The natural wine movement is coming of age in the Loire Valley, thanks in part to upstart Sébastien Bobinet and his partner, a professional dancer-turned-vigneronne, Eméline Calvez. Heavily influenced by the godfather of natural winemaking, Jules Chauvet of the Beaujolais, and under the guidance of the Loire’s renowned Foucault brothers of Clos Rougeard, the two have added momentum to the revitalization of the AOC Saumur-Champigny. While Sébastien has long been regarded as a rising star of the region, his collaboration with Eméline since 2011—a talent in her own right—has cemented the cult status of the domaine’s wines.
In addition to the talents that Sébastien and Eméline bring to the domaine, they are also well poised to succeed in their efforts, as the institutional conditions in the appellation are ripe for positive change and experimentation. In an effort to improve the biodiversity of the vineyards, Saumur-Champigny is the first AOC in France to collectively decide on the reduction of chemical treatments, engaging the entire local wine community in the holistic preservation of the region’s terroir.
With a mere 2 hectares of old-vines vineyards inherited from his grandfather in 2003, Sébastien and Eméline grow Cabernet Franc, Cot (aka Malbec), Pineau d’Aunis, and Chenin Blanc. Working their limestone and clay soils organically with the help of a horse-drawn plow, this progressive young duo are still staunch traditionalists at heart. They harvest by hand, de-stem the grapes, and allow the native yeasts to start a natural fermentation and later, a natural malolactic fermentation. A truly non-interventionist approach. Certain cuvees, such as their “Ruben” and “Greta Carbo,” also undergo semi-carbonic maceration. The wines age in 330-L oak barrels for up to 18 months in the domaine’s limestone caves, perched high above the river and formed into the hillside below the winery—the ultimate in temperature control! Without any addition of sulfur, they bottle their wines unfined and unfiltered to allow the final product to express heightened aromatics and a stoney minerality characteristic of the Saumur terroir.