La Ferme de la Sansonnière | Biodynamic estate winery in the Anjou region of France’s Loire Valley. White wines are made under the Anjou Blanc and Bonnezeaux AOCs. Pink wines are made under the Rosé d’Anjou AOC. Red wines are made under the Anjou Rouge AOC.
Owner | Marc Angeli.
Background | From 1979-1989 the vineyard and farm was farmed conventionally. In 1989 it was bought by Mark Angeli (b21/4/1958 in Marseilles but he also has Corsican blood) and his wife Christine. They have two children called Martial and Fabrice. Both Mark and Christine are from Aix-en-Provence, where they lived, but both had wanted to live on a vineyard to make wine. Marc worked as a stonemason for 11 years, making stone stairs, kitchens and tiles. Then he changed track.
Mark had made hay when he was younger whilst living in Provence (his mother and grandmother had a farm and were organically-minded). ‘It moved me to think here that I could do it again.’
Mark studied chemistry at the University of Marseille. He had a friend in Sauternes and studied at La Tour Blanche (conventionally), then worked at Chateau Suduiraut (also conventionally). Marc told me he searched for 18 months to find this estate.
The estate | Marc and Christine tend 12 hectares of land, of which 8 hectares are vineyards. The rest of the farm is given over to a mix of other crops. Cider apple trees (0.3ha; 10 varieties; will make juice from 2002). Olive trees. Sunflowers. Wheat–Maria Thun had an Egyptian strain of wheat which Marc told me (2005) he would like to trial. Also spelt (l’épautre) and other cereals. Some of these latter cereals are used to feed Angeli’s small herd of cattle which not only provide them with meat and milk, but also generate a steady supply of compostable organic fertiliser for the vineyards. There are chickens and bee hives (had two hives, one of which died in 1999; wants 5 hives in total) too.
La Lune | 1.3ha. Crescent-shaped plot of Chenin Blanc on Riparia, Rupestris du Lot and Kober 5BB. 5,500 vines/ha. The vineyard sits on ‘La faille du Layon, and would have been part of the Bonnezeaux AC had not a mistake been made when drawing up the boundaries for this AC. Classified as Anjou Blanc. Sables (grapes on this part tend to go passerilés), graves argileuses, colluvions divers, schistes et grès carbonifère (grapes on this soil tend to produce noble rot). The part on clay soils is like Les Fouchardes and it is easiest to make dry wines from here.
Le Coteau du Houet #1 | 0.15ha. Chenin Blanc used for dry wine. On Rupestris du Lot. 5,500 vines/ha. Schistes et brèches Carbonifères. The plot is located between the vignes françaises and the Grolleau gris.
Le Coteau du Houet #2| 1.10ha. Chenin Blanc on Riparia and Rupestris du Lot dans les schistes gréseux et brèches carbonifères. 5,500 vines/ha. Used for liquoreux.
Le Coteau du Houet Rosé d’Anjou | 0.8ha of Grolleau Gris on 3009 on schistes et brèche carbonifères in the Coteau du Houet (see above). 5,500 vines/ha. These grapes are blended with the deuxièmes tries de Gamay and Cabernet (see above).
Les Blanderies | 0.5ha. Chenin Blanc on SO4 on phtanites. 5,500 vines/ha. Used for liquoreux. The earliest ripening parcel.
Les Blanderies Vieilles Vignes | 0.3ha in an 0.8ha plot. 5,500 vines/ha. Chenin Blanc. 1930s I think. On Rupestris du Lot on schist and on St George on shallower soils. 20hl/ha. When the grapes ripen they go pink. Very ageable wine made as a sec.
Les Fouchardes | 0.56ha. Chenin Blanc. On Rupestris du Lot. 5,500 vines/ha. Sables argileux sur sous-sol Carbonifère. The first plot he began to regraft (it was given to Grolleau Gris) and remove the wires from. This convinced him to take it out of the Coteaux du Layon AC. He says choosing a late ripening rootstock and the fact that the soil is covered by cold clay means the vines do not go botrytic, so he gets golden grapes which ripen slowly. The sub soil is schistes grèseux. He says the subsoil gives this wine the most elegance of his dry wines.
Les Gélinettes | 0.60ha of Cabernet Franc on 3309; and 1ha of Cabernet Sauvignon on SO4 [this was ripped out in 1999/2000 and replanted at 7,000 vines/ha. SO4 was too shallow rooting]. Both were blended into the Anjou Rouge. The soil is sables et graviers peu argileux. The Cabernet was the only grape variety which he has to trellis to wires (6 rows), especially as the SO4 makes the canes break very easily. The replacement vines were planted at 7,000 vines/ha and on riparia.
Les Sables | 0.60ha. Gamay on 3309. 5,500 vines/ha. Sables. The easiest plot to work he says. But the thin skins of the Gamay make it susceptible to rot especially with equinox rains. So he uses it as a complement to the Grolleau Gris in his rosé d’Anjou. He says BD seems to allow these grapes to ripen around 10 days earlier than before.
