Recently we were talking about Domaine de Bellivière, a winery located in the Loire Valley specialized in producing incredible white wines using local variety Chenin Blanc. We talk today to Eric Nicolas, co-owner and winemaker.
Bonjour, Eric, and thank you so much for your collaboration. Where your passion for Chenin Blanc comes from?
At the beginning, I was just a wine lover interested in all wines and grape varieties. When I decided to create the Domaine de Bellivière in Jasnières, I had tasted several wines from the Loire valley and especially from Jasnières and I was surprised by the expression of the soil (terroir) in the wine. The Chenin, as Riesling, transcribes the expression of terroir.
You produce six wines under AOC Jasnières and four more under AOC Coteaux Du Loir. Which are the differences we can find in the wines coming from each AOC?
The two AOC are very near and the soils are similar. The main difference is microclimatic because the AOC Jasnières is much more influenced by the Forest of Bercé than the AOC Coteaux du Loir. This influence results in the apparition of botrytis in the grapes of the AOC Jasnières and very often even when the wines are dry, they are rounder in Jasnières and much stricter in Coteaux du Loir wines.
Which AOC do you prefer for working and why?
I love working in both of them but in Coteaux du Loir are the oldest vines of the Domaine and I admire them.
We have tasted some Chenin from South Africa and though they are very good they don’t reach the levels of the local Chenin. What is so special here for the Chenin Blanc?
The complexity of the soil and mainly the special climate totally adapted to the cycle of Chenin are the main explanations.
In Jasnières you have produced Discours de Tuf (2009) and Elixir de Tuf (1997, 2004 and 2005). How come these wines are made so sparingly?
Those vintages offered enough botrytis to sort out. 2005 was a particular vintage. It was not a late harvest. The botrytis appeared very soon, massively and very purely. Since this year, I am waiting for a very pure botrytis to make again wines like that because I am looking for purity and fineness.
We find Les Rosiers simply fantastic. How is the winemaking process of this wine?
Les Rosiers corresponds to our youngest vines in the AOC Jasnières. Manually harvested and pneumatically pressed, then it ages 10 months in oak barrels and then it is bottled.
Which kind of oak barrels you do employ for the ageing?
Recent French oak barrels and 20% of new oak in the wines issued from old vines.
How do you transmit into your wines the terroir we find here in the Loire Valley?
A lot of work in the vines (ploughing, etc.) to obtain the most beautiful grapes and then nothing added into the wines except a little bit of SO2 before bottling.
How is your work in the vineyards? Almost all of your plots are now organic-certified.
All our plots are organic and biodynamic certified. Only when we receive a new parcel, it takes 3 years to convert it to organic.
How is your winemaking philosophy?
Trying to be as closely as possible to the plant to be able to understand it and not to apply ready-made receipt.
What do you like to offer in your wines? Is there an “Eric Nicolas” wine?
Elegance, fineness, purity and I think we have a style due to the aging in barrels in our natural cellars.
How is Les P’tits Vélos, a sparkling wine, produced?
The unique wine we made until now was a test with 2 barrels of Jasnières 2008. It had been harvested to vinify still wine so it was too rich to make a sparkling wine. That is why the wine was semi sweet and very digest because it was a natural refermentation.
We know that wines are felt like own children, but which are the wines you are most proud of? Any particular vintage?
2010 without hesitation. The vintage was so perfect for the vines that we did not make any treatment against diseases. And I am persuaded that the wines are purest. 2017 is starting to be like 2010.
Which wines do you like to drink when you are not working?
I am still a wine lover and I like to discover all kinds of wines.
Thank you so much, Eric!!
Photos (c) Domaine de Bellivière