Nicholas Joly is as close to a living legend as the Loire Valley gets, especially in terms of organic and biodynamic wine. He holds court in a rambling old château in Savennières, hidden behind ancient stone walls, vineyards covering the hill behind the study. He does not live here but, instead, resides in the 12th Century monastery behind the hill.
Joly is an evangelist for natural winemaking and the moment you meet him, he will challenge your ideas on the subject. Sure, people may not use pesticides, even follow biodynamics in the fields, he says about his fellow winemakers in the Loire and elsewhere, but when they go into the cellars there are almost no restrictions. That, he warns, is when the funny stuff happens – like re-yeasting, which he alleges is a common practice.
If you let him (and face it, you have little choice) he will talk about his new passion – truth in wine labels. He lists ingredients used to fine wines or additives being used and says “consumers should know.” It truly is horrifying and you can’t help but agree with him. This will go on for a while and then he might be called away to the phone. He’ll point to the wines, three carafes lined up on a tray, and simply say, “help yourself.”
All Joly’s wines are hand-harvested in four or five passes as they reach botrytis stage, and have been farmed biodynamically for the past thirty years. Compost comes from 10 cows and 2 bulls, plus a herd of Ouessant sheep that winter in the vineyards.
The three wines tasted were 2011 Le Vieux Clos, 2011 Clos de la Bergerie and the 2011 Coulée de Serrant, the last his very own appellation. The wines were open for seven days and showed exceptionally well – he posits that Chenin picked at this late stage gets better after it is opened. The Clos de la Bergerie especially shined, a very rich, very refined Chenin that clearly benefited from being open so long.