The Château de Minière vineyard covers 29 hectares, in the heart of the Bourgueil AOC region. Cabernet Franc is the dominant variety. It is a typical grape for this appellation, and grows on the gentle slopes of the estate, benefiting from the semi-continental climate of the Val de Loire. The Cabernet Franc produces light, refreshing wines, as well as more full-bodied types and vintages suitable for laying down.
An unusual story
The history of the château and the female tradition
The origins of the Château de Minière date back to the 15th century. As a fortified farm, a manor then a château, the property has been owned by some remarkable women for two centuries.
Since 1548, every one of the ladies of Minière has contributed to the building. The first, Madeleine Bodier, began the enlargement of the house. In 1703, Françoise-Marie Henriette Perrault, of the family of the storyteller Charles Perrault, helped to manage the property as an aristocratic wife. Vine-growing began to expand from that period. The 19th century was the golden age for Minière. The Viscountess Claire du Soulier undertook extensive embellishments, inside and out.
In the 20th century, there were several occupants of the Château, and its splendour gradually fell away.
Our early days
Kathleen Van den Berghe and Sigurd Mareels purchased the Château de Minière in 2010. After honeymooning in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, and returning from an exploration of the Tuscan vineyards, the Belgian couple set out to find their own vineyard, where they could move from devotees to become wine-producers.
When they discovered the Château de Minière, they fell in love with the estate, set in the heart of the Loire Valley’s natural landscape. It was not by chance… Sigurd Mareels, a consultant to the mining industry, enjoys the play on the name of the estate. As for Kathleen Van den Berghe, she is enthusiastic about taking up the torch to join the exclusively female line of owners.
At the Château de Minière, the vines are between one…. and one hundred years old! The majority of the mature vines are fifty to sixty years old. The older vines, including the centenarians, flourish on the hillsides, where the estate is famous for its ‘tuffeau’, the famous limestone typical of the region. The younger vines are mainly grown on the lighter, sandy and gravelly soils, formed by the Loire, known locally as ‘terroir de graviers’, and on clay and mixed soils. The diverse micro-climates and soils, and the various ages of the vines, allow us to produce a wide range of wines, each with its own particular profile. They can be tasted young, when they are fruity, delicate and flavoursome, or later on, as they become more potent, and will become long-keeping wines, whose tannins soften and develop over time.
Some Chenin Blanc vines, the other monarch of the Loire Valley vineyards, have been planted recently, to complete the range with a white Minière wine.
The 29 hectares of vines on our estate are divided as follows:
- vines between 90 and 110 years old: 2 hectares
- vines about 50 years old: 14 hectares
- vines under 20 years old: 2 hectares.
The authentic, honest character which Kathleen Van den Berghe claims for the wines are inseparable from her commitment to nature.
From the outset, in 2010, all the vines grown at the Château de Minière have been covered by the Organic Agriculture Ecocert. The estate is also certified HVE (High Environmental Value), a label covering environmental performance indicators.
To overcome the monoculture enforced by the wine, bio-diversity is encouraged wherever possible. The château’s extensive park is an LPO (Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux) bird sanctuary, creating conditions to encourage the establishment of wildlife and wild plants. Hives have also been set up to support the bee population. The estate lies in the natural Loire-Anjou-Touraine region, with vast forests close to the vines.
The Château de Minière is also located in the Unesco Val de Loire buffer zone, ensuring environmental sustainability.
This commitment to nature extends even further into everyday life. Careful thought has been given to the bottling of the wine, for instance: lightweight bottles, unbleached cardboard, strict traceability of corks, nothing is left to chance.
In the renovation works as well, rainwater recovery and heat pumps were de rigueur. Eventually, Kathleen Van den Berghe’s plan is to make the Château de Minière a shining example of bio-diversity in the Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage region.
Organic wine culture
Maintaining soil health is not just good for our environment, but also ensures we produce top-quality wines with a superb bouquet. Growing grass between the vine rows; adding organic material and not using chemical fertilizers; using traditional tillage methods; sowing barley and oats to aerate the soil – all this promotes wildlife and the biotope.
“Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the environment; it promotes fruitful relationships and quality of life for everyone involved”. (Source: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).
“Wine is made on the vine, not in the winery”
The Cabernet-Franc, a demanding grape variety par excellence, has to be mature in order to achieve its finest expression. Careful attention is paid to the vine throughout the year, in order to ensure optimal flourishing. Harvesting takes place at peak maturity, by hand for the oldest vines.
The wish of Kathleen Van den Berghe is to offer a pure reflection of the land and of the grape itself.
In the winery, fully modernised in 2016, all operations are kept strictly to a minimum. The wine-making process should help to express the estate and the grape itself, while remaining invisible in the final wine.
Some of the wines are matured in oak barrels and casks. The purpose of this is, of course, not to mark the wines, but to give them the best possible ageing potential. At the same time, new methods are being tried, such as maturing in flasks for instance.
Kathleen Van den Berghe provides a different view of the wines of the Loire. She has an assertive style, demonstrated through the fine, straightforward, honest, intense, distinguished, fresh and delicious wines she produces. Really enjoyable wines!