Terre de L'Élu, Loire, France
We catch up with Charlotte, one half of the husband-and-wife team steering the ship at Terre de l’Élu...
Their fate was sealed 27 years ago in their home region of Brittany; both ardent lovers of life at sea, and sailing, Charlotte and Thomas had always dreamed of making wine, and it was the schist rich soils of Anjou Noir in the south of the Loire valley that permitted them to realise it.
Alongside their four children, the pair, who started with very little, are still extremely modest in their approach, placing the happiness of their team alongside their constant quest to rebuild a balanced ecosystem above all else. The quality of their farming enables them to make unique wines with a mineral character - more like their northern counterparts. This artisan duo have built everything with their own hands and continue to do so with the greatest respect for nature and the ecosystem in which they inhabit.
Bringing you beautiful wines that are to be enjoyed and shared at the table, over great conversation and great food.View Wines
Clos de L’Élu translates to "land of the chosen one" - what can you tell us about this?
Clos de L’Élu is the traditional name of the area - known in France as a Lieu-dit - a French toponymic term for a small geographical area. We adapted it by dropping the name Clos in 2019 because we are no longer part of the appellation. It was a difficult decision to leave but we prefer not to be judged by technocrats.
“We prefer to give priority to our freedom and creativity rather than trying to make wines that do not resemble us.”
And also by adding a capital E which gives two meanings to those who know. This is very much in keeping with the names that we have given our wines. Choosing words with meaning and often a double sense.
What is the significance of the sea and the nautical-themed names that you have given to your wines?
This is an important part of our story because we are both from Brittany. We fell in love over our mutual appreciation for the sea, navigation and travel. It was over our very first conversation about sailing that we fell in love. We are both very proud to be "Breton" [from Brittany], and we take our children sailing as much as possible - it's part of our identity, it's in our DNA.
The name for the first white that we made - a Chenin Blanc, is called Bastingage - this is the name for the safety barrier on boats that stops you from falling into the sea! Roc'h Avel, is our entry-level Chenin Blanc and is named after a small island in Brittany. Maupiti, our Cabernet Franc and Gamay blend, is a nod to Thomas' childhood in Polynesia. Magellan, our flagship Cabernet Franc, is named after the famous Portuguese explorer. Désirade, a Sauvignon Blanc, is named after the Caribbean Island that Christopher Columbus discovered. Espérance is made from 100% Pinot d'Aunis, and it means 'faith' - this was the first cuvée that I made back in 2010. While L'Aiglerie - is the only wine that is about the land and is named after the terroir. And Ephata, our flagship white, takes on a spiritual meaning - "to be open" in Greek. It means to be open around the wine, but we also love how wine opens people up. But quite literally, this wine does need time to open and breathe before serving.
“We make gastronomic wines for the table, it's part of our culture, and we see our wines as a representation of France on the international stage.”
How would you describe your philosophy and style of wine?
We sell our wines internationally and we see our wines as a proud symbol of France. Wine has always travelled; it's so unique in that way - it's a little part of us that speaks of us and what we do.
Natural vinification in the cellar, and long ageing from one to four years. While in the vineyard, it is about respecting nature and applying creativity with a capital 'C'! We respect all that is living and our philosophy is rooted in ancestral agriculture and influenced by permaculture. We are studying ways to better understand the soil - when to de-weed and when not to and how to recalibrate the soils after many years of industrial farming. We have seen life coming back gradually, slowly, regaining a natural rebalance in the ecosystem. We have also noticed the colours of the vines changing too. So our aim is to better understand how to regain a natural balance. How to move away from a monoculture - planting trees and hedges and introducing flora and hopefully fauna one day soon.
The soils of Anjou Noire are formed of very hard volcanic and metamorphic rock. The soils have an acid profile that is well-draining, producing small yields and grapes with thick skins. Like Tomato skins, that you grow at home instead of the ones you buy from the supermarket that have much thinner skins. So the skin must be very ripe so that the reds have fine and silky tannins. The whites have a nice mouthfeel that makes them perfect wines to pair with food. The reds often have a ripe profile with spices, menthol and liquorice, and for the whites - we get fennel and anise and savoury, vegetal notes with fine, delicate pear-like fruit.
"Our style is elegant, clean and authentic."
We have noticed a beautiful evolution from the 2018 to the 2019 vintage, which carries great freshness and minerality. How have the different vintages been?
2014: a cold summer and hot September. A complicated year because of last-minute maturities. Wines with a rather demonstrative profile, which can be appreciated well after 4-5 years of ageing.
2015: an easy vintage. With very nice fine tannins on the reds.
2016: mildew, heat waves in the summer, slightly firmer tannins
2017: year of frost, very small yields (a small half-harvest), juices quite concentrated on the whites
2018: a vintage of whites, a very nice vintage.
2019: more freshness, more acidity while being very ripe
2020: not enough yield, but we are very happy with what we have in the tank and in the barrel!
What are you most proud of on your winemaking journey so far?
When I look at what we've done, I think we've made wines that are true to us with very little means when we first started. We are so happy that our wines sell, as it enables us to do a job that we love. To create an encouraging, learning and progressive environment for everyone who works with us—at the same time, holding the highest respect for nature.
The balance is us working as a couple; this is something that we're really proud of also - it's not just Thomas and Charlotte - perhaps it's a bit naive, but the love we share for each other, we want it to be felt across our work and in our wines. Without Thomas, there is no Charlotte, and without Charlotte, there is no Thomas. Since June, we've been working with our three eldest children in the vines, and it's just so brilliant to work with them; we see how they are beginning to discover this profession while adding something new and different at the same time.
If you could deliver a message to the people who drink your wines across the world, what would it be?
To be true to your emotions and dreams. To never forget to marvel. Otherwise, you risk getting old too quickly! We’re so lucky that our work pushes us to always think in this way.
What is yours and Thomas's favourite food and wine pairing?
It would have to be the Ephata Chenin Blanc with pork cooked with feta, bay leaves and lemon confit!
That sounds delicious - thank you for speaking with us today Charlotte!
You can learn more about Terre de L'Élu from Thomas' interview with 67 Pall Mall - click here.