Domaine des Sablonnettes
In the case for establishing Anjou, in the Loire Valley, as the birthplace (or at least spiritual homeland) of just about every significant wine ‘movement’ in existence, Domaine des Sablonettes is yet another vital piece of evidence. Where so many regions boast a handful of organic domaines, here there are dozens. There is no shortage of enthusiasm for biodynamic viticulture either, led by the Steiner guru Nicolas Joly. And a ‘hands off’ or ‘natural’ approach, using low doses (or indeed, no doses) of sulphur dioxide and other manipulations is certainly not a rare phenomenon here.
Domaine des Sablonettes fits all these descriptions. Joël Menard first converted his vines to organic viticulture, then moved on to biodynamics. Early success in some benevolent vintages convinced him that good wine could be made without significant manipulation in the winery, and this is a maxim he has adhered to ever since. And in doing this, sticking with all the usual Anjou suspects including Grolleau, Gamay and others, he seems to have earned a place in the hearts of all ‘natural’ wine fans, no doubt helped by the honest and homely nature of his wines. Easily picked out at any tasting by his woollen hat, the colour of which probably changes with the biodynamic calendar (palatinate purple for root days perhaps, maybe dark brown for flower days, but I’m not sure of the colour for leaf days), his wines are always in demand. Strange, then, that Joël came to the life of a vigneron in a resigned manner, having been actively discouraged by his father, and having first left home to find other work in the city. Indeed, despite being born into a family of viticulteurs, Joël Menard came to winemaking almost by accident.
In this profile I detail how Joël Menard drifted away and then back to the vine, before looking at his domaine today, and the eclectic range of wines he and his wife Christine produce.