How exciting it is to discover a great, under-the-radar producer, making superb wines with a long track record of quality. And then to be able to display both the quality and longevity of the wines by finding an estate that also embraces a philosophy of holding back old vintages and offering them for sale.
Such is the case for Domaine aux Moines, though the under-the-radar part has evolved to rising star status in recent years with a series of lights out wines from vigneronne Tessa Laroche, not to mention the 2017 release of the book, Domaine Aux Moines: A Year at the Domaine, with text by world-renowned sommelier and Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), Pascaline Lepeltier.
The estate was founded in 1981, though there are records of vineyards planted in the region since the middle ages when the monks (“moines” in French) from the Abbaye de St Nicolas tended vines in the area. It was founded by the Madame Monique Laroche, a true force of nature, and is now run by her energetic daughter Tessa Laroche. The estate comprises 12 hectares of Chenin Blanc planted on south and southwest facing hillsides that abut the famed Coulee de Serrant in the Savennières sub-appellation of "Roche Aux Moines".
Savennieres is located on the Western edge of the Anjou region in the Loire valley, not far from the city of Angers. The vineyards sit on hillsides overlooking the Loire river. The proximity to the river helps to temper the cold of the region as well as encourage ripeness and protect against springtime frosts. The soils in Savennières are predominantly schists with some sandstone and clay. They tend to produce a flinty, drier style Chenin Blanc that can age for a a long time.
Both mother and daughter have always taken a natural approach in their vineyard work and cellar practices. Through the diligent efforts and meticulous work of Tessa and her team, the domaine earned organic certification by Eco-cert in 2011. Yields are kept extremely low, which by law in "Roche Aux Moines" means under 30 h/h, and often less. All work is done by hand including the harvest which occurs slowly over a few weeks (5-6 “tries” or pickings). The wines are all fermented with indigenous yeasts, and aged in a combination of tank and cask (220 and 400-liter, mostly used), with usually 65-75% tank and the rest wood. Bottling is done around 15-16 months after harvest, though the winery stocks an old vintage or two for all of our benefit.
With the addition of the succulent and electric Le Berceau des Fées cuvée to the domaine's full lineup of wines, Tessa Laroche has established Domaine Aux Moines as one of the most exciting organic Chenin Blanc estates in the region. We are so pleased to be along for the ride!