Location Chahaignes, la Sarthe
Coverage 2.68 hectares
Viticulture Practicising biodynamic & permaculture (uncertified). Minimal tilling
Terroir A complex mix of clay, iron and silex. Oceanic climate & minimal tilling.
On a very early morning last March 2021 we met Thierry in the foggy village of Chahaignes next to the church. This being our 3rd visit, we we’re still unable to find the cave and a meeting in the city center was still the best option. We followed to the outskirts of the village where at the back of a vine covered fence we find an old cave burried in the tuffeau, the cellar candlelit and some unlabelled bottles waiting on a table in the middle of a field.
Thierry cultivates 2.68 hectares in Chahaignes, in the department of la Sarthe in Northern Touraine. Himself, a Touraine native, Thierry comes from a family of winemakers, he travelled extensively before finally returning to the Loire and working alongside Jean-Pierre Robinot & Eric Nicolas, all while teaching at the viticultural school in Amboise. Over the years he slowly began to acquire tiny plots of the oldest vines he could find and began making his own wines in 2009. The vines (many century old) and 50 year old hybrids are planted on a complex mix of clay, silt and iron. The wines are issued from 3 main parcels:
Hybrids Several parcels for a total of 1,68ha. 50-60 year old vines. The 54-55 is a hybrid "producteur direct", which means ungrafted, no need for copper and frost resistant. In 2017 and 2018, Thierry added some "Rava" which is a table grape variety ; it brings colour and liveness and lower the "rusticity" of the 54-55. 10 months on lees before disgorgment.
la Fosse Vineuse Chenin, clonal selection planted in 1910; replaced by massale selection from Robinot. Parcel of 0,30ha in the middle of the forest, sandy clay and flint. The 2015 has been bottled in 2017 without topping, no flor formation. It’s a stunning wine.
La Centenaire du Vauperroux Pineau d'aunis, variety "à rameaux rouges (red branches)", planted in 1902, ungrafted. Size if 0,60ha ; the soil is sandy with some iron. The 2017 was aged for 2 years in old oak barrels (228L) and bottled in february 2019. Fermentation is whole cluster, 3 weeks maceration with soft remontages. Again an exampling that shows its full potential after several hours of decanting. Since 2018, Thierry also has a small holding of 1.9 hectares of 90 year old Gamay in sélection massale on sand & gravel in Amboise in the (village of Limeray).
Thierry’s cellar is buried deep in a cave made of tuffeau limestone, with no running water or electricity, and his wines are fermented at very low temperatures, with little evaporation and thus very slowly. He relies on intuition and a careful hand, patience and exceptional conditions for élevage.
His whites are pressed directly and fermented and aged in old barriques for 1-2 years without being topped up, depending on the vintage. However, there has only been a flor formation at very rare occasions. The reds are fermented in whole clusters with approximately 3 weeks’ maceration with a soft and gentle “remontage” and then aged in old barriques for 1-2 years, depending on the vintage. All of Thierry’s wines are worked by gravity, except the hybrid grapes which he makes into a pétillant naturel. His wines are unfined, unfiltered and sulfite and CO2-free, and the pét-nats are turned gently and disgorged by hand.
Thierry’s wine are truly something else, wines that move into a dimension of their own. Powerful is not the word, though the wines can on occasion have some intensity. They are fragile, in the best sense of the word, exceptional dynamic and loaded with nuance. There’s a simplicity & and overarching sensation of comfort, and of course no lack of character.