Savennières

The Vineyards

This section is a breakdown of all the major vineyards in the Savennières appellation, working from Bouchemaine, at its eastern limit, through to La Possonnière in the west. It begins with an appraisal of the two most celebrated sites, both of which are recognised as appellations in their own right; La Roche aux Moines and Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. These are generally acknowledged as Savennières two unofficial ‘Grand Crus’, although this is not to say that there are other vineyards or parcels worthy of consideration, including some which are not currently planted. The list below is based on empirical observation of a specific vineyard’s position within the appellation, its orientation and the make up of its soils. Whilst it is both informal and personal, it should be seen as a useful guideline in identifying the best sites.

The Unofficial Grand Crus

  • La Roche aux Moines (although not necessarily all 33 hectares)

  • Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant

The Unofficial Premier Crus

  • La Croix Picot

  • La Pierre Bécherelle

  • Le Vir-Boyau (not planted)

  • Le Hu-Boyau

  • Le Clos du Papillon

  • Le Clos de Varennes

  • Les Coteaux (not planted)

  • Le Clos de Ferrand (not planted)

Vineyards and Growers

Below shows a summary of the major vineyard sites along with a list of the growers who either own their vineyards, or rent their land and vines.

*   denotes vignerons who rent land

** denotes vignerons who rent land and vines

The Unofficial Grand Cru Sites

Savennières - La Roche aux Moines

8.10 ha    Monique and Tessa Laroche, Domaine aux Moines

(includes 0.50 ha Cabernet Franc and 0.28 ha Cabernet Sauvignon)

4.00 ha    Château de Chamboureau*

3.20 ha    Nicolas Joly, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines

2.00 ha    Danielle Robin, Domaine Robin-Diot

1.36 ha    Claude and Joëlle Papin, Château Pierre-Bise*

0.80 ha    Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier (not yet planted)

0.66 ha    Claude and Stéphane Branchereau, Domaine des Forges*

0.50 ha    Eric Morgat, Clos Ferrand*

0.25 ha    Damien Laureau**

            20.87 ha


La Roche aux Moines

Vineyards were first created in La Roche aux Moines by the Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages. Legend tells us that it was a Breton squire by the name of Buhard who donated the land to the Abbey of St Nicolas d’Anjou, although this is widely disputed. In the 12th century a fortress was hastily erected at the point where La Roche aux Moines descends towards the river. It was built by Guillaume des Roches upon the order of Philippe Auguste to defend Anjou against the English. It was here that a decisive battle took place in 1214 between King John of England and Prince Louis, the future Louis VIII and son of Philippe-Auguste. Despite enduring several sieges, Prince Louis was the eventual victor, and John was to be destined to become known as Jean-Sans-Terre, or Lackland. The outcome of the battle helped to bring Anjou back under the jurisdiction of the French royal crown and led directly to the end of English rule in France . The fortress itself was eventually dismantled during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, and all that remains today is a single tower within the Clos du Château.


The Fortress

During the 14th century the land was known as ‘Roche au Duc’, having passed from Guillaume de Craon, a local seigneur, to Louis II, the Duc of Anjou. It is around this time that vineyards would have been planted to a greater extent, with papers stating that vines were imported from Burgundy, a fact later vindicated in documents which cite ‘Clos de la Bourgoigne’ as the name of one of the climats.

The mid 1400s saw La Roche aux Moines, its fortress and dependencies passing to Jean de Brie the Seignure de Serrant. In 1481, his descendant, Ponthus de Brie, chamberlain to Louis XI, received permission to rename the land, La Roche du Serrant. At this time, what we now know as Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant was still included within the property as a whole.

The de Brie’s were an old Angevine family, responsible for founding the fortified Château de Serrant in nearby Saint-Georges-sur-Loire in the 15th century. During the Renaissance, the original fortified castle was dismantled and the building of a more formal residence commenced under the supervision of Charles de Brie. However, financial problems meant the project had to be abandoned, and the property was sold in 1596 to Hercule de Rohan, Duc de Montbazon. The Chateau was sold on again in 1636 to Guillaume de Bautru, who completed the building according to Charles de Brie’s original plans some one hundred years later. It subsequently passed through the descedants of Bautru, until it was sold by the Duchess d’Estrées, a childless widow. During this time, we can safely assume that La Roche du Serrant would have passed through the same ownership.

