 70 years old, near an abbey. Nearly 30 months in casks too. Two summers in barrel is important, he says, for this type of wine. He says that if he left the wine in vats, it wouldn't yield the same evolution and satisfaction for the consumer. One hectare of Cab Franc there. 35 ho/ha here while on Beaumont 45 ho/ha, that's why there's more density on this Louans Chinon. Tjhe terroir is very good here, clay and Limestone. It's on the plateau near the abbey of Louans up the hill from the Vienne river.
Even unannounced, Eric Ragot offered us a glass of Chenin Blanc before our quick lunch. Excellent fresh food, we loved the charcuterie plate, and their prices are good value.
The linked page says something quite unsusual : Les bouteilles de vin sont en libre service à la cave merci de nous les présenter au comptoir pour que l’on vous les débouche, which means something like "You can help yourself with the bottles in the cellar, just bring them at the counter so that we can open them for you" (cork fee of 8 €). Amazing place.
The restaurant is located in the vicinity if the Super U supermarket, just on the outskirts of Bourgueuil. This place is the living proof that things have been gearing up fast recently, in the world of wine : first we have noticed that somewhere in the last couple of years, new restaurants and bars serving natural wines were opening all over Paris on an almost routine pace (every other restaurant, I heard someone say). But now it's the French provinces which are becoming the new frontier in terms of serving artisan wines (and food) to demanding customers. It's not really more expensive and the customers seem to respond to the offer. This is really amazing.
Café de la Promenade map.
Google Street View of La Promenade (great view indeed ! Kudos to google !)
phone 02 47 95 10 87