Fanny Sabre hadn’t planned to be a winemaker. She was at university studying law when her father died and she took over the running of the estate. It was then that she discovered that she enjoyed it. Initially, it was with the help of natural wine pioneer Philippe Pacalet, who stepped in to help following Fanny’s father’s death, but soon Fanny learnt his methods, which were initially unusual for her – the estate was used to conventional farming. When Pacalet moved on to his own projects once more, Fanny, then in her mid-20s, was left to manage the estate on her own. Now she does most of the work herself, and she does it using entirely organic methods.
The grapes are all grown organically and harvested manually. Manual ploughing takes place between the rows of vines, which are sprayed only with organic mixtures. No herbicides are used. The wines are produced on a small scale, with each vine monitored closely and with meticulous attention to detail in the cellar. No synthetic chemicals are added, with natural treatments used instead during the process.
Her cellar itself, in the small town of Pommard, is also steeped in history. One of the rooms Fanny uses for storing the wines was once a gun powder room, and above it once stood the local fort. The walls hang with ancient yeasts and microbes that are vital to the fermentation process. The grapes are crushed using a pneumatic press, before the white wines are fermented in old oak barrels, and wood and concrete vats are used for the whole-bunch maceration of the reds. Indigenous local yeasts replace the standard imported species used conventionally. The wines are then aged for at least a year, without racking or fining and with only one very light stirring. The different wines are then put in stainless steel vats for three to four months before they are roughly filtrated and bottled by hand using a gravity bottle filler and manual corker.
Despite the tiny estate, Fanny Sabre still manages to use the terroir effectively enough to produce 15 different wines. In her own words, she wants her wines to be alive. They certainly liven up those who enjoy her wines.
* Listen to Fanny Sabre's podcast on Interpreting wine, by Lawrence Francis
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