Producer Profile: The founder of La Grange aux Belles is Marc Houtin though this has undoubtedly long been a collaborative endeavor with the joint expertise of Julien Bresteau and Gérald “Jesse” Peau proving to be the prime triumvirate of a winegrowing team here in the Anjou sub-region of France’s Loire Valley. It all began in 2004 when Marc Houtin, working in the oil industry (!), quit his job to pursue what was then a passion though it was of course a life waiting to happen. The first vines he’d purchased were ~12 hectares just upland from the Aubance River, a tributary of the Loire. The goal was always organic agriculture with minimal intervention in the cellar, but – as with most beginnings – there were disastrous vintages, vines long-gauzed from the natural elements by synthetic pesticides/herbicides, proved in the early years especially prone to sizable frost damage and powdery mildew. It was a trial by fire. In seeking help with turning around the health of his vines, Marc credits what is known as “The Herody Method” as the key ingredient in the vineyards. Named after the Jura geologist Yves Herody, the method is soil-focused with, among other things, an emphasis on re-composting the soils at the end of winter so as to re-trigger microbial activity that helps strengthen the natural ‘immunity’ of the vines’ health in addition to their ability to create concentrated, high-quality yields. Ever since, it’s been a long march toward what is today a natural wine pillar of an operation in the Anjou, focused on both entry-level vins de soif meant for youthful consumption in addition to some of the best site-specific terroir-focused Chenin we’ve ever had (their “La Roche de Murs”).
Vinification: 100% Grolleau from schist soil. Grapes hand-harvested and fermented whole cluster, with wild yeasts, in tank. Bottled unfined, unfiltered with just a touch of SO2.
Tasting: A light bodied, mineral-focused red. On the nose, there's an animalistic earthiness and iron minerality. On the palate is something more fruit-driven and brambly, like wild berries and violets. The finish is ethereal and velvety. Drink with a slight chill.