The Story


Domaine de Bellevue is an organic and biodynamic domaine in the Pays Nantais that is forging a modern path for Muscadet through creative winemaking, fearless experimentation and true passion thanks to Jérôme Bretaudeau.

This westernmost part of the Loire is known primarily for Atlantic breezes and granite soils that help create high acid wines from Melon de Bourgogne. Domaine de Bellevue encompasses parcels from multiple areas of distinctly different terroir, growing a surprising variety of grapes that are vinified in an equal variety of ways.

After studying viticulture, Jérôme worked for other winemakers in the region for over a decade, eventually taking over his family’s few hectares of vines in 2001. He set out to expand the domaine on his own terms, slowly adding parcels from the surrounding communes. He wanted to create a fine Muscadet of course, but also yearned to make wine from the grapes he most loved to drink. The domaine today includes 15 hectares spread across multiple communes. Loire-rarities like Savagnin, Chardonnay and Merlot (yes, Merlot from the Nantais) grow alongside Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Melon de Bourgogne. Jérôme and his team of six produce about 80,000 bottles a year, and unlike many others in the area, Domaine de Bellevue doesn’t buy any grapes, so all the wines are the pure result of their tireless work.

Domaine de Bellevue was certified organic in 2012. A later conversion to biodynamic principles led to certification from Biodyvin in 2020. Yet Jérôme still plays by his own rules. Because of his freestyle experimentation with various ageing periods, vessels and grape varieties, almost all his wines are sold as Vin De France. Many have developed cult-like followings abroad and are difficult to secure most years.

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The People


Jérôme

Jérôme Bretaudeau has an intense passion for wine - drinking it as well as making it!

When he sought to expand his domaine, he wanted to plant the varieties he most enjoyed drinking, even though they were virtually non-existent in the region. He took his time and carefully chose each new parcel, keeping in mind which grape to grow where. Once cépage and terroir were matched, he stood back and allowed nature to take its course. “I plant the grapes I like… then wait… you just have to have patience to see how they develop” he said.

His patience has been rewarded and he is now widely known for his successes with unique blends and alternate grapes. Each year he endeavours to add new varieties or cuvées.

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Jérôme is constantly seeking a better understanding of his terroir. He harvests by age of vine per soil type, so he can see what each will bring to the wines as they mature. He replants only using selection massale, which uses original stocks to keep the integrity of his clones. He is exploring what different greenery planted between the rows give to the soil as they decompose, and has installed a cutting-edge vine heating system to prevent frost damage.

He likes to push boundaries in the cellar as well. He uses only natural yeasts, often gives grapes extended maceration or co-macerates them and avoids all additives and filtration. But his real creativity comes in the ageing, where he uses a menagerie of vessels - large and small casks, barrels, steel tanks, concrete eggs and terra cotta amphora. Many wines spend time in more than one type and he is even trialing a solera ageing system. The resulting wines are complex and layered, with surprising depth and power. He is conscious that his wines are atypical, and not necessarily for the mainstream. He simply aims to make wines he himself wants to drink.

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"I don’t want to make a wine that everyone likes. I make the wine I like, that I am passionate about. There’s a certain price, taste, style… It is like the haute couture of wine.”

 

 

The Place


Loire, France 

The Pays Nantais is the westernmost part of the Loire Valley, extending all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This is a maritime climate, and many say you can taste the salt on the wind and in the wines. The Muscadet area has been delivering crisp, mineral, easy-drinking wines for decades and many lovers of the Loire envisage it as one large appellation producing wines from a single grape. Neither of these points are correct. The decade following the 2011 creation of the Muscadet Crus has brought more attention to the variations in terroir, and inventive winemakers like Jérôme are further challenging expectations with new expressions of the terroir and complex, layered wines from Melon de Bourgogne as well as other varieties.

Domaine de Bellevue is based in Gétigné, a small suburb of Clisson, which is far more industrial than viticultural. Jérôme is the only registered vigneron in the village and his modern new winemaking facility and office is located just off a key round-about. But inside that building, Jérôme has created somewhat of an experimental park for winemaking where he uses up to ten different grapes from across five communes: Clisson, Gorges, Pallet, Gétigne and Cugand. Gleaming steel tanks sit aside concrete eggs and terra cotta amphora. A sleek new bottling machine provides stark contrast to the stone carvings of biodynamic symbols mounted to the wall.

Unlike the many easy-drinking wines common elsewhere in Muscadet, the granite soils of Clisson produce linear, concentrated wines. Jérôme’s Granit Clos des Pierrières is from granite and pink/white quartz terroir in Clisson, fermented naturally with indigenous yeasts, unfiltered and aged on the lees for 18 months in concrete eggs. The result is a complex expression of Melon de Bourgogne that is at one time briny and steely but also has layers of fruitiness. A silky, refined Muscadet that proves a wine’s texture can be just as important as its aromas or flavours.

When applied to black grapes, these same granite and quartz soils create delicate, refined wines. His Statera is a whole-bunch Pinot Noir aged in oak with floral and pepper notes and a long finish. The V Sens is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot from a 1.5 hectare gently sloping south-facing plot. The grapes are macerated for one week and aged in both amphora and oak, yielding surprisingly ripe fruit flavours and smooth tannins. There is a finesse to these reds that is seldom found this far west in the Loire.

Domaine de Bellevue’s range of elegant, precise and characterful wines express the power of this varied terroir when combined with innovative winemaking. This has earned Jérôme a cult-like following and places the domaine at the forefront of modern, quality-driven Muscadet.

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Images by Audrey Dubessay

Words by Allison Burton-Parker