Winemaker Hervé Villemade is the natural wine star of the Cheverny appellation in the Loire, where he farms Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Romorantin and Chardonnay, in a combination of barrels and amphorae.
Wine writer Aaron Ayscough wrote a guest feature for LITTLEWINE on Hervé's work in the vines and cellar.
“When the wines settle a bit, there are truly differences in taste among the ageing containers, as much in white as in red. There are phases when it tastes good in barrel, then others when it tastes better in foudre or in amphora. It’s super interesting.”
People: Hervé Villemade
Place: Cheverny, Loire, France
Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Menu Pineau, Romorantin, Côt (a French synonym for Malbec), Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chenin Blanc
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Hervé is particularly renowned for his Romorantin cuvée, Les Aacacias. Unique to the Cour-Cheverny appellation, the Romorantin grape is known for its minerality.
The Villemade Wines
While Villemade’s basic bottlings of Sauvignon and Cheverny Rouge are known as craftsmanlike, unshowy references for their grape varieties, his cellar work in recent years has seen a marked increase in experimentation, as he acquires a panoply of new aging containers, ranging from 400L and 500L barrels to foudres to amphorae in sandstone and clay, along with two buried Georgian qvevri.
Like his neighbour Thierry Puzelat, Villemade was inspired to produce more lightly skin-macerated whites in 2019 by the difficult fermentations that afflicted much of France the previous year, when many winemakers had difficulty coaxing their direct-press white wines to dryness. Increasing time on the skins for white grapes, so the thinking goes, increases exposure to native yeasts on the skins, thereby aiding successful fermentation. Villemade's 2019 Sauvignon-Chardonnay blend “La Bodice,” for example, is composed of half direct-press juice and half juice that macerated, destemmed, for forty-eight hours. It worked as he anticipated.