La Ferme de la Sansonnière
The history of La Ferme de la Sansonnière is not a very long one, at least not in its current incarnation; this is not a domaine that was passed down from father to son through the generations until it landed, conveniently, in the lap of the current proprietor, Mark Angeli. Mark, a Corsican, was not born to a winemaking family at all, and as a young man he studied chemistry before then picking up hammer and chisel to train as a stonemason. Finding that he had fallen in love with wine, especially the moelleux style, he left his home in Aix-en-Provence for Bordeaux in order to study winemaking at the viticultural school at Château La Tour Blanche, in Sauternes. Having completed his studies he gained some further experience at Château Suduiraut, before arriving in Anjou in 1990, along with his wife Christine. At the time he was just 29 years old.
From the outset his focus had always been sweet wines, and so it should come as no surprise to learnt that the vineyards Mark (pictured below) and Christine Angeli eventually purchased were within the Bonnezeaux appellation which, along with Quarts de Chaume, is one of the two top sweet-wine appellations along the banks of the Layon. Mark duly set to work, his intention being to produce the finest examples of this wine that he could possibly achieve.
The Early Years
Even in these early years it soon became apparent that Mark Angeli was not a traditionalist who was willing to adhere, without question, to accepted wisdom. He soon began to experiment with his work in the vineyards and in the cellars, in doing so shaping his domaine into one that suited him. He started by grubbing up lesser quality clones, or vines grafted onto over-productive rootstocks, where the fruit was never going to be of an adequate quality. He experimented with new planting densities, although today much of the domaine is still planted at a very conventional 6,000 vines per hectares. He also established some new vineyards using ungrafted stock, vines planted on their own, phylloxera-susceptible roots; this was in 1994, just four years after he arrived, and these vines survived until the 2006 vintage.