I was saddened to learn last night of the death of one of the Loire Valley’s more inspirational vignerons, Christian Chaussard.
Christian Chaussard (pictured above at the Real Wine Fair, London, July 2012) has a place in the hearts of many Loire vignerons, having taught at the Lycée Viticole in Amboise for much of the 1990s. Although the syllabus naturally focused on ‘traditional’ (i.e. chemical-heavy) viticulture and winemaking, Christian had a reputation for slipping in references to organic and more ecologically-sound methods, which didn’t always go down too well with his superiors. Nevertheless it meant many saw him as an important figure in the more organic, ‘natural’ side of Loire Valley viticulture.
This was over ten years ago now, and much has changed in the interim. At that time Christian worked in Vouvray, but he was ultimately forced to quit due to financial difficulties. He also handed in his notice at Amboise, and spent some time travelling, which was when he met his partner Nathalie Gaubichet, a Swiss actress, comedienne and sommelier (quite a combination!). Together they returned to France, and in 2002 they eventually settled in the Jasnières region, establishing Domaine Le Briseau. A few years later came a négoce business, Nana, Vins & Cie. The wines feature Chenin Blanc (Chaussad’s original love, harking back to his days in Vouvray) and Pineau d’Aunis, and include labels such as Patapon and Kharaktêr, both of which will be very familiar to fans of Le Briseau and ‘natural’ wine. Christian was also president of La Mission de l’Association des Vins Naturels.
I understand that yesterday, September 4th, Christian was at work when he was killed in a tractor accident. I also believe he was currently battling cancer, which was in an advanced stage. A close confidant and friend – as I said, there were many Loire vignerons inspired and enthused by Christian – informed me last night of the tragedy. My condolences go out to Nathalie Gaubichet and their family.