Meet the producer: Xavière Hardy
Xavière Hardy is a tough, determined woman who makes amazing juice while leaving as little mark on the land as possible. Tired of her previous career in river ecology, Xaviere planted 1.5 hectare of vines 60km north of Nantes in an area not previously permitted for vine cultivation. She is the only winemaker for miles around. Her first vintage was 2015. The vines are Albarello ‘pole’ trained, planted on blue shist, farmed with biodynamic treatments and herbal remedies, no sulphur used in the vineyard or the winery. Exciting pure wines in tiny quantities from somewhere you have never heard of.
LES TERRES BLEUES
Les Terres Bleues
COUNTRY, REGION, SUBREGION
France, Loire-Atlantique, La Chapelle-Glain
Xavière Hardy is a tough, determined woman who makes amazing juice while leaving as little mark on the land as possible.
She hasn’t taken an easy path. There were no vines for miles around her village - La Chapelle-Glain, about 60km north of Nantes. In fact, planting vines there was officially forbidden. That wasn't about to stop Xavière, who refused to be deterred from her dream of a career change after 20 years running her own business. Enlisting the help of Ancenis grower Jacque Caroger, she lobbied the local council, who eventually relented and gave her permission to plant her vineyard. After analysing the terroir she chose Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Grolleau.
Les Terres Bleues is the name – reflecting the blue schist that predominates on her 1.5-hectare plot. Her plants (around 8,000 per hectare) are trained in the Albarello style, common on Mount Etna. With help from family and friends, each vine was individually staked with a whacking great lump of wood. This type of training gives all-day exposure to the sun, very helpful in this northerly location.
Connection to the plant is paramount, so Xavière tends her vines by hand. In the cellar she works very delicately, using no sulphur or filtration. She uses biodynamic treatments and herbal teas made from local flowers and honey instead of copper or sulphur in the vineyard.
"The vines are grown organically. I work as naturally as possible, I take care of my vines according to the lunar calendar with nettle, comfrey, horsetail, oak bark, willows and many other plants. I also apply biodynamic preparations since the establishment of the vineyard in 2013 [DEMETER certification was requested and obtained in 2019]. The objective is to allow the vine to strengthen its own resistance to disease but also to improve exchanges between soil micro-organisms and its root system. I attach great importance to the vine itself but also to the ecosystem in which it is part."
It hasn't been an easy ride. In 2017, she was forced to buy grapes from a friend who is an organic grower in Anjou to ensure her venture could survive huge 80 per cent losses from that year’s frost. That hurdle inspired more environmental innovation. She bought a solar-powered device that sits in the middle of the vineyard. When the temperature drops below zero it pumps out warm air, covering most of her planted area.
Her first – tiny – harvest was in 2015, producing a small amount of Pinot Noir, which was what we had come to Les Terres Bleues to sample. The Pinot had us hooked straight away from the colour. It was seductive, delicate and slightly gamey. We've also tasted her negoce wines, which share the same delicate style.
A Chat with Xaviere Hardy
How did 2018 treat you?
”2018 was an excellent year. The harvest brought great quality grapes thanks to the beautiful sunshine we've had. As every year, the harvest was manual, all the wines were vinified without any oenological inputs and without sulphur.”
What do you expect from this year's harvest ?
”A good harvest quality due to the weather. Unfortunately, the spring frost and the summer drought we've had this year will have an impact on the volumes harvested, particularly for Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. For the Grolleau the impact is less, the harvest should be beautiful and qualitative.”
What is your favorite vintage so far and why?
”I have been producing wine only since 2015, since I planted the vineyard from scratch in 2013. I really enjoyed 2015 (my first little vintages of Pinot noir and Pinot gris) and 2018 which was a great year (2016 = frost; 2017 = frost). For 2019, I start harvesting tomorrow, September 17.”
Which wines do you like to drink in addition to yours?
”The sulphur-free Gamay by Jacques and Agnès Carroget (La Paonnerie in Anetz) and the Muscadet by Stéphane Orieux (Vallet).”
What can you tell us about your plans for the future?
”Invest in a wind tower to fight frost (the order was placed for installation in spring 2020). In 2019 I also planted an additional half hectare of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in order to have more wine on these two varieties because I have a very small estate[1.5 ha including this young plantation].”