One cannot, or should not, speak of natural wine without mentioning Olivier Cousin. He is a beacon and a pioneer in the natural wine movement which took root and flourished in the Loire Valley in the 1990's, and he has helped many, many newcomers in the region.
In 1987, Olivier Cousin took over his grandfather’s 12ha located around the village of Martigné Briand, South of Angers. Thanks to his grandfather, the vines have never been sprayed with chemicals due to his opinion that anyone that does so is ‘dumb in the ass’ and just plain lazy. We agree. In 1996 Olivier took the steps to officiating the vines as biodynamic although this has always been his way. Today he still makes wines from his plots of Cabernet Franc, but has passed his parcels of Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Pinot and Grolleau onto his son, Baptiste. Olivier still uses his horse ‘Joker' to plow the vineyards 2-3 times a year, and he also encourages and trains other winemakers to do the same. Olivier is constantly experimenting with natural methods to improve the quality of his wines, such as extended and carbonic maceration, and in 2005 he quit the AOC, allowing him all the freedom he wanted to try out new, weird and wonderful methods. The wines don’t know the meaning of the terms enzymes, filtration or additional SO2. Olivier is a man with a deep connection to the earth, and doesn’t even like using much electricity to control the cellar temperature. Instead he says that the wines need to move in sync with the world around them.
As much as a deep connection with his land, he also has an equally strong connection with the sea, being an avid sailor himself and having crossed the Atlantic on several occasions. This once led him to load a few barrels of wine onto a wind-borne cargo ship, Tres Hombres of Fair Transport, to be sailed all the way from France to New York to his importer in the US. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, the paperwork hadn't been done, so they weren't allowed to unload the barrels in New York. Instead, Tres Hombres sailed back to France and we had some of our other natural Loire winemakers load some 8000 bottles onto the ship, and after a few weeks she docked at Knippelsbro, less than 50 yards from our little office. This was back in 2012, and each year ever since, we've had Tres Hombres or Nordlys (the other no-engine cargo ship of Fair Transport) sail between 8-20,000 bottles from our most beloved Loire winemakers.
Thank you, Olivier!!