Vignes Françaises et Vignes Françaises en Foule | 0.3ha at 5,500 vines/ha and 0.15ha en foule are at 40,000 vines/ha. On schistes gréseux et brèches carbonifère. The vines were planted in 1994 by Angeli who was curious to see what wines might have tasted like before phylloxera. Angeli says the wines are ripe at 1.5% alcohol lower than for normal vines
Biodynamics | Marc Angeli read widely on Biodynamics, and speak with many producers. ‘It is important to assimilate things oneself,’ he told me. MA did make some of his own preparations but in 2003 was buying in as “it is better to have them well made”. Marc Kreydenweiss told me Angeli was “extra”, meaning top notch in his approach.
Viticulture | Vines are bush trained with no wires. Olivier de Serres wrote in the C17th that vines did not need wires to support themselves. ‘If they are trained lower to the ground it is easier for the sap to rise,’ Marc told me. ‘And anyway I don’t have time to lift the wires. So my choice is based partly on philosophy and partly on practicality. The same goes for ploughing by horse. My tractor broke and I did not have enough money to repair it.’ The soil is ploughed by horse (Joyau), Angeli keeping two such animals on the estate for this very purpose. Another horse (Ombrelle) is used for harvest.
Compost and clay are added to the most sandiest parcels ie Gamay in Thouarcé. Oyster powder is added every ten years to plots which are clayey.
Certification | 1989 The estate goes into conversion to certified organic status. At this time only the Bonnezeaux was being farmed biodynamically. Francois Bouchet paid a single visit. | 1990 Angeli was one of only five out of 2,000 Loire growers not to chaptalise in this (his first) vintage. | 1991 All the Chenin Blanc was biodynamically farmed. | 1992 Full organic certification for the first time. | 1993 Joins Association Demeter France. | 1994 First vintage with full Demeter certification. | 2016 Still Demeter certified Biodynamic.
Winemaking | The harvest is by hand, in several ‘tries’. All wines go through 100% MLF for whites (as all age in barrel).
Anjou Blanc AOC, La Lune | ‘Anjou La Lune is a dry wine of magnificent internal architecture of flavour,’ says Andrew Jefford (2002, p.57). | 2001 Chenin Blanc. Attractive golden yellow, well evolved nose, pleasant mix of petrolly fruit with just enough acidity for a soft finish, good-plus, and ready, 85 points when at the Wine magazine Biodynamic tasting, 23rd April 2003. | 2002 Fermented and aged for 15 months in two separate barrels made of different wood, and then mixed with four wines from the different parcels.
Anjou Blanc AOC, Les Fouchardes | ‘Anjou Les Fouchardes is a more glycerous and tangy wine [than La Lune] of soft balance,’ says Andrew Jefford (2002, p.57). | 1998 Angeli says in 15 years this will be hard to distinguish from the 1997. | 2001 Ripe oaky nose, not particularly subtle, but effective, clean, clear and ripe with good evolution and integration of smoky oak, smooth texture with enough ripeness and intensity of fruit to balance the wood, appealing style, well executed, 88 points when tasted at the Wine magazine biodynamic tasting, 23rd April 2003.
Anjou Blanc AOC, Coteau du Houet | 1998 Demi-sec. 30 hl/ha.
Anjou Blanc AOC, Les Vieilles Vignes des Blanderies | 1997 18hl/ha.
Anjou Blanc AOC, Vignes Françaises | 1998 No added sulfites. New wood.
Rosé d’Un Jour | 2008 Vin de France. | 2009 Vin de France
Rosé d’Anjou AOC | Wonderfully grown-up…yellow-orange and decadently sippable,’ (Andrew Jefford, 2002, p.57). | 1999 60% Grolleau picked at 15.5% potential.
Anjou Rouge AOC, Les Gélinettes | 1999 66% Cabernet Sauvignon. Last vintage until 2005 as the Cabernet was replanted.
Anjou Rouge AOC, Les Gélinettes Jeunes Vignes | 2003 100% Gamay.
Anjou Rouge AOC, Les Sables | 1999 Very similar to 1998 Marc Angeli told me.
Bonnezeaux AOC, Cuvée Mathilde | 1994 25hl from 2 ha.
Bonnezeaux AOC, Coteau du Houet | ‘Arresting purity and focus, packed with the scents of mint, limeflower and verbena,’ (Andrew Jefford, 2002, p.57).
La Ferme de la Sansonnière
F-49380 Thouarce (Maine et Loire), France
Telephone conversation with Christine Angeli Monday afternoon 2 Feb 2004. Call with Marc Angeli from Tenuta di Argiano on Monday 24th October 2005. Visit to the winery with Graham Wynde.
Andrew Jefford, The New France (Mitchell Beazley, 2002) p.57.