It was Francis (or François) Walsh who bought the Château de Serrant from the Duchess in 1749. The Walsh’s were a family of self-exiled Jacobites of Irish descent who had moved to Brittany after the fall of the Stuarts. Walsh’s father, Philippe and grandfather, James, had been responsible for transporting King James II from Ireland to France in 1690. James Walsh had forfeited his family property in Kilkenny in 1665 and became a captain in the French Navy. Some eighty years later, it was Antoine Walsh, Francis’s brother, who supplied the ships to return Charles Stuart to Scotland during the uprisings against the English. In 1755 the title of Compte de Serrant was bestowed on Francis by Louis XV in recognition of the Walsh’s contribution towards fighting the English who were at that time the common enemy.

During this time, La Roche du Serrant was retained by successive generations of Walsh’s (who maintained their nautical connections, operating a shipping fleet out of Nantes , using wine produced in the region on board their vessels to help prevent scurvy). At the time of the Revolution the name changed to ‘Roche Vineuse’ but reverted to ‘Serrant’ soon afterwards. It has been known as La Roche aux Moines since the early 19th century.

The Château remained in the hands of various generations of the Walsh family, until the marriage of Valentine Walsh de Serrant to the Duc de la Trémoïlle in 1830 saw the name lost, although their descedants, the Prince and Princesse de Merode-Waterloo still retain ownership today.

The total delimited area of La Roche aux Moines is 33 hectares, but by no means is this anywhere near fully exploited. In 1980, less than seven hectares were under vine, although by 1997 this had grown to almost 17 and now stands at a little over 20 hectares. The vineyard covers a one kilometre wide plateau on the premièrs coteaux which falls away towards the Coulée de Serrant on the eastern slope and the Château de Varennes to the west. The vines here are practically planted directly into the schist, there being very little top soil. Young vines struggle here. Typically, ripening in La Roche aux Moines can be up to two weeks ahead of vines grown on sand towards at the north of the appellation; a function of the warm schist soils and the increased luminosity of being on the well protected south facing slopes. 

At the very start of the 21st century there were effectively only three owners of land under vines within the appellation; Mme Laroche of Domaine aux Moines, Nicolas Joly of the Château de la Roche aux Moines and the Baron Brincard, owner of Château de la Bizolière, although this is now set to change.


Domaine aux Moines

The most prolific grower is Domaine aux Moines; in fact all the vineyards owned by Mme. Laroche are within La Roche aux Moines, although as previously mentioned, not all are planted to Chenin. The vines encompass the front and rear of the house, the cellar and the gardens. Le Clos (0.5ha) lies in front alongside the parcels of Cabernet and is due to be replaced in 2008. Les Ruettes (3ha), Le Chêne (1.5ha), and Le Charmillé (1ha) planted on red and blue schist. Le Charmillé takes its name from the alley of trees that once led from the house to the old monastery below, and Les Vieilles Vignes du Bois (1.8ha) which lies on a bed of rhyolite. These are all sited to the rear of the house on the eastern side of the plateau, running down towards Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. All the vines here enjoy a south or south-west facing orientation and are aged between 25 and 87 years. The oldest parcel, Les Vieilles Vignes du Bois was planted in 1921 and formed half of an original, then untrellised, parcel that was subsequently sold off to the Joly family in 1970.

The Joly’s own holding within La Roche aux Moines is marketed under the Clos de la Bergerie label, although in reality the wine is made up of three separate south west facing parcels. The age of the vines here is around 30 years old with an average production of around 9,000 bottles per vintage.

Whilst Laroche and Joly both grow their own grapes and vinify their own wine, Baron Brincard has been leasing land to the family Soulez of Château Chamboureau since 1982. Between then and 2006, separate cuvées of La Roche aux Moines were produced under both the Chamboureau and Bizolière labels. In 2004, Pierre Soulez, who by now was scaling down and planning his retirement, handed three of the seven hectares back to Brincard. This land, situated within one single clos, was subsequently subdivided and rented to Claude Papin, Claude Branchereau, Eric Morgat and Damien Laureau.

Prior to Pierre Soulez reducing his leased commitments in La Roche aux Moines, he had also decided to offer for sale a two hectare parcel that Château Chamboureau had owned but abandoned in the early 1970s as it was considered too difficult to work and maintain. This site, situated to the west of the main section of La Roche aux Moines had been terraced as long ago as 1842 and had affectionately been christened ‘Les Coteaux de Lausanne’ by Pierre Guillory in homage to the terraced slopes back in his native Switzerland. He also claimed to be the first in Anjou to use les piquets ardoise (stakes made of slate) to support his newly trellised vines.


