In the early nineties, after raising his children, and having spent his career in the maritime industry, Francis Poirel began looking to purchase a wine-making estate and fulfill his dreams of becoming a wine-maker. His goal was to take his place next to his wine-making friends and idols who were at the forefront of a “new wave” of wine-making which had rapidly spread in France during the 1980s and 90s. These were passionate wine-makers who recognized that the future of modern wine-making was in fact a return to their roots and a more holistic approach to growing wine. Only by doing this, they believed, would the regional wines of France regain their deserved place in a world filled with a sea of mass-produced, homogeneous tasting wine.
After a couple of years of searching, Poirel came upon a semi-abandoned estate in the prized Quarts de Chaume appellation. This magical spot for making sweet wine is situated on the northern banks of the Layon near the village of Rochefort-sur-Loire. The entire appellation is comprised of 41 hectares (102 acres), and it is entirely devoted to the Chenin grape, and more specifically sweet, late harvest, and botrytis effected wines, for this is the area of the Layon where the noble rot botrytis cinerea is induced by the unique micro-climate. The appellation takes its name from the ancient practice of the church taking, as rent for the vineyards, one quarter of the harvest from this prime spot over the river facing the south. Poirel’s Château du Suronde is one of the seven original properties that make up Quarts de Chaume, and he farms seven hectares.
Poirel’s vineyards are farmed organically and biodynamically. There are no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides used on the estate. It must be noted that Poirel is the only grower in the area to farm his vineyards in this manner. Fortunately the vineyards make up one large parcel that are unaffected by their neighbors. The grapes are harvested by hand in small wooden boxes over a long period of time. Normally this means five to eight passes through the vineyards in order to pick only those grapes that are perfectly suited to making up part of this nectar. There is no added sugar to the wine, and no acidification. The yields here are about 11 hectoliters/hectare.
In addition to his Quarts de Chaume, Poirel also farms two other small plots for dry wine. His Anjou Blanc comes from the plateau above his estate where it is not as suitable for sweet wines. He also makes a very special Sauvignon that literally comes from the garden below the estate. Technically it is in the Quarts de Chaume area, but because it is not Chenin, it is only a Vin de Table, one of the most noble in France.