We're convinced that Benoît makes some of the best wines in the Loire, if not in the whole of France! Benoît Courault is a young and established vigneron in Faye d'Anjou, a little village south of Angers along the Layon river.
Benoît is from Anjou, but grew up as the son of a famous horse breeder and trader. Although he grew up surrounded by horses, he knew early on that he wanted to work in wine.
After working in restaurants in Angers as a sommelier, he decided his call was to make wine, not pour it. He enrolled in oenology school in Beaune and was taught the full roster of conventional techniques: systematic sulfuring at harvest, fermentation by lab yeast, etc. But after discovering the wines of so-called naturalists like Yvon Métras, he knew he wanted to adhere to a different set of rules—those that focus on soil health, a view of the vineyard as part of a harmonious ecosystem, and winemaking free of synthetic entrants.
To learn more, he moved down south at Domaine de l’Anglore in Tavel in the Southern Rhône, and spent the next three years working alongside Eric Pfifferling, one of the very important vignerons of the natural wine movement who practiced the polar opposite farming techniques to the wine Benoît had experienced in Burgundy.
When he was ready, Benoît found a humble 5 hectare plot in Faye d’Anjou planted to vines, with an old shed he could transform into a winery and an airstream trailer he could call home.
Vineyard and farming philosophy
Benoît's vineyard is as close to a farm-garden as it could be. He converted all the land to organic and believes in biodiversity: horses are used to plow the land; chickens, goats, sheep, and rabbits live between the vines, the fruit trees, and the vegetable garden; uses herbs, tisanes, and compost to rebuild the topsoil, and experiments with green cover crop.
Today the domain covers 6.5–5.5 hectare in production over multiple plots, and 1 hectare planted 2 years ago. Most of the vineyards are around the house and in the Clos des Mailles, and its extension Le Prieuré where he makes Gilbourg (1.30 ha), Le Petit Chemin (0.70 ha), Les Rouliers (1.30 ha), La Coulée (0.5 ha), and Les Tabeneaux (1 ha).
Benoît also has some vineyards on the plateau for his Eglantine, as well as near the Layon, neighbouring the plot of his dear friend Richard Leroy and in Le Plessis on the way to the famous site Mont Benault (Les Guinechiens, 0.62 ha). In total, Benoît has 50% of Chenin, 30% of Cabernet, 15% of Grolleau and 5% of young Pineau d’Aunis (and a couple of experiments).
Some of his oldest vines are to be found in Les Guinechiens, Clos des Mailles and Prieuré, but they are not necessarily his best vines – everything depends on the vegetal material. He keeps on improving the selection by replanting little by little. All the vineyards are within 10 min by tractor.
All of Benoît’s grapes are hand harvested and pressed using a manual vertical press. The wines are racked into used barrels once the fermentation has started and are bottled after just over a year of élevage with little to no SO2, depending on the cuvée.