Domaine de Noire
“You must have in your glass, a picture of the soil and the weather,” says Jean-Max Manceau, the proprietor and winemaker at Domaine de Noiré, “I am only the messenger to make the wine…and with 30 years of experience, I’ve learned that its very important to respect [the soil].” As a third generation winemaker, Jean-Max has also been the President of Chinon AOC for the past 12 years. And after working at other wineries in Chinon for 30 years, in 2009, he decided to devote himself fully to Domaine de Noiré.
Beginning his work at the family Domaine in 2002, when his cousins were selling bulk wine to co-ops, Jean-Max now owns 4ha of vineyards with his wife and rents another 11ha from his family. With all vineyards planted to Cabernet Franc, which has been cultivated here for 1,000 years, Jean-Max has been practicing organic since 2010 and practicing biodynamic since 2011.
When we met, Jean-Max spoke passionately about the special microclimates in Chinon that are perfectly suited to Cabernet Franc. Here, he said, the confluence of the rivers helps separate the clouds in the summer, which results in less rain. In addition to the river influences and that of the Atlantic, there are also two winds, the wind from the west, which is humid, and the wind from the east, which is dry. Around the first month of spring, the east wind dries out any potential fungi, while in June and July, the humidity of the westerly wind is good for grape growth. Picking up again in September, said Jean-Max, the east wind helps keep the fruit free of botrytis as it matures, preventing water loss, which helps concentrate its flavors.
In the vineyard, Jean-Max allows for the growth of grass and wildflowers, plowing and tilling the soil to prevent weed growth. With the aid of three soil types, he produces three different red wines. From the top of the slope with soils of clay on silex, he produces Chinon “Soif de Tendresse”, a wine with a short maceration to keep the character of fresh fruit, and no wood. “For me,” said Jean-Max, ” it’s very interesting. It’s another expression for making wine with good balance and acidity.”
Located mid-slope, white calcerous limestone (the stone of the castles in Loire), gives Chinon “Caractere” a richness of tannins whose development is aided with a long maceration of 30-40 days, which allows for better aging. Spending one year in barrels, 20-25% of which are new, “Caractere” is made from vines that are 50-70 years old.
On the valley floor, the gravelly soil is hot, and so Jean-Max has adapted the vinification process of his Chinon “Elegance” to help extract the tannins. With an 18-20 day maceration, the wine sees no wood. And while all of his wines are made with natural yeasts, Jean-Max prepares a pied de cuvee for each fermentation, and emphasizes the fact that he must regulate temperatures and keep them low to protect the wines’ aromatics.
In regards to biodynamics, to which Jean-Max is a recent convert, he said, “It’s very important to practice this. It’s my priority. 15ha is a good size [property] to produce excellent quality wines that are economically balanced.”
Thank you Jean-Max, we couldn’t agree more.