Laurent Saillard is beginning to make his own wines under his own labels, and he turns a new page in his new life as a winegrower, having found recently a cellar to rent to store his own facility.
To rewind a few years earlier, Laurent had discovered a new life in the Loire after years working as a chef in New York and co-managing Ici in Brooklyn with his former wife. His restaurant was already a venue where the farmers' market produces (he was proven visitor of Brooklyn's farmers' markets) paired well with the natural wines he was familiar with, and when he settled in the Loire to work with Noella Morantin, there was a continuum in the philosophy, just that this time he was on the other side of the production line, working on the vineyard for Noella and taking care of the vines & grapes so that they could yield these real wines he loved. Learning the wine farm job the hard way, beginning with the vineyatd tasks (the organic way), he learned all the while the winemaking and tried his hand one day with a batch of grapes that Noella gave him so that he could make a barrel of wine.
When Noella bought a few hectares of vineyards from Junko Arai recently, she transferred part of the vineyards that she rented from Clos Roche Blanche to Laurent, so that he could have his own rented parcels to make his wine. He keeps working all the while for Noella Morantin and uses his weekends to tend his own surface. This makes a pretty tight working week but many artisan wineries have started this way.
When I showed up that day, Laurent and Noella helped by Juliette and Julien were busy bottling a vat of Gamay, and I was greeted like usual by Panache (pic on left, shot that day), an authentic Newyorker (actually born in 2007 in Connecticut) who seems to have become a successful transplant on the southern bank of the Cher river. This dog is very affectionate and loves also the outdoor, in short an excellent and silent companion for a winegrower.
To sum up Laurent's vineyard portfolio right now, he has 1 hectare of gamay and 70 ares of sauvignon since 2011 (rented to CRB), his first vintage being 2012. And this year (2014) he's taking over another parcel elsewhere near here in Pouillé, 50 ares of pineau d'aunis (aged 35 years) which he rents from Olivier Bellanger (Domaine de la Piffaudière), another new player in the area. I can't but notice how Laurent is lucky, as finding available Pineau D'Aunis to rent is a difficult thing. Laurent does all the farming there, and he harvests too of course. His first vintage with this Pineau D'Aunis will be 2014.
The weather has been wet for days recently (England and Britanny are underwater) and the soil can't take more water. Growers have to wait before the ground can stand a tractor, so the grass is pretty wild, especially that except for november, there hasn't been cold weather until now this winter. The risk is that with this mild weather the sap gets back to the shoots and then a late-season frost occurs and harms the vine.
Laurent does the vineyard work on his parcels on weekends, in addition to the vineyard management he's doing for Noella, this make quite a busy schedule overall. These days, Noella has also hired Julien part-time to do some pruning.
Panache seems wildly happy here, he runs who-knows-where, Laurent says that he's tracing scents of game, possibly roe deers which are many in the area. Good thing that the old Citroën is a cery casual car because its legs will be pretty muddy when we drive back.
When inside in the first room, it's a lesson of ergonomy for contemporary winery architects : the room opens directly on the roof which gives more space and breathing for the press on which you stumble as soon as you open the double door. Rain or shine, the grower could press with almost as much ventilation as if the whole thing was set up in the open. The juice would fall on the flat stone container from where it would be pumped into the barrels or cement vats in the adjoining cellar. Simplicity is beautiful, and generally it can last for ever...
The removable wooden elements of the press are also there, stored vertically behind the main structure : the basket and the lid, as well as the couple of heavy beams that will weigh on the lid to press the batch (you can guess them above atop the cement structure in the background). You'd just have to change the wood staves of the basket and the lid, clean up a bit the metal or cast iron of the main structure, and here we go again for another century...
The gamay is still working, it's lightly fizzy, and there's the typical touch of the malolactic, but beyond that you have a very nice morello-cherry (griottes) aroma. Laurent says that year after year, it's the particularity of this terroir, even as we'll see later the morello cherry doesn't show up in other casks. He thinks that he will rack the wine later in february in order to bottle it in march.
Speaking of the vinification, the grapes were destemmed this year, because the stems weren't ripe at all, following the tricky weather of 2013. This wine makes 11,3 % in alcohol only, it's a light wine, and he didn't want the stems to risk bring bad aromatics, so he took them off. the temperature being relatively cold when the grapes wrre picked, the fermentation took time to start, about 3 to 4 days (without outside temperature control, it was directly the result of the cold weather). He devatted relatively quickly, around 1050 instead of the usual 1000, because he didn't want to extract too much for this vintage. At 1050 he liked the peppery taste of the wine and he chose to devat right away, spliting the wine between the barrels and a resin vat. The alcoholic fermentation unfolded swiftly thereafter.
