We live in Sarthe (Department 72), it is the region for Jasnieres wine, a specialty White wine that is exceptional not just for its flavours but for the length of time it can be kept, decades I have been told, but 10 or 20 years will not harm this wonderful white wine, only enhance it, (that’s if you can leave it that long).
The vineyards in the area have special flinty soil, allowing the flavours and fragrance of the ‘terroir’ to permeate the wine and with the care that is taken by the families producing these wines you will have a very unique experience while enjoying a very pleasant wine. The wine ranges from very dry to sweet depending on the vineyard and the year.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the Cave of the family Gigou on numerous occasions, with guests and friends, enjoying the spectacular of their vast wine cave, they enjoy taking the visitors through the cave, explaining their processes (all organic) and the passion they have for the wine and the vines/grapes is so obvious.
Joel & Sylvie Gigou purchased the vineyard and cave in 1974 and have built on the original 5 acres to the 13 acres they have today, managed and run as a family business with Joel and Ludovic and Dorothee (son and daughter) working the business and the vineyards.
They tend the grapevines on a daily basis, ensuring the best can be brought from the seasons, to produce the yield for the yearly harvest, in late September, the exact date is dependent on the weather and how hot it has been during the year. The harvest of the grapes ‘vendanges’ is a busy time for all of the vineyards, they have to time it perfectly, to gain the most from their grapes and taking the harvest back to the cave for the pressing and storage and the new year begins.
The temperature and sunshine hours has a direct impact on the quality and quantity of the wine produced each year. They have a delicious sweet Jasnieres wine, (Raisins Noble) this is a very special wine, and is only possible on years that there has been hot temperatures and lots of hours of sunshine, this should be a good year. They hand pick the specific grapes to produce this wine, those with a high sugar content, making the yield very small and ‘special’.
The Gigou vineyard boasts vines of 75+ years old, (Saint Jacques) and vines of 35+years old (Jus de Terre) they both have a wonderful bouquet of the ‘terroir’ not to everyones liking but a fantastic range of wine none the less.
In addition to their white wine, they also produce red and rose wines, covering most bases.
The cave hosts the pressing machines for the wine and red grapes with all the wonderful tanks for the start of the process and then the many Oak barrels where the grape juice is stored and left to work its magic when it ferments and produces the various wines.
They are very happy to report that the temperature in the cave is a constant 12-15 degrees irrespective of the temperatures outside, they tell how they use the cave as a barometer with the humidity and a mist hanging in the air when a storm is coming. The temperature naturally rises in November to 20+ degrees when the fermentation is underway and drops again when the fermentation has finished again another get natural indicator of what is happening with the wine.
The family work with the wine and its natural yeast, it is the wine that determines when it is ready to be removed from the oak barrels and transferred to the bottles, ranging from 6-9 months. The bottles are then ‘laid down’ for 9-12 months, to mature, again it is the wine that determines when it is ready to be sold, but usually 18 months to 2 years before they consider selling their wine.
In addition to the wine Jasnieres wine they also have Couteaux du Loir, very special red wine Pineau d’Aunis this is a light red, with loads of peppery flavour, another one that you will love or hate, in addition to this they have a Gammy, less peppery and a little darker, heading to the traditional red, perfect for many dishes on your table.
They also have fizzy wine, their wines follow the traditional champagne method, but as we are not in the Champagne region, it is not possible for the wine to be called Champagne, but is should be…..
The petillent (fuzzy) wine is created by taking the wine through a second fermentation (natural yeast is added to the bottles), an additional 9 months for this process and then they place the bottles in racks to dislodge the yeast that has settled in the bottle, the bottles are turned by hand 3 times a day for 15 days, to ensure the yeast works its way to the cap, before it is removed by a special machine and the bottles topped up with their secret liquor, (they could tell you what it is but then they would need to kill you) this determines the taste of the wine, Brut, dry, semi-dry or sweet.
My favourite is their Red Fizzy wine (yes RED), La Bulle Sarthoise, this is an excellent ‘aperitif’ wine the bubbles are small and just pop on your tongue a delicious wine with a little hint of pepper as it is made with the pineau d’Aunis grapes.
This year they have a new wine to add to their list, a Rose petillant (fizzy) this will be ready for their ‘open door weekend’ 11-13th September, a great addition to their list of wines, I am looking forward to tasting it.
The open door weekend gives everyone a chance to experience the cave and sample their wines and of course, the opportunity to buy wines to take home.
The Gigou wine is definitely a very distinctive wine, very mineral in flavour a true representation of the dedication and passion the family have to be true to the grape and the earth.
A visit to the cave is well worth your time when you are in the area. Check out their website for more details.