Domaine des Rochelles
Located in Saint Jean des Mauvrets just a stone’s throw from the waters of the Loire and directly north of Brissac-Quincé, the story of Domaine des Rochelles and the wines of this region, in particular Anjou-Villages-Brissac, are intimately entwined. It was here that Anjou stalwart Hubert Lebreton, a key figure in the development of the appellation and once head of this family-run domaine, essentially defined the style that the dry wines of Anjou should follow. His work is widely acknowledged as having been central to the legal definitions of the Anjou (in 1936), Anjou-Villages (in 1987) and Anjou-Villages-Brissac (in 1998) appellations.
Today Hubert has long since yielded control to his son Jean-Yves Lebreton who now runs the domaine, assisted by his wife Anita. Hubert and Jean-Yves are, however, the third and fourth generations in the history of Domaine des Rochelles. The full story of this domaine actually goes back at least another couple of generations, to a time before the vine came to dominate. My story begins more than one hundred years ago with Edouard Lebreton, before I move on to look at significant recent developments here (including the fifth generation, now taking the helm), followed by an examination of the vineyards and wines on the next two pages.
The domaine was established by Edouard Lebreton in the late-19th century, at which time it was nothing more than a smallholding, where the vine was merely one crop among many other fruits, vegetables and cereals that were grown here. This was still the state of play when Edouard passed it to his son Emile Lebreton, who was instrumental in shaping the domaine into what it is today. He continued to run the smallholding as his father had done at least until 1940 when, in the midst of the turmoil of World War II, he decided to leave behind the old ways and to begin to cultivate only the vine. Domaine des Rochelles as we know it today was born.
From Emile the estate, now entirely viticultural, came first to Hubert Lebreton, as described in my introduction. It was Hubert who first planted Cabernet Sauvignon on the parcel named La Croix de Mission, for many years the domaine’s flagship wine (this position is perhaps now up for debate as the portfolio has expanded). This was a brave move by Hubert, as few in Anjou are willing to try their hand with this variety, and even fewer have succeeded. Picking the right terroir is vital, and warming schistous soils on a south-facing slope are immensely beneficial as this greatly aids the ripening of the fruit. Domaine des Rochelles is one of a handful of domaines that have managed to pull it off with Cabernet Sauvignon, the others including Domaine Ogereau on the schist of the Côte de la Houssaye, and Domaine de la Bergerie with the Evanescence cuvée. Few others spring immediately to mind.