La Ferme de la Sansonnière is a relatively new French winery; the current owners, Mark Angeli and his wife Christine, purchased these vineyards in 1990. Mark is originally from Provence, and was first a chemistry graduate and then a student of stonemasonry but he always had an ambition to make wine and this farm provided the perfect opportunity. The farm is located in Anjou, the Loire sub-region famed for medium-sweet to sweet white wines from the Chenin Blanc grape. The 50,000 acre Anjou region stretches out around the town of Angers and Saumur on the slopes bordering the Loire River and its tributaries.
They have worked extensively in the vineyards; they have increased the density of planting (some experimental plots have as many as 40000 vines per hectare, about eight times the typical figure) and they cleared many vines of vigorous hybrid root stocks which were not able to ripen early enough. The old vines were replaced with vines on slow-growing non-hybridized rootstocks which ensure both riper grapes, steadier growing, and ultimately longer-lived vines. The farm is now farmed completely biodynamically and is certified by Demeter.
These biodynamic practices are widespread on the farm and the result has been vines that they are rich in vital nutrients like iron, magnesium and boron, in contrast to the more yellowy, excessively nitrogen-rich vines of their neighbors. These vines are now strong enough to ripen their grapes without the need for sugar in the winery, ripening sometimes weeks before grapes grown conventionally. Another common biodynamic practice is the use of Horn Silica spray. This is made from ground quartz which is buried in cow horns in the fields during the summer months, during which time the quartz fills with solar energy. The quartz is then dug up, diluted and stirred in water for one hour, before being sprayed over the vine leaves at sunrise in spring and autumn. It encourages the vines to grow towards the light which makes ripening the grapes easier, and it discourages shade-loving vine fungal diseases as well.
Today Mark and Christine farm about 30 acres, of which 20 are the vineyards. The remaining farmland is given over to a mix of other crops, with freshly planted apple trees, olive trees, sunflowers, wheat and other cereals, some w feed Angeli’s small herd of cattle which not only provide them with meat and milk, but also generate a steady supply of organic fertilizer for the vineyards. There are chickens and bee hives too.
The Angelis prune their vines as bushes, rather than hedges, which means no supporting wires are needed. Bush training means the vines grow lower which makes it easier for the vine sap to rise and circulate than for higher trained vines grown with wires and support posts.