Nicolas Joly (La Coulée de Serrant)

Coulée de Serrant has a long and proud history. Once a monastic vineyard- parts of the estate have been under vine for almost 900 consecutive vintages to date- it lies completely within the boundaries of Savennières, and is actually one of the few estates in France that is also its own appellation. 

Nicolas Joly had a successful career in finance when he took over his family’s estate in the Loire in 1977.   “They told me that my mother had been running the estate well, but in an old fashioned way, and it was now time for some modernity. I was told that if I started using weed killers, I’d save 14,000 Francs.” He took this advice, but regretted it almost immediately; the biodiversity in his vineyards plummeted. Even the soil seemed to die.  Joly wasn’t a follower of the green movement when he picked up a book on biodynamics; he was simply trying to find a better way to manage his vineyards. Since then, he has become one of the great authorities in the field, and his holdings have been farmed using biodynamic principles since 1984.

Nicolas now manages the winery with his daughter, Virginie. Following biodynamic principles, the Joly's use compost from their own herd of cows, donkeys, horses, and goats. To limit the negative effects of monoculture, more than a dozen different native plants are found throughout the vineyards, allowing each root to develop different micro-organisms. Sheep feed on the cover crop and leave manure. In the spring, a chicken coop is set up in the areas with snails. Biodynamic preparations are made from medicinal plants (mostly from the winery property) including: sage, sorrel, willow, nettle, elm, oak bar, arnica, and blackthorn. Horses are used to plow between the rows, and of course, no pesticides come anywhere near these pristine vineyards. Grapes are harvested late, so that the wines gain in complexity. In the opinion of the Joly family, Chenin achieves complexity only when it is fully ripe. To harvest the most perfectly ripe berries, harvesting is done in several passes. In the winery, the process is as natural and hands-off as possible. There is no chaptilization, only indigenous yeasts are employed, there is no settling of the grape must, and natural temperature variation is allowed during fermentation. Because fermentations take place naturally, they may last 2 to 4 months or more. While this is a terrifying prospect to most winemakers, it is simply how things are done at this famed estate.

"Coulée de Serrant is a remarkable estate and is one of only 3 single estate appellations within France today (the other 2 being Romanée Conti and Château-Grillet). Its sheltered, southwest-facing vineyard is an ancient monastic vineyard and is located within the boundaries of the Savennières Appellation. The 7 hectares of vines have been farmed on biodynamic lines since 1982 and owner Nicolas Joly is one of the most passionate advocates of this controversial approach to viticulture. This wine is fermented and matured in wood and is bottled after a very light and delicate filtration. This is one of the greatest dry white wines in France - it needs at least 5 years bottle age and wines from the best vintages will last and last." —Jasper Morris
Vintage Notes for 2015
This vintage was fairly similar to 2013: late from start to finish. Flowering occurred a couple of weeks later than usual from the end of June to early July while, in an average year, floraison takes place mid-June. Though there was a period of hotter weather, the growing season was more marked by steady sunshine and temperate weather than by heat, so the vines did not suffer. Virginie notes that this type of summer- sunny without excessive temperatures- is ideal for Chenin. 
Harvest began on the 7th of October, about two weeks later than average. There was quite a bit of morning mist in the vineyards just before harvest, increasing botrytis development, especially in the Vieux Clos (15-20%). In the Clos de la Bergerie and Coulée de Serrant botrytis development was the usual 8-10%. The Jolys do not shy away from botrytis as it contributes to complexity, though Virginie notes that with more botrytis on the grapes the wines require more time before drinking. Opened too early they may taste closed, or show overpowering oxidized botrytis aromas, but these integrate with time to a fuller and more complex expression. She finds that the 2015 Vieux Clos will need a couple of years before its full potential can be appreciated.
Vintage Notes for 2014
The 2014 vintage went quite well for the Jolys. The growing season started out a little worrying, with quite a lot of rain in April and May. Luckily, this cleared up by June, and flowering occurred under ideal conditions of sunshine and moderate temperatures. The rest of the season continued with excellent weather: reasonably warm and sunny, with occasional rain and cloudy skies which eliminated any threat of drought. Botrytis development was low with minimal mildew issues, and harvest started the first week of October. In tasting the 2014s, this vintage proves to be friendly, approachable, and already worth opening and enjoying.