“It’s an upside down process, control and freedom!” Pierre Breton

Get a taste of Loire and the Breton’s wine in this week’s Homeyard supper club see more and book 🍷 🍴

For this week’s #HomeYard, we are dreaming of our wine happy place in Val de Loire and are launching our first Focus On Growers Supper Club with the wines of Catherine and Pierre Breton in the spotlight.

Last time we were drinking our fave grapes, it was the 2019 harvest in Bourgueil where we were lucky enough to join two of our all-time wine heroes and pioneers of the natural wine movement, Catherine and Pierre Bretton and their wonderful children, France and Paul.

We caught up with them to find out how they have navigated the pandemic together and to answer some of your questions on natural wine, what it means to them and why we should be drinking it. Salut! 

How have you guys been? 

Catherine: We are super fine. This period was a really good time to build the transition with Paul and France, our kids. They are now really part of the Domaine and shaping the future of it!

Since we last saw you (we had so much fun, thank you again!) natural wine is getting more and more popular in Hastings and St. Leonards and our new (and old) customers want to hear about it from the people making the wines. You guys have been making wine organically and biodynamically since the 90s, did you always know that you wanted to make wines this way? Why?

Pierre: My conversion is linked to my encounter with Marcel Lapierre in 1987 (a lot of you will have drank Lapierre’s wines with us!). After it became an obsession for me to make a conversion to organic farming and to make our first wine with no added sulphites. I wanted to work with a conscious and an open mind. Then I met Catherine and it became “natural” and clear that we were on the good path. There is a reflection when you become a parent, you want to give them an ideal perception of the future.

Today, more and more growers are converting to organic and biodynamic farming and lower intervention in the cellar, you have both been doing this for a very long time, what were the biggest challenges in the early days? 

Pierre: We started making natural wine in 1993, while nobody was really talking about natural wine yet. It was a big deal to make people think differently and taste differently. Now, thanks to people like you, things are different. And that’s a good thing! The first thing we had to do is dedicate ourselves to working rigorously and cleanly and that’s the biggest challenge for everyone, I think. Because close to that you have life, with all its mess and all its problems. But there are things that you can’t ignore in making natural wine — it’s an upside down process, control and freedom!

Covid-19 has been incredibly challenging for the whole industry, what have the challenges been for you guys with the harvest and the market etc.?

Catherine: I think it was really challenging for our kids. Before COVID making wine was for them an ideal life. It was the first trouble they had to face in this work. Working with fewer people, making communication with social media, dealing with no tasting… but don’t worry the harvest was nearly as fun as 2019. They are things that we can’t control!

There are so many debates and disagreements about ‘natural’ wine, what it is and even what to call it, what is a natural wine to you?

Paul: Natural wine is the opposite of technologically standardized and reproducible wines. Natural wine is a wine made of 100 % pure grapes, a pure origin, converted into wine with native yeasts found naturally on the skins (contrary to synthetic yeasts created in a laboratory), without chemical additives, and the addition of sulfur limited to a strict minimum for its survival.

France: It is the real expression of a terroir, in its subtle and unique aromas. It is a reflection of its winemaker and its place of birth.

Many people think of natural wine as ‘new’ when really it is a traditional way of making wine, do you think that natural wine is in danger of becoming too hipster and trendy and losing its roots?

France: I think you are what you drink and when you drink alive, gourmet, singular wine there is no need to think about danger for the community.

Do you worry about the environmental damage caused by more conventional farming and viticulture using pesticides and chemicals? This is something becoming more of a focus in the UK, as we start to become a (tiny) wine producing country. How can consumers help to support growers that are making wine that is less harmful to the environment?

Paul: The best way to support growers is by drinking their wines and getting close to us. It’s part of our job to educate people and it’s so gratifying to meet people that are involved.

France: We’ve been working with our parents for five years now and it’s clear that we are facing new problems linked to environmental changes. For example, in springtime vine buds are breaking more and earlier, because of the hot winter. But in March/April it’s really cold in the morning and we are facing frost. People need to understand the problem as a global thing.

Drinking wine full of pesticides and chemicals is like eating processed junk food, you have both been making and drinking real wine for decades now, do you think it is better for your body – no hangovers?!

Pierre: No doubts! Le Cabernet c’est mon produit de beauté! (now that’s a beauty regime we can get onboard with!)

Ben and I have worked together for three years now, people always ask us how you work with your partner and family, any tips for surviving as long as you guys?

Catherine: Allow space and freedom for everyone. It’s part of the love process.

And finally, if you could only drink one grape for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Pierre: We don’t believe in hades, sorry.

🍷 🍇

Get a taste of Loire and the Breton’s wine in this week’s Homeyard supper club see more and book.