Les Petites Coulées

An impressive parcel, it sits directly below the corniche that winds up towards the plateau of Epiré as you leave the village of Savennières. It was bought by Danielle Robin of Domaine Robin-Diot in Chaudefonds-sur-Layon. The family have renamed the parcel ‘les Petites Coulées’ and in 2000 set about restoring the five abandoned terraces with their 50% inclines, replanting them with around 4,000 Chenin vines. The soil in this south-south west facing site is purple schist which readily picks up heat as the temperatures climb during the day and then acts to reradiate this back to the vines well after sunset. The first vintage from these new plantings was in 2004. On the retirement of the Robin's in 2010, the vineyard has been taken on by Damien Laureau. 


On the opposite side of the corniche to les Petites Coulées, more terraces that had long since been abandoned are now being cleared by the Taillandier family. This parcel, just short of one hectare in size, is due once more to be planted during 2008.


Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant

Savennières - Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant

6.87 ha Nicolas Joly, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines

Although part of La Roche aux Moines probably until around the time of the Revolution, history offers us several celebrated references. Louis XIV, the Sun King, having drunk the wine of Château de Serrant, decided to visit the property. However, frustrated and angry, he aborted his pilgramage after his entire entourage became stuck in the mud whilst en route. Alexandre Dumas referenced the wine in his 1844 novel The Three Musketeers, and the Empress Josephine, having been introduced to the wine by her lady-in-waiting, the Countess of Serrant, drank it during her long absences from Napoleon to forget her loneliness. At the start of the 20th century, ‘Prince of Gastronomes’, Maurice Curnonsky declared Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant ‘One of the five greatest white wines of France’ alongside Château d’Yquem, Le Montrachet, Château Grillet and Château-Chalon.

Such was the reputation of Le Clos de Coulée de Serrant that it was awarded its own sub AC in the decree of 1952, thus entering an elite group of growers who can lay claim to owning a monopoly within a single appellation.

At the foot of the vineyard cut deep into the coulée itself, one finds the ancient 12th century Cistercian monastery. It is from here that the monks would have originally planted and tended the vines, affording the land surrounding it the name of La Roche aux Moines. In the old monastery lie the remnants of an old stone wine press, a legacy of the former age. Today, it serves as the residence of Nicolas Joly.

Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant is distinguished by its walled ‘Le Grand Clos’, a steep four hectare, south facing slope that makes up the majority of the sub-appellation. Nicolas Joly reintroduced spring and post-harvest ploughing by horse some years ago in order to prevent soil compaction. The average vine age is around 35 years with the oldest being 90 years old. In addition there are two other parcels each of 2.02 and 0.81 ha. The smallest is on the opposite side of the valley and faces west. This parcel has more in common with La Roche aux Moines, which is understandable when one learns that it was sold to Mme. Joly by the Faure family, the previous owners of Domaine aux Moines, in 1970. At that time, the vineyard was classified within La Roche aux Moines, but was reclassified soon after it was purchased. The vines here were planted in 1921.

Any new plantings and vine replacement use cuttings taken from the Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, primarily to maintain a diverse selection of plant material. Understandably, Nicolas Joly does not like the thought of clonal selection believing a broad spectrum of vine stock adds to the ultimate complexity in the wine. It also means that flowering and therefore ripening are not even, so it is often necessary to send the pickers into the vineyard between three and five times. Ideally Joly likes to see around 25% botrytis within the berries at harvest as he believes that what might be lost in juice is compensated with additional texture in the resulting wine. Average yields are between 20 and 25 hl/ha. Production for La Coulée de Serrant averages around 18,000 bottles each vintage.  

Savennières - Other Notable Parcels and Lieu Dits

Epiré

                   La Croix Picot

                   2.0 ha                      Luc Bizard, Château d’Epiré

                   1.8 ha                      Jean-Paul and Hervé Tijou, Château de Bellevue*

                   1.1 ha                      Marie-Annick and Yves Guégniard, Domaine de la Bergerie

                   1.1 ha                      Domaine Jo Pithon

                   0.3 ha                      Christian and Sylvie Plessis-Termeau, Moulin de Chauvigné

                                                  Mathieu Tijou

La Croix Picot takes the name from the stone cross that sits on the petit chemin which forms the backbone of this ridged vineyard. The road itself is the back route from hamlet of La Pointe, the eastern most part of the Savennières appellation, and the village of Epiré , rising up from the confluence of the Maine and the Loire until it hits a minor plateau. Here the vineyards commence, flanking the road on either side. To the right, the vines run for a few hundred metres, falling away on a gentle slope towards the north to what is the first of the coulées that help define the best sites. Along this plateau, one finds the vines of Sylvie and Christian Plessis-Termeau, Domaine Jo Pithon, Yves Guégniard and Mathieu Tijou (whose family, until 2007 owned Château Soucherie), all having arrived here within the past decade. Further along, one comes to the vines of Château d’Epiré which form a natural extension from Le Croix Picot. The subsoil here is a complex volcanic mixture of quartz and phtanites under a layer of sand, silt and clay.

