Today, Domaine de Bellivière is recognized for the immense quality and personality of its great Chenins and its delicious Pineau d’Aunis “Le Rouge Gorge”.
THE LOVE OF TERROIR
In the 1970s, the winemaker Joël Gigou pioneered a renewal of Jasnières and Coteaux-du-Loir as viticultural areas. Eric Nicolas, a city kid without any roots in either the region or in agriculture, developed a passion for vines and wines, and after studying oenology, he looked in the Loire to acquire vineyards, mainly because he had met several passionate winemakers there. Eric and his wife Christine found an estate with some vines, but mostly grazing fields, trees and grains. They nurtured the existing old vines and did a lot of planting, to get to their current 14 hectares, scattered over 65 parcels within 6 villages (sounds more like Burgundy or Champagne than a tiny, obscure appellation!) They use sélectionmassale rather than clones, and plant at a density of 9,300 vines per hectare. They also planted an experimental plot where the density is 40,000 vines per hectare, to observe the development of the root system and the influence of terroir on botrytized grapes (one grape per vine). Though organic from the start, the Nicolas came to be firm believers in biodynamic viticulture and have been certified since 2011.
Chenin Blanc represents the vast majority of the Bellivière production. Grapes are diligently picked by hand, some years in passes if the vintage is suitable for botrytis. In the cellar, each parcel is vinified individually in barrels of various shapes and sizes, permitting Eric and his son Clément to make judicious blending choices each vintage. Fermentations are always done with native yeasts, and often they will not finish all of the grapes’ sugars. Eric has chosen to embrace this reality, letting the vintage decide how dry each cuvée will be. Occasionally the wines can be demi-sec, but more often they are offdry, with perceptible sugars that integrate seamlessly and add complexity. For years, the barrels lived in the four little cellars carved out of the tuffeau limestone mountain behind the house. In 2015, an impressive and modern winemaking facility was built out. Futuristic in aesthetic and forward thinking in design, its three-floor layout permits immaculate precision for working by gravity. The grapes are pressed on the second floor and racked by gravity to two floors (one subterranean) to barrels for fermentation and long élevages.