Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Vincent Girault

Vincent Girault is a true pioneer of biodynamic viticulture, practicing this system long before it was either fashionable or really practical. In 1992, well before the new global warming paradigm that we are familiar with today, just having a decent vintage was anything but sure. MILLESIME is proud to represent Vincent's wines some of the most delightful (and affordable) biodynamic examples available!

Here is a translation from Vincent's website, where he explains his history and philosophy:

To me, wine is a pyramid. it comprises four sides: the terroir (soil and sub-soil), the climate, the varietals and the agriculture; the vigneron is the grand architect of this wine pyramid. In truth, the four sides are not equal and the terroir remains the most important in its relation to the planted varietal. No great wine without great terroir. No good wine without a good agriculture.

My family has been in the vines and the wine business since 1854. More than 150 years between the vines, the négoce, brokerage, cooperage: the family genes are impregnated with tastes and flavors, but also gestures and the feeling of the harvest … In 1971 my parents stopped their négoce of Loire wines to devote themselves entirely to their original 10 ha domaine, the Clos de la Briderie, clay-limestone terroir.

Personally, with the help of my parents, I got involved in 1978 by buying the original 14 ha of the Chateau Gaillard property. I was 18 years old and I started out by removing all of the vines that were too mixed in terms of varietals, non-aligned, and those that had suffered enough from the three dormant years that preceded my taking over the domaine. The 8 hectares of old gamay that remained produced Touraine-Mesland rouge that won a gold medal at the Concours Général Agricole de Paris.

I finished my oenological and viticultural studies before returning to live definitively at Chateau Gaillard in 1982. The domaine is situated on Miocene sands, where the gamay excels in red with its peppery and spicy notes, and in rose with its notes of berries and candy. After regrouping the parcels, purchasing additional vineyards, and replanting, the domaine reached its current size of 30 ha in 1991. Many things were also improved in the cellar in terms of equipment over those years.

Basically, like good cooking, the wine that pleases us all always comes from good ripe grapes. All basic, nothing but and it's still quite a lot. On this adequacy which is simple but far from being simplistic, I turned first to the specialists of terroirs in France. My method was to plant the cepages of my appellation where they would do best on my terroirs in Mesland. After a study of my terroirs made in 1990, I replanted 17 ha with all of the cepages of my AOC on the best terroirs that I had purchased and assembled from about thirty different owners.

It was also at the end of 1990 that I oriented myself toward biodynamic viticulture. Why? I had a "flash" during a visit to Egypt and the comprehension of the lost knowledge from the time of the pharoahs, in addition to the explanations of my late Father-in-law regarding the rhythms of the animal and vegetable worlds, and finally meeting one of the first biodynamists in France, Mr. François Bouchet. It has been twenty years since I began to practice this powerful agriculture, based on the understanding of nature, and it is for me very satisfying. Many consumers also have been happy to purchase our biodynamic wines and to discover their flavors, their digestible quality, and the "food-pleasure force" that they provide.

In 1994 my parents converted the 10 ha of the Clos de la Briderie to biodynamism and I work the property since 2000 when my parents took their well-earned retirement. I propose these wines to my private customers, the local restaurateurs, and also to foreign importers who also sell to nice restaurants.

In 2007, I bought the Cailloux vineyard in Onzain, situated on a flinty terroir and I have begun the work of restructuring and replanting, going from 14 to 20 ha. This property is in biodynamic conversion since the spring of 2008.

Then in 2008, a chance discovery, I crossed the Loire went down the river and found 4 ha in AOC Montlouis, reputed Chenin blanc terroir. in biodynamic conversion since the spring of 2008.

Here Vincent describes biodynamism at length:


Balance has to be assured while creating harmonious conditions between the earth, the plant and the environment. For the past dozen years, the number of domaines that are converting to biodynamic practice are in constant growth.


Conventional agriculture, marked by its course toward so-called profitability and the constant requirement of ever-increasing productivity, has proven to be a huge consumer of substances that are dangerous for plants and animals. The use of chemical herbicides, insecticides, acaricides, systemic poisons (penetrating into the circulatory system of the plant) completely destroys the balance of the soil and the environment. By killing the insects, one also wipes out their natural predators. With herbicides, the soil dies and compacts, the roots thus stay close the the surface leaving the plant among other things more sensitive to the climate and isolating it from the terroir. Synthetic chemical fertilizers contribute to the salinity of the soil, sterilizing it and inducing vigor and a level of production that is contrary to quality. In addition, these substances pollute the water tables...
Biodynamic winegrowers have made this choice because they have understood that the use of all of these products ends up wrecking the balance of their vineyards' ecosystems and harming the fertility of their land. These "peasants" who were the first to refuse to mistreat their land are no longer seen as extraterrestrials. Soon, they will cease to be seen as marginal, for the results are there to see.


Among "organic" practices, biodynamism is unique in its consideration of astral influences and the rhythm of nature, and by the use of homeopathic-type vegetal preparations whose purpose is to restore balance and to revitalize the vegetation rather than to treating it when it gets sick.

