La Folle Berthe
The Loire Valley has long provided those with an interest in tending vines and making wine with an affordable entry to this little world. Appellations such as Cheverny and Montlouis-sur-Loire have long facilitated this; land is relatively inexpensive (well, compared to the likes of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé it is) and there is no shortage of new friends and neighbours willing to offer some assistance, and probably a good helping of occasionally unsolicited advice. And, thinking more practically, there are plenty of places to study; those newly established in Cheverny or Montlouis-sur-Loire keen to learn about viticulture and vinification would probably enrol at the oenological school at Amboise, which is just down the road.
Another appellation which has seen an influx of new names over the past few years is Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, the red-only appellation centred around the hill-top town of Puy-Notre-Dame (the puy being the hill in question). This is something of a Saumur ‘satellite’; the heart of the Saumur appellation is the limestone plateau that looks down onto the Loire, and which includes the more famous enclave of Saumur-Champigny, while Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame is situated nearly 20 kilometres southwest of the town of Saumur. There is still limestone here, but flint can be just as important. And it is right next-door to Montreuil-Bellay, where another leading oenological school provides viticultural acolytes with the knowledge they need.
There is one other feature of Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame which has helped attract new vignerons to these slopes. Until recently a number of the appellation’s top vineyards were worked by Philippe Gourdon, of Château La Tour Grise, but after his 2014 harvest he decided it was time to retire. With no heir ready to take on his vines, his domaine – which has been farmed using biodynamics for well over twenty years – has been divided between a number of the appellation’s newcomers. They have taken on Philippe’s vines with a commitment to continue his long adherence to organic methods.
One of these organic adherents is David Foubert (pictured above), of La Folle Berthe.