There are those wines that transcend allegiances and allow more classic oenophiles to share a bottle with hardcore “nature” enthusiasts. When you meet the winemaker Nicolas Grosbois, you understand why.

Mr. Grosbois, whom we saw in Montreal for the second time in less than five years, in the spring, is a man in his forties, more intellectual than peasant in appearance. He listens to new ideas, but filters them through his scientific mind. He likes things to be straight. We feel in him this desire to respect the rules of the art – he defends the controlled designation of origin, because “it is to aim for excellence” -, but while being of his time.

And this “time” of today is a bit of a return to that of yesterday, that of the ancestors who cultivated the land in polyculture to feed themselves and to feed their community. “We grew up on apples and pears. Pépère and Mémère [Jacques and Jocelyne, his parents, also present in Montreal this time], who met in 1973, had fruit trees. They stopped in the late 1990s because the market crashed. Today, the polyculture that we are putting in place is a continuity. »

Biodiversity is therefore back at Les Grosbois, with hectares of market gardening, cows, pigs and of course vines, to create a healthy and harmonious environment.

Unlike many other children of farmers who go to study and live an urban life to return to the vineyard much later, the two Grosbois sons immediately studied viticulture and oenology. “In the evening, I took 25 cents to call grandma and grandma and I told them everything I had learned during my day in class,” recalls Nicolas Grosbois.

The brothers still went to continue their learning elsewhere.

His brother Sylvain was making wine in Chile during that time.

Back in Chinon, Nicolas Grosbois quietly began to push his parents into retirement, between 2005 and 2008. In 2007, the estate began its conversion to organic farming. Biodynamic certification was considered, but because its specifications were unsuited to the reality of the vineyard and the beliefs of the family, polyculture prevailed.

New master on board, Nicolas Grosbois allowed himself to experiment with the king grape variety of the region, Cabernet Franc. “For 15 years, we tried everything,” he says. There were very long macerations (45 days in 2015), medium ones (thirty days), then short ones (20 days). Some container tests have been done. “Volcanic sulfur has been tried instead of petrochemical sulfur, with mixed results. But I remain convinced that we will have to come back to it and that we will learn to use it because there will be no more petrochemicals,” explains the winemaker.

Nicolas Grosbois tells all this to an audience of sommeliers and sommeliers, in one of the private rooms of the Monarque restaurant, where he gives us the gift of a vertical tasting of 10 vintages of the estate’s main cuvée, Gabare, offered at the SAQ. . The experiments can be tasted and the right path seems to have been found, if we trust the delicious 2021.

So what are the lessons of these years of trials in which brother Sylvain, who returned to France in 2017, also participated? “We prefer shorter macerations, destemmed grapes, concrete containers, at least for the Gabare cuvée. »

But wine is not everything at the Grosbois. It is even rather the human and the living in general that take precedence. “From this landscape where there were only vines a few years ago, we now produce everything you need to eat and drink. Today we are 30 people working at the estate and making a good living from it. We repopulated the village, there is a life that appears, there is a market where we sell our vegetables.

And the planet depends a little on it. The Grosbois have learned this over time, with increasingly destructive freezes. Also a range of trading wines was born from these difficulties. You have surely seen them at the SAQ. They have evocative names like My Mother’s Kitchen, My Father’s Gardens, Extra Ball, Litron and Tète Nat’ (this natural sparkling wine being the product of a collective in which Nicolas Grosbois participates). They are simple and playful wines.

As for the Gabare cuvée, from the “house” estate: “It’s the wine I would bring to my father-in-law’s,” told us not one, but two sommeliers. Far from being an insult, this comment rather suggests that this wine has the potential to please a large number of drinkers.

The Gabare cuvée contains the fruit of 12 plots of Cabernet Franc from the estate. These are isolated and then matured for six months in neutral concrete vats. Assembly is done next. The harvest was generous in 2020, a hot vintage. We feel the maturity on the nose, with notes of mint and liquorice. In the mouth, a touch of black olive appears. There is no doubt that this wine will be the party with your summer grills.