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Belliviere, a reference for Chenin lovers

Domaine de BellivièreLocated in the Sarthe, about fifty kilometers north of Vouvray, between Tours and La Mans, the domaine de Bellivière was created from scratch in 1995. It now has 15 hectares, all of which have been managed in organic farming since 2005. The wines are doubly certified organic: organic farming since the 2008 vintage and biodynamic since the vintage 2011.

Spread over 5 communes along the Loir and its tributaries, Bellivière magnifies two appellations almost unknown to the general public - Coteaux du Loir and Jasnières - as none of the few nearby wine-producing areas produces red and white wines of such a quality. This is not the result of chance: it is all the character and philosophy of Christine and Eric Nicolas, associated with excellent terroirs (flint clay for reds and tuffeau + sands micaceous for whites) and very old vineyards, which allowed them to develop these great wines from the grape varieties of kings: chenin and pineau d'Aunis.

Specializing in chenin, the appellation the Jasnières (a small strip of vines that is just over 5 km long and 1 km wide) offers a very different face to this grape variety. The notes of ripe citrus fruits mingle with quince. Wines for cellaring, the wines of the Jasnières flourish in their textures and flavors only after 5 to 7 years in a good cellar.

Previously totally unknown, and then become a reference for lovers of chenin, the wines of the Domaine de Bellivière are today more than a curiosity for a public of amateurs pointed. Almost unavoidable in a cellar, like the Château Grillet in the past ...

How did they get there? Since 2010, Eric Nicolas works with the favorite nurseryman of the great French winemakers concerned about their terroir. Lilian Bérillon advises him and elaborates with him his massive selections: the best old vines of the vineyard will serve, by means of learned grafts, to renew the plots or to plant new ones.
The soils are plowed or scraped according to the season and are modified with natural compost.

The harvest is manual to respect the integrity of the grapes, which is also sorted to remove any immature berries. The wines are vinified in the beautiful tuffeau cellar, at natural temperature, thanks to native yeasts and entirely in barrels. A new cellar is operational since the 2015 harvest. It was entirely thought for grape and wine movements only by gravity. It is also the symbol of the dynamism of this exceptional couple who invests without stopping and works hard to improve the quality of its many vintages, not forgetting the energy savings ...

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate : The qualitative standard-bearers along the little Loir, Christine and Eric Nicolas have turned in predictably excellent collections of 2009 and 2008 Chenin Blanc, in both instances picking the second and third weeks in October, which reflects the remarkable consistency I’ve noticed here and at a couple of other Coteaux du Loir addresses, even as their more famous neighbors to the south in Vouvray and Montlouis have experienced dramatic fluctuations in quality and/or style from one growing season to the next.  (For more about them and their region, consult my report in issue 172. Unfortunately, I have not had chance to taste the intervening 2006 and 2007 vintages from this address.) And for those who have discovered the unique charms of Pineau d’Aunis (perhaps through the Nicolases, since there are no better practitioners of this nowadays little-appreciated dark sister of Chenin), 2009 is heaven-sent – at least, as far as quality is concerned; sadly the yield in red wine was small, though the same could be said of Chenin Blanc from his younger vines, says Nicolas, which suffered on account of the dry late summer. Even though none of the 2009 whites finished analytically dry, their sweetness is scarcely evident, a single nobly sweet lot being the exception, and alcohol levels are in the 13s. While the rotation of barrels chez Belliviere normally keeps the percentage of new wood (largely demi-muids) at 15% overall, 20-25% is more typical for the 2008s, and whether – especially in his wines from younger vines – Nicolas chose wisely to utilize that percentage in precisely so actively acidic (and hence, perhaps, more aggressively extractive) a vintage strikes me as questionable. With his usual meticulousness, Eric Nicolas assembled my samples of 2009 from every one of his barrels so there is no question as to how “representative” were the wines I tasted.

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