On the southern slope, hidden behind an old slate wall, one discovers the vineyard of the family Tijou of Château de Bellevue. Evidence of a previous vineyard on this site exists by way of an old sepia postcard. Taken in the late 1800s from the summit of the ridge, it looks down over a fully planted parcel of vines, past the railway - complete with steam train - to the river beyond. However, this parcel, with one of the most picturesque views in the whole of the appellation, had been abandoned at the start of the 1900s as the 30 degree slope was considered too difficult to work. In the early 1990s, Marc Chapon, a retired doctor whose house at Les Hautes Brises incorporated this neglected land offered family friend Jean-Paul Tijou the opportunity to replant the parcel. The restoration of the vineyard began in 1993, taking Tijou one full month of bulldozing to clear enough of the slope to plant the first half hectare. It took a further seven years until the vineyard was fully re-established. According to Jean-Paul Tijou’s son, Hervé, the vineyard here was once as renowned as Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant itself. Given the orientation, the luminosity and the soil one can easily understand that.

 

Le Clos Brochard

                   1.0 ha                      Christian and Sylvie Plessis-Termeau, Moulin de Chauvigné

Purchased by the then newly established Moulin de Chauvigné in 1992, the parcel was already planted to vines. The vineyard is situated on the left as one descends the lane that leads down to the river in Epiré.   

 

La Pierre Bécherelle

                   1.0 ha                      Eric Morgat, Clos Ferrand*

This parcel sits high up on a cliff which forms part of the premièrs coteaux and enjoys a south facing exposition. The vineyard sits in the grounds of Le Petit Rives, a manor house within a formal park on the edge of Epiré and takes its name from the 15 metre high column of rock situated directly below. Seeing the potential of the site, Eric Morgat approached the 90 year old owner in 2002 with a view to planting 1 ha of Chenin on the exposed schist, although the process of getting approval from the INAO to redefine the boundary to include this virgin land became the biggest challenge. The first crop came off here in 2007 yielding a miniscule 4hl/ha; the resulting wine was blended away.

 

Le Parc

                   5 ha                         Luc Bizard, Château d’Epiré

                   3 ha                         Château de Chamboureau

One of the three major sites within Epiré and is shared between the two most established producers. Le Parc sits adjacent to Château Epiré itself.

 

Chambourcier

                   1.3 ha                      Damien Laureau

The greater area of Le Parc also encompasses the parcel of Chambourcier, which is situated between Château de Chamboureau and La Roche aux Moines. The vineyard was planted in 1999 and 2001 by the Soulez family, but was acquired by Damien Laureau in time for the 2007 vintage. The soil in this parcel is pure rhyolite. Opposite Chambourcier and at the rear of Château de Chamboureau, lies a new planting of vines that have recently been augmented by Chenin selected from Le Haut Lieu vineyard of Domaine Huet in Vouvray.

 

Le Clos de la Cerisaie

                   1.0 ha                      Luc Bizard, Château d’Epiré

                               

Le Hu-Boyau

                   3.0 ha                      Luc Bizard, Château d’Epiré              


Black schist

The Bizard family own two specific parcels within Le Parc; Le Clos de la Cerisaie is planted to Cabernet Franc, despite being on terroir more suited to Chenin, and Le Hu-Boyau (meaning ‘the high wood’ in old French) which is situated directly behind the wall of Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. This offers the single best view within the appellation, towards the Chateau de la Roche aux Moines itself. The surface of the vineyard here is littered with black schist flecked with felons of quartz. Until 1999 this parcel was blended into the Cuvée Spéciale, although this has since been separated out and vinified in oak.

                   Le Vir-Boyau

                                      Pierre Soulez, Château Chamboureau

It is difficult to ignore the high walled clos that sits right on the premièrs coteaux adjacent to Le Hu-Boyau, just a few paces away from the rear of Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. It is under the ownership of the Soulez family but has apparently not been planted since the early 1960s. It is now massively overgrown, resembling a small spinney, but one can only imagine what this site with its south facing views overlooking the Loire must have looked like in its heyday. Hopefully, the new regime which has taken ownership of all the Soulez vineyards will recognise the potential and bring it back to life, although it currently exists as a miniature wildlife sanctuary.

