- Savennières, Loire, France
"Coulée de Serrant is a remarkable estate and is one of only three single estate appellations within France today (the other two 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 seven 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 five years bottle age and wines from the best vintages will last and last." —Jasper Morris
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.
Notes from Joly on 2016 Vintage: The 2016 vintage conditions were rather tumultuous. Late spring was very cold, though we fortunately avoided spring frost. June was particularly wet, and heavy downpours resulted in damage at flowering. A very hot summer followed, but a cooler fall finally tempered the excessive temperatures, allowing the grapes to achieve balanced ripeness. Harvest began on October 7th and went very quickly, however the shatter in June reduced the crop by 50%. With golden grapes, some botrytis and a finely sculpted structure, the 2016s are a beautiful expression of our Chenin. The wines were fermented and aged in barrel, with a spontaneous full malolactic fermentation. 2016 is fine, linear, with a long finish and an integrated acidity nicely balancing the botrytis' fleshiness.
Notes from Joly on the 2017 Vintage: 2017 is a benchmark vintage. An early spring frost resulted in extremely low yields (less than 15hl per hectare, at best!!!) The final effect, however, is a remarkable aromatic complexity, amplified and reinforced by the dry summer and fall that followed. This is a must-have vintage for the cellar. The 2017 remains rather closed in its youth and will benefit from a few years of aging, or from opening 24 hours in advance and decanting.
Notes from Joly on the 2018 Vintage: A quite generous vintage, despite a complicated spring with high disease pressure through July. The summer finished on a drier note, drawing to a close with a harvest that took place in nearly perfect conditions. Golden berries, 5% botrytis, and a total of five selective harvests to bring in the grapes, followed by a long, gentle ferment. The wine’s mineral through line supports a rounded, pleasing expression of fruit.