Le Batossay (Baptiste Cousin)
When Independence Runs in the Family
Location: Boisairault, Anjou, Loire Valley, France
Owner & winemaker: Baptiste Cousin
Vineyard area: 4.5 hectares, owned by Baptiste’s father Olivier Cousin
Vineyard management: certified organic (AB-Ecocert and Nature & Progrès), biodynamic practices, plowing with horses
Soils: limestone (“Anjou blanc”); clay, schist (“Anjou noir”)
Main varieties: Grolleau, Grolleau Gris, Chenin, Cabernet Franc, Gamay
Annual production (approx.): 10 – 20,000 bottles
Winemaking: hand harvest, spontaneous fermentation, carbonic maceration for the reds. No filtration, no fining, no sulfur or other addition at any point.
- Baptiste started in 2012 with old vines of Chenin that his father, the cult natural winemaker Olivier Cousin, passed on to him, and Cousin Jr. progressively took over more plots and varieties
- Originally, he made the wines in his father’s / great-grandfather’s cellar in Martigné-Briand, but since 2020 he moved into a refurbished winery space of his own, built into an abandoned historical estate nearby
- The property is located in Boisairault, which in French sounds exactly the same as Bois Zéro – Drink Zero [manipulated wines, zero sulfur], a fitting logo and creed for Baptiste’s no-additions philosophy
- The winery’s name “Le Batossay” is a nickname invented by Baptiste’s friends, referring to manga comics
“Seems he took a lot from his father, I store my hoses and glasses in the exact same way,” laughs Baptiste’s father, Olivier Cousin, when giving us a tour of his son’s new cellar, “although he’s way tidier than I am,” Olivier admits. It’s a just observation: the hoses hang in orderly formations from the ceiling, a couple of old vertical presses are waiting for their moment next to barrels old and new, and last year’s wines are slowly finishing their fermentation journey in fiberglass tanks. Everything looks so clean and neat that standing in Baptiste Cousin’s spacious, luminous new winery one cold morning in March, it’s hard to believe that this serene space was a complete ruin only a couple of years ago, with trees growing in the middle of torn-down walls.
The winery is one of many buildings that used to form Château de Boisairault, a large old agricultural estate dating back to 1600, famous for its tobacco production. Due to twists and turns in its recent history, the Chateau became completely derelict – a sad phase for the once-grand structure, but also a unique opportunity for Baptiste, who bought it for a friendly price and breathed new life into it. Luckily for him, one of the things he inherited from his father (besides his knack for winemaking and rebellious spirit) is also dexterity and love for construction work.
The once run-down estate has now not only become a winery of Baptiste’s own (previously, Cousin Jr. was making his wine in his father’s old cellar in Martigné-Briand), but continues to find other uses as well, including a nascent multifunctional space that will serve their community as a school for kids during the day, eating space at lunchtime, and a venue for parties, weddings or concerts on evenings and weekends. “This is a place where people have lived for more than 500 years – the buildings, a well, a woodfire oven for bread – all was here before. We don’t have to invent anything new, we just reconstruct,” Baptiste praises this unique spot that allows him to exist virtually off-the-grid, a feature that is very important for his radical nature.
The revitalization is even more impressive knowing that Baptiste and his family do all the work themselves, aided only by friends, Wwoofers and other volunteers. “I like this almost as much as working in the vineyards. We just have to take advantage of the viticultural “low season” as much as possible, before everything gets busy again in mid-March,” he shrugs.
And vineyard work there is – Baptiste farms some 4.5 hectares that his father left him in 2012 when Cousin Sr. decided to concentrate on Cabernet Franc. He continues to work these plots (including a plot of Chenin planted in the 1950s) in the same way as his father: by hand, plowing with horses and using his own biodynamic herbal teas and other formulas. But you won’t hear about it unless you ask – chez les Cousins, it’s just the normal thing to do. “I’d never play this card to show off on the internet in the sense of “look how authentic we are, we have a horse and everything,” adds Baptiste, who’s very private and wary of the current social media craze. (Case in point: despite the global popularity of his wines, you’ll find very few pictures of him or his place, and we honor his wish not to add much more to that.)
The vineyards are certified organic by both AB-Ecocert and Nature et progrès, a French label that goes beyond organic farming: “It’s not about biodynamics, it’s a certification of… peasantry (la paysannerie),” Baptiste explains the differences. Also designed to address the social dimensions of farming, the organization “requires you to employ local products and workers, ethical financing, solidarity.. And the monitoring is more strict and thorough since you are checked by the farmer-members themselves, not just by someone outside agriculture who doesn’t fully understand what they are controlling.”
In the cellar, the grapes are treated as gently as possible. The winery is partly underground, which allows the bunches to be easily fed into tanks or the old vertical presses by gravity. The reds undergo carbonic maceration, the whites are direct-pressed into neutral oak vessels or fiberglass tanks, using the 1930’s wooden vertical presses that Baptiste bought in Cognac. In the true Cousin way, all fermentation is spontaneous, the use of pumps is limited to a strict minimum, and no additives, including sulfur, are used at any point – after all, Baptiste uses a pun on the place’s name (Bois Zéro, i.e. Drink Zero, is pronounced the same as Boisairault) as part of his defiant pirate logo.