Proposed in 1924 in response to the worries of farmers who already saw the dangers to their land, biodynamism is a growing method that goes far beyond simply excluding the use of synthetic chemical products.
The principles were defined in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner. They can be resumed in the following three points:

- Valorization of the soil and the plant in its natural environment with preparations derived from animal, vegetable and mineral matter;

- The application of these preparations at precise moments during the yearly cycle: this is the "dynamic" part. It recognizes that the earth, in its largest sense (bedrock, workable soil and aerial environment), is an entire organism. Nature thus behaves like a doctor who chooses, to treat its patients, specific treatments which unleash the life forces;

- The working of the soil by plowing.

These steps support:
- the improvement of the quality of the soil by the presence of a large variety of bacteria;
- better rooting for the plant, with longer and denser roots;
- better development of the leaves and the flowers providing the necessary energy for a harmonious fruiting.


The wine domaine, as with any agricultural domaine is considered to be a living organism. The cultivated soil is not simply a support for the vine but also a living space, it is a source of energy for the plant like the aerial environment.
Thus the vine - the organism in the middle - creates and nourishes its terroir in the inhabited, living milieu that surrounds the roots. The exchanges between the the biology of the soil, the root system and the leaf system permit the expression of the terroir in the grapes, where the terroir's flavors are sublimated.

The viticultural practice needs to be very elaborate to compensate for the inherent risk of this monoculture.

They come from transformed animal, vegetable and mineral matter.
- Dung compost supports and reinforces the process of decomposition of the earth. It contains all of the elements that help the formation of the clay-humic complex. A large number and variety of bacteria are found in it.
- Preparation 500, horn dung (cow dung packed in a cow horn and buried over a winter) acts on the plant. It reinforces the subterranean life. Its effectiveness has been confirmed by numerous experiments: the roots are longer, denser, and more spread out.
- Preparation 501, horn silica (ground quartz crystals mixed with rain water and packed in a cow horn, buried in spring and dug up in the fall) helps the development of the leaves, the balance of the flowers and the necessary energy for a good and full fruiting.

These 3 must be 'dynamized' (a process where the preparation is spun in water first in one direction, then the other - creating 'chaos' in the mixture) before application.

Other preparations, made of yarrow, chamomile, nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian have all undergone transformations - fermentations in the presence of animal organs for some - increasing their powers and transforming them into humus with specific qualities.

These preparations are indispensable, they help the penetration of the composts and orient the fermentations for the balance and harmony of the soil and the plant.


Solar rhythms, day and night or the seasons as well as lunar rhythms are familiar to us. For 10 years, the experiments conducted by Maria Thun have enabled us to see cosmic influences on the growth of plants. These seem connected to the positions of the moon, the sun, and the planets in relation to the constellations.

A calendar, tied to these observations was created. The effectiveness of labors and treatments of the vine can be maximized by the choice of the dates of intervention. It should be said that for thousands of years, every good farmer has paid attention to to the solar and lunar rhythms!

Here at MILLESIME we currently have these wines from Vincent in stock:

2010 Touraine Sauvignon blanc

2009 Touraine-Mesland Blanc

2009 Touraine-Mesland rouge

NV Crémant de Loire "Clémence Guéry"

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Arrivals - France

Available now!

Vincent Girault was a biodynamic pioneer, certified in 1992 - long before it was fashionable (or viable) Global warming has been a boon to this region and the bar of quality keeps getting higher. Some of you may remember the Sparkling Touraine "Charlette Voyante". Vincent has made the commendable decision to discontinue the Charlette, and instead focus on making much less of a much better Cremant de Loire. This Cremant is the equal in quality and complexity to many champagnes that cost 2x+

The domaine has more certifications than you can shake a stick at: AB, Demeter, Biodyvin, USDA NOP ... Has to be some kind of record for that kind of thing.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc (available this time only at PCC, next time I'll try to get enough for everybody. Rather than competing with the likes of Oisly, Vincent's new lower-production sauv blanc competes with not only Reuilly and Quincy, but also Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
2009 Touraine-Mesland Blanc (Chenin/Chard) (available at Wine World)
2009 Touraine-Mesland Rouge (Cab Franc, Cot, Gamay) available at PCC
NV Cremant de Loire "Clémence Guéry" (Chenin/Chard)


The Chetys have owned this property for 13 generations. They consistently produce superb "bargain Bordeaux" in the Cotes de Bourg.

2008 Cotes de Bourg Rouge
45% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec

Solid source of rich, complex Costieres de Nimes.

2009 Costieres de Nimes Blanc Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne
2007 Costieres de Nimes Rouge

Superb go-to source for top quality old school Rhones at giveaway prices!
2010 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Rouge
2009 Cotes du Rhone Rouge
2008 Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu Rouge


Monday, November 01, 2010

Wines with Turkey and Ham

Last Thursday I did an experimental tasting with Bruce Kinsey at QFC Factoria. Bruce was looking for 'something new' in the way of wines for Thanksgiving. Bruce had the brilliant idea of running over to the deli and getting a piece of turkey and a piece of ham, so that we could get scientific instead of speculative. Everybody knows the classic matches, gewurztraminer or riesling for the whites, Beaujolais or Pinot for reds. I freely admit that there were some real surprises - some wines I was sure were going to be great were just OK and others came out of left field as amazing matches. Interestingly, there were even a couple of wines that performed well with both meats - no small feat!

