This Share brings you natural wine made in Europe, the Old World, as opposed to our Third Thursday New World Share, which focuses on natural wine made in the rest of the world. And this month we offer four wines from two French vignerons based in the Loire Valley: Julien Pineau and Laurent Lebled.
Originally from Tours, Julien studied sociology and law in college. After college he worked for Alliance Française in Seattle. He then spent a few years in Sicily, where he got a sense of how farm life can deeply root people in their region and culture, how it can enable a community to share many things together.
When he returned to France, Julien worked a variety of odd jobs, including picking fruit seasonally in Ardeche, working at an antiques store in Paris, and analyzing soil for a geology center.
In 2009, he did a harvest for Lise and Bertrand Jousset in Montlouis. This is when he realized that what really made him happiest was working in the vineyard. So he asked Bertrand to hire him as a trainee. Bertrand’s condition for hiring him was to require Julien to enroll in viticulture school in Amboise, which he did. Julien worked for Bertrand in 2010 and 2011. His love for the vines upended his original intention to open a wine bar (his father is a professional cook). Later he gained experience working for Jean-Christophe Comor at Les Terres Promises in Provence, and then with Laurent Saillard and Noella Morantin.
When Julien heard that the Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet of Clos Roche Blanche were interested in retiring and selling their domaine, he quickly jumped on the opportunity. He ultimately decided to share the responsibilities of ownership with Laurent Saillard by splitting their remaining 13 hectares equally. From his time in Sicily, he learned sharing the operating costs with Laurent made a lot of sense. Julien works 6.5 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, Côt, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pineau D’Aunis.
A Short History of Clos Roche Blanche
The Clos Roche Blanche vineyards were planted on the Touraine hills bordering the Cher river by the Roussel family at the end of the 19th century. The soil is mainly clay with flint over a limestone subsoil. Catherine Roussel took over in 1975 from her father. She was later joined by Didier Barrouillet. Didier tended the vineyards and made the wine. Catherine & Didier remain enthusiastic proponents of organic farming and non-interventionist winemaking. And Julien and Laurent continue their legacy, keeping yields low by maintaining old vines, using organic fertilizers in moderation, growing grass between the rows, and plowing under the rows. The vineyards have farmed organically for many decades but received official organic certification in 1995. The vines are minimally treated using copper and sulfur solutions, and biodynamic preparations made with natural substances (such as nettles and herbs).
Julien got help from the French government in purchasing Clos Roche Blanche. He benefited from something called Contrat de Parrainage, a program that helps people without family roots in farming take over a farm. Thanks to this subsidy, he was able to work for a year at Clos Roche Blanche, learning how to work on the vineyards he was going to purchase, and was paid by the state instead of Clos Roche Blanche. The goal of this program is to help smooth the transition of a farm when the buyer doesn’t come from a farming background.
Julien’s approach is more hands-off. His wines are juicier and less extracted than Didier’s, but the magical Clos Roche Blanche terroir is fully evident.
In 2008, the recession hit Laurent Lebled hard. He was forced to shut down his three-decade-old wood merchant business. Fortunately, two childhood friends helped him go in an unexpected direction.
The two friends who helped Laurent are Sébastien Bobinet and Patrick Corbineau. Sébastien had quit his job in 2003 after inheriting 2 hectares of vines from his grandfather; Patrick had quit his job at the Chinon power station after inheriting vines from his grandfather. Even though Laurent had no vines to inherit, and had never before worked amid the vines or in a cellar, Sébastien insisted that he should become a vigneron. Laurent was dubious, but Sébastien promised he would show him how. Laurent gave it a shot, assisting Bobinet through 2009.
Having always been a fan of wines from the Touraine, that’s where Laurent started his search for vines and a cellar of his own. Through friends he was able to find 1.7 hectares of vines and a cellar to rent in the commune of Saint-Aignan. But, shortly after the contract for the vines was signed, the proprietor of the cellar backed out, forcing him to improvise. On short notice, he found a winery in Savigny-en-Véron, over an hour away, and rented half a hectare of Cabernet Franc on sandy soil next to it.
2010 was Laurent’s first vintage, and Sébastien Bobinet and Patrick Corbineau generously counseled him when he needed it. Now, however, he confidently runs things, producing sulfur-free, carbonically macerated reds but with a difference. His macerations last 30 days (a “typical” full carbonic maceration lasts 12 to 15 days), which gives his wines a distinctive rusticity that you don’t often find in the light, fruity vins de soif made in the same style.
2016 Laurent Lebled La Sauvignonne
From a small plot of clay and limestone, these organically-grown grapes macerate whole cluster (rare for a white wine) for between 7 and 12 days in large concrete tanks. Unusually the concrete tanks have a raised chestnut wood floor through which any juice that comes out of the grapes passes to the floor of concrete below, which minimizes the amount of skin contact. This modulates the effect of the long maceration, before the grapes are pressed and fermented naturally. This is a real, flavorful Sauv Blanc that doesn’t have the fake tropical notes that you can get when a commercial yeast is used. No fining/filtration/added sulfites.
2016 Laurent Lebled On Est Su L’Sable
This soft, juicy, supersoif red has notes of wild raspberries, a light touch of herbs, gentle tannins, and none of the rough vegetal aspects Cab Franc can sometimes display. It’s made with an extended 30-day carbonic fermentation in cement tanks from 100% Cabernet Franc planted on pure sand from a .49 hectare parcel in Chinon blended with Cab Franc from Saint-Aignan. CHILL IT.
2016 Julien Pineau Les Sucettes a L’Aunis
100% Pineau d’Aunis from 80-90-year-old vines planted on clay and limestone. It undergoes a two-week whole-cluster fermentation in fiberglass tanks. It’s a truly pretty rendition of Pineau d’Aunis, with notes of cranberries, black currants, and the trademark white pepper note.
2015 Julien Pineau Coup d’Jus
From 100% Côt , which is what Malbec is called in the Loire, this wine is inky, and has blackberry and cocoa aromas. On the palate, there’s those black fruits along with red currants, with good length in the mouth.
Serve with SheWolf’s crusty Miche.