Fred gounan - Vignoble de l'Arbre blanc
Saint-Sandoux – Auvergne
When we arrived at “Gounanville” in Saint Sandoux, a town in the chain of extinct volcanoes that form the backbone of the Auvergne, the extravagantly mustached Fred was tinkering with the chassis of the Lotus 6 he had crashed soon after (though not because of) our Fête du Vin in Chassignolles.
The Gounan family has been in Saint Sandoux for generations. Fred’s father had apple orchards as many people in the area once did. Sadly these orchards have now been replaced with the ubiquitous wheat and so have most of the vineyards. Fred’s two small plots of Pinot Noir stand alone on the basaltic western slope of the valley in whose trough runs the A75 opposite the hill of Corent (home of Patrick Bouju and François Dhumes). Off to the north Fred points out a patch of vines that his neighbour has left to run wild, next to that he shows us some Pinot Gris and Sauvignon that he planted in 2010. The two plots of Pinot Noir, one higher and one lower, are both planted en lyre, a system that enhances leaf and fruit exposure to the sun (much needed in the moderate climate of the Auvergne) and, as Fred assures, acts as a cosmic funnel. The funneling seems to work, Fred’s vines are beautiful and the ground around them rich with other plant life.
Fred ferments in huge oak vats separating his upper and lower parcels. After fermentation the two parcels are moved into oak barrels and kept separate. As the wines age Fred chooses which barrels will go into his Petites Orgues and his Grandes Orgues. For the white Fred macerates the whole berries of Pinot Gris in the pressed Sauvignon Blanc for nearly a year before moving to barrel.