Domaine Pascal Pibaleau
For the past 20 years, Pascal and Christine Pibaleau have been following a holistic diet and living a holistic life, a life-style choice that led to the cessation of chemical usage in their home. And so, when Pascal started to convert his family’s vineyards to organic in 2005, the transition was seamless. With approximately 15ha currently under vine, including the 3ha that Pascal’s great grandfather originally purchased in 1886, Domaine Pascal Pibaleau sits in the Loire Valley, in the appellation of Azay-le-Rideau. Starting as a multi-crop farm with fruit, grapes and grains, it was Pascal’s grandfather who expanded the family’s holdings to 5ha while narrowing his focus on wine. As a 4th generation farmer who started working with his father in 1987, Pascal aimed to produce the best wines in the region from fruit that has been organically and biodynammically farmed.
With only three employees, Pascal and Christine oversee all aspects of production from the winery to the vineyards. Located within 4km of the winery, their vineyards are planted to 4.5ha Chenin Blanc (the oldest of which was planted in 1945), 4.5ha Grolleau (the oldest of which was also planted in 1945), 1.7ha Gamay, 1.5ha Cabernet Franc, 0.9ha Cot and 0.3ha Sauvignon Blanc. And while Azay-le-Rideau, with its superior soils, is located in Touraine AOC, it’s an appellation that’s known for its white and rosé wines.
When Pascal came to realize that some of his parcels weren’t producing the fruit that he desired, he followed his friends’ suggestions to try his hand at biodynamic farming. Noticing that biodynamics made his soil lighter and less compact, Pascal also noticed the appearance of wild flowers and a decrease in the “pest pressure” from cicadelles, insects that attack the vines’ sap. And though Pascal’s vineyards became Demeter certified in 2011, Pascal admits that “it takes a lifetime to learn biodynamics.”
A soft-spoken man who’s not an interventionist, Pascal hand-harvests, barely adds any sulfur and uses small vessels for microfermentations. Leaving his wines on fine lees to enhance their aromatic profiles–including 7 months for his whites in stainless steel tanks, and 8-11 months for wines in barrel or cement–Pascal said, “Balance is achieved by keeping wine on lees, which nourishes the wines and adds a roundness.”
Striving for long fermentations, at least 3-4 months without temperature control, Pascal said that in 2010, his white wine took 10 months to finish. “There’s a much different type of exchange between lees and wine,” with long fermentations, said Pascal, which allows for a greater exchange between them. “A two week fermentation is a shame,” he added, and shook his head.
When his reds complete their fermentations, Pascal racks the wine to 3-10 year old barrels, where it sits untouched for malolactic fermentation to take place. And while he generally doesn’t filter his wines, he will lightly filter for volatile acidity, but not for particles.
For the time being, Pascal and Christine are wholly dedicated to biodynamics, and they’re curious to see how things will evolve. “You know there’s an effect,” he said, regarding the practice. “It’s obvious to see a connection between the celestial and the earth…but it can be hard to pinpoint.”