Domaine aux Moines
Savennières is not a huge appellation, the area available for viticulture as defined by appellation regulations being in the order of 300 hectares, although perhaps only half of that is currently planted to vines. Even within this relatively small appellation two highly-prized crus have long been recognised, these being the Roche-aux-Moines and the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. These crus lie at the heart of the appellation, the vines cascading down slopes of schist within the little valleys (or coulées as they are known) that run down to the Loire. The vines are bathed daily in the cool Ligérian light, the wines they produce some of the most remarkable in the entire Loire Valley. Their fame is such that both were eventually, in the early 21st century, awarded appellations of their own.
The larger of these two ‘inner’ appellations is Savennières Roche-aux-Moines, which accounts for perhaps 35 of the 300 hectares. This is smaller than many individual grand cru classé estates in Bordeaux, and yet within these 35 hectares – not all of which are planted up – there are maybe a dozen vignerons each tending their own plot of vines, some of which are miniscule (in some cases too small to warrant a cuvée of their own, the wine blended into a broader Savennières cuvée). But not all, as one or two holdings within this highly prized appellation are quite large. The largest belongs to the aptly named Domaine aux Moines, today one of the appellation’s leading estates, and home to Tessa Laroche.
With its central position on the Roche-aux-Moines, and its expansive vineyard, the story of Domaine aux Moines is, in essence, the story of the Roche-aux-Moines itself. Indeed, the very first time I met proprietor Tessa Laroche we talked about the history of her domaine, and she immediately identified the planting of the Roche-aux-Moines and the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant during the 12th century as the moment of the domaine’s genesis. These are events I have already explored in detail in my profiles of Nicolas Joly, owner of the Château de la Roche aux Moines and the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, and Domaine du Closel, home to Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to re-examine them here, especially as this domaine so assuredly dominates the Roche-aux-Moines vineyards. If, however, you are already familiar with this story, or if you would rather jump forward to read of Tessa Laroche and her late mother Monique, and the wines being made here today, please skip forward to the bottom of the next page of this profile.