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Mark Angeli of the Ferme de la Sansonnière is a paysan-vigneron, and an ecological activist. If one character can embody the wine revolution that is happening in the Loire, and more specifically in Anjou, he is without a doubt a serious contender. And his wines are also snapped up all around the world, true unicorns - ironically the symbol of the estate. We apologize for the small quantities available. (Thanks to our friend Pascaline Lepeltier, Beverage Director at Chambers, the restaurant that is, for these excerpts from her 2020 article).
A chemistry student turned stonemason, Mark Angeli fell for wine, changed career and moved to Anjou, in 1989 in search of affordable lands to develop his ideal vision of agriculture. In the schistous foothills of the noble rot heaven, Bonnezeaux, he luckily stumbled upon the Ferme de La Sansonnière, an historic and polycultural property, then selling conventional wines to the local supermarkets, that was for sale. He jumped on the opportunity, and right away converted the farm to Biodynamics (he became an adept after his training at La Tour Blanche in Bordeaux.) He also restored the house himself.
Biodynamic farming was quite a revolution at that time for the area. The support was few, the opposition and threats strong, and after years of refusal of AOCs’ agreements, despite producing some of the best, most praised, unchaptalized wines of the region, Mark decided in 2007 to stop claiming the Anjou, Coteaux du Layon or Bonnezeaux appellations. He moved everything to Vin de France. A deep believer in terroir, he could not be part of the hypocrisy of the other conventional producers over-cropping and overusing chemicals and oenological tricks (chaptalization and selected yeasts especially) while killing their soils and abusing consumers. To protest even more, he started to list the ingredients on the label and he shifted his best Chenin plots from sweet to dry and half-dry production, something unheard of in the region. But Mark knew also that the revolution could not happen alone, and early on he actively became a mentor and helped like-minded (young) vignerons to successfully start their estates. The more the better to realize the socio-ecological revolution!
If the wines have been brilliant benchmarks for Chenin on schist, they are reaching today a new level thanks to the energetic return of Martial, Mark’s son and the arrival of Bruno Ciofi, ex-manager of Domaine de la Pinte in the Jura. More than ever, the trio of farmer-peasants is experimenting with agroforestry, regenerative farming, ungrafted vines, gobelet and echalas pruning, rehabilitation of forgotten varieties (like grolleau blanc), amphora and homeopathic uses of volcanic sulfur. They farm currently 7.5 ha of mostly chenin and a little grolleau (blanc, gris and noir), surrounded by fields for horses, sheep, beehives, cows, cartham (for the oil), wheat (for the flour), fruit trees (for biodiversity and delicious juices).
Wines arrive on Tuesday 12/20, please allow a few days for pick-up or shipping.
Gélinette is an old French word for grouse, a bird you used to find wild quite a lot in this part of Anjou, especially when polycultural agriculture was still conducted. Historically Mark made a little bit of red, mostly from cabernet sauvignon planted in 2000 but the wines were always quite rustic and tannic, so he decided to overgraft them and plant more grolleau, a grape fallen in disgrace and considered of poor quality for complex wines. Mostly linked to bad, high-yielding clonal selection dedicated to the production of cheap rosé in the 1970s and 80s, grolleau noir, an indigenous variety, can in fact produce beautiful reds with right massales vines and low crop. If you are a gamay of terroir freak, you will love grolleau on schist. Once called “Jeunes Vignes des Gélinettes”, the cuvée is now just names “Gélinettes” as the vines got older and are grolleau-dedicated.
The name La Lune was chosen by our former worker, Stéphane Bernaudeau (who has since joined the little world of exceptional wine growers), because of the crescent shape of the ranks : they look like the moon! We quickly discovered soon La Lune, compared to the other wines, could be an “immediate drinking” cuvée, not very much affected by the bottling. Of course it could also be kept 30 years and more, like the single-vineyard cuvées. Minerality is maybe just a little less defined - probably because of the soil diversity. However, we consider it a benchmark for the region, showing the taste of the area without overthinking the individuality of all the different plots." - Mark & Martial Angeli, Bruno Ciofi.
"Geology in our beloved region of Anjou is the most complicated in the world. The soil is different every 20 meters, ranging from - 10 million to - 1 billion B.C. ! That’s why we decided in 1997 to blend many different tiny plots in one cuvée, La Lune. The other bigger plots were kept separated : Les Fouchardes, Les Vieilles Vignes des Blanderies or Coteau du Houet. The name La Lune was chosen by our former worker, Stéphane Bernaudeau (who has since joined the little world of exceptional wine growers), because of the crescent shape of the ranks : they look like the moon! We quickly discovered soon La Lune, compared to the other wines, could be an “immediate drinking” cuvée, not very much affected by the bottling. Of course it could also be kept 30 years and more, like the single-vineyard cuvées. Minerality is maybe just a little less defined - probably because of the soil diversity. However, we consider it a benchmark for the region, showing the taste of the area without overthinking the individuality of all the different plots." - Mark & Martial Angeli, Bruno Ciofi.
Slightly higher on the slope of the La Montagne hill, you will find the old vines of the Ferme de la Sansonnière, planted just after World War II (1949) with older massal selections of chenin. There are two main soils there. One, extremely rare for the region is a vein of sedimentary phtanite, mostly composed of silica, giving amazing passerillage with extreme low pH. The other part is part of the most common St George series of superficial schists. The viticulture and winemaking is the same than the Fouchardes - whole cluster press in Coquard, vinification in larger used barrels mostly from Atelier Centre France in the underground cellar, 24 months usually of aging with spontaneous fermentation, trying to arrive to dryness in order to avoid filtration.
Since 2013, Mark, Martial and Bruno are producing a small part of La Lune in 1000 litre buried amphoras. First using clay they decided to switch to 100% grès (sandstone), preferring the cleaner definition both in texture and aromas.
From 50 year-old vines on shist and clay. Les Fouchardes comes from a single vineyard of the same name. The Angelis are the only ones to cultivate it and thus declare it as a monopole on the label.
This is a small parcel within the AOC Bonnezeaux, but vinified dry, at approximately 10mg/L RS. (Disregard the old label - it's not Bonnezeaux!)