Domaine du Mortier Les Graviers

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Winemaker:  Cyril and Fabien Boisard

Appellation: Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France

Grape Varieties: Cabernet Franc

Vineyard: 50-years-old vines with low yields (25 hl/ha) on gravel in the Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil AOC. Estate-owned, certified organic.

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and spontaneously fermented as whole berries (semi-carbonic maceration) for 20 days. Gently pressed and aged for 10 months in neutral oak vat. Bottled without fining, filtration or sulfur addition. Vin Methode Nature.

Tasting Note: Deep red in the glass with purple highlights. Scents of raspberry and currant dominate the nose, and are backed by a dusting of stones. The red berry fruit follows through on the palate. This is a full and round red with loads of juicy berry fruit, a great mineral backbone and it finishes with a note of sweet spice.

Pairing: Serve with grilled artisan sausage, braised pork loin or grilled pork chops, savory chicken dishes, paté, cured meats and young or aged mild cheeses on warm, rustic bread or simply by itself.

The Mortier guys make multiple cuvées that reflect their diversity of terroirs: there’s the supple and silky Les Sables, named after the sandy soils and made to be enjoyed while young; Les Graviers from a single, 30-year-old plot on gravel that can age beautifully; Les Pins, the only Bourgueil AOC that the Boisards make, which is pleasantly balanced between roundness and minerality thanks to its chalky terroir and old vines that the brothers are slowly rehabilitating. And finally, there’s Dionysos, the estate’s top cuvée from selected oldest plots (50yo +) on the locally specific tuffeau (chalk) terroir aged for about a year in barrel, which is as flamboyant and epicurean as its name suggests.

The remaining 6 hectares represent an experimental project of agroforestry in a nearby village called Brain sur Allonnes – hence the pun Brain de Folie. Un brin de folie is a French expression meaning “a touch of madness”, but what the brothers are doing there is way more beautiful than crazy: these young plots enjoy enormous biodiversity brought by the myriad of bushes and trees planted among and around the vines and the fauna that thrives in them. This project is a continuation of the brothers’ belief in a naturally balanced ecosystem that allows the vines to defend themselves against diseases and pests; when needed, they use organic and biodynamic preparations only (the domaine is certified organic since 1999 and practicing biodynamics since 2007). The result is a range of pleasurable wines that burst with life, made with locally typical grapes like Sauvignon, Chenin, Grolleau or, of course, Cabernet Franc.

All the wines are made in a similar way: harvested manually in small crates, gently sorted and (depending on the cuvée) destemmed, then fermented spontaneously and slowly in the naturally low temperature of their cellar. No magic powders used, of course; the only addition is a little bit of mineral sulfur at bottling if needed.