In the heart of the winemaking village of Varrains in the Loire Valley’s Saumurois, Domaine René-Noël Legrand is as picturesque an estate as they come. Surrounded by vineyards and fields of grain, their 18th century home is only upstaged by their 15th century cellars—carved into the limestone chalk known here as tuffeau. In 2014, Clotilde Legrand, René-Noël’s daughter took over the domaine and has brought new energy to the operation. The estate comprises 14 hectares of Cabernet Franc and one hectare of Chenin Blanc planted along gentle slopes and hillsides of Saumur, Dampierre, Chacé, Varrains and Champigny. These are some of the greatest terroirs of Saumur, rooted to the beneficial clay and limestone soils of the Cretaceous period formed nearly 90 million years ago. Tempered by Atlantic breezes, warmer winters and cooler summers keep this microclimate from experiencing temperature extremes. In 1991, René was the first in Varrians to plant an active cover crop between vineyard rows, not only to encourage healthy soil, but also to compete with the vines and keep yields low. A “green harvest” also helps to this end, shortening the crop and increasing the concentration at a final yield of 55 hl/ha. Their vines average roughly 45 years of age, with the oldest vineyards planted in 1927.
The grapes are harvested by hand and the entire crop is de-stemmed. Alcoholic fermentation is activated by native yeasts and lasts from three to five weeks in temperature-controlled tanks, followed by a natural malolactic fermentation. The Legrand’s Saumur Rouge “Les Lizières” is then aged in tank and ideal for easy drinking. The wines are bottled unfined and filtered with absolutely no chaptalization.