These were the winners:

The overall winner was also the least expensive wine - the Domaine du Prince Costieres de Nimes Blanc. It was a great match with both meats, really doing well with both.

Another great match with the Turkey was the Domaine des Forges Anjou Blanc. A fairly atypical Anjou (weightier than most and with a light touch of botrytis) It was a seamless match that surprised us both. The Cote Roannaise (gamay) from Lapandery was also a good match with the turkey.

This was another big surprise - the Lapandery was not a great match with ham so we didn't expect much from the Coteaux du Giennois Rouge from Domaine Poupat as it is also a medium-bodied, fairly acidic red. This wine, 60% gamay and 40% pinot noir was revelatory - it blew away all of the other wines as a match for the ham, and was good with the Turkey too.

These wines are all available at QFC Factoria if you are in that neighborhood, otherwise call your habitual retailer to special order.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Now this something you don't often see...

I presold these to a large and influential retailer who canceled their entire order because a fair percentage were leaking and/or had damaged capsules. The economy went south right around that time so I was left holding a fair number of these rarities.

from an earlier post:

"I was sceptical about this domaine. I do a lot of Rhones and I asked myself, "do I really need another expensive Cotes du Rhone?" That they had no Village wines was also not exactly a point in their favor (they now have one Village wine - a Plan de Dieu). After tasting the 2004 CDR "Prestige des Garrigues" (a coup de coeur in Hachette), I realized that it made more sense to view this wine as a cheap (and GOOD) Chateauneuf rather than an expensive CDR. Seriously, you could really embarass some people by bringing a Prestige des Garrigues to a brown bag Chateauneuf tasting."

The domaine is located halfway between Chateauneuf and Gigondas on what must be some of the best non-village land available, 2km to the north of Courthezon and 2km to the east of Beaucastel.

OK, what would does one have to pay for large formats of this excellent CDP-alike? Much less than you think, I'm pretty sure. These have all been tasted numerous times and will not disappoint or fail to impress. If you have holiday parties coming up, or are looking for a unique gift, here you go.


1999 Prestige des Garrigues 1.5L
1999 Prestige des Garrigues 3L
2000 Prestige des Garrigues 3L
2001 Prestige des Garrigues 5L

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweet Loires

With the Alcoholidays upon us, it's time to revisit the amazing late harvest chenins available at Millesime:

2003 Coteaux du Layon SGN 500 ml - Amazing 'entry-level SGN' - a great way to see what the fuss is about at a bargain price.
2002 Bonnezeaux SGN 500 ml - Very serious complexity, still very very young and showing plenty of 'baby fat'.

2005 Coteaux du Layon "Les Onnis" - the 'Poor Man's Quart de Chaume', from a parcel adjacent to QdC. This particular wine is the peer of many QdC.

2005 Quarts de Chaume - A quarter of the production of this vineyard was always given as tribute to the Lord of the land in pre-Revolutionary times. Not hard to see why, the wine is absolutely packed with goodies, and a 750ml bottle costs much less than an inferior 375 of Huet...

2001 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin SGN 500ml - The best of the best. 5hl/ha yields. The finish is about 5 minutes - insane!

I've never been able to understand how one can say that they are into wine, and yet have no experience of these sublime nectars. The "Grand Bob" himself either doesn't know what they are or doesn't care - hard to say which is worse. Chenin is similar to riesling in that wines made from it can range from bone dry to toothachingly sweet, always with a level of acid that ensures both pleasure in drinking at all stages of development and great longevity in the cellar - it is no exaggeration to claim that these 5 wines will outlive us all.

These two estates are masters of the dry (sec), late-harvest (moelleux), and super late harvest TBA style (liquoreux) styles, which may or may not be botrytised. These 5 wines are all in the liquoreux style and exhibit a plethora of heady aromas and flavors of candied fruits, honey, nougat and an incredible richness. The high acidity of the wines invites another taste, never fatiguing the palate.

Fans of botrytis, or "pourriture noble" need look no further than the 3 SGNs that I have available for your delectation. There are precious few grape varieties that are improved by botrytis, and chenin is clearly right there with riesling in producing absolutely stunning and ethereal wines. The good news is that a great "grains nobles" from the Loire is much, much less expensive than comparable German riesling Trockenbeerenauslesen, or one of the classified Sauternes. Another point in the Loire's favor, at least to my taste is that like the German TBA and unlike Sauternes, the wines show little if any wood.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Alicante wines are coming to PCC

This is a delightful range of affordable wines from Alicante, situated between Valencia and Cartagena on the Mediterrannean coast of Spain. They will be available at your local PCC store by the end of September.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Loire Tasting

The Loire tasting yesterday was well-attended, not as much as last year's. I had 31 'unique visits'. Lots of enthusiasts but few buyers. A huge percentage of attendees were from Portland and it seems to me this event would be a lot more successful were it to be held in Portland instead of Seattle.