Who: Sébastien Brunet
What: Vouvray, Touraine, Loire
Where: Chançay, Indre-et-Loire
When: since 1974
Sébastien Brunet is a fast-rising new star of the Touraine region of the Loire. Based in Vouvray, just north of the river between Tours and Blois, he is helping to re-define Chenin Blanc.
Sébastien’s a big, young guy, quiet and reserved – preferring, you sense, to let the wines do the talking.
His wines possess a minimalist beauty. They’re perfectly ripe in both essential aromatics and structure, without any dilution or superfluity, a great achievement with Chenin Blanc in Vouvray, where most wines are over-cropped, under-ripe, and over-chaptalised. Sébastien’s wines are quiet, sensitive, pure reflections of their terroir.
He works with Chenin Blanc only, from which he produces several styles, sparkling, dry in various degrees, and a couple of sweet wines. This is a grape which, in the right hands, can transform magically with every nuance of the soil and climate in which it’s grown. Chenin Blanc has been planted in Vouvray since the 13th century, while the vineyard was first planted by the monks of Marmoutier, near Tours, which was founded in the 3rd century. While Orbois (aka Menu Pineau) is permitted, in fact it’s rarely used.
Sébastien took over the family Domaine in 2006 at a young age. He attended the Lycée viticole d’Amboise where he became friends with Vincent Careme and to whose advice he listened. He has quietly steered the Domaine, created by his father in 1974 (and previously called La Roche Fleurie), into fine organic production, and the recognition of his peers, while two previous generations had cultivated vines but sold fruit to a local cooperative.
The Domaine comprises 15 hectares around the communes of Chançay and Vernou, along the valley of the Brenne, a small tributary of the Loire that runs perpendicular to the North, on which vines are sited on both the first hillside and the plateau behind. The most northerly plots are in the village of Reugny and follow the course of the Brenne down through Chançay, the hamlet of La Folie and onto Vernou, where the stream joins the Loire itself.
Soils are comprised of clay, limestone, and much silex, a type of quartz stone. The climate is cool and humid where the Atlantic meets Continental but sheltered to the north by the Coteau de Loir; it can be a challenge for organic viticulture, each year brings different weather, sometimes very wet, sometimes a heatwave, thus vintage variation, and consequent fascination. It’s this terroir that gives Sébastien the base to produce magic and he’s modest about the work he does to produce “simply ripe and healthy” grapes from it.
He occupies an amazing cellar in La Chançay that comprises 10 kilometres of tunnels carved out of the tufa (chalk) hillside and which was previously used as a mushroom farm. It provides perfect conditions for wine production, being cool and damp – but may be rather hazardous if you don’t know where you’re going. His presses are always very slow and gentle lasting around 4 hours and he always allows the wine to cold settle for up to 48h before fermentation. The cool of the settle and the low pH of the wine tends to block the malo from happening and there’s a gentle tangential filtration before bottling to ensure stability.
We discovered Sébastien’s wines in one of our favourite restaurants in Paris, Le Galopin (with its sister wine bar Cave à Michel) and, as is the normal case with anything that really grabs your attention, we started to see it in quite a few of our favourite bars and restaurants, and even in Provence in some more classic restaurants.