The wines are mostly bottled in May, after the perennial cold temperature of the winery helps them to naturally stabilize; if a wine needs a bit more time, it is ushered into old barrels and spends a year or so in the small underground cellar that Baptiste discovered and cleaned up by removing years worth of rubble. He also uses this little haven as a venue for his own under-the-radar wine fairs, which he organizes with several of his winemaking friends to avoid the crowds of bigger festivals like La Dive Bouteille (told you he does things his own way).
Most of Le Batossay wines are monovarietal (there might be a tiny bit of Grolleau Gris mixed in to kickstart the fermentation, but in volume so low that it doesn’t influence the taste), reflecting the plots on which they were born. There’s the energetic old-vine Chenin from Pied Flonc, a compelling direct press version of Grolleau Gris with lovely saltiness (GrGr), the tangy, fresh and floral Ouech’Cousin from Grolleau Noir planted in 1974, or the aptly named Dynamitage, a Gamay so vivid it feels like a fruit explosion in your mouth. It’s this unique energy that gives away a wine made with lots of honesty and care, energy that makes you go back for yet another sip and agree with the logo that Baptiste puts on the back of his bottles: “La vie sans vin serait vaine, le vin sans vie n’en est pas” (Life without wine would be vain, wine without life is not wine). Energy that shows that although Baptiste had big shoes to fill given his father’s cult status among wine lovers, he’s succeeded perfectly in his own precise and thirst-quenching way.
Dynamitage — Back to the top
Vineyard: loam & limestone, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself. Planted in 1996 – these are the vines that Baptiste’s father Olivier used to make his Yamag cuvée
Making of: Whole cluster fermentation, then elevage in barrique. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Ouech’ Cousin — Back to the top
Varieties: Grolleau Noir
Vineyard: loam, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself. Planted in 1974 (these are the vines that Baptiste’s father Olivier used to make the le Cousin Grolleau)
Making of: Whole cluster fermentation for 14 days, then 6 months of elevage in large old barrels. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: juicy, refreshing and beautifully wild
Vendangereuse — Back to the top
Varieties: Pineau d’Aunis
Vineyard: the Sous le Chateau plot. Young vines on clay & limestone, biodynamic
Vinification Method: Whole cluster fermentation in tanks for about 10 days, then elevage in various barrels. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: wild savory side mixes with bright red fruit. Goes on for hours, have fun letting it breathe and see its evolution!
Pied! — Back to the top
Varieties: Chenin Blanc
Vineyard: Pied Flonc. Old vines on schist (planted in 1955), biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself
Vinification Method: Direct Press followed by elevage in barrique for 2 years with some oxidation. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: delicious, layered, intriguing. “Prendre le pied” means to enjoy oneself in French and that’s exactly the feeling that this wine delivers.
Marie Rose — Back to the top
Grape: Grolleau Gris
Vineyard: clayey-loam & limestone, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself. Planted in 1992
Making of: hand-harvested grapes are macerated as whole bunches for 10 days, then pressed to a combination of old barrels and tank, where they ferment spontaneously and rest for a couple of months. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: a delightful rosé / light red wine with fantastic freshness and purity of fruit. Touch of tannins and savoriness that feels almost electric!
GrGr — Back to the top
“Only the dead fish swim with the current”, reads the label of this intense white – a fitting creed for Baptiste’s vigneron philosophy. The name is an acronym for the grape it’s made with, the pink-skinned mutation of Grolleau called Grolleau Gris that’s mostly known for rosé wines. Here, Baptiste serves a sharp, compelling direct press “blanc de noirs” version of this Loire Valley specialty.
Grape: Grolleau Gris
Vineyard: clayey-loam & limestone, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself. Planted in 1992 (same as for Marie Rose above)
Making of: hand-harvested grapes are direct-pressed into a 3000-liter conical oak vat, where the must ferments spontaneously. The malolactic fermentation takes place in large fiberglass tanks. Bottled after two rackings in May, unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: fresh, intense white wine with beautiful purity.
Al’Cab’Erné — Back to the top
Grape: Cabernet Franc
Vineyard: clay & limestone, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself. Planted in 2002 by Baptiste’s father Olivier Cousin
Making of: the hand-harvested grapes are macerated as whole bunches for 4 days. Once pressed, the wine spontaneously ferments and ages in neutral oak barrels for 12 months. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Personality: velvety and fresh! With a wonderful depth of flavors and juicy fruit, this is a really delicious, refreshing, crunchy take on the grape. Don’t hesitate to chill it a bit and enjoy with basically anything.
Canine — Back to the top
Varieties: Chenin Blanc
Vineyard: old vines on schist, biodynamic
Vinification Method: Direct Press followed by elevage in barrique for 2 years. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.
Puppet Nat — Back to the top
Returning after several years of hiatus, this punny pet-nat has shape-shifted, from the original Grolleau Gris Rosé to a darker and rounder lightly sparkling red.
Grapes: the current release is a blend of Gamay and Cabernet Franc (previous vintages were made with Grolleau Gris)
Vineyard: clayey-loam & limestone, biodynamically farmed by Baptiste himself.
Vinification Method: the grapes were hand harvested, macerated for 12 days and then pressed. Bottled under crown caps while the primary native fermentation was still going, to keep the CO2 in bottles, as is typical for a pet-nat. Unfined, unfiltered, undisgorged, zero SO2 added.
Personality: lightly fizzy, fruity and round red bubbles.