Domaine du Mortier

 

Location: Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France

Owner & winemaker: brothers Cyril and Fabien Boisard

Vineyard area: 16 hectares (= 40 acres), estate-owned

Vineyard management: certified organics (Ecocert, since 1999), practicing biodynamics (since 2007)

Soils: gravel, sand, clay and flint over chalk (local type called tuffeau)

Main varieties: Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc

Annual production (approx.): 75,000 bottles

Winemaking: manual harvest in small crates. Spontaneous fermentation, no additions save for a bit of sulfur. Fermentation in stainless steel, concrete or oak vats, aging in concrete and oak, 6-24 months depending on the wine

 

Fun facts:

  • The brothers aren’t winemakers by breed, but became passionate about viticulture while working on their parents’ small vineyard as kids
  • The domaine makes terroir-driven Cabernet Franc wines under AOC Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, showcasing the old vines and variety of soils they have on their 10 hectares in several cuvées
  • Six more hectares are dedicated to an experimental agroforestry project in the neighboring village, where local varietals are interplanted with trees and bushes in order to promote biodiversity
  • Making wine this far north means frequent problems with spring frosts, a natural setback that the brothers overcome with a collab-cuvée “La P’tite Vadrouille (“A Lil’ Stroll”)

     

Jump to wines | Domaine du Mortier Website

 

Call it driven by passion: Cyril and Fabien, the two brothers at the helm of Domaine du Mortier, aren’t originally from a winemaking family. But, when their parents bought a house with a small vineyard back in 1989, the then-teenagers fell in love with viticulture. So much so that they started a proper domain seven years later, naming it after a hamlet where the winery and vineyards are located, just west of the town of Bourgueil.

Over the years, they gradually increased the estate to its current 16 hectares. More than half of it lies in the popular Central-Loire Valley AOCs Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil (8ha) and Bourgueil (2ha), on diverse terroirs created by the famous river. These alluvial soils are perfect for Cabernet Franc, a grape that produces wines with typical notes of violets, dark berries, and white pepper along with soft tannins and a charming mineral crunch. When young, they are best drunk slightly chilled (true vins de plaisir, as the French say), but the older and more sophisticated cuvées offer a more layered experience, sometimes even with a wild, animal-like touch.

The Mortier guys make multiple cuvées that reflect their diversity of terroirs: there’s the supple and silky Les Sables, named after the sandy soils and made to be enjoyed while young; Les Graviers from a single, 30-year-old plot on gravel that can age beautifully; Les Pins, the only Bourgueil AOC that the Boisards make, which is pleasantly balanced between roundness and minerality thanks to its chalky terroir and old vines that the brothers are slowly rehabilitating. And finally, there’s Dionysos, the estate’s top cuvée from selected oldest plots (50yo +) on the locally specific tuffeau (chalk) terroir aged for about a year in barrel, which is as flamboyant and epicurean as its name suggests.

The remaining 6 hectares represent an experimental project of agroforestry in a nearby village called Brain sur Allonnes – hence the pun Brain de Folie. Un brin de folie is a French expression meaning “a touch of madness”, but what the brothers are doing there is way more beautiful than crazy: these young plots enjoy enormous biodiversity brought by the myriad of bushes and trees planted among and around the vines and the fauna that thrives in them. This project is a continuation of the brothers’ belief in a naturally balanced ecosystem that allows the vines to defend themselves against diseases and pests; when needed, they use organic and biodynamic preparations only (the domaine is certified organic since 1999 and practicing biodynamics since 2007). The result is a range of pleasurable wines that burst with life, made with locally typical grapes like Sauvignon, Chenin, Grolleau or, of course, Cabernet Franc.

All the wines are made in a similar way: harvested manually in small crates, gently sorted and (depending on the cuvée) destemmed, then fermented spontaneously and slowly in the naturally low temperature of their cellar. No magic powders used, of course; the only addition is a little bit of mineral sulfur at bottling if needed.

Due to the Northern latitude, Domaine du Mortier’s vineyards unfortunately often fall victim to springtime frosts, a sudden wave of low nighttime temperatures occurring between late March / early May that can ravage the grower’s harvest. (We’ve just witnessed one in 2021, even hitting in unlikely places much further south.) After one such disastrous season in 2016, the brothers decided to make a “cuvée anti-frost”, as Fabien calls it, to make the most of their severely depleted yield that year. Using the small quantity of their own Cab Franc and Merlot grapes from their friends in Dordogne, it’s aptly called La P’tite Vadrouille (“a lil’ stroll”) and deserves a shout-out for both its chuggability and resilient attitude. When life gives you lemons, gotta make a (Cab Franc) lemonade, right?

 

Wines


Graviers — Back to the top

Mortier Graviers tech sheet

Age of Vines: 30 Years

Yields: 40 hl/ha

Pruning Method: Guyot

Soil: Gravel

Varieties: 100% Cabernet Franc

Vinification Method: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and gently pressed. The cellar is in a cave beneath the ground. Only natural yeasts are used and the juice undergoes an extended maceration. Vinified in barrel and then aged for 8 months in oak.

Tasting Note: Deep red in the glass with purple highlights. Scents of raspberry and currant dominate the nose, and are backed by a dusting of stones. The red berry fruit follows through on the palate. This is a full and round red with loads of juicy berry fruit, a great mineral backbone and it finishes with a note of sweet spice.

Pairing: Serve with grilled artisan sausage, braised pork loin or grilled pork chops, savory chicken dishes, paté, cured meats and young or aged mild cheeses on warm, rustic bread or simply by itself.

