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Domaine des Sablonnettes - NEW


Facts and wines

Domaine des Sablonnettes belongs to Anjou, an area located in the western part of the Loire Valley, which takes its name from the nearby city of "Angers". Les Sablonnettes is owned by Joël Ménard and his wife Christine.

Buy their wines here Red wine White wine Sweet wines Red wine
  • Menard Le Rouge 2018 Vin de France Cabernet franc, Gamay, Grolleau
White wine
  • Le Saule 2014 Vin de France 100% Chenin blanc
Sweet wines
  • Le Quart d'Heure Angevin Rosé 2018 Vin de France 100% Cabernet franc
  • Fleur d'Erables 2017 Vin de France 100% Chenin blanc
  • Les Erables 2017 Vin de France 100% Chenin blanc
  • Auguste 2017 Vin de France 100% Chenin blanc

A passion and a hard start

The domaine was founded by Joël's father, who was originally a "tonnelier" (barrel) and lived by repairing oak casks for the local winegrowers. With the spread of metal tanks at the beginning of the 1960s, he sees his business gradually disappearing and therefore chooses to saddle up and try his luck as a wine producer instead. Gradually, as the economy allows, he buys a few hectares of vineyards in the village of Rablay-sur-Layon and begins to produce wines, which he sells, as best as possible, through barn door sales to private customers.

Already as a child, Joël Ménard had a great interest in working in the vineyards, where he helped his father as soon as he finished school. He soon wanted this to be his livelihood, but in the late 70s/early 80s the wines were not selling very well. The father therefore demands that Joël first get a "real" education, so that he can get a job to fall back on. Joël is therefore apprenticed as an electromechanic. After a few attempts at various jobs, he decides to pursue his dream with Christine, whom he had just met.

Without an education in wine production, the two had to learn everything from Joël's father, who ran the farm, as most did according to conventional methods. The start was tough. There were many challenges in being a wine farmer and it was difficult to get the finances together. Among other things, the weather gods struck hard in the spring of 1991, when the frost destroyed virtually the entire production. But Joël and Christine persevered and gradually found their way of working and living, which aimed for more naturalness and authenticity.

Ecology and biodynamics – more terroir flavor

They are therefore experimenting with ecology, a production method which is in line with the couple's philosophy of life. Since, after the inevitable initial difficulties, it turns out to have a markedly positive effect on both the vines and the wines, it is formalized through certification in 1996. After a few years, Joël and Christine take another step towards biodynamic cultivation.

The main purpose of biodynamic cultivation is to dynamise life in the soil and favor the exchange between the soil and the plant, through the use of various preparations. According to the supporters of the method, this results in wines that have a clearer terroir character, where the nature of the soil comes to the fore. In the case of Domaine des Sablonnette, it is the slate foundation of the fields which can be felt more clearly in the wines and which gives them nerve and firmness. The wines not only taste of the grape they are made from and the climate in which they grow, but they also get the specific taste of the place. In addition to the increased terroir flavor, the biodynamicists claim that the method has a number of other positive effects on the plants' immune defenses, the health of the soil, etc.

In the company of some of the world's best wine producers

The effects of biodynamics must be felt more than they can be measured and weighed. This method of production can therefore make people with a strict scientific approach shake their heads. They lack evidence.

However, it must be noted that over the last 20 years, the method has gained ground among many recognized domains. Some of them have joined together in the prestigious association "La Renaissance des Appellations", which includes such prominent names as Domaine Leroy, Domaine Leflaive and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. Domaine des Sablonnettes is a long-standing member of this closed club, testifying to the domaine's level of quality.

The wines of Domaine des Sablonnette

Joël and Christine Ménard, who today are seconded by their eldest son Jérémy, produce all Anjou wines: whites, reds, rosés and sweet wines.

Uncomplicated and mouth-watering white, red and rosé wines

The first three types can be described as lovely wines in the bistro class, i.e. uncomplicated and honest wines at affordable prices, which can accompany uncomplicated food or be enjoyed on their own due to their fresh and mouth-watering character. "Vins délieurs de langues et noueurs de liens...", as the couple call them - "Wines that loosen tongues and bind ties...".

World-class sweet wines

The domain's sweet wines are a chapter of their own

For over 2 decades, the Ménard family has been one of the driving forces behind the qualitative comeback of Côteaux du Layon and is considered one of the best producers of sweet wines in the Loire Valley.

After a long and proud history of several centuries, industrialization from the 1960s has taken over in Anjou, as in most other wine regions in France. The area, with its considerable size, bets heavily on the volume market and cheap consumer wines. Modern clones, chemicals and artificial fertilizers are used massively to ensure high yields. At the same time, the production processes are simplified and rushed in order to keep costs down. Chaptalisation [: Addition of sugar to the must, to increase alcohol, volume and possibly sweetness (sweet wines):] becomes the norm.

The method makes it possible to produce sweet wines in a quick and cheap way, but it also results in boring wines with a simplified and caricatured expression without the complexity that is obtained through the traditional method with late harvest and botrytis cinerea ("the noble rot ").

Together with a handful of other ambitious winegrowers in the local area, Joël Ménard set out in the early 1990s to revive the great sweet wines of Côteaux du Layon. The starting point has been the recognition that Côteaux du Layon is, without doubt, through its natural conditions, a great terroir for the production of sweet botrytized wines.

A unique terroir

The strengths of the place are:

A northern climate which ensures a slow ripening of the grapes and thus increased complexity.
A grape (Chenin Blanc) which retains a fresh acidity even at high maturity and which is highly susceptible to the fungus botrytis cinerea.
A relatively humid climate due to the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the river Layon, which creates fertile ground for botrytis in autumn.
South-facing slopes which ensure optimal ripening.
Poor slate soil that gives concentrated grapes, a mineral backbone as well as fragrance and flavor complexity to the wines.
With the natural factors in place, all that is missing is vision, will and talent – ​​and precisely these qualities, Joël and Christine Ménard possess to a great extent.

So while many of their uncomprehending colleagues have shaken their heads for many years to see the two "originals" spraying their biodynamic preparations, while flowers and weeds grow among the vines and the grapes hang and dry until the end of November, the couple continues to explore and refine the craft.

They are gradually mastering the difficult art of making great sweet wines using the special botrytis fungus, a discipline that approaches equilibrium, where you constantly run the risk of rot going from noble to just all-destructive rot.

The magic of Botrytis

The result of the many trials at Domaine des Sablonnettes is a unique range of late-harvest sweet wines, where the first harvested (typically beginning of October), without or with just a little botrytis, are wines with a light sweetness and a clear character, most often reminiscent of fresh apples and pears.

Those harvested later have a higher proportion of botrytised grapes – up to 100% for the last harvested. Botrytis concentrates the sweetness in the wines and at the same time changes their chemical composition, resulting in a sea of ​​aromas and flavors ranging from baked and caramel tones to honey, spices, exotic fruits etc.

In addition, the acid is also concentrated, which keeps the wines in balance, regardless of how high the sugar content becomes.

Diversification – sweet rosés, sweet red wines etc

Domaine des Sablonnettes has, in addition to the classic Côteaux du Layon wines on Chenin Blanc, experimented with great success with late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Grolleau etc. This has resulted in many exciting sweet white and rosé wines.

With the recent addition of their eldest son Jérémy, who, among other things, has worked in Banyuls, sweet red wines have also been added.

With Domaine des Sablonnettes, you can thus match any dessert or dish with sweet elements and this at many different price levels.