Wine writing by Stas Medvedev

Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée de Serrant

In 1977 after a successful career start in investment banking at J.P. Morgan in New York upon graduation from Columbia University, Nicolas Joly chose to return home to Savennières in Loire and become a winemaker. He continued with studying oenology in the University of Bordeaux and was keen to adopt modern agriculture to family vineyards. Soon he got very disappointed with this idea as he saw how quickly it destroys nature. Instead, he turned his eyes to biodynamics later to become the world famous guru and the author of 3 published books on the subject. Joly gained a cult following among both the growers and wine lovers.

Coulée de Serrant is a 900-year-old vineyard planted by Cistercian monks and always remained in vine since. This 7ha enclave is the monopoly of the Joly’s family estate Château de la Roche aux Moines. Its steep south-facing slopes oversee the Loire river. Once converted to biodynamics in the 1980s, this picturesque oasis remains the living example of biodiversity. All kinds of native plants, high grass, a variety of insects and even birds’ nests within old Chenin vines. Vineyards are carefully ploughed by horse and partly by hand.

During the harvest time one could easily spot a smiling man with wire-rim glasses running up and down the vineyard hills with a big funnel shaped plastic container behind the back.The “nature’s assistant” as Nicolas Joly calls himself helps the pickers to transport grapes. Harvesting period can take 5 weeks as only the bunches with ultimately ripe grapes are picked with each passage. Other bunches remain maturing to be collected later. The ideal berries have a deep golden color, almost amber, and often touched with ‘noble rot’ of botrytis. Joly believes that this is when chenin fully expresses its deep personality. That is only possible as no chemical treatments against rot are ever used.

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant shows the minerality of its vineyard site, which lies on a red schist bed and is rich in quartz and flint. In pursuit of a true taste of its origin in a wine, Joly reaches a higher level of concentration. This makes his yields naturally lower at about 20 hectoliters per hectare, while the appellation rules allow 40 hl/ha. That totals a maximum of 25,000 bottles a year.

Over the years of biodynamic practices, natural yeasts developed strong. They ferment with ease such concentrated ripe grapes resulting in high alcohol content. 15% is not unusual for domaine’s wines. Joly uses large 500l old oak barrels in the cellar to maintain the authenticity of the appellation’s articulation.

Nicolas Joly produce two more wines: Clos de la Bergerie and Les Vieux Clos. All wines are 100% Chenin Blanc.

All the experience which Nicolas Joly gained over the years translated into the foundation of the group‘Renaissance des Appelations’ in 2001. It preaches the principles he had been following himself to produce high-quality wines with a great originality which guarantee the full expression of their own appellations. The group today comprises 175 growers from 13 countries, including such names as Leroy, Leflaive, Lafarge, Leclapart, Emidio Pepe.

Joly recommends opening his wines in advance or even carafe them for better aeration. His wines are live and not afraid of oxygenation. They even improve as opposed to heavily intervened ‘artificial’ wines, which die once exposed to air for too long. Joly claims his wines can keep open for up to three weeks without need for refrigeration, just put the cork stopper back.
Tasting Clos de la Coulée de Serrant is always a fascinating experience. This time I compared 2016 and 1999 vintages. I opened them two days prior to tasting.

Both wines manifest Chenin Blanc in pronounced escalating acidity.

2016 was a pale golden yellow color. It opened with aromas of peach compote and showed plenty of yellow fruits. 15% Alc. was well integrated. Bitter touch of botrytis and citrus finish.

1999 was amber gold. Inviting floral aromas, honey, crushed almonds and intoxicating rich bouquet leaving pleasant mouthfeel. Autumn wine with a signature botrytis accent. Full of grace in its early adulthood.
Terroir Tasting
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