                        

Savennières

                   Rochepin

                                      Nicolas Joly, Château de la Roche-aux-Moines*

Cited as a producer in its own right in the 1963 edition of Vignes et Vins de France, this pretty maison sits at the top of the corniche overlooking Les Petites Coulées, at its junction with the plateau of Epiré. The house is surrounded by vineyards on a fairly steep south facing slope. Today, these vines are rented by Nicolas Joly and make their way into Les Vieux Clos, his generic Savennières.

 

                    Le Clos de Grand Hamé

                   4.5 ha                      Guy Saget, Château de la Mulonnière

                   0.4 ha                      Vincent and Catherine Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau

This vineyard is situated at the rear of the appellation on the plateau de Epiré and composed of friable sandstone and schist. It was planted in 1991 by Emile Benon and subsequently sold to Château de la Mulonnière and Vincent Ogereau in 2003 when Benon retired.

Moulin de Beaupréau

5.5 ha                      Damien Laureau*

3.0 ha                      Eric Morgat, Clos Ferrand

0.8 ha                      Jean-Marc Renaud, Domaine Franchaie**

0.5 ha                      Agnès and René Mosse

                                Christian and Sylvie Plessis-Termeau, Moulin de Chauvigné

The vineyards that make up the Moulin de Beaupréau are, at 75 metres the highest, most exposed and coolest within the appellation. As the name suggests they surround an old windmill, now converted to a comfortable chambres d’hôtes. The vines are on the plateau of Savennières and have a gentle south facing orientation, looking across towards La Roche aux Moines. They form the northern limit of the appellation. Being set some two kilometres back, the soil here is primarily deep sable éolien on a bed of sandstone schist with the vines generally being harvested up to two weeks later than on the premièrs coteaux. As a generalisation, the resulting wines here are lighter, fruitier and simple.

The largest single parcel is farmed by Damien Laureau from land rented from Madame de Vaulchier, sister of Baron Brincard. The vines here were planted in 1990, although Laureau has owned them only since 1999 after the previous owner, Domaine Duret in Beaulieu-sur-Layon, went bankrupt. The next biggest owner, Eric Morgat, bought his first half hectare here in 1995 and now owns a total of three hectares. He received a further half hectare in an exchange of land with Bernard Merlet, although he never farmed this parcel planted on deep sand, electing instead to sell it on in 2007 to Agnès and René Mosse. The vines of Christian and Sylvie Plessis-Termeau are in a sub section of the vineyard called Le Petit Beaupréau which they bought and planted in 2000.  

 

 

 

Clos Le Grand Beaupréau

                   2.5 ha                      Claude and Joëlle Papin, Château Pierre-Bise**

                   2.0 ha                      Vincent and Catherine Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau**

                   1.6 ha                      Marie-Annick and Yves Guégniard, Domaine de la Bergerie *

These six hectares are essentially a sub-section of Moulin de Beaupréau with the name being used primarily as a marketing exercise by the three growers who exploit this site. The wines have a common back label and an adapted logo of the moulin. The altitude and orientation of this section of vineyard are similar to the rest of the plateau around the windmill, although the schist subsoil contains more quartz and phtanite. The collaboration between the families Papin, Ogereau and Guégniard is a recent one, taking over vineyards that used to be farmed by Pierre Soulez until 2004, although all this land belongs to Baron Brincard. Both Papin and Ogereau, whose first vintages here were in 2005 rent the vines from Brincard, whilst Guégniard, bought his parcel of vines from Soulez.

 

                   Les Fougeraies

                   2.0 ha                      Xavier and Jean-René Dhommé, Domaine Dhommé**

                   1.7 ha                      Antoine Vivier, La Tour Saint Jean**

                   1.5 ha                      Olivier Dufour, Domaine de la Belle Angevine**

                   1.5 ha                      Loïc Mahe, Domaine du Gué d’Orger*

1.0 ha                      Joseph Renou & Fils, Domaine du Petit Metris**

1.8 ha                      Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

                              Bernard Merlet

                              Florent Baumard, Domaine Baumard

Les Fougeraies sits in the middle of the plateau of Savennières between the two ancient windmills of Beaupréau and Gué on a gentle east facing slope, flanked on either side by Le Clos la Royauté and Le Clos St Yves. Again, this is quite an exposed site with deep sand and silt soils above the schist. Both Taillandier and Baumard own their own land in a separate parcel known as Le Clos de Fougeraie, whilst the other growers cited rent from Baron Brincard. Like the Moulin de Beaupréau, wines from this site tend to be light and elegant in style.


