Clos de l’Èlu – Thomas Carsin

Thomas Carsin cut his teeth working as a viticultural consultant in Champagne and Provence before finding some woefully cheap land in Coteaux du Layon, near the town of Saint Aubin de Luigné, including the ‘Les Bruandières’ plot. Planted on the 30 or so hectares were old, uncloned vines of lesser-known indigenous varieties such as Grolleaus Noir and Gris, and Pineau d’Aunis. He resisted the commercial temptation to rip out the old vines and worked hard to restore the vineyards to full health; most of the land is now or about to be certified organic, and more importantly, the vines are once again producing grapes and wine worthy of the terroir.

Given his inquisitive (he says nomadic) nature, and the range of land and grapes he can work with, it is no surprise that many of his wines resulted from deliberate experiments in the cellar (albeit of a low-tech nature). We love the tiny quantity of Espérance that he ships to us, a clearly Angevin rendition of Pineau d’Aunis. The blend of the Gamay and Grolleau Noir (Indigène) from plots in and around ‘Les Bruandières’ is deep and savoury, more soil- than fruit-driven.  Thomas also makes two sparkling wines: one a fascinating rosé from Grolleau Gris, the colour of freshly caught salmon, and finished in the bottle (i.e. methode ancestrale), while the other is a dry, undosed blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Of the more common varieties, his Cabernet Franc (l’Aiglerie) is incredibly suave, the short carbonic maceration bringing out the ripe fruit cleanly without losing minerality or verve, while the Terre! is a very fine example of schist-based Sauvignon Blanc.