Joly studied at Columbia University and subsequently started to work for J.P. Morgan in New York City as an investment banker. He was later posted to London, but in 1977, he left banking to take over his family's wine estate Château de la Roche aux Moines in Savennières.
At the time he took over the family estate, Joly was sceptical about modern agriculture and the effect it had on nature. He encountered a book on biodynamic farming and took an active interest in the ideas found there, and from 1980 started to experiment with them in his wine estate. From 1981, the estate's top wine Clos de la Coulée de Serrant has been made biodynamically, and from 1984, the estate's entire range has been produced biodynamically.
Joly has later written extensively on biodynamic wine production, and has served as an inspiration to many other wine producers who have converted to biodynamic practices.
His biodynamic convictions also means that Joly disapproves of the label "winemaker" to the extent that his business card is reported to read "Nicolas Joly, Gérant de la Société, Nature assistant and not a winemaker".
Nicolas Joly's wines
Nicolas Joly and his Château de la Roche aux Moines holds all 7 hectares (17 acres) of Savennières most celebrated enclave, Coulée de Serrant, which is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée of its own, Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant. Joly's wine from this appellation is labelled Clos de la Coulée de Serrant and is often mentioned as one of the world's best dry white wines.
The range of wines consists of:
- Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, from the appellation Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant
- In some vintages, a moelleux (sweet) version of Clos de la Coulée de Serrant is also produced.
- Clos de la Bergerie, from the appellation Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines
- Les Vieux Clos, from the appellation Savennières. This wine is labelled Les Clos Sacrés when it is exported to the United States.
In recent years, Nicolas Joly's daughter Virginie Joly has taken over much of the task of running the estate.
Nicolas Joly's writings on biodynamic wines consist of books directed at winegrowers and wine consumers, respectively. His book for winegrowers is called Le Vin du ciel à la terre and has been through several editions. In its English adaptation for the American market, it was given the title Wine From Sky To Earth. His book for wine consumers is called Le Vin, la Vigne et la Biodynamie and was adapted as What is Biodynamic wine ? in its 2007 UK edition and as Biodynamic Wine Demystified in its 2008 US edition. His books have also been published in Czech, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.
- Joly, Nicolas (2007). What is biodynamic wine? The quality, the taste, the terroir. Forest Row, East Sussex: Clairview. p. i. ISBN 978-1-905570-09-6.
- Coulée de Serrant: Fiche Technique, accessed on July 27, 2009 (in French)
- Dr. Vino, October 24, 2007: 2007 vintage verbatim: Nicolas Joly on biodynamics
- The Wine Doctor: Nicolas Joly and the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, accessed on June 26, 2009
- Wine Anorak: Clos de la Coulée de Serrant: a vertical tasting, accessed on June 26, 2009
- Loire Valley and the Nicolas Joly Winery
- Coulée de Serrant: Les livres, accessed on July 27, 2009 (in French)