Le Clos la Royauté

Le Clos la Royauté

                   3.2 ha                      Pascal Laffourcade, Vignobles Laffourcade**

This parcel abuts trees that mark the boundary of the formal parkland of Château de la Bizolière. The soil here is primarily sable éolien.  Unsurprisingly, the land here is owned by Baron Brincard, but has been rented by Pascal Laffourcade since 1988, who planted part of the vineyard himself. Laffourcade also uses the name of the Clos for one of his two different cuvées that are produced from this site.

   

                   Le Clos de la Marche

                   1.4 ha                      Joseph Renou & Fils, Domaine du Petit Metris**

Right alongside Le Clos la Royauté sits Le Clos de la Marche. The vineyard was planted in 1990 by Baron Brincard, although it has been rented out to the Renou family since 1994.  

 

Les Bastes

2 ha                         Patrice Achard, Domaine des Barres*

Les Bastes also lies close to the boundary of Château de la Bizolière and is under the ownership of Baron Brincard. This parcel was made available for rent in 1991 with Joseph Renou encouraging the young Pascal Achard to take it on. The site is south west facing on a gentle slope with the soil comprised more of red schist than sand; this lends itself to very consistent ripening.

 

Le Gabillard

1.8 ha                      Loïc Mahe, Domaine du Gué d’Orger *

                                                                Guy Rochais, Château de Plaisance

Situated to the west of Le Clos de Royauté and opposite the gates of Château de la Bizolière, Loïc Mahe rents the land from Baron Brincard. The vines were planted in 2000.

 

Moulin de Gué / Le Clos de Maurièrs

                   2.0 ha                      Guy Rochais, Château de Plaisance

                   1.5 ha                      Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

1.4 ha                      Claude and Stéphane Branchereau, Domaine des Forges

                   0.5 ha                      Philippe Socheleau, Domaine des Deux Vallées

As one would imagine of any site that is associated with a windmill, this is quite an open, breezy and exposed vineyard on top of the plateau of Savennières, with Le Clos du Papillon to the west and Le Clos de Varennes to the south. The orientation here is south-south east with deep sand and silt soils which are often waterlogged in winter. Guy Rocher is now the most established grower having bought his vineyard from the Soulez family in 1983. However, these vines were immediately grubbed up and replanted, partly due to the fact that Verdelho was discovered within the parcel. Rocher markets this cuvée as ‘Le Clos’, after Le Clos de Maurièrs which abuts Le Clos de Varennes. Claude Branchereau joined Rocher here eight years later, planting vines in 1991 and releasing his first vintage in 1994 as Le Clos de Maurièrs. Philippe Socheleau’s arrival is much more recent, having bought a parcel of four year old vines from his cousin in 2006.

 

Clos Pourri

0.8 ha                      Jean-Marc Renaud, Domaine Franchaie**

Jean-Marc Renaud’s rented vines are within an early ripening, south facing parcel known as Le Clos Pourri, which takes its name from the noble rot it often attracts. These vines were also planted in 1990 by the same M. Duret of Beaulieu-sur-Layon who owned vines in Moulin de Beaupréau. These were farmed by Alain Boré of Domaine du Fresche in La Pommeraye between 1993 and 2003 on behalf of Francois Chaillou, from whom Renaud now rents vines and a cellar in nearby La Roche.

 

La Jalousie

0.6 ha                      Château des Vaults – Domaine du Closel

Les Caillardières

                   Château des Vaults – Domaine du Closel

Both La Jalousie and Les Caillardières are under the exclusive ownership of Château des Vaults. The former is primarily sited on schistous soils with vineyard plantings spanning between 1949 and 2002. Although released on the market, the wine doesn’t represent a single vineyard, but is rather used as the cuvée name to represent the domaine’s dry Savennières. Similarly, Les Caillardières exists as one specific parcel situated on the plateau above Savennières with the oldest plantings here dating back to 1939. The higher altitude, compounded by the fact that the vines are planted on cooler, sandier soils with greater water retention means the fruit here is later ripening with the grapes generally being more suitable for vinifying as demi-sec resulting in a cuvée with around four to six grams of residual sugar.

