La Grange aux Belles
La Grange aux Belles is a 15-hectare organic estate, with vineyards spread over 5 communes in the AOC Coteaux de l'Aubance. Marc Houtin created the domaine back in 2004. In the beginning, he began searching for vineyards in the Languedoc, but then came back to the Loire, and purchased 9.5 hectares from a grower who was about to retire. The previous owner had been farming conventionally, and selling all the grapes to a local co-op. Marc continued to sell some grapes to the co-op, but also began making his own wine.
In 2007, Marc was joined by Julien Bresteau. It was then that the pair began to convert the vineyards to organic. They worked tirelessly over the years to improve soil health, and also replanted many vines within the vineyards. They slowly purchased more plots, in and around Anjou. More recently, the pair have been joined by Gérald Peau.
The trio farm Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d'Aunis, Gamay, Grolleau, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc – all organic (certified since 2011). The subsoils are mainly made of schist, with some silt and clay on top. Water stress is essential, and there is little rain here – the vines work hard! They farm using herbal infusions such as nettles, horsetail and buckthorn and put low doses of compost on the soil at the end of winter to relaunch the microbial activity. The grapes are vinified with their natural yeasts and no additives are used. They only use tiny amounts of SO2 (10-20mg/L) at bottling, and only when they think it is necessary.