to the Loire regions
Geoffrenet is a dentist by profession, but he gave it up to pursue his
passion. He made a career out of manufacturing false teeth, but now he cares for
palates of a different kind. He was introduced to the area by Pierre
Picot, a fellow outsider and first time vigneron.
Knowing that his true vocation in life was to make wine, he enrolled for a
one year viticultural course in Beaune in 1997 and then worked a stage
with Bertrand Minchin at Domaine de la Tour Saint Martin in Menetou-Salon
prior to investing in Châteaumeillant in March 2000. From the first
modest purchase of 0.46 ares in the lieu-dit
‘les Combes’, by 2004 he had acquired seven hectares, and a
decision needed to be made on his future. His dental practice was in
Bourges, his home in Venemes (which now serves as his office and
where he is also looking to reinstate lost vineyards), whilst at the same
time tending his vines. The vines won.
His first year was the difficult 2004 vintage, but he has, with only a
handful of seasons under his belt become the reference point within the appellation.
Not a massive claim, perhaps, given the limited number of growers, but
this is a significant achievement all the same. He also happens to be the
only producer in the appellation to make a living from the vine alone. During
the next five years the domaine grew to 10.5 hectares; whilst
some vines were planted by himself, he also bought up small
parcels, allowing him access to vines that are approaching 60 years in
Plantings are split 70% Gamay and 30% Pinot Noir, but he also has 20 ares
of Pinot Gris which is vinified as gris.
His vines are split over five plots on the plateau between the town of Châteaumeillant
and La Bidore, the hamlet where he has erected a small cellar, whilst he
rents the tasting room of the recently defunct Domaine du Parc (from the
family of deceased grower, Jean-Pierre Bourdeau) on the main road through
the town in an attempt to capture some passing trade.
2010, however, Geoffrenet decided to split his domaine as part of a
divorce settlement, selling off seven hectares to three growers in Quincy
who were seeking to include a red wine within their own portfolios. His
new partners include Nicolas Lecomte and Jean-Claude Roux, and they are
setting up a separate company in order to vinify their crop, using
Geoffrenets existing cellar, on the same co-operation system as is used at
the Cave de Romane in Brinay.
works his vineyards to organic principles. He prunes hard
in winter and debuds in spring ensuring a low crop; he aims to harvest
between 40 and 50hl/ha and in summer he only green harvests his younger
vines. The harvest is all done by hand with grapes being picked in whole
clusters and then being passed over a table de
trie before destemming and a cold pre-fermentation
maceration. He works the grapes very softly, using gravity throughout the
winemaking process. The cuvaison
involves both pigeage and remontage
and lasts for about a week and élevage
is in fibre glass and stainless steel tanks for around 6 months before
bottling in spring.
The shy and
quietly spoken Geoffrenet makes four different expressions of Châteaumeillant
and a little Vin de Pays du
. His wines, whilst still in need of some refinement, are possibly the
best and most consistent with the appellation.
The gris is representative of
his vineyard plantings, being a 70/30% split between Gamay and Pinot Noir,
but this is also where his crop of Pinot Gris is destined. It is legal
within the appellation to blend in up to 15% of the variety. It is sold
under the label ‘Comte de Barcelone’ and takes its name from his (now
ex) father-in-law, following a particularly raucous night in the town. The
2007 showed a good, stony, mineral character on both nose and palate with
good concentration and balance.
He also produces a white wine, mainly from Sauvignon Blanc with a little
added Chardonnay. This is sold as a Vin de Pays du
and carries the name ‘Little Big Wine’. The 2007 showed good Sauvignon
definition, with some fat of Chardonnay. Ripe and attractive with some
faint Muscat-like tones.
His three red wines are based on different proportions of Gamay and Pinot
Noir and distinguished also by the age of the vines. The ‘Version
Original’ is 100% Gamay with 30% of the vines being over 30 years old.
The ‘Cuvée Jeanne’ is from 90% Gamay, with vines over 50 years old,
although the 2006 was 100% (and none was made in 2007 due to hail damage
reducing the crop). The 2006 showed great purity of fruit, minerailty and
the ability to age further. Ten percent of this wine is raised in older
barrels. The third wine is ‘Extra Version’ and is based on 80% Pinot
Noir and 20% Gamay, from vines with an average age of between 10 – 12
years. This is fermented in a single large wooden vat and then raised in
stainless steel. I found the 2006 a little bit overdone in terms of
extraction and the 2007 suffering from reduction.
Fabien and Laure Geoffrenet
Caveau du Parc
1 Avenue Meillet
2 Rue de la Fontaine
T: + 33 2 48 60 50 15
F: + 33 2 48 60 55 64
P: + 33 6 07 24 44 94