How exciting is it to discover a great, under-the-radar producer, making superb wines in the present as well as a long track record of quality? And then to be able to display both the quality and longevity of the wines by finding an estate that also embraces a philosophy of holding back multiple old vintages and offering them for sale.
Such is the case for Domaine aux Moines, though the under-the-radar part is no longer since the release of the book, Domaine Aux Moines: A Year at the Domaine, by Pascaline Lepeltier in 2017.
The estate was founded in 1981, though there are records of vineyards planted in the region since the middle ages when the monks (“moines” in French) from the Abbaye de St Nicolas tended vines in the area. It is now run by the energetic mother and daughter team of Monique and Tessa Laroche. The estate comprises 9.6 Ha of Chenin Blanc and .8 Ha Cabernet Franc. The vineyards are all south and southwest facing hillsides and abut the famed Coulee de Serrant in the sub-appellation of “Roche Aux Moines”.
Savennieres is located on the Western edge of the Anjou region in the Loire valley, not far from the city of Angers. The vineyards are located on hillsides along the Loire river. The proximity to the river helps to temper the cold of the region as well as encourage ripeness and protect against springtime frosts. The soils in Savennières are predominantly schists with some sandstone and clay. They tend to produce a flinty, drier style Chenin Blanc that can age for a long time.
The estate has always taken a natural approach in their vineyard work and cellar practices. Since the beginning, they practiced “lutte raisonnée” (sustainable agriculture), though are Certified Organic certification (Eco-cert) as of 2011. Yields are kept extremely low, which by law in “Roche Aux Moines” means under 30 h/h, and often less. All work is done by hand including the harvest which occurs slowly over a few weeks (5-6 “tries” or pickings). The wines are all fermented with indigenous yeasts, and aged in a combo of tank and cask (220 and 400-liter, mostly used), with usually 65-75% tank and the rest wood. Bottling is done around 15-16 months after harvest, though the winery stocks vintages for sale back almost 20 years!