If any evidence were required that Anjou is the true home of organic, biodynamic and ‘natural’ winemaking in the Loire, then perhaps Toby Bainbridge can help us. Toby is British, and currently forging a future for himself in the vineyards of Anjou. He landed here many years ago, first working for a domaine in Brissac, then another much closer to home, none other than René and Agnès at Domaine Mosse. In 2007 he began acquiring his own vineyards, slowly building for himself and his wife Julie a domaine which would, eventually, sustain them without the need for Toby to work elsewhere. And with each new acquisition the vineyards were converted to organic viticulture, and work in the cellar has been non-interventional from the outset.
My discovery of the wines of the Loire Valley was somewhat serendipitous; a hastily arranged holiday back in the early 1990s was the first time I walked among the vines and tasted the wines in situ. It was similar good fortune, the chance to study for three weeks in Angers, that brought Toby Bainbridge to this region of France for the first time. This was in 1997, and Toby was studying agriculture in England when he was given the opportunity to participate in an exchange with a French viticultural college. He spent three weeks working with Didier Chaffardon in Aubance, before returning to England; it was a short visit (although, to be fair, it was about five times the length of my first ever visit) but the bug had bitten deep it seems. Toby would return.
After finishing college Toby first took up work in Kansas and Oklahoma, working in large-scale agriculture, and during this time he met his wife-to-be, Julie. This was in 1999. Shortly thereafter he moved back to France, and Julie came too. At the time he was still working in general agriculture, but an encounter with Guy Bossard of Domaine de l’Ecu reignited his enthusiasm for viticulture and wine. He left large-scale agriculture, and went back to working for Didier Chaffardon again; this time, though, he stayed not for three weeks but for three years. It was in 2005 that he moved to work at Domaine Mosse. Toby’s time with Didier had given him some experience of organic viticulture, and at Domaine Mosse he continued to learn about sustainable methods in the vineyards, and a more ‘natural’ approach in the cellars.