Domaine de Bellivière, premium Chenin wines in the Loire Valley

Domaine de Bellivière

Originally published in 24/04/2017.

Finding new wines is one thing we like to do. Exploring the world, new wine regions and new grape varieties. We think this is one interesting side of Wineworld. Finding also a variety we haven’t tasted before is rewarding and when with it comes a wine region and a great winery, you hit the jackpot. This happened one year ago, when in a wine tasting we had in front of us a glass of Chenin Blanc, a white wine coming from the Loire Valley in France, where it shows its enormous potential. The wine selected by Jean Marcos for the occasion was Les Rosiers, a wonderful white wine produced by Domaine de Bellivière. It was an incredible wine that surprised us a lot and we found it so well balanced and structured that we chased down another bottle for some time later.

Eric and Christine Nicolas are in charge of this estate located in the town of Bellivière, a small place in the country depending on the village of Lhomme. And yes, they are specialized in producing wines elaborated with the local Chenin Blanc grape. They have a wide portfolio of wines under two different AOC: Coteaux du Loir and Jasnières. Then they have a few wines produced outside any AOC rules that they sell as Vin De Table.

Since the 2008 vintage all their wines are made from organically cultivated grapes (Ecocert Certificate). Also, the experience they have put together allows them to limit their production to the rare years when the quality and purity of botrytis will reveal of their best. Because of this, Domaine de Bellivière is a member of Sapros association whose target is to promote naturally concentrated wines.

At the Domaine all treatments are organic. All the works in the vineyard during the year are done manually. They own 65 parcels distributed in 5 villages for a total of 17 hectares. They have planted the two grape varieties chosen by the Cistercian monks: Chenin and Pineau d’Aunis. The harvest is manual to respect the integrity of the grape and to allow sorting as appropriate or necessary. All their wines are made entirely in barrel, exclusively using indigenous yeasts, fermenting at natural temperature.

We will talk today about the wines they produce with the Chenin Blanc.We have already said that Domaine de Bellivière is all about Chenin. They elaborate 10 wines with this variety plus a sparkling wine. All the Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir wines are Chenin Blanc 100%.

Every year the range of wines varies depending on the natural conditions. When the botrytis develops well the style of the wines goes from dry to noble-rotted sweet wine. Only in very good years they produce sweet wines.

Under AOC Jasnières they produce 6 wines:

Premices is made with young vines, recently converted to organic and it goes 10 months of ageing in oak).

Les Rosiers is a wine assembled from a selection of young vines. Depending on the year it goes form sec to demi-sec. 12 months of ageing in oak.

Calligramme is made with vines over 50 years. Depending on the year it goes form sec to demi-sec. It ages in oak barrels for 18 months.

Franc de Pied is made from ungrafted vines. 18 months of ageing in oak.

Discours de Tuf (mellow wine, produced only in 1997 and 1999) and Elixir de Tuf (very sweet, produced only in 1997, 2004 and 2005) are made in favorable years only. Noble rot (botrytis). Selective grape picking.

Under AOC Coteaux Du Loir they produce 4 white wines:

L’Effraie is a wine produced from young vines. Depending on the year it goes form sec to demi-sec. Each plot is vinified separately and then blended to age 12 months in oak.

Haut-Rasné is a wine made with young vines and resulting from the unique vineyard Haut-Rasné, able to capture noble rot (botrytis).

Philosophale Exceptional years (1997, 1998, 1999 and 2010) allow us to obtain this rarer botrytised wine. Selective picking with over 18% alcohol on the oldest parcels of Coteaux du Loir.

Vieilles Vignes Éparses is a wine produced from vines aged over 50 to 80 years. Depending on the year it goes form sec to demi-sec. Each plot is vinified separately and then blended to age over 18 months in oak.

Their special Chenin Blanc is Les P’tits Vélos, a sparkling wine.

Soon we will talk to Eric Nicolas, co-owner and vigneron, about his winemaking philosophy.

Photos © Domaine de Bellivière