Guide to the Loire regions

Val du Loir

Producer Profiles – Coteaux du Vendômois  

Domaine de Montrieux (1999)

There are no signs to help locate Emile Hérédia’s cellar on the busy Vendôme to Montoire road. He and his partners purchased the house and ancient cave in 1999 when he moved to the region. When asked from where he came, the somewhat dashing Emile replied cryptically that he arrived via Cuba, Spain and Algeria and muttered something about the second voyage of Columbus. In reality he is from an old family of vignerons and he inherited these ancient vines from his grandfather. He is an outspoken man, not shy when wanting to share his thoughts on his winemaking philosophy, or his views on where, or rather where not vines should be planted within the appellation.

Wine Overview :
He farms seven hectares between Villiers-sur-Loir and Naveil-Vendôme. These are some of the most distinguished slopes within the appellation, and which also happen to be blessed with some of the oldest vines. One parcel of Pineau d’Aunis planted on its original roots in 1870 predates the arrival of phylloxera. More recently he has established a new vineyard using material he selected him his own existing vines. He has been certified organic since he started, and has no faith in the clonal material on offer through the official channels. He believes that the one clone that is perpetuated by the authorities is selected for its high yielding abilities, essentially for vinifying into gris. In addition to the Pineau d’Aunis there is also old vine Gamay which is vinified as a naturally sparkling red Vin de Table. Hérédia’s inspiration for this comes from a village called Cerdon in the obscure wine region of Bugey, which he describes as being in ‘the bad part of Burgundy’, and indeed, during medieval times, it was. There, the pétillant Gamay is left with about 40 g/l of residual sugar, although this version is bone dry (see note below).

In the cellar, everything is done as naturally and with as little intervention as possible. As regards the Pineau d’Aunis, whole berries are thrown into a tank and sealed. Therein starts an intracellular fermentation; the catalyst for any wines made by carbonic maceration. Convention states that after a couple of days you start to work the grapes and allow the fermentation to complete itself in the presence of yeast and oxygen. Hérédia chooses to do nothing. He simply leaves the berries in the tank and allows them to macerate for three months, usually until the middle of January. From here, fermentation completed, the free run wine is allowed to drain naturally using the forces of gravity into a clean tank (no press wine is added back), settled and eventually bottled through a 200 micron filter without any fining. At this stage no sulphur dioxide has been added (he has only once seen fit to add SO2 to a fermenting wine, in the dreadful 2001 vintage), but a protective dose of 20mg/l is added at bottling. The wine then remains in the cellar for one year before release.

His young vine (less than 50 year old) Pineau d’Aunis fruit is pressed directly into tank and vinified into gris. There is no malolactic on this, and the alcoholic fermentation itself can take up to six months. His Chenin is also pressed directly into barriques and allowed to ferment quietly in the tufa caves until dry.

The Wines :  
As unconventional as the wines of Emile Hérédia might be, and despite his relatively short time in the Vendômois (he has vinified less than 10 vintages to date), he is the vigneron most likely to reinstate this obscure region on the viticultural map.

2007 Coteaux du Vendômois Gris
If most gris that have been so far described in this piece on the wines of the Vendômois as ‘salmon pink’, this one shows the authentic appearance of oeil de gardon, or ‘roach eye’. Dry and austere on the nose. Tight and unevolved on both the nose and palate. Serious, with good grip. This is no facile rosé. The flavour is of prunes, or eau-de-vie prunelle. This is more like a Rosé de Riceys and should be expected to age the same way. (12/08)

2006 Coteaux du Vendômois Blanc
One third is from 100 year old Chenin Blanc vines, and the balance are over 50 years of age, grown on the south facing slopes just to the west of Vendôme. Rich and waxy nose. Mineral and very pure, with a creamy texture on the palate. Very fresh and clean. The oak shows a little at this stage. Excellent potential. (12/08)

(2007) Boisson Rouge - Vin de Table
From very old vine Gamay and fermented naturally in bottle so as to remain pétillant. The tirage for this particular bottling was the 12th December 2007 and degorged after 5 months. Closed on the nose. Bone dry and austere on the palate with a full mousse. Peppery and with great minerality and focus. Not unlike a dry Sparkling Shiraz, but much more severe. Certainly individual and equally controversial. (12/08)

Le Verre des Poètes, Franc de Pied - Vin de Table
Made from very old vine Pineau d’Aunis and sold as a Vin de Table. This in itself is controversial, but the argument doesn’t stop here. Hérédia’s method of production (as described above) is unconventional, even if it replicates winemaking from a past age. The wine is non-conformist, it retains some carbon dioxide, which, unless displaced by decanting, can be off putting to all but the most seasoned taster. I’ve resisted offering a tasting note as, given the wine is sold as a Vin de Table, it carries no vintage recognition, although the labels tend to differ from year to year. Should you get the opportunity to taste it, expect great purity, an essence of Pineau d’Aunis: wild, spicy and untamed. The use of carbon dioxide, in my view, is a clever one. It acts as a preservative and helps negate the use of sulphur dioxide at bottling. It does mean that the wine needs careful handling and preparation prior to opening, but it is about as true and as natural a wine as one can expect to find in these days of over refinement. It will, however, clearly not be to everyone’s taste. (12/08) 

Emile Hérédia
Domaine de Montrieux
43 Rue de Montrieux
T: + 33 2 54 77 75 40
P: + 33 6 84 23 35 40
F: + 33 2 54 77 75 40


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