 

Le Clos du Papillon

7.0 ha                      Florent Baumard, Domaine des Baumard

6.0 ha                      Château des Vaults – Domaine du Closel (*)

           Château de Chamboureau*

1.0 ha                      Claude and Stéphane Branchereau, Domaine des Forges

0.5 ha                      Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

Situated at the western edge of the Savennières plateau, Le Clos du Papillon takes its name from the evident shape of a butterfly when viewed from the slope opposite. It has a gentle south west incline with an array of differently exposed schist, including spilite, rhyolite, phtanites, quartz and basalt on the higher parts, to heavier silt and sand as one descends towards the coulée. At one point during the late 1970s, it represented around one third of the total plantings in the appellation despite having just three owners: Château de la Bizolière, Château des Vaults and Jean Baumard. The last of these has arguably done more to perpetuate the reputation of Le Clos du Papillon that any other grower, although his arrival here was more recent.

Baumard had bought land on the ‘oriental (west facing) wing’ from Baron Brincard in 1968 to become the first grower from the Coteaux du Layon to cross the Loire and enter into the Savennières appellation. During the past forty years, Jean and his son, Florent, have often challenged conventional thought – and the authorities – with ideas on various aspects of vineyard management, including plant density. One experiment conducted in the early 1970s was adopted from techniques used by Lenz Moser in Austria, with one metre spacing between the rows (to allow conventional tractors to enter and work the ground), but high density plantings of three vines per metre within the row to ensure the vines would compete. Within the 1952 appellation laws, this was allowed, but became illegal in the updated decree of 1996. Florent Baumard is currently ‘negotiating’ with the INAO to maintain these nine rows of vines as appellation Savennières, and not to have to declassify them to Anjou Blanc. The Baumards are also not necessarily convinced that Savennières as an appellation should be solely planted to Chenin and there is a 0.8 hectare parcel of Chardonnay on the edge of the vineyard, close to Le Clos de Varennes. Again, it has never been denied that this hasn’t occasionally found its way into their Clos du Papillon in the past, although today it is used as the base wine for their Crémant de Loire.

After Baumard, Château des Vaults is the most important producer in terms of vineyard holdings, with the oldest vines dating back to 1948. Just over half a hectare of the total plantings is on land rented from Madame de Vaulchier, although this neglected parcel is about to be grubbed up and replanted. More recently, Domaine des Forges bought one hectare of Le Clos du Papillon from Madame de Vaulchier in 2004 after Pierre Soulez gave up the lease; however only half of this is currently planted. In addition, the Taillandier brothers have half a hectare of young vines close to those of Domaine Baumard.  

 


Le Clos Saint Yves

Le Clos Saint Yves

7.5ha                       Florent Baumard, Domaine des Baumard

Jean Baumard bought this parcel around the same time as those in Le Clos du Papillon from the Piries of Château de Varennes. The vines, which can be found on a gentle south facing slope at the centre of the plateau of Savennières, are planted on an exposed outcrop of friable purple volcanic schist. In addition to the Chenin planted here, there is one hectare of very old Verdelho. Florent Baumard doesn’t like to declare its exact location, although he says it’s not difficult to spot in early autumn when the leaves prematurely start to turn yellow. Baumard admits that it was used in this cuvée up until 1986. Today this vineyard accounts for around two thirds of Baumard’s production in the appellation and supplies the fruit for the later harvested ‘Trie Spéciale’ cuvée when the conditions of the vintage allow. Otherwise, the same wine is marketed under both Le Clos Saint Yves (for his restaurant and export customers) and under the more generic Domaine Baumard label for private clients.

 


Le Clos Saint Yves

Le Clos de Varennes

7.3 ha                      Vignobles Alain Château, Château Belle-Rive**

3.0 ha                      Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

