Having developed his style, evolving towards greater precision and freshness, Thierry Germain and his Roches Neuves has become one of the most well-regarded domains in the Loire valley. Thierry Germain has been a partner of ours for many years now, and we are extremely proud to work with such an exacting winemaker. A must-have!
Thierry Germain was born into a family of winemakers whose work was Bordeaux inspired. Having almost bought a domain in Hungary, he ended up buying the Domaine des Roches Neuves in Varrains and moved there in 1992. The domain grew in popularity very quickly, both for his red cuvées of Saumur-Champigny and his white Saumur. The style was at the time marked by a Bordelais style: heavily extracted and oaky red, demonstrative whites. A style that was enjoyed by his customers but not the winemaker, in the end!
In the early 2000s, Thierry Germain therefore reconsidered everything. From 2002, he reconverted the entire domain (22 hectares) to biodynamics. Inspired by the vine-training techniques used by Lalou Bize-Leroy of the mythical Burgundy domain, Thierry German (and his right-hand man Michel Chevret) stopped trimming his vines, which encourages the plant to work for its fruits more than its leaves and givens balance to the grapes, which end up being less rich in alcohol and richer in substance. These practical changes to the vine were accompanied by a new style of vinification. Gone are the days of very ripe – overripe, even – grapes. The freshness of the fruit and delicacy of the substance are now sought after, with earlier, more attentive harvests.
This change in style may have put off a handful of fans of his earlier wines, but it more importantly allowed Domaine des Roches Neuves to gain further recognition from critics and wine enthusiasts, who have a growing tendency to appreciate wines which you can drink, and not solely wines for tasting.
Wines from Domaine des Roches currently for sale
The Cabernet Franc des Terres Chaudes is cultivated on the Poyeux hillside and part of the Chaintre pit. These 40-year-old vines are harvested by hand and the wine ferments naturally. It is then raised for one year on fine lees, in barrels which were also used for the La Marginale cuvée. The cuvée Les Terres Chaudes is neither filtered nor fined before bottling.
The cuvée Insolite offers an excellent expression of Chenin. It is produced on stony soils of limestone, flint and silt. The wine ferments in 400-litre barrels and Burgundian casks, which brings a great density and superb energy. The wine is characterised by fruity aromas (pear, peach, citrus fruits) and floral (verbena, linden tree). On the palate, it is direct, fresh, with lovely bitters, density and a rich finish.
This cuvée is only produced in the finest vintages, with meticulous care. The harvests are manual, and the grapes are destemmed. The small yields produce a concentrated fruit and the fermentation in oak brings substance. The wines are matured in barrels (228 and 400 litres) and varies from 18 to 24 months. The robe is an intense ruby red, with blackberry and black fruits on the nose. It is direct, and the wine has very fine, elegant tannins. The finish is long with aromas of paprika and mineral notes.
The cuvée Franc de pied is the newest of Thierry Germain’s wines, the first vintage being the 2008. It is produced from very young vines planted on clay-limestone soils, at 10,000 feet per hectare and vinified in entire bunches. The objective is to accentuate the finesse of the Cabernet. Only 1,000 bottles are produced per year.
The cuvée Les Mémoires is a new cuvée produced since the 2012 vintage. It comes from very old vines (over a century old) and asserts itself as a superb Saumur, classy and complex. Its nose exhales aromas of violet, red and black fruit, as well as notes of cocoa and licorice. On the palate it is fresh yet slightly acidic with fine tannins and a nice length. This wine with huge potential, benefits from ageing for several years in the cellar.
What do the guides say about Domaine des Roches Neuves?
RVF Guide to the best wines of France (***)
The most progress these past ten years in the Loire has been made by Domaine des Roches Neuves. The charismatic Thierry Germain has adopted a modern stylistic approach to Saumur-Champigny, striving to express the optimum ripeness of his Cabernet Franc and their élevage in different-sized oak barrels, all the while maintaining the floral, crunchy, fruity hallmark of the Loire. The enormous amount of work in the vines (biodynamic, some of which ploughed by horse) carried out by Michel Chevret’s team is visible even in the domain’s simplest cuvée, with the purity and freshness of the fruit in the foreground. The entire range is flawless, what with the admirable Franc de Pied and the delectable La Marginale. His Chenin blanc has also made a reputation for itself, having succeeded in finding the purest ripeness, tension and firmness, which is well translated in the cuvée Insolite.
The wines: gourmand in its fruit but quite firm, the simple Saumur-Champigny has more depth and firmness than usual. In the difficult vintage that was 2013, Marginale holds its own with its cold, juicy fruit and its svelte, precise volume. The finesse of the Franc de Pied is irresistible and the grapes are of excellent quality, with a floral freshness.
Bettane+desseauve 2017 (*****)
Scrupulous right to the finest detail, Thierry Germain has made his own path in the Saumurois region, after having distanced himself from the Bordelais traditions which dominated Roches Neuves in the 1990s. He cultivates these 22 hectares in biodynamics, with clay-limestone soils on top of tuffeau stone. The most recent vintages are marked by greater aromatic purity and wonderfully refined textures, thanks to the meticulous work during the maturing process in particular. 2013 was a turning point. The last vintages are exceptional.