Guide to the Loire regions


Grower Profiles

Olivier Gardien                                              The Sandy, quartz soils of Besson

Domaine Gardien
Domaine Gardien has passed from father to son for four generations, starting with patriarch Justin Gardien, himself from a long line of viticulteurs, who bought Domaine de Chassignolles in 1924. At that point, the vineyard extended to just two hectares and the family made its living by farming cereals and raising beef cattle. René took over in 1933 and started to sell wines off by the tonneau to local bistrots and restaurants. The first bottled wines appeared after the arrival of Bernard in 1959 who also enlarged the domaine to seven hectares. The domaine is now run by brothers Olivier and Christophe; both graduates of the lycée viticole in Beaune. The enthusiastic Olivier has also worked stages in California (for the 1988 vintage) and in Pommard and Pouilly-Fuissé where he now draws inspiration for the style of Burgundy wines he is looking to emulate.

Since the arrival of Olivier in 1991 (Christophe joined five years later), the domaine has grown to 21 hectares, with all the vineyards situated on the agile-siliceuse soils of the Besson plain. There are seven hectares of Pinot Noir, the oldest of which date back to the early 1970s and 5.5 hectares of sélection massale Gamay. The white varieties are composed of five hectares Chardonnay, 2ha of Sauvignon Blanc and 1.5ha of Tressallier. Everything here is harvested by machine.

In terms of the wines, there are two whites; the highly regarded tank fermented Le Nectar des Fées which is based on 60% Chardonnay plus 20% each of Tressalier and Sauvignon, and La Réserve des Grands Jours, an 80%/20% Chardonnay/Tressallier blend that is fermented in tank but raised in first to third fill oak for 12 months. It’s full malolactic style makes it distinctly Burgundian in its profile. The Cuvée Isabelle is the Gardiens rosé and it takes its name after the wife of Olivier. The vintage conditions dictate the method of production and is by no means systematic. It accounts for around 10% of their production. There are three different red wines produced, the Cuvée du Terroir is a semi-carbonic, 100% Gamay that is released in true Nouveau fashion during the first weekend of December. Although it is delicious, i twill be interesting to see how long they can continue with this illegal mono-cépage wine. La Réserve des Grands Jours red is based on 80% Pinot Noir with 20% Gamay and spends 6 months in first to third fill Tronçais oak. The wine shows very good Pinot definition. Finally, there is Sécret de Jaligny, which comes from the oldest parcel of Pinot Noir and some 30 year old Gamay. The split is around 85%/15% and the wine is raised in Jaligny oak for a year of which half is new wood. It’s very Burgundian in style and worth seeking out.

One third of their production is in white and rosé sparkling wines, the Perle de Chassignolles. Both are remuaged for the brothers by Maison Clair in the Roannaise.

An impressive 80% of all wines are sold direct from the cellar door to passing trade and loyal, local clients. I was told by growers in the south of the appellation that the further north one travelled the more simple the wines. There is nothing simple or ordinary about the wines of Olivier and Christophe Gardien. They are immediately approachable and very good examples of their style, even if they do work outside the letter of the law when it comes to the blending (or not) of the different wines. It would certainly have them down as one of the top growers in the region.

Olivier et Christophe Gardien
Domaine Gardien
T : + 33 4 70 42 80 11
F : + 33 4 70 42 80 99


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