Hervé Villemade has been working his family's vines in Cellettes since taking over from his father in 1995. Today, the estate represents about 22 hectares of organically farmed fruit within the Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny AOCs, along with a négociant license to supplement production with local grapes.
When Hervé first took over, everything was farmed chemically and vinified conventionally. Unaware of an alternative, he followed in his parents' footsteps but quickly found his work "uninspired and bland." Around 1997, Hervé was introduced to the wines of Marcel Lapierre and Clos du Tue-Boeuf. Both immediately struck a chord with him.
Coincidentally, at the exact same time that he was discovering these wines, Hervé started developing a very serious allergy to sulfur. He decided to eliminate it from the cellar, but his first sans souffre vinifications quickly led to the conclusion that to make wine this way, you needed the highest quality grapes. So in 2000, Hervé decided to convert the estate to organic viticulture.
The majority of the production consists of Cheverny Blanc and Cheverny Rouge, all farmed from the historic family parcels in Cellettes. A single vineyard Cheverny Rouge, "Les Ardilles", is produced in vintages that permit, along with "Desiré", a magnum only bottling of very old Pinot Noir planted by his grandfather. In addition, Hervé owns a significant amount of the indigenous Romorantin, a grape so unique to this part of the Loire that it receives its own appellation, Cour-Cheverny.
Hervé's area is particularly vulnerable to spring frost, a phenomenon that has greatly accelerated in the last 20 years with global warming. Due to mild winters, the vines due not go into as deep a hibernation and begin budding weeks earlier than they used to. Spring frosts have always been common, but would occur at a point in the vines' vegetative cycle where little to no harm could be done.
Hervé has lost part of his crop to this phenomenon in most years, including nine vintages between 1995 and 2012 where 80% or more of his family land was destroyed. In such, Hervé has had to completely overhaul and rethink his enterprise. He has invested in costly anti-frost towers, is pruning much later and leaving grass to intentionally compete with the vines. It also led him to begin a négociant business sourcing grapes from local purveyors.
- Louis / Dressner