Domaine des Griottes
The Loire has made significant contributions to at least two vinous philosophies in the past couple of decades. First, there is biodynamics, the story of which can be traced back to the eight lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in Koberwitz in Silesia, a province of the Prussian Empire, and now part of modern-day Poland. This was back in 1924; the first vineyards to be converted were in Alsace, in the 1960s I am told, although it was not until Nicolas Joly discovered the text of these lectures, and implemented them in the early 1980s, that biodynamics really took off in the rest of France. From Joly’s work in Anjou the practice spread, within the Loire (Noël Pinguet at Domaine Huet was, for example, an early convert), beyond it, and across the world.
There is another movement, the story of which remains inexorably intertwined with that of the Loire, and this is ‘natural’ wine. Now the evolution of non-interventional winemaking is much less clear cut that it was for biodynamics; there is no lecture series describing the methodology, no dogma complete with date for us to point to. It seems widely acknowledged that it began with a group of vignerons in Beaujolais, of which the best known was Jules Chauvet. Having said that, Alice Feiring, the most prominent of ‘natural’ wine proponents, writing in Naked Wine (Da Capo Press, 2011) asks (without establishing a certain answer) whether Chauvin’s assistant Jacques Néauport was perhaps more responsible for developing the basic ‘natural’ wine blueprint.
Whether we should be looking to Chauvet or Néauport, I think it is fair to say the Loire has welcomed and fostered the ‘natural’ wine movement. It may well be nothing more than the fact that vineyards here are affordable, whereas those in the grand appellations of Bordeaux and Burgundy are not, but the region does seem to be home to a large number of vignerons who choose to follow natural wine philosophies. Of these, Domaine des Griottes is perhaps one of the more notable domaines. Practices here are certainly ‘natural’, and the vineyards have seen their share of biodynamic treatments over the years, so we have here both of the aforementioned philosophies. This profile looks at the story of this domaine, its originators (who have since gone their separate ways) and how the wines taste today.