The richness of our land
A little history first, as vines have been cultivated on our soil since the Middle Ages. The monks planted the famous grape Cabernet Franc around the Abbey of Fontevraud. We talk more specifically about a Breton priest, since he gave the name to our main grape: the former name of Cabernet Franc was, indeed, the “Breton”.
It is impossible not to mention the Latin name for our principle appellation which is Saumur-Champigny. The Latin “Campus Ignis” means fire field. As the name suggests, our region has the particularity of being able to store the heat of the day and then return it during the night.
Equally, we benefit from the wealth of our land, especially its clay-limestone composition. Our village of Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg is located on a “cuesta” – a ridge formed by gently tilted Turonian limestone. Better known as “chalk tufa”, the wonderful stone was used to build the castles of the Loire. This geology of Cretaceous limestone is best for our vines. It is soft, deep and wet. It allows our vines to root deeply (up to 15/20 metres) and find enough water for good ripeness. Thus the lower levels of the soil absorb winter precipitation and return water sparingly throughout the year, to prevent our grapes suffering from drought.
Another wealth of our soil is its permeability. The water seeps into our soil very easily but the ground never has excess moisture. The soils are so easy to work with. Finally, after exposure and altitude plots, our soils are more or less loaded with clay and thus provide very different vintages between the top of the hill and down the slopes. Our most concentrated wines, the Clos des Châtains, les Loups Noirs, les Loups Blancs and les Loups Dorés, are raised mid-slope facing south-west.
Last but not least is the broad development of biodiversity that we have implemented in our appelation. With all winemakers in Saumur-Champigny, we are engaged in a process to restore an ecological balance between the pests of the vine and their natural enemies. This is the only appellation in France to have such a policy. Replanting edges on the borders of our plots, we increase plant biodiversity and support animal biodiversity. Hedges have also a role in soil protection, regulating of water flows and enhancing landscape integration.
Many of us pride ourselves on enjoying a wonderful microclimate, but in our case, some figures to show:
- The lowest rainfall in the Department: 525 mm per year, on average St Cyr en Bourg, against 630 and 900 for Angers (the same as the national average).
- The highest average temperature in the region with 15.7 °
All this is not due to chance and is explained quite simply. Firstly, the protection provided by the triangle of the Loire, Thouet and the Fontevraud Forest, which protects us from excess moisture (which incidentally, never crosses the Loire, the clouds and often rains remained north …). On the other hand, our vineyard is located at the eastern boundary of the oceanic influence, which explains the low rainfall but also mitigates extreme temperatures in the summer and raises temperatures in winter.
Our expertise in the vineyards
Our vineyards comprise 38 hectares of Cabernet Franc, 8 ha of Chenin, Chardonnay 1 ha
Our approach to cultivation : “agriculture very wise for a long time”. We are part of the so-called “undocumented”, neither conventional growers nor pure-organic. We are convinced of the need to join in a “bio” without wanting to be too extreme. It is also, we believe, a way to stay freer in each of our choices.
Our strong point : excellent clay-limestone as explained above and a perfect mastery of our Domaine. The average age of our vines is around 30 years, and some old vines reach over 80 vintages. We know each of our plots in great detail. According to the grape variety planted and its exposure, we know precisely when to prune, pluck and harvest and the priorities when harvesting. In great years, waiting patiently for a late harvest.
Our harvest: All the attention to our vineyards throughout the year results in the harvest. This is the culmination of a year’s work and each year is for us like a new birth. To choose the optimal date of harvest of each plot, we rely on quantitative criteria (counts and levies on specific tocks to determine the extent and potential acidity of the grapes), qualitative (tasting berries every day to assess the sweetness, the acidity and the presence of tannins through the film thickness, taste glitches …) but also on our experience and expertise.
And finally, we make wine…
We have a winery, or “chai” as our friends in Burgundy would say, built in 1988 and recently renovated. We have invested in beautiful stainless steel tanks of 100 hl and 150 hl. We chose this capacity so that our wines can be vinified by the parcel of land. Rather than homogenise our winemaking, it seemed important to choose the capacities of our tanks to optimise the quality of our work.
In addition to the benefits of stainless steel (quality of work, hygiene …), these cells have the advantage of being especially thermo-regulated. We have always controlled the temperatures of our wines, especially during fermentation, but now we can do it automatically and therefore more precisely. With the 2012 harvest, we have re-filled our tanks with these new grapes.
Along with this very recent hardware, we recently started to re-use our wonderful caves in limestone. Until 1985, we preferred to keep the limestone cellars only for the preservation of our old bottles and opted to make wine in our air-conditioned cellar. 2012 marks the restoration of our great underground gallery and lowering our barrels in the cellar. Conditions are indeed perfect for raising our wines: the temperature of 14 ° is constant throughout the year and the humidity is ideal.
Beyond the technical, never forget the know-how of the winemakers. Domaine de Nerleux is primarily a family tradition which spans 9 generations. Where younger generations bring new ideas and try new tests, the wisdom and experience of the older ones is a major asset, always impeccable, delivering quality in each of our wines offered to you. The advice of our winemaker, Jean-Michel Monnier, and our constant exchanges with family, friends, colleagues and clients every day allows us to make the most of our grapes.