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Clos de l'Ecotard

A Bright New Star in the Saumur Firmament

Our story begins in the icy depths of the Château de Brézé back in early 2012. We were at La Dive Bouteille principally, to meet Thierry Germain and taste his new Domaine des Roches Neuves releases. Back then, Michel Chevré was Germain’s vineyard lieutenant—his right arm, and one who had been present since the Domaine’s first release in 1992. In clear evidence that opposites attract, what struck us immediately was the difference in personality between the two cohorts. Germain was such a bundle of energy he seemed to be jogging on the spot; the quieter Chevré seemed almost introverted by comparison.

It was Chevré that took us through the tasting that day. With only a handful of cuvées at the time, a Roches Neuves tasting in 2012 was a more modest affair than it is today. We tasted a cask sample of Germain’s upcoming Insolite, and—before moving on to the reds—Chevré asked if we would like to taste a new label. It was from a young vineyard he began planting in 2009 on a limestone-rich slope in Courchamps, to the southwest of Saumur. The wine turned out to be the first bottling from the Clos de l’Écotard, a striking organic Saumur Blanc that would continue to be made at Roches Neuves, up to and including the 2016 vintage.

When questioned on his winemaking, Thibaud Chevré invokes one of Nady Foucault’s (Clos Rougeard) favourite bon mots: “The less work I do, the happier I am”.

By mid-2017, Chevré (now joined by his son Thibaud) was in a place to part ways with his old friend and establish his own small family estate. The following year, the newly formed three-hectare Domaine would offer its first three cuvées of Saumur Blanc. Covering two of those hectares, Clos de l’Écotard has continued as the family’s emblematic cuvée. This parcel was densely planted between 2009 and 2013 with a range of vine materials, including massale selections from the vineyards of François Chidaine. This cuvée was joined by a single-foudre selection called Les Pentes, drawn from vines rooted in the rockiest, limestone-enriched parcel in the top, northeast corner of the Clos. A third bottling, La Haie Nardin, originates from a small parcel of 50-year-old vines that has been owned and farmed by the family since 1996.

As you would expect from Roches Neuves’ long-standing ex-chef de culture—and a grower who shares in the dazzling successes of that Domaine—the vineyard work here is impeccable. All the vineyards are certified organic (Ecocert) and managed biodynamically; due to the red tape involved, the Domaine has no plans to certify as biodynamic. The Clos itself is completely ploughed by the Domaine’s own draft horse, Fleur. Natural grass growth is encouraged, and the vines—instead of being trimmed at the top—are rolled a-la Roches Neuves and in the style of Burgundy progressives, Olivier Lamy and Charles Lachaux et al. Yields are restricted to four or five bunches per vine. Naturally, the grapes are harvested manually (rare in the Loire, where machine harvesting is the norm these days).

When questioned on his winemaking, Thibaud Chevré invokes one of Nady Foucault’s (Clos Rougeard) favourite bon mots: “The less work I do, the happier I am”. The grapes are whole bunch pressed in an old basket press, and fermentations are wild. Sometimes malo is partially blocked, sometimes not—it all depends on the vintage. He uses little or no sulphur during the vinification or élevage, just a touch at racking and bottling (60mg/L total). Fermentation begins in stainless steel tank, then moves to a mixture of oak foudre (incl. Stockinger) and used 500-litre barrels. To increase the complexity of his inventory, one or two new, low-chauffe barrels (from different suppliers) are purchased annually. Recently, two grès (sandstone) jars have entered the picture.

Comparisons with the Chenins of Domaine des Roches Neuves are natural and let us say off the bat—while this small and somewhat rudimentary cellar cannot yet match those wines for their level of precision, equally, the wines do not suffer by comparison. The terroir of Courchamps conveys a more powerful expression of Saumur Blanc than Germain’s limestone-reared cuvées. Add to this the low-fi, artisanal work in the cellar and you’ll find a first-class range of coolly ripe, fleshy and textural Saumur Blanc wines that lift off the tongue with great energy and mouth-watering mineral expression.

