Alice Gitton-Pouponneau grew up in Le Thoureil, a charming village on the Loire between Angers and Saumur. Today, along with her husband, Antoine Pouponneau, she farms the sloping vineyard parcel that was essentially her backyard playground. This idyllic site, which faces the lazily meandering river, enjoys perfect southeast exposure and the moderating effect of the water. The old trunks of Grolleau and Cabernet Franc are clearly very happy, soaking up the sunshine and gorgeous views while sending deep roots into the soils of clay, limestone, and silex. Since taking oversight of the vineyard, Alice and Antoine have applied biodynamic farming methods and plowed it with a horse. After a natural fermentation, the wine rested for 18 months in demi-muids before an unfiltered bottling. The beauty and energy of the site comes through with total transparency: the fruit is concentrated, deep, and pure, suggesting wild brambles and tart blackberries, along with an earthy, spicy component and hints of cedar. It has the levity to offer immediate pleasure, along with the complexity and structure to age well for a few years. At KLWM, we are thrilled to add this talented couple’s first cuvée to our diverse lineup of Loire reds.
Grange Saint-Sauveur’s wines are the first KLWM imports bearing Antoine Pouponneau’s name on their labels, but the connection with the Anjou native runs much deeper. Antoine worked as cellar manager at La Tour du Bon in Bandol from 1994 to 2006—his first job following enology studies in Dijon—then served a long tenure in Corsica as enologist at Clos Canarelli. His approach as a consultant is radically opposed to that of most enologists: a devout enthusiast of biodynamic farming and wild yeast fermentation, Antoine relies on his expertise in microbiology to create wines of character and identity via natural methods. His talents have earned him several prestigious clients over the years, as the likes of Cheval Blanc, Latour, and many others have sought his services to produce low-intervention, terroir-driven wines.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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