Soils and grape varieties :

Frédéric Brochet has always been fascinated and extremely knowleable about geology and from the birth of Ampelidae, he has chosen which grape varieties to plant as a function of the geological  structure of the vineyard. The vineyard is at a geological crossroads at the southern end of the Val de Loire and benefits from a temperate ocean climate.  

There are chalky soils  side by side with both clay and flint, over all three of the domaines making up the estate : le Manoir de Lavauguyot, La Mailleterie et le Château des Roches.

The milleniums have done their work… From top to bottom, erosion over time has produced an exceptional geology on three main plateau. Sandy soil and sandstone works superbly well with  Sauvignon and Cabernet-Sauvignon thanks to its Ph levels and stony structure. Well worked clays (illite ou smectite), which are preserved in the  slopes, do wonders for Pinot noir and Chardonnay, mainly thanks to their exceptional ability to retain and release the moisture in the soil (natural drainage). These poor soils are among the rarest and the best of all the vine producing soils in the world.  Here in both Château de Roches and La Mailleterie, you will find both the best of Bordeaux and of Burgundy and for sure at Lavauguyot Manor. Oolithique and soft chalk is the perfect substrata for Cabernet-Franc as it is for Sauvignon.  

Here and there it also produces excellent results with Pinot noir. Some isolated parcels produce interesting jurrassic soils at the base of the outcrop.

These soils work well with both Sauvignon and Pinot. All in all it is the combination of soils that particularly delights Frédéric Brochet, those of flint and chalk reminiscent of the terroirs of Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre where Sauvignon is superb.On such soils where all these good things come together, organic viticulture has a chance.


Bio-Diversity, the prequisite of being organic :

The diversity of the living world is fragile and threatened everywhere.  Looking after this diversity bequeathed to us by nature, becomes a priority.  This is Frédéric Brochet’s belief.

In the first case, the preservation of clones and grape varieties. Although this is very rare now in a vineyard, Frédéric Brochet has chosen to clone his own best vinestock when replanting stock in the domaine. Even where the vinestock on which the graft is to be made comes from a nursery, the actual grafts giving the characteristics of the variety, is done on the property using clones cultivated on the domaine since its acquisition by the Brochet family in 1809.

The Pinot noir clone, the PN 1328 (in reference to its cadastral number), with which the original plot of the domaine was planted, is thus preserved and perpetuated each time it is replanted. Its the same method used for the Sauvignon gris. Usually called Sauvignon rose, Sauvignon gris or even Fié gris, is a cousin of Sauvignon blanc that was at one time emblematic of the wines of the Vienne. Having fallen into obscurity elsewhere, it has been preserved and is now reproduced exclusively at Ampelidae, so as to keep the diversity of a single officially recognized clone. Finally there is the latest choice of Sauvignon blanc vines, but not just any, vines which will be used to produce the most famous  cuvée « Le S ».

This desire to maintain these ancient vine stock is only one pillar of Ampelidae’s more comprehensive project to conserve bio diversity. A project to watch and identify birds undertaken with the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO)  has, for example, provided evidence that since converting to organic, populations have increased and new species (larks, batrachians, roe deer) have arrived. A similar project was undertaken with the French Orchid Society which makes its annual check of the orchids in the domaine. Along its paths more than 50 kinds of two leafed orchids (Plantanthera bifolia) could be counted in the spring of 2009, more than 100 heather orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) and more importantly a species which had disappeared in the Poitou over the past few decades : Serapias lingua. 

This is also evidence of successful ecological gambles: the return of camomile, of asparagus, of lambs lettuce, and purslane into the vineyard… and also frogs, delighting in the return of the insects!


The technology of being organic :

There are two words that sum up mastering organic agriculture : observation and prevention. These decisive phases affect how you intervene in both the vines and in the chai, but there is more than this. At Ampelidae, the purpose of these interventions is to get the best out of the grapes while not having to resort to synthetic chemicals.

Observation of each parcel of vines allows us to define exactly how much organic fertiliser to add, the treatments, the green pruning, the adjustment of yields… Frédéric Brochet himself is a constant presence in the vineyard and all the actions that follow are noted in a computer programme parcel by parcel.

The principal active materials used to protect the grapes are: sulphur, copper (at doses of 2,8 Kg/ha compared with 8,5 kg authorised in organic farming), lithotamme (squelette d’algues calcaires). The wines are analysed at bottling to check the residues of these components. Certificates « 0 residues » can be provided for each lot.

The method of fertiliser deserves a mention.  If goat manure spread in winter is the most classic method of adding fertiliser in organic farming, then pig hair is the least. Pig skin is very rich in nitrogen and is an organic product that is quickly absorbed.  It is part of the specific know how of Ampelidae to add the key ingredient of nitrogen at exactly the right moment. Oenological science has notably demonstrated the correlation between nitrogen at a precise moment and the making of the aromatic precursors for Sauvignon. The most effective response is to add chemicals which will be absorbed straight away. The organic solution developed at Ampelidae is pigs hair! Farming organically, the vineyard prunings are not used in the vines but are ground up and composted separately before being reintegrated in the arable land which itself needs copper… Each element in the chain has its purpose.

The trellis is at a height of 2m20 creating a large area of leaves and good chances of ripening for the grapes and it is here that green pruning, the first opportunity to prevent disease, takes place. It is vital for the quality of the grapes. Everyday we calculate the potential for vine disease very carefully and if necessary take the appropriate action.

Since 2005,  the new developments in grape harvesters have convinced Frédéric Brochet to use them for most of his wines. There are undeniable advantages :  the quality of the sorting, and care of the vines without taking into account the better use of time :  picking the grapes more quickly (10ha per day) and harvesting at night. When the grapes arrive at the chai… Everything happens at once as if by miracle !  The reds straight into the cuves and the white wines into the press first.  Thermal exchanger, pressing under nitrogen… the best technology is used so that the juice is perfect.  The cuves with the white wine are cooled straight away and then have the sediment taken off so that they can ferment in the best conditions.