Guide to the Loire regions

Val du Loir

Producer profiles - Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir

Domaine des Gauletteries (1984)

Ancient cellar at Gauletteries

The Lelais family is one of the most important growers of Jasnières. With nearly 15 hectares, they effectively vinify 20% of the appellations production. Although five generations have worked out of these troglodyte cellars, the domaine was relatively modest in size until Raynald arrived in 1984. His great-grandfather owned two hectares, but the family’s main occupation was in the production of cereals. Raynald sold off 70 hectares of arable land in 1988 when Henri, his father, retired. He is now is vigneron pur. In the past twenty five years Raynald and his wife, Francine, have worked hard to build up the size and reputation of the domaine, and today are very good ambassadors for the region.

The tall, quietly spoken Raynald studied agriculture at college in Amboise, but insists that as a winemaker he is essentially self-taught. He is charming and happy to devote time to tasting through his wines and discussing them in detail. He is also rightly proud of the caves that run off down passages at the back of the house. The hillside in Poncé-sur-Loir is littered with tunnels. In fact, I’d bet there are more kilometres of galleries under ground than there are roads in the village. The caves here are as impressive as any I’ve seen in the Loire . They date from the 14th Century when the extracted stone would have been used to help construct the châteaux around the region. Today, they act as a private museum and as a home for a colony of hibernating pipistrelle bats. Before the Second World War these galleries were filled with bottles, and evidence of their origin exists in the bins excavated in the rock and then dated with their contents. The cellar was emptied during the German occupation, so Raynald is trying to re-establish a vinous record of the wines of the region once again. 

Wine Overview :
The Lelais family controls a total of 16.80 hectares of vineyards in the two communes of Ruillé-sur-Loir and Lhomme. Of these, 80% are rented from a succession of older amateur vignerons who continue to approach him to take on their own vines. Of the 2.20 hectares in Coteaux du Loir all are planted to red grapes. There is almost half a hectare of Pineau d’Aunis in Pierre Beurre (the most renowned site for producing red wines), added to which there is some 20 year old Gamay, Côt and Cabernet Franc. From these he makes a single red wine, incorporating around 5% of each of these three varieties every vintage. There is also a rosé de maceration made exclusively from Pineau d’Aunis. Given the extent of holdings in Jasnières, there is no reason to produce any white Coteaux du Loir.

In Jasnières, the family owns vineyards in Clos Fleuries (these being the vines inherited from the previous generation) plus, some in Les Gargouilles, which Raynald bought in the early 1980s and believes to be the best parcel in the appellation ‘in the best years’. The rented parcels are scattered amongst le Clos Saint Jacques, Clos de la Gidonnières, Clos Cheminées, Sous-le-Bois and le Clos des Jasnières. There are four separate cuvées produced from the appellation each vintage; a ‘traditional’ release is followed by two single vineyard wines in ‘Clos Saint Jacques’ and ‘Clos Fleuries’. All of these are generally harvested by machine, but in most years they produce a fourth wine, ‘Cuvée Saint Vincent’, a selected vineyard trie, which can incorporate bunches or berries that have been affected by botrytis. The wines are all made in a purpose built cellar in fibre glass tanks, which Raynald feels are much more responsive to the needs of controlling the fermentation temperature than stainless steel. He dispensed with all the chestnut casks, which dated back to his grandfather’s era, in the late 1980s when his father retired.

The Wines :
With no co-operative in the appellation and very little wine sold through the mainstream négociant houses, it is left to larger producers like the Lelais to maintain and guard the reputation of Jasnières. They do sell their wines within the Grande surfaces in France and to larger clients overseas, and this is where most consumers’ awareness and subsequent opinion of any region’s wines tend to be formed. These are good examples, and are very representative of the appellation. They do, however, tend to be quite primary in their youth, and it’s unfortunate that most consumers (especially in France where the tendency is to drink wine early), miss out on the secondary characters that Chenin needs to develop to fully express itself. 

2007 Jasnières
Bright. Pale with green hints. Still quite primary nose. Unevolved. Faint liquorish. Unknit acidity. This needs time as is currently devoid of character. (12/08)

2007 Jasnières ‘Clos de Fleuries’
Pale. Light straw appearance. Primary nose and palate with a hint of residual sugar. Good potential, but a bit sweet and sour at present. Needs time to harmonise and the sugar and acid balance to come together. Now very primary. (12/08)

2006 Jasnières ‘Clos Saint Jacques’
Harvested in the rain. Very pale but bright. Straw/green appearance. Open nose. Rounded and creamy (one third went through malolactic fermentation). True Chenin with a touch of wet wool. Bone dry on entry with green apple flavours. Well textured and linear. The acidity is a little unknit to the finish. Very good, but needs a little longer ideally to settle down. (12/08)

2003 Jasnières
Unfiltered. Cloudy. Broad and solid on the nose. Well balanced and textured with obvious sweetness, it carries 30g/l residual sugar. Very ripe, but with good balance and length. Drinking well now. (12/08)

2000 Jasnières
Light and attractive nose. Open and mature nose. On the palate, there is noticeable sweetness, although the wine is sec. In reality it tastes like a minor Vouvray demi-sec. Good balance and still showing well. Drinking now but will age further. (12/08)

1999 Jasnières ‘Cuvée Saint Vincent’
Picked by hand and triaged very late. Vinified dry. Polished. Yellow/straw appearance. True Chenin nose, with white truffles and champignon de Paris. Complex and smoky. Delicate on entry but with good texture and weight. More herbal flavours with a chalky minerality on the mid palate. Firm acidity and still a little awkward. Drinking now, but no rush. A good effort for a minor vintage. (12/08)

1990 Jasnières
The first vintage here to be vinified in tank. According to Raynald, it fermented very quickly and was never easy to drink in its youth. There was no botrytis in this particular cuvée. Complex appearance. Polished. Yellow/gold. Mid depth. Rich on the nose, with crème brulée and toffee apples. Delicate, refined and complex. Curious on the palate, with flavours of toasted sesame seeds and carries a saline edge. Finishes dry with a good mineral thread. Drinking now. Unlikely to improve, but will hold. (12/08)

Domaine des Gauletteries
Francine & Raynald Lelais
T/F: + 33 2 43 79 09 59
P: + 33 6 82 21 78 43

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