The gamay has a different expression in these barrels, the malolactic is already over here, no more lactic aromas, but also the morello-cherry aroma is not noticeable, while the wine has a fruity character. No fizzy feel too, the wine is more on its way to aldulthood. Laurent says that when the barrels will be blended with the gamay in the fiber vat and with the 500-liter demi-muid, the morello-cherry side should remain because it has always been there in this particular parcel, it doesn't show up right now in these 3 casks but it will resurface later probably. It's a light, fruity wine, with the 11,3 % in alcohol it makes an easy drink, a, unpretentious thirt wine. Laurent doesn't plan to filter the wine. All this wine hasn't seen any SO2 yet and as for now, Laurent says that there's a good chance there will be none even at bottling.
The cellar has some humidity here and there on the walls and on the ground but it's quite good when you have casks, it allows you to "spend" less wine for topping-ups, the atmosphere being more saturated.
The vat pictured on left is the sauvignon Lucky You, on which Laurent checks the air-tight lid, this sauvignon will be bottled in march.
These two casks on the picture will go through a longer élevage and he will probably bottle this sauvignon in september. Looking at the chalk-written data on the top of the barrels, they're at 1010, still high in sugar, and Laurent noticed that the fermentation goes on very slowly, which should yield very good results. Unlike under cold winters, the cellar while cold was not cold enough to have the fermentation stumble, so we have here an uninterrupted slow fermentation, something that yields interesting aromas. These sauvignon grapes had a potential of 12 ° when picked. There was a lot of sorting, you may have seen in the video above when Laurent stops along a vineyard with lots of grapes still hanging, this is the parcel and he only picked the healthy grapes, leaving the rest behind.
I shot the video above last october, the cute pig was still a couple months away from its turning into hams and other delicacies. I was supposed to be there on the fateful day but couldn't because of my job and next time I visited the poor pig was gone. But I'll manage to be there next time...
You can notice on the video that this pig sort of speaks, with a peculiar sort of language, but still, it looks much like speaking. Another subject of meditation is how these animals can turn any place in a muddy mess, if you need to overturn a piece of land, don't bother to bring in a tractor, just take a pig for a week, he'll do the job. Just make sure to fence the lot or he'll trash you property.
When the right time came, "Mister Pig"'s last day came and the winery forklift was rediscovered through an unusual __but convenient__ use, as these animals weigh tons, almost literally. In the days folowing that fateful day, Laurent prepared all these hams and diverse pork preparations, putting much of them in the freezer and taking them out for special occasions like today. This cycle is exactly what farmers would do in the past to have meat products through the winter.
The picture on the sides were shot by (or with the camera of) Corinne Gillet, who with her husband Paul (both pictured on right with Laurent and Juliette) are the new owners of Les Maisons Brûlées.
The label for the Gamay (la Pause) is very bare and simple, with again the words in typewriter fonts reading Vin de France - 12 % vol - 75 cl -LG13 - Mis en bouteille par LAURENT SAILLARD vigneron à Pouillé 41 - Produit de France - Gamay - Contains sulfites plus a miniature logo to warn pregnant women. The gamay will cost 7 € wholesale, with a 15 € retail price in the wineshops in France.
Laurent pours his wines only in one wine fair, La Dive (which took place early february in Saumur, near Angers). Considering the low volumes he has, this is enough, and he had fruitful contacts in La Dive, as well as orders. Plus, he visits this wine fair since 12 or 13 years, he used to go there when he was living in New York, visiting as a wine buyer for his restaurant. Now that he is on the other side of the trade, he likes the fact to take part on the source side.
We actually began with a terrine (no picture), just delicious... Laurent says that he never made terrine before living here, his first tries were in 2008. He also made dishes with game, which is easy to find in the region, and Noëlla gets regularly pheasants from her father who hunts on the coast, this all widens his experience in preparing meat products.
We also had a soup designed by Laurent and made from persil tubéreux (rooted parsley), something which in my impression carries both the properties of parsley and celery.
I also discovered a wonderful product that day on the table of Noëlla & Laurent, an artisanal salt which really stands out gustatively : the salts from the Salines de Millac, near Noëlla home city of Pornic on the atlantic coast. Look at their salts and try the fleur de sel which he calls nacre de sel, and which is harvested when the wind comes from the west, amazing, this was the first time I'd put repeatedly some salt on my tongue just for the pleasure of the salt by itself. And the odd thing is that the man behind this salt, Emmanuel Violleau, is the man who gave Noëlla the will to become a winemaker when he was still teaching in a viticulture school. By the way he now says that making salt is very close to factors making wine, there are terroirs, there are bateria, there is an energy that can get in the salt if you do things properly, like harvesting the fleur de sel when certain winds are on the water. If you're already a Sel de Guérande amateur, you'll try an other dimension here, like if you jump from organic to biodynamic, sort of... The odd thing again is that when Noëlla started attending wine school, Violleau left the wine world to follow a training with his friend Nathalie in the sea-salt-making school (profession : paludier)...