As winemaking prodigy Hervé Villemade was growing up in the Loire Valley, the norm in terms of farming and winemaking was strikingly conventional. His parents, like virtually all of their neighbors, regularly applied pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on their vines. When the time came to make the wine, they used exclusively purchased yeasts and regularly employed chemical alterations in order to make their wines more attractive. And they used sulphur generously. When the time came for Hervé to take over in the 1990s, he had the good fortune to hook up with natural winemaking legend Marcel Lapierre in the Beaujolais–right as Marcel was beginning his lifelong experiment of making stable natural wines with nothing other than grape juice. Hervé fell in love with Marcel’s wines and decided as so many others did to throw the old way out the window in favor of organic viticulture in the vineyards and absolute minimalism in the cellar. This may be a romantic notion to reminisce about, however the transition for Hervé was difficult. Though committed to making wine without sulphur, he realized that the quality and purity of fruit in his vineyards was not high enough to get away with this strategy. He consequently committed himself to improving the quality of agriculture in his vineyards, and now enjoys the reputation of being one of the Loire Valley’s best viticulturalists.
Hervé is perhaps best known for his whites, most of which take the Cheverny appellation. Often compared to Sancerre, Cheverny is one of the Loire’s best hidden gems. That said, it’s his reds that offer serious value in crushable, light-bodied natural reds. Though Gamay’s spiritual home is Beaujolais, there is a ton planted in the Loire as well, where it often takes a fruitier, more open style than the mineral-driven Cru Beaujolais bottlings that we love. Hervés Gamay is sprightly, fresh, and zippy with notes of rose, citrus, and bright red cherry fruit. It is fermented spontaneously and aged exclusively in concrete tank. Try it with burgers of any kind from veggie to venison.