The time of year is approaching where we might treat ourselves and the wine enthusiasts in our lives to something special. With this in mind let us introduce our recent exciting discovery, Sancerre winemaker Matthieu Delaporte, of Domaine Delaporte.
Matthieu wears lightly his legacy of leading this wonderful family vineyard into an organic future, having been just 22 years old when his father gave him the keys to Domaine Delaporte in 2010. It was a big responsibility - the Sancerre domaine has been in the family’s hands since the 17th century - but after five years of studying winemaking in Beaune and Montpellier he was ready for the task. We spoke to him about his work.
Did you feel pressure to follow in the family tradition?
Yes it is a certain pressure to take over a family estate and bring it to a high quality level.
And does the responsibility of being in charge of a family heirloom weigh heavily on your shoulders?
It is necessary to have the head on straight, especially nowadays where it is necessary to master many aspects (production, vinification, management, business...)
When you took over what, if anything, did you change? I changed almost everything and I was especially lucky to have a father who left me the keys when I was 22!
And how have you made your mark on Domaine Delaporte since then?
I went back to my great-grandfather’s way of working by putting the vine back at the heart of the subject. (Stop weed killers, chemicals, chemical fertilisers). I sold the harvesting machines. Now 90 people are needed to harvest the 33 hectares in small boxes of 12 kg.
You say you are moving to a “more organic approach”. What does that mean in practice in terms of viticulture and why is it important for the quality of the wines?
Making great wine from soil drip fed by pesticides was not for me. Making wine to make wine…. I was not interested at all. I really wanted to give meaning to my profession and put the environment back at the heart of the subject. This is the challenge of our generation. We are fortunate to be in Sancerre and we must live up to our reputation. We will have organic certification in 2023. Organic is not an end in itself. I am not an extremist because the organic carbon footprint is not always that exceptional. The goal in working in this way is to bring back healthy and ripe grapes, then it is easy to make great wines without using oenology!
Are you tempted to go down the biodynamic route favoured by many other winemakers?
Biodynamics speaks to me more and more but I still have a lot to learn. I already use it for bottling, soil work.
Sancerre in most Irish minds and wine-lovers generally is a distinctive expression of Sauvignon Blanc – and it does dominate your production but you also make Pinot Noir and Rosé. Is Sancerre’s reputation for red and rosé on the rise? And, if so, might it ever challenge the dominance of Sauvignon Blanc in the future?
Sancerrois remains predominantly Sauvignon ( 75%). I don’t think that will change. Export awareness is, of course, white. But the quality of our Pinot Noir becomes a superb alternative to Bourgogne Pinot from a value-for-money point of view. The quality has really improved over the last 10 years. Let’s say that in export, it is the rosé that is the most popular, while in France we sell more red. Things are moving fairly quickly at the moment and the markets are increasingly open-minded. A little reminder - we sell Sancerre and not Sauvignon Blanc. This may seem strange but I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc.
Could you sum up the distinct characteristics of your Silex wines, what makes them special? Are they made to be drunk early or will they benefit from a little ageing? Are they good partners for food?
The greatest characteristic of flint is its minerality! I love to taste them after about five years. We often drink them too young and they are very good meal partners. These are gastronomic wines but can also be enjoyed for more convivial meals.
What have been your most successful recent vintages?
I love 2019 whites for their balance and because it’s my boy’s vintage and 2020 reds for their richness in fruit.
Do you think Sancerre wines get the recognition they deserve?
Yes and I would even add that the Sancerre appellation continues to progress thanks to many very good young winemakers who do high quality work. There is very positive emulation!
How is climate change affecting Sancerre in general and Delaporte in particular?
Until now the climate helps us to make great wines... I’m more worried about 20 years from now!
Using your crystal ball where would you like Delaporte to be in ten years time?
Hard to say! I would like to be happy, not have a health problem; and find, as in a great wine, the right balance between professional and personal life…About the domaine itself, I hope it will continue its qualitative ascent while keeping humility. I also hope that the entire team at my side will be happy and proud to work in the field because alone, we are nothing!
And where will you be?
I will be here because it’s my life.... It’s in my blood and I have a responsibility. Let’s not forget that we are only passing through and I hope that the next generations will continue this incredible family history!
- Matthieu Delaporte