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Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Blanc 2020

Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Blanc 2020

Organic. The estate’s emblematic vineyard, the Clos de l’Écotard, was planted by Michel Chevré between 2009 and 2013. It lies on a slope below the village of Courchamps, clay/limestone with occasional outcrops of limestone bedrock. With the help of Thierry Germain, Chevré planted at a density of 8,000 vines per hectare (considerably higher than the regional norm) using a range of Chenin clones and sélections massales sourced from the vineyards of François Chidaine.Covering a continuous parcel of two hectares, the Clos de l’Écotard has only ever been ploughed and the farming has been organic since day one. Yields are restricted to four or five bunches per vine. Naturally, the grapes are harvested manually (rare in the Loire, where machine harvesting is the norm today). It’s a site ideally suited to growing world-beating Chenin Blanc.For the winemaking, fermentation begins in stainless steel tank, then mid-way through the ferment, the juice is racked into a mixture of foudre and 500-litre demi-muid. Following 10 months on lees, the wine is then bottled unfiltered.For a wine whose style tends to lean on tensile energy rather than obvious power, the 2020 is surprisingly full-bodied, with a deeply hewn palate and textured length. Aromas of yellow fruit and chalk, drizzled with white honey, give way to compact layers of fleshy pear, crystalline white stone fruit, kernel and a hint of nutty complexity, all harnessed by focused acidity and mineral brightness.

For a wine whose style tends to lean on tensile energy rather than obvious power, the 2020 is surprisingly full-bodied, with a deeply hewn palate and textured length. Aromas of yellow fruit and chalk, drizzled with white honey, give way to compact layers of fleshy pear, crystalline white stone fruit, kernel and a hint of nutty complexity, all harnessed by focussed acidity and mineral brightness.

Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Blanc 2020
Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Brut 2021

Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Brut 2021

There are two sparkling wines in the portfolio. Les Quarts de Saint-Vincent is a pure Chenin from a tiny parcel of vines near Saumur, while the Brut is drawn mainly from Chenin in La Terre Saint-Bauld, with lesser amounts of Grolleau Gris and Cabernet Franc from the Clos de la Chesnaie—both on the sandy soils of Fosse-Bellay. The fruit was picked quite late for sparkling, then whole-bunch pressed and naturally fermented in a mix of stainless steel and old barrels. The wine was then aged for around 11 months in the bottle on lees before being disgorged with no additions (zero dosage).It’s a finely textured and vivacious wine, with aromas redolent of delicate red fruits, straw and florals, with a wisp of toasty complexity from its time on lees. The palate is pure energy, without being austere. Zippy citrus drives pure flavours of apple pie and red fruits to a tight, vibrant and bone-dry finish. A cracking addition to our portfolio of sparkling Loire.

It’s a finely textured and vivacious wine, with aromas redolent of delicate red fruits, straw and florals, with a wisp of toasty complexity from its time on lees. The palate is pure energy, without being austere. Zippy citrus drives pure flavours of apple pie and red fruits to a tight, vibrant and bone-dry finish. A cracking addition to our portfolio of sparkling Loire.

Clos de l'Écotard Saumur Brut 2021
Clos de l'Ecotard Saumur Blanc Les Pentes 2020

Clos de l'Ecotard Saumur Blanc Les Pentes 2020

Organic. Les Pentes refers to the slope of a hill, or in this case, the highest, steepest part of the organically farmed Écotard vineyard. The vines here burrow straight into limestone—evident by the rocky outcroppings in the northeast corner of the clos—and the parcel is ploughed by the domaine’s own draft horse, Fleur. the 2020 was whole-bunch pressed and naturally fermented in a single Stockinger foudre.It’s an elegant yet mouthcoating expression of the vineyard with creamy citrus and floral fleshiness balanced by a glade of acidity and a salty/mineral flourish on this finish.

It’s an elegant yet mouthcoating expression of the vineyard with creamy citrus and floral fleshiness balanced by a glade of acidity and a salty/mineral flourish on this finish.

"The 2020 vintage is all about tranquility and silken texture while remaining light on its feet. Pure and refined, this is subtle in its aromatic profile. It almost has a sweetness to it, but it's completely dry - the ripeness of the apple and pear fruit reflects the vintage, followed up with a lees-derived almond pastry character."
92 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous.com
Clos de l'Ecotard Saumur Blanc Les Pentes 2020

“Three white Saumurs are produced with the desire to carve magnificent sleek Chenins, stripped of all artifice. From La Haie Nardin to Pentes passing through the emblematic cuvée of Clos de l'Écotard, these whites are already among the greatest in Saumur." La Revue du Vin de France

Country

France

Primary Region

Anjou-Saumur

People

Thibaud and Michel Chevré

Availability

National

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