Alexandre (left) during our Caravan to France 2014
Pouilly-Fumé may now live in Sancerre’s shadow, but it has equal potential. Native, Alexandre Bain, knows this to be true and has been going to great pains since 2007, when he started his domaine, to makes wines that could reach their full potential by employing biodynamic viticulture.
A native to the area, his grandfather owned vineyards but his parents did not work with wine. He learned a lot about organic viticulture from Mathieu Coste, a celebrated Loire Valley iconoclast who used to teach in Beaune.
Caravan to France 2014
Bain worked at Flowers in the Russian River in 2004. His next stop was at Peillot, a larger producer in Poully-Fumé. Here, he was given the task of converting a small parcel to organic, as an experiment. In the end, the idea was abandoned by that was all it took for Bain to see the light.
Seven years ago he went out on his own, building a winery next to the house he shares with his wife and two young children. Not least, there is a horse, Phénomène, who though slow pulls her weight.
Caravan to France 2014
Bain has close to 20 acres of vines. Two vineyards are close to his winery with a third more recently purchased parcel being a kilometer away. He has two types of limestone, Portlandian, which accounts for the majority of his holdings and Kimmeridgian. Portlandian, younger by five million years (135 million years old as opposed to 140 for the Kimmeridgian), is a shallow with stone laden topsoil. He uses these wines mainly for “Spring” and “Pierre Précieuse,” which he feels drink younger.
Kimmeridgian is much denser and more difficult to work. It has marl and compressed oyster shells. It goes into Bain’s top wine, “Mademoiselle M,” as he feels this fruit has better aging potential and more structure.
Different types of flint
Bain is organic and biodynamic. To see his vineyards, with even in the wintertime, array of fauna, next to a conventionally planted vineyard is honestly heart breaking. Bain, shakes his head and says that he is one of a very small handful in the region, who farms organically.
While slow, Phénomène, is actually very efficient, making up for her lack of speed thoroughly plowing the soil, with the help of many tools. Seriously, Bain has quite a collection. All harvesting is done by humans hands, giving Phénomène a break.
Introducing Alexandre’s horse: Phénomène
Like his friend, Sebastien Riffault in Sancerre (another of our imports), he harvest late believing that Sauvignon Blanc can only be fully expressive when it has complete ripeness. A shared belief between the two vintners is that when the grapes are picked too early, they do not have enough aromatic character, which is then compensated for using commercial yeast. Like Riffault, Bain uses native yeast to make his wines.
While Bain does not have centuries old caves to store his wine or reap the benefits of its ambient yeast, his facility is clean and functional with cement holding tanks built into the floor. The only wine that sees any wood is the Mademoiselle M. We are beginning our relationship with “Pierre Précieuse” bottling that is named after Bain’s son.
Pouilly-Fumé, “Pierre Précieuse,” 2012
Grown on Portlandian limestone, with equal parts alluvium, sand and clay, it is whole cluster pressed and fermented in vat. A very small does of SO2 is added one month before bottling, otherwise there are no additives. Minerally from the nose to the finish, the mid palate has good weight with meyer lemon, grapefruit and peaches. Pair with a warm goat cheese salad, light meat dishes or sashimi.