La Ferme de la Sansonnière, 2010 Update

I have very mixed feelings about the wines of Mark Angeli, the philosophically self-styled paysan solidaire. As I have written in my profile of La Ferme de la Sansonnière, his commitment to the land is admirable, his vines tended using biodynamic methods, his ferme a haven of healthy polyculture ranging from honey bees to cattle, from cereal to the vine. But this return to a life in harmony with nature should – to my mind – be only part of the story, not the dominating feature. And I would like that story to culminate in a collection of delicious wines which, without doubt, Angeli is capable of making.

La Ferme de la Sansonnière

Sadly the story and the ending do not always sit happily together; ultra-natural winemaking means low- or zero-sulphur, and when sulphur use is pushed to the limit that can sometimes mean oxidised wines. Angeli is the figurehead of the ultra-natural school in the Loire Valley, and this was clearly seen (or rather, clearly tasted) at last year’s Dégustation Renaissance when Angeli’s wines all displayed, alongside their profoundly high-quality fruit and defined structure, a seam of oxidation. No doubt some regard this as acceptable, the means perhaps more important than the end, but I am not in this camp. An oxidised wine is a wine lost forever, not a wine of charm to be admired for its ‘natural’ state. I abhor oxidation in most wines, especially in Loire Chenin Blanc, where it seems most incongruous when contrasted against the fragrant and floral aromas that often typify these wines. To replace these characteristics with the aromas of oxidisation is little more than a tragedy.

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