Le Clos de la Meslerie
Clos de la Meslerie is a four hectare domaine in the heart of the Loire Valley passionately run by Peter Hahn and his wife Juliette. Peter discovered the property in 2002 and began a painstaking process of executing his dream of a small-scale, organic, sustainable, high-quality winery. He has succeeded on every level, which is apparent in each years’ stellar release.
Most years, Clos de la Meslerie produces only a single cuvée and always from a single variety - Chenin Blanc. The grapes from four distinct parcels are hand-harvested and whole bunches are very slowly crushed with a century-old basket press. The juice is given a long, slow ferment on lees - usually for four to six months - where the only actions are topping up and Peter pressing his ear to the barrel to check for the moment when the ferment stops naturally.
The juice is gravity fed into an underground cellar where each plot is aged separately in oak. Peter is a music lover, and each vintage he chooses a single work to broadcast throughout the cellar, allowing the juice to settle-in with a soothing soundtrack. After around a year of ageing Peter makes the blend, letting the grapes themselves decide if each vintages’ cuvée is dry or tendre (off-dry) or sweet. He does not alter the wine in any way to make a particular style or achieve a certian level of sweetness. His singular goal is to make the purest expression of Chenin Blanc from his terroir. The wine is bottled and aged another year before release. In vintages where he is fortunate enough to have extra grapes, he makes a stunning sparkling Chenin with sharp minerality and an astonishingly long finish.
There is very little modern equipment at Clos de La Meslerie. From his traditional basket press to blister-inducing vine cutters to manual-pumps, everything is done with as little mechanisation and the lightest touch possible. The resulting wines are an expression of Chenin with clarity and purity rarely seen in this area.View Wines
Peter left behind a high-flying, high-stress life in finance for his dream to become a farmer. A grape-farmer, specifically. And twenty years after he bought Clos de la Meslerie, he has created his ideal micro-domaine, award-winning wines and a whole new life for his family. Peter has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his vines, earned over countless hours walking through the rows. He applies a bankers’ attention to detail to vineyard management and is borderline obsessive about the tenets of organic and sustainable winemaking. Yet he often finds his greatest moment of a day in the simple joy of baking bread for dinner. He exudes an obvious passion for both his wines and the gentle lifestyle he and his family have built there.
Peter holds a viticulture degree and knows every shortcut in the book, but instead chooses the slowest, most manual (and least-destructive) choice at every turn. He forgoes all chemicals and machinery as often as possible, and creates his own homeopathic sprays. In the vineyard and the cellar, he does as much of the work as he can with his own two hands. He is aided in the vines by the occasional plough horse, and his wife Juliette helps out with anything from pressing to bottling to hosting tastings. At home they are joined by their children and a large black feline named Mr Cat.Follow
“I am a winegrower, not a winemaker…wine is made in the vineyard, and what happens in the cellar is ancillary at most and irrelevant at best. Everything is in the grapes. I am, first and foremost, a grape-farmer.”
Clos de la Meslerie is located in the sleepy village of Vernou sur-Brenne, a part of the small Vouvray appellation in the Touraine. A few kilometres above the Loire river, amongst the rolling hills of vines and hidden behind a small forest, are four hectares of Chenin Blanc vines surrounding a small but gorgeous 17th century chateau. This is a clos, though instead of the usual stone walls, the vines are enclosed by trees and hedges. These help to keep out any chemical or animal intruders, and help isolate the unique microclimate. There are four distinct parcels of vines - North, South, East and Southwest. Each parcel shares similar flint and clay soils, but the different orientations and elevations offer variations in sun exposure, producing a range of flavours and sweetness levels. When making the final wine, Peter blends juice from each of the parcels, ensuring a depth of flavours, balanced body and a true rendition of all his terroir.
While wines have been made on this site for hundreds of years, Peter rescued this land from decades of misuse and has worked tirelessly to restore the biodiversity. He eliminated all chemicals, dramatically reduced copper, created homeopathic sprays and encouraged natural regrowth amongst the vines. Between each row are grasses sometimes almost as high as the vines, which help create a thriving system of flora and fauna. Deer, rabbits, spiders, ladybugs - each are an essential part of his menagerie. He is determined to maintain this land for generations to come, and applies sustainability practices to everything from water usage to bottling, corks and shipping. Even the labels are printed with water-based inks, and individually hand numbered.
Many of the domaine’s vines are up to 80 years old, which means concentrated flavours but often yields as low 20hl per hectare. But Peter refuses to replace them with newer, more productive vines, and any changes he does make are through an old technique of vine layering which avoids adding any new materials into the microsystem. He is fiercely protective of the utopia he has created. And justly so; the wines are as exceptional as the locale.Location
"My goal is always the lowest intervention… letting nature take centre stage, and not trying to control nature at every step.”
Images by Audrey Dubessay
Words by Allison Burton-Parker