François Ménard, Winegrower
Coming from a family who have been winegrowers for five generations, I have always been immersed in this environment. And yet, I didn’t actually want to be a winegrower at first. It was after my studies in business and working abroad – in Panama and Ireland – that my desire to make wine began to grow. I thus decided to go back to study for a specialist degree in viticulture and oenology (International Vintage Masters from the Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture in Angers). During this programme, I had the opportunity to visit many wine-producing regions in France and abroad, including in Italy, Hungary and Spain. I was particularly impressed by several estates, like RiLuce, Masi and Disznoko. I liked the way that these estates had managed to reinvent themselves while preserving the unique savoir-faire of their past and their wine region.
My studies concluded in Burgundy with an internship at Château de Pommard. There I discovered biodynamic winegrowing, an agricultural approach which is similar to organic farming, but which goes further by using plant-based preparations and rituals dictated by the moon. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to take part in the Rencontres Henri Jayer. It was an incredible moment and allowed me to meet and taste the wines of winemaking greats like Jean-Michel Deiss, Thibault Liger-Belair and Philippe Charlopin. I also met Claude and Lydia Bourguignon (the famous couple of soil specialists) and Jacky Rigaux there.
After this, I worked for some time in Chablis, at Domaine Rapet in Pernand-Vergelesses, and finally in South Africa at Reyneke. Thanks to all of this, I have experience making wine from various varieties (Chardonnay, Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir) with the techniques and philosophies of each winemaker and region. Enriched by these years of learning and discovery, I decided to come back to the family estate in April 2019.
Today, as a young producer, it is very important for me to continue the family story by highlighting the potential of Muscadet wines.
Identity of the Inspirations Range
On returning to the family estate in April 2019, I wanted to introduce new techniques, both in the vineyard and the winery. This triggered the idea to create a new range. The wines in the range are inspired by encounters with people, experiences and the wines I’ve tasted over the last few years.
The Inspirations range therefore represents a new chapter in the history of Domaine Ménard-Gaborit. As always, our aim is to produce top quality Loire wines with the characteristic freshness and fruitiness of the region and a highly drinkable, food-friendly style.
This wine is inspired by my travels and my desire to shake things up while highlighting the excellent potential of the Nantais vineyard. Contre-Courant is a new interpretation of the classic AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie. It is fermented and aged with no addition of sulphites.
To avoid using SO2, we use a technique called bio-protection. Bio-protection consists of adding micro-organisms (yeast or bacteria) on the grapes in order to control the development of harmful natural microbiota and thus prevent irregularities in the wine’s organoleptic qualities down the line. Fermentation and ageing are performed under a blanket of carbon dioxide that keeps the lees constantly in suspension. The wine is bottled under vacuum. This wine has never been in contact with oxygen and as a result will keep well for a long time.
This wine was grown on a subsoil of micaschist on a plot called Clos Cormerais. The idea was to produce a single-plot Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie. In order to show this terroir at its best without distorting its character, the wine was aged in a stoneware, egg-shaped vat for ten months.
Earthenware, and stoneware in particular, have advantages for ageing wines. Stoneware contains 62% silica which conserves the delicate character and lightness of wines. Moreover, in an egg-shaped vat, the lees are constantly suspended which gives the wine body while preserving the distinctive mineral character of this terroir.
Finally, to further preserve the character of the grape variety and the quality of the fruit, the wine is fermented using the natural yeasts.
Philosophy in the Vineyard and the Winery
Philosophy in the Vineyard
Having excellent grapes gives you the possibility to produce great wines.
The vine, which Man has cultivated for generations for its grapes, is first and foremost a climbing plant. Being a winegrower is a fantastic job which requires you to be patient, observe the plants, respect the living world, listen to nature and understand biodiversity Those are the principles on which my work in the vineyard is based. Farming the whole vineyard organically (AB certification) was an obvious choice to allow the terroir to show through in the different single-plot wines. The principles of biodynamic winegrowing are for me an additional source of inspiration and a goal towards which we shall work.
Philosophy in the Winery
The work in the winery must enhance the work in the vineyard. The aim is not to guide the wine, but to accompany it to where it wants to go.
The Nantes wine region is unique for its use of lees ageing for the production of Muscadet. The local traditions and savoir-faire are extremely important to me and I am very keen to preserve them, but I also wish to bring a fresh twist to some of the classics and make some changes. Since winemaking is the extension of all the work carried out in the vineyard, the idea for each wine comes first from the vines. The winemaker’s work in the winery helps to enrich the wines to show the terroir at its very best.
That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the Inspirations range that guides us to make precise and classically elegant wines with all the characteristics of the finest Loire wines.