Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Grass is the Saumur Vineyards

We don’t usually let the grass grow under our feet and right now we are really happy with the way the grass is growing in the vineyards around La Grande Maison. Six years ago when we arrived the vineyards surrounding us had bare earth and an erosion problem. Now they are grassed between rows and the improvements are numerous. Despite our two Springers running through the vines daily the vineyards are still home to all the usual hares, partridges and pheasants. This year we’ve spotted more Montagu’s Harriers, Stone Curlews and Swallow Tail butterflies than ever before. The vineyards are more alive now than when we first arrived.

Chateau de Fosse Seche LPO Bird Refuge

Vineyards, like their subsequent wines, have a range of characteristics, much like their producers. There are still a few vineyards around Le Puy Notre Dame with bare and compacted earth but we have noticed, thankfully, that these are becoming fewer.

Chateau Tour Grise Biodynamic Vineyards

Chateau Tour Grise is biodynamic and boasts the most vibrant vineyards around, teeming with activity above the soil, plenty of humming and buzzing in the air, you just have to imagine what is going on underground.

Sadly their neighbour has a bare, dead, compacted vineyard. It is difficult to spot anything living.

At Tour Grise the “weeds” immediately beneath the vines are cut by machine and the soil is turned to minimise competitive weed growth and maximise rain absorption. Phillipe cycles to his vineyard, sometimes on his home-made tandem, with his wife Francoise facing backwards enjoying the view. He has vision and individuality and so do his wines. Their sparkling wines for example are made with re-cycled CO2! (You’ll have to visit them to find out how). Light and fruity summer time drinking, fun wines at fun prices like the Zero Pointe Rosé, a Vins de Pays.

Tour Grise mechanical method of weed control

Serious wines at serious prices are produced at the Saumur vineyards of Chateau de Fosse Seche. Currently in conversion to organic status they don’t have the problem of being bordered by a vigneron with an opposing philosophy i.e. soil mis-management. They are in the enviable situation of owning 45 hectares immediately surrounding their property with 17 hectares under vine. The vines are not on tuffeau here in this little pocket of Brossay but have a unique terroir for the Saumur region, flint (jurassic silex). The vineyards are worked mechanically to reduce weed competition so there is no use of chemical weed sprays.

Jurassic flint at Fosse Seche

The wines are all outstanding but you wouldn’t expect less from Guillaume Pire the young talented wine maker. Chateau de Fosse Seche is the only Saumur Rouge served in Michelin starred restaurants (as far as we are aware) and they definitely warrant that status.

Organic vineyards of Fosse Seche in front of the 16thC Pigeonnier


Jim's Loire said...

Good to see living vineyards. Perhaps we can inspire those in Eastern Touraine, who cling to scorched earth viticulture, to change!

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