Story by Alexa Proctor
Naked wines took a group of wine lovers to the Loire Valley to visit the Villebois wine estate who exclusively distribute their wines to the UK via Naked Wines.
Loire is a popular place for boating excursions as it has the longest river in France with a length of 1020 km, so one can flow through a pastoral countryside, past limestone cliffs and historic castles. Although the Loire is not generally the sunniest of places (except for whilst we were there – we had glorious sunshine), it is good enough to produce tasty wines.
Villebois wines are appreciated not only in England and Ireland but also in the Netherlands. Brits typically like dry white wine versus the Dutch who prefer sweeter ones, according to the Villebois team.
Meet the team…
There are four friends behind this wonderful establishment, chairman of the Stock exchange Joost van der Does de Willebois, Charles Eijsbouts, Alexander Zeverjin and Ton Reabeling. They all met at university and when Joost shared his dream of wanting to produce wine they all were enthused and have now made it a reality. But as they were not experts they went in search and found Thierry Merlet a well known winemaker of the region.
Why did they choose the Loire valley?
As it is located close to the magnificent banks of the Cher river, which is the left tributary to the river Loire, the soil is incredibly calciferous, made up of millions of fossilized oyster shells from the ancient shallow sea that once covered France. This soil gives rise to the brilliant crisp flavors of the region's white grapes and in particular Sauvignon Blancs, which are delicious served with goats cheese. Joost has had a house here for 12 years and simply loves the region, which is famous not only for wine but its castles. They are well known in the community and recently when one member got married they invited the entire village to celebrate – now that is idyllic community living.
The team have 12 plots of land (spanning 12 hectares) with 10 in production. They began making wine in 2004 but they say that it takes 3 years to get your first crop and then after that from 4 onwards you get the best results, as it is a slow process of learning. Joost had wanted to produce wine since he was 18 years old and did a course in Bordeaux to learn the basics. He likens wine making to a farming business in that you are dependent on the weather and there are so many variables, but patience and paying attention to the small details leads to success. Throughout the year traditional farming methods are applied and each vineyard is monitored closely. They use no form of irrigation and have some handy tricks that I will share in my next article on what makes an excellent wine.
We had a magnificent time we walked through the vineyards some of which were 60 years old. Vines have a life span of up to 100 years and the grapes improve with age – like humans we may say! The key to wine making is the moment you decide to harvest.
Do take a look and perhaps even try one of theirs. My personal favourite is the Villebois Prestige, an elegant sauvignon blanc.
About the author: Alexa Proctor is a member of Jamie’s online team.
For more information on Naked Wines.