We have been fans of Les Capriades wines for quite some time. We were first introduced to their cuvées at the Chez Remi restaurant in Angers. Later we were offered another of their wines at Casse-Cailloux in the city of Tours (also in the Loire Valley).
We finally met with one of the owners, Pascal Potaire, at a lively Saturday morning wine tasting outside Caves Auge in Paris where the theme of the day was the word on everyone’s lips – Pétillant Naturels.
These bottle-fermented, lightly sparkling wines with generally lower alcohol are all-year-round delights. They are a perfect aperitif or as a full stop to a night. Pascal is well known in the Loire for his expertise in making this style of wine. In fact Bertrand Celce who authors the famous Wine Terroirs blog refers to Pascal in this way:
“his expertise in natural sparkling making him a reference for other winemakers who want to raise and handle a cuvée of natural bubbly“.
Pascal and his business partner Moses Gadouche work from a winery near the Cher River not too far from the city of Tours. Here the wine is aged in old barrels and then bottled when the fermentation has proceeded long enough for the resultant gas that forms in the bottle not to cause damage.
The wine is then left with the bottles upside down as the fermentation continues in the bottle and the most of the remaining sugar is converted to alcohol.
Capriades Piège à …. during the riddling stage in the cellar
When the fermentation is complete there is a puck of dead yeast in the neck of the bottle and this is usually disgorged. Pascale and Moses have a special piece of equipment that they have designed for this messy job. The crown-seal is opened and the pressure of the gas that has been created blows the dead yeast from the neck of the bottle. The wine is then topped up and sealed ready for sale.
Pascal (on the left) and Moses about to enjoy a Pet Nat in front of their unique disgorging station
Eventually we visited their cellars at Faverolles-sur-Cher in the Touraine AOC and met Pascale’s business partner, Moses Gadouche, as well as visiting many of the small parcels they own, which scattered around the region, as well as parcels farmed by other people whose grapes they purchase but harvest themselves.
Although Les Capriades occasionally releases a still wine, the domaine, and Pascal specifically, is best know as one of the true masters of pétillant naturels, knowing just when to bottle the still fermenting wines in order to have the right amount of residual sugar and bubbles.
Although best known for their rosé and white cuvées, which are always varying degrees of off-dry, in recent years that have been making more bone dry wines, and with their white Pet’Sec in particular, which has extended time on lees before disgorging are truly challenging the notion that pétillant naturels are not serious wines. With length and complexity, is a truly great sparkling wine that can hold its own against other types of sparkling winemaking methods.
Les Capriades’ pet-nats are always disgorged, a time-consuming process but one Pascal believes leads to more stability and better drinking. With disgorgement, their wines are clean and unlike some pet-nats are quite consistent and reliable.
Such is Pascal and Moses’ commitment to this style of winemaking that for the last few years they have organised, each July, a wine fair in Montrichard called Bulles Au Centre. It is devoted to this style of making bubbles (bulles). Exhibitors (and in 2017 there were over 70) can only show pet-nats and one other (usually still) wine. If you happen to be in France in July it’s a great event to attend.
Les Capriades Vin de France Piège à …. Rosé 2019
The Rosé Piège à …. is a pink Pétillant Naturel which is a blend of organic Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Côt grapes that have been harvested from vines ranging in age from 20 years to 50 years old.
The wine is made without any dosage (the addition of sugar) and also without the addition of any sulphur. It has some residual sugar which is a hallmark of this cuvée, but at a level that makes the drink even more alluring.
The wine is bottled under a crown seal when Pascale and Moses think that the sugar has decreased to a level where it will continue to ferment, but not too much so that the build up of carbon dioxide causes the bottle to explode.
We believe that this is one of the finest examples of a Pétillant Naturel on the market!
It is packaged in clear bottles and, after being manually disgorged (the sediment being expelled from the bottle) is sealed with a resealable Zork closure.
Les Capriades Vin de France Blanc Pet Sec
The Blanc Pet Sec Pétillant Naturel is a blend of organic Chenin Blanc (80%) and Menu Pineau (20%) grapes in 2019 and the 2017 (we only have a very small allocation) has some Chardonnay as well.
The wine is made without any dosage (the addition of sugar) and also without the addition of any sulphur. It is possible to detect some residual sugar but it is at a level that makes the drink even more alluring.
It is packaged in clear bottles and is sealed with a resealable Zork closure.
RRP: $58 for 2017 (2 bottles maximum) and $54 for 2019
Les Capriades La Bulle Rouge 2019/2020
This cuvée is always a favourite! It is unique in that it the only pet nat that we know of that is entirely made from the three Gamay teinturier grapes. These are the three Gamay grape varieties that have red flesh and hence produce red juice rather than clear juice when it is pressed. All other red grapes need to be pressed and left on their skins to extract the colour that makes them a red wine.
The three varieties are Gamay de Bouze, Gamay Chaudenay and Gamay Fréaux which were harvested from vineyards in the Cher Valley and around Faverolles-en-Berry where the soils are sandy loams with flint and limetsone.
The fact that they have used three teinturier grapes for this pet nat means that the colour is somewhat darker than the others, but it is absolutely delicious.
This is a combination of 2019 and 2020 due to the low yields in both of those seasons.
Les Capriades Poiré 2019
This amazing drink came about following a sequence of events whereby Pascal Potaire was introduced to Estelle Mulowsky who worked in the wine industry having a number of the beautiful Percheron draught horses which she used to help vignerons plough their vineyards and harvest their grapes.
She told him of a number of very old orchards that existed around where she lived near the town of Vendome which is north of Faverolles where Les Capriades has their winery. She offered to organise for the pears from these orchards to be harvested rather than rot on the trees as was currently the case, so that Pascal and Moses could make a sparkling cider from pears which is called poiré in France.
This cider is the result of the harvesting of old, traditional varieties including Carési, Crasseau Rouge, and Poire de Loup. The pears were pressed and then fermented naturally and then bottled with sufficient natural sugar from the fruit so that enough carbon dioxide would be created in the bottle to produce this incredibly beautiful, soft, flavoursome cider. No sulphites have been added at any time.
Les Capriades – Pépin La Bulle 2015 MAGNUM
Pépin La Bulle is always a wonderful pet nat and the 2015 is no exception. It is usually made from 100% Chenin Blanc, but in 2015 they decided to make it a blend of Chenin Blanc, Menu Pineau and Chardonnay. It was bottled and left on lees for three years.
There is a tiny amount of residual sugar which makes it even more alluring and absolutely perfect as an aperitif. We only have this pet nat in Magnums this year and we have so few that we need to restrict the number ordered.
RRP: $149 (1 MAGNUM Maximum)