On an intellectual level, I knew that this part of the Loire has a very high concentration of interesting winemakers. In fact, this particular stretch along the Cher river – which includes the villages of Thésée, Pouillé, and the superbly named, Bourré – is home to a cluster of exciting natural winemakers, such as Bruno Allion, Noella Morantin, Courtault-Tardieux, Mikaël Bouges and Les Maisons Brûlées.
However, I had not realised that, on a practical level, this means that even popping down to the local Carrefour late on a Thursday night was not without risk of running into somebody.
“Ah bah, tiens, tu fais quoi là?”
It’s Moses Gadouche. I’m not sure whether to reveal the rather embarassing truth that he’s caught me red-handed, trying to decide between a stale baguette or a slightly less stale but certainly no more appealing loaf.
“Come by tomorrow,” he tells me, “because we’ll be doing the dégorgement.”
Getting down and disgorging in the #Loire last week! Dégorgement (or 'disgorging' in English) is the process of removing the yeasts which have collected in the neck of the bottle. It's an essential step in the making of #Champagne and other 'Traditional Method' sparking wines. Blog post with more info to come later today. #wine #winelover #DomainedesCapriades #BullesauCentre
What is Dégorgement?
Making a Champagne or Champagne-style wine is actually fairly straightforward. After the first fermentation, you take your fledging wine and bottle it, usually along with a little bit of sugar (called liqueur de tirage.) During the subsequent secondary fermentation and maturation stage, you need to keep rotating the upside-down bottle (a process known as riddling or remuage.) Eventually, the sediment from the dead yeasts will collect in the bottleneck. Dégorgement (literally, “un-throat-ing”) is the term to describe the removal of this sediment and the application of a new capsule or cork. Nowadays this is usually done by machine, but in a very few rare cases, it is still done by hand.
Pascal Potaire and Moses are in their cellar, surrounded by bottles. Half the bottles are neck-down, stored in an hexagonal cage, known as a gyropalette. There’s a violent pop as Pascal, standing proud in the centre of the room, prises open a bottle. There’s a special technique for disgorging by hand…and it takes years of practice. He’s certainly the man for the job.
Without wasting more than a couple of drops of precious wine, Pascal has removed the lees and masterfully given the bottleneck a quick clean before putting the bottle on the table next to Moses and I.
Our job is refilling. Refilling both the bottles (to replace any lost juice) but also refilling our own wine glasses during this monotonous process. 🙂
Moses and Pascal are predominantly négociants – meaning that they don’t have their own vineyards, but they buy and harvest organic grapes from the local area.
They are joint partners of the Domaine des Capriades, which they officially started in 2011. Annual production is now approximately 30,000 bottles, but a large part of that is magnums and/or bottles which they’ve laid down and won’t see the light of day for many years.
They’ve made the rather courageous decision to focus exclusively on making dry sparkling wines, which they make using the méthode ancestrale. The cuvées that they are most known for are the “Piège à Filles” (Girl Trap) range.
There’s a fruity red made from the Gamay Teinturier variety, an off-dry rosé (Gamay, Grolleau Noir and Côt) as well as an aromatic white blend (Chenin, Chardonnay, Sauvignon.) While I was there we also opened a bottle of Pét Sec – a bone dry blend of Chardonnay and Menu Pineau, aka Arbois. All the wines are deliciously fresh, fruity and also, surprisingly sophisticated.
On first appearances, you might think the French really don’t need any more sparkling wines. They have Champagne, after all, don’t they? A cheaper alternative – frequently found in French supermarkets to the delight of foreign tourists – is a Crémant. (Definition: wines made according to the Champagne-method but not from that most prised chalky terroir just east of Paris.)
Moses and Pascal, however, make méthode ancestrale wines, and that term means that no extra sugars or yeasts have been added to trigger the secondary fermentation in the bottle.
These are the next step in evolving French sparkling wine market. They are far more vibrant than your average Champagne, which has probably been bashed and bruised by sugar and sulphites. No, these are far more alive.
These in particular also show a wonderful balance and delicate mouthfeel with none of the throat-burning acidity that is often displayed in cheap Crémant.
I can’t wait to come back in the summer for Bulles Au Centre (a wine tasting organised by Moses and Pascal) and to try even more of their fantastic sparkling wines!
SARL Les Capriades
6 route de Tours, 41400, Faverolles-sur-Cher