Domaine de Bellivière – Eric et Christine Nicolas
The Sarthe department is full of resources, among which one is still unknown, its vineyard. As early as in medieval times, the Cistercian monks had identified the qualities of the soil, of the sun exposition and of the climate of Jasnières, but the phylloxera crisis, combined with the bad cultural practises of the local peasants, had for consequence the downgrading of this very old and venerable Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), in 1937.
As often, redemption comes from outside, this time from a ‘man of the North’, a Picard, who had the intuition that it was possible to grow great wines here, if the proper means were dedicated to the endeavour.
Pushed by an irrepressible desire of nature, Eric Nicolas decides to quit the petroleum industry and train as an oenologist in Montpellier, and with his wife Christine settles in Lhomme, in the department of Sarthe. Quite a challenge, for this area has suffered the use of intensive synthetic products and the soils are under artificial respiration. But after ten years of intense labour in the vines, life is back and earth boasts the colour of earth.
The vineyard is of course organic certified (since 2004), but a sensitive spirit like Eric would not stop there: always in quest of hamony he started studying and evaluating the principles of Biodynamics. Convinced of its benefits, he certifies the vineyard in 2008.
The Domaine de Bellivière is constituted of about thirty acres of AOC Jasnières (Whites produced exclusively out of cépage Chenin) and Coteaux-du-Loir (Whites of Chenin and reds of Pineau d’Aunis) and produces a wide range of plot vintages, from old as well as young vines.Their balance is the result of both nature and the climatology of the millesime. Produced with indigenous yields and without input, the wines are never identical. But the fruit is always ripe (chaptalisation is prohibited) and the minerality of flint and ‘tuffeau’ (limestone) affirmed.
Curnonsky, the prince of gastronomes used to say that wines from Jasnières were once a century the best of the world. I wonder what he would have said of the ones from Bellivière, my ‘domaine de cœur.’
Certified Organic (Ecocert) and Biodynamics (Biodyvin).