Founding Members of The Natural Wine Movement
If you’re new to natural wine, then the wines from husband-and-wife team Catherine & Pierre Breton are a great place to start. (If you’re not then Domaine Breton are an essential stop on your Natural Wine journey!) The Bretons played a crucial role in the story of The Natural Wine movement. Their domaine (winery/vineyard) was founded in 1982, they are based in a small village near Bourgueil in the Loire Valley making authentic, clean wines with a focus on the quality of the grapes. Their vineyards have been established for five generations and farmed biodynamically for 30 years. People describe Natural Wine in many ways. It has always (for me) felt like a counter-culture movement – a group of people who love wine but do not love what it has become. This often refers to the chemical farming and excessive use of additives employed in the wineries. I feel there’s more too it than that. The snobbery, grandeur and ego that has evolved surrounding wine, has for many, sucked the joy out of something simple and wonderful.
The Bretons were amongst the, then, marginal wine growers who had a new vision for wine. They hosted a tasting called “La Dive Bouteille” in 1999 with 15 other likeminded artisans. This has now become a huge yearly event, hosting thousands, and is probably one of the most important events in the French Natural Wine calendar. It didn’t take long for the movement to capture the minds of many growers across the world. Today if you visit some of the big Natural Wine Fairs, producers can be found from most of the regions and countries known for wine production, particularly in Europe.
Catherine and Pierre’s wines are made from the two key grape varieties known in their area of the Loire. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. For those who are familiar with Chenin from New World countries such as South Africa, Chenin from the Loire is quite different. It is often labelled under the appellation or regional name Vouvray. It can be made still or sparkling, and can be dry, off dry or sweet. (All the wines we have from Dom. Breton are dry). You can expect something lighter, fresher and slightly creamy or textural.
The next generation of Bretons, Paul and France, now also work within the Domaine. Paul makes white wine in Vouvray, and France alongside her husband Baptiste make red wine in Bourgueil.
Cabernet Franc is sometimes known as Cabernet Sauvignon’s little brother due a similar flavour profile but with less tannin or structure. You can certainly expect black currant within the core fruit character and slightly more savoury notes such as green bell pepper. Cabernet Franc is often labelled under the appelation names of Bourguiel or Chinon.
The grapes are grown on 11 hectares of biodynamically farmed vines, averaging around 40 years of age, that produce only around 6,500 cases of wine a year. These vineyards have varying soil types of gravel, clay and limestone that have profound influences on the resulting styles of the wines.
The wines are fermented with natural yeasts, unfiltered and with no addition of sulphites during fermentation (after which a small amount is added before bottling but not always).
One of the Domaine’s most remarkable features are the beautiful cellars carved out of limestone below the vineyards. Converted from disused quarries, these secret old tuffeau (local type of limestone) caves provide the perfect conditions for aging.