There is a beautiful and timeless quality to the architecture of Anjou. Anchored by Angers in the west and Saumur […]Keep Reading
There is a beautiful and timeless quality to the architecture of Anjou. Anchored by Angers in the west and Saumur further to the east, the local buildings are wonderfully monochromatic with pale but warm limestone walls and somber black slate roof tiles. So commonplace is this pattern of architecture that it is easy to become disoriented and not knowing exactly where you are until you look for the closest steeple or road sign. This color palette is not a unique quirk of the local masons but eons of geological history. Anjou is where the border between the ancient carboniferous bedrock of the Cambrian gives way to the Cretaceous tuffeau, or more simply, where schist, quartz, and slate transition to limestone and chalk.
If that were the whole of the geological story Anjou had to tell, it would be interesting enough, but there are several other plots to be revealed. The gentle landscape of the Loire Valley is a product of countless centuries of the wearing down of the earth and carrying it out to the Atlantic. This is not the Mosel or Ribeira Sacra, and while it may not be dramatic, it has its own uniquely comforting charm. Where ridges and hills do exist, they are carved by the lazy Loire’s tributaries – such as the Angevin Layon and Aubance. These parallel rivers flow from the southwest to the northeast, joining the Loire slightly downstream from Angers. Each is bounded by gentle slopes with the best vineyards located on the respective north banks of each, giving them full southern exposure. This is the setting for Terre de l’Elu.
Totaling 22 hectares spread over 30 different plots, Terre de l’Elu is located in the tiny village of Saint-Aubin de Luigne. Their vineyard sites are scattered from the village of Chaume, famous for its sweet style of botrytized Chenin Blanc, to Chaudefons-sur-Layon near the confluence of the Layon and Loire. In this warmer and drier part of the Anjou, red varieties are widely cultivated alongside the traditional Chenin Blanc – all planted on the black slate soils of the western portion of Anjou.
Terre de l’Elu was originally established by two brothers in the 1950s who sold their grapes to local negociants, and in 2008, they retired selling their estate to Thomas and Charlotte Carsin. Thomas, an agricultural engineer by training, became enamored with viticulture during his studies. Once his formal education was complete, he traveled to Sonoma, Champagne, and Provence, supporting himself as a viticultural consultant while learning enology by working in various cellars. When Charlotte and Thomas found these vineyards for sale, it was an easy, if life-changing, decision to make.
Thomas and Charlotte farm Terre de l’Elu organically and biodynamically – certified by ECOCERT and DEMETER. After years of experience advising others, he has put his principles to work at his own estate: native cover crops are encouraged, the soil is tilled, and no synthetic products are employed. These efforts have brought new life to the soils, allowing him to preserve many of the property’s old vines. New plantings have been made using selection massale to preserve the diversity of his sites. About half of his vineyards are planted with equal proportions of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc – the two most common varieties grown in the Anjou with smaller Gamay plantings, Grolleau Noir & Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pineau d’Aunis. Each plot and variety is harvested by hand and brought to the cellar, where the whites are pressed and allowed a short period to settle. Most of the red wines are whole cluster fermentations. Only natural yeasts are employed, macerations are long, and the wines age in tank, barrel, or amphorae. Sulfur usage is minimal and often added just before bottling.
In 2018, Thomas and Charlotte made the difficult decision to withdraw their estate, Clos de l’Elu, as it was formerly named, from the AOP of Anjou. After years of having wines being rejected by the appellation and the associated costs and delays this bureaucratic nightmare entailed, they will all now be labeled Vin de France. Of course, there’s a law that forbids the use of “Clos” in naming wines at this level, so they’ve changed their name to Terre de l’Elu. Over time as they release newer vintages, you will notice this on the labels but have no worries. The wines are from the same vineyards and made with greater care, vintage after vintage. You can read the full details here.Close