 


Dionysos — Back to the top

Dionysos tech sheet

Age of Vines: 30 Years

Yields: 40 hl/ha

Pruning Method: Guyot

Soil: Gravel

Varieties: 100% Cabernet Franc

Vinification Method: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and gently pressed. The cellar is in a cave beneath the ground. Only natural yeasts are used and the juice undergoes an extended maceration. Vinified in barrel and then aged for 8 months in oak.

Tasting Note: Deep red in the glass with purple highlights. Scents of raspberry and currant dominate the nose and are backed by a dusting of stones. The red berry fruit follows through on the palate. This is a full and round red with loads of juicy berry fruit, a great mineral backbone and it finishes with a note of sweet spice.

Pairing: Serve with grilled artisan sausage, braised pork loin or grilled pork chops, savory chicken dishes, paté, cured meats and young or aged mild cheeses on warm, rustic bread.


Sables — Back to the topsables

Sables tech sheet

Age of vines: A combination of 7 parcels, one from 15-60 years old vines

Yield: 43hl/ha

Soil: Sandy

Varieties: Cabernet Franc

Vinification Notes: Grapes are hand harvested, after which the whole bunches go into 70-hectoliter concrete tanks for traditional fermentation at low temperature (due to the cool outside ambient temp) that takes about 14 days. They use a starter of lees from previous vintages to start the fermentation. The wine stays in tank for about 6 months until it is bottled with 16 mg per liter of sulfur added.


Les Pins — Back to the toppublicViewAttachment

Les Pins tech sheet

Age of vines: 60 year old vines from 1 parcel

Yield: 23hl/ha

Varieties: Cabernet Franc

Soil: Clay and chalk

Vinification Notes: Grapes are hand-harvested, after which the whole bunches go into 50 hectoliter oak vats for traditional fermentation at low temperature (due to the cool outside ambient temp) that takes about 20 days. They use a starter of lees from previous vintages to start the fermentation, and line the bottom of the tank with boxes so the grapes are not in contact with any of the juice at the bottom. The wine stays in tank for about 4 months until it is bottled with 15 mg per liter of sulfur added.


Brain de Folie Red — Back to the toppublicViewAttachment_edited-1

Brain de Folie tech sheet

Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Grolleau

Vineyard: A combination of 2 gravelly plots, one at .4 hectares with an average age of 12 years, and another at .8 hectares with 60-year-old vines. These two parcels come from the village of Brain sur Allones, which is right next to Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil. The rows are alternating with grass and plowed soil and it has a southern exposition.

Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested, after which the whole bunches go into 50-hectoliter concrete tanks for carbonic maceration that takes about 14 days. They use a starter of lees from previous vintages to start the fermentation, and line the bottom of the tank with boxes so the grapes are not in contact with any of the juice at the bottom. The wine stays in tanks for about 4 months until it is bottled with a bit of sulfur added.


Brain de Folie Chenin Blanc — Back to the toppublicViewAttachment_edited-1

Age of vines: 6 years old

Yield: 30hl/ha

Varieties: Chenin Blanc

Soil: Gravel

Vinification Notes: Grapes are hand-harvested in several phases due to the uneven ripening of Chenin. Grapes are destemmed and direct pressed to barrel for a long slow fermentation in the cellar. The wine rests in barrel without racking for about 1 year and is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with a small addition of sulfur. 

 


Parenthese — Back to the top

Parenthese (bracket in French) is a combination of some grapes from the Les Pins vineyard, with another parcel that is in process of conversion to organic viticulture. The wine is light and fruity.

Age of vines: 50 years old

Yield: 38hl/ha

Varieties: Cabernet Franc

Soil: Clay and limestone

Vinification Notes: Grapes are hand-harvested, after which the whole bunches go into 50 hectoliter oak vats for traditional fermentation at low temperature (due to the cool outside ambient temp) that takes about 20 days. They use a starter of lees from previous vintages to start the fermentation and line the bottom of the tank with boxes so the grapes are not in contact with any of the juice at the bottom. The wine stays in tank for about 10 months until it is bottled with 15 mg per liter of sulfur added.

 


La P’tite Vadrouille — Back to the top

This is an “anti-frost” cuvée, a wine that the brothers make from grapes bought from their Dordogne friends, in years when the spring frosts severely decreased their own harvest.

Age of vines: 20 – 50 years old

Varieties: 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc 

Soil: Clay and limestone

Vinification Notes: Grapes are hand-harvested in the Dordogne region and transported to the Mortier Domaine in a refrigerated truck. Carbonic maceration lasting for 15 days, then 8 months of aging in concrete tanks. Bottled with 10ppm of sulfur in spring.


Brain de Folie Sauvignon — Back to the top

Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc

Vineyard: young vines on gravel

Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested and directly pressed. Fermentation occurs slowly and spontaneously in an ovoid tank, bottled in January. 

Personality: fresh, juicy, aromatic white for any occasion!


A Bout de Souffle  — Back to the top

This wine was born out of “lazy natural yeast”, as Fabien explains – since the fermentation still wasn’t finished after a months of maceration, the brothers decided to put in in a barrel for long time and let it work its way.

Grapes: Cabernet Franc

Vineyard: old vines (planted in 1974 and 1987) on gravely mix of limestone and silex

Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested, crushed and macerated for a month. As the natural fermentation was quite slow, the brothers decided to let the wine take its time, and the wine spent 18 months old oak barrels. 

Personality: varietal notes of dark fruit, pepper, and violets mingle with deeper earthy notes coming from the old vines and long aging.