This is a very distinguished, south facing, walled vineyard sitting on the front edge of the Savennières plateau. Immediately below the clos lies the Château de Varennes itself. Once the site of a convent, both chateau and vineyard came under the ownership of the Pirie family from Scotland in the 19th century. More recently, the house was converted to apartments with the vineyard being farmed by Yves Soulez until 1990 when he offered it to Gaston Lenôtre, the celebrated pâtissier. Lenôtre had just sold the culinary franchise he had built up since 1957 to Groupe Accor, and was actively buying up some of the most renowned properties in the Coteaux du Layon, including Château de Fesles in Bonnezeaux. The run of very poor vintages which commenced in 1991 had effectively put Lenôtre out of business by 1995. Crédit Mutuel - Lenôtre’s bankers - took back control of all the properties and subsequently sold them to Bernard Germain in 1996. However, given there was no physical property to be had at Varennes, Germain decided to take out an eight year lease on the vines instead. This tenure came to an end in 2004 and saw him handing back the vines to Crédit Mutuel, who in turn rented them to Alain Château, owner of Château Bellerive in Chaume. Since 1996, the first Germain vintage, each harvest has been vinified by Gilles Bigot, mâitre de chai at Château de Fesles, and an agreement was reached between Bernard Germain and Alain Château that this would continue through until the 2007 vintage. In 2005, Germain had sold both Château Yon-Figeac in Saint-Emilion and Château de la Guimonière to Alain Château, along with the remaining bottled stocks of 2003 and 2004 Château de Varennes, which means that these vintages can be found marketed under both the name of Château de Fesles and Alain Château. From 2008, the wines will be vinified at Château Bellerive.


Les Coteaux

Les Coteaux

2 ha                         Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

(not planted)         Château des Vaults – Domaine du Closel

This elongated slope at the foot of Le Clos de Varennes overlooks the village and forms the core of the south-west facing coulée of Savennières. Château des Vaults has the largest holding, although no vines have been planted here since the end of the 1960s. The slope is terraced and would have needed to have been worked by horses, but the decline of the appellation resulted in the parcel being grubbed up and planted to poplar trees.

 

                   Le Clos des Perrières

2 ha                         Château Soucherie

This completely walled vineyard is situated within the village of Savennières itself, flanked on two sides by houses. It sits in a hollow towards the rear of the commune, below what would be the start of Le Coteaux. Above it to the eastern edge is Le Clos du Papillon. The Clos des Perrières was, until 1991 owned by Eustache Poislane who sold it onto Pierre-Yves Tijou of Château Soucherie in Beaulieu-sur-Layon. In December 2007, Soucherie was sold to Roger Beguinot, an industrialist from the north of France . Although the sale went through post-harvest, Beguinot had already installed his own winemaker for the 2007 harvest.

 

Les Noues

8.5 ha                      Eric and Marc Taillandier, Domaine Taillandier

This is one of the largest single parcels of vines in the appellation under the same ownership. It abuts the Taillandier nursery off the main exit road towards Saint-Martin-du-Fouilloux.     

 

                   Le Clos de Coulaine

                   4.5 ha                      Claude and Joëlle Papin, Château Pierre-Bise**

Le Clos de Coulaine can be found 1,500 metres away from the village of Savennières in the direction of Saint-Georges-sur-Loire. Being set back from the river means the soils here are primarily deep sand and silt over a sandstone schist subsoil and partly explains why alongside the Chenin, there are five hectares of Cabernet Franc planted.

 

La Possonnière

Although this commune has an entitlement to 29 hectares of authorised vineyard land within the appellation, there are only 16 hectares currently under vine. Historically, it was as famous for its fishing community (hence the name) as it was for wine, being closer to the river than either Epiré or Savennières. However, the land surrounding the commune enjoys the same south facing exposure and excellent schistous soils as its more widely recognised neighbours. The decline in the appellation saw two of the most celebrated growers, Château de la Possonnière and Henri Rospars of La Hutte, ceasing production in the early 1980s. The latter’s vines can still be seen alongside the house, but these lie sadly abandoned. Today, Château de Chamboureau maintains a three hectare parcel within the commune and Bernard Merlet is currently planting vines here. 

 

                   Le Clos Ferrand

                   (not planted)         Eric Morgat

Situated half way between the communes of Savennières and La Possonnière, Le Clos Ferrand is situated on the premiérs coteaux with a gentle incline looking towards the Loire (and the main Paris-Nantes TGV line). This old vineyard is a true clos, surrounded by a stone wall. For the past 30 years the land here as be used to graze cattle, but below its grassy surface lies a great terroir waiting to be rediscovered. In the middle of the field sits a modest 1970s house. This is what Eric Morgat now calls home. He intends to start replanting two to three hectares of Chenin here within the next two to three years.

 

                    Le Clos de Fremine

0.90 ha                    Noel Cailleau, Domaine de la Ducquerie

Noel Cailleau bought this old vineyard in 2000 and planted it the same year, picking his first crop was in 2003. This is a gentle south facing slope of silt and clay under free draining schist. Historically, the site enjoyed a reputation for its ability to ripen fruit early, and since being re-established it has lived up to this, with most vintages so far having been picked in advance of the bans de vendange. 

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