Promoting the profession of vine growing and making wines with personality, the French Independent Winegrowers association, descended on London with 30 of its 7,000 members. Christina Rasmussen was there to taste and discover wines that are worth considering for your list.
Vignobles Bouillac, Francois Lurton and Domaine Py are three of the French Independent Winegrowers that have been singled out from the Beyond The Classics tasting for making individual, independent wines of personality.
January saw some 30 independent French winegrowers come to London for a tasting at the Vinyl Factory in Soho, another tasting to choose a trendy, open, roomy venue as a backdrop to a tasting.
The tasting’s claim was French Independent Winegrowers = Wines with personality. And it was definitely true: a roomful of winemakers showing 200 wines with new cuvées, indigenous varietals and interesting use of winemaking techniques, including low sulphur and carbonic maceration with Carignan.
From an aesthetic point of view I also loved the tasting booklet, printed on newsprint, looking a bit like a mini Crack magazine or something you might find on the music scene. This was forward thinking and dynamic, rather like the winemakers themselves, with quotes in the booklet like, “How does it feel when you find the right one?”
Incidentally the French Independent Winegrowers is an association with over 7,000 members promoting the profession of vine growing and creating wines with personality. There are five membership criteria that means a grower has to farm their own vineyard, harvest their own grapes, market and age their own wine, bottle on their own estate and sell their own wine.
Below are some of the wines that I discovered at the tasting and are available in the UK. For a full list of the winegrowers present click here.
(represented in the UK by French Bubbles)
The lovely Mathilde Bouillac presented her wines to me. The winery is based in Reignac Blaye, 50km North of Bordeaux, near Blaye, spread over 80 ha of red vines. As well as being winegrowers, the winery is also a vine nursery.
Her father, Jean Pierre took over the family property nearly 20 years ago, acquiring new land which they were able to plant with their own vines, thus ensuring quality of each root.
Château du Vieux Puit 2012, Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot
Cold pre-fermentation maceration in stainless steel tanks, 25 day maceration, aged in vats for 18 months.
Tasting notes: Forward and lively fruit. The palate is intensely fruity with fresh blackcurrants and redcurrants. Lovely easy drinking. Really fresh, pleasant, subtly spiced finish.
Bouillac creates cuvées that are created from Bordeaux’s slightly more forgotten varietals: Malbec and Petit Verdot. Two varietals that are often shoved slightly aside by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Malbec here is allowed to shine in its own right here.
Les Mains Sales, 2010
100% Petit Verdot, and 100% Malbec
Les Mains Sales is an allusion to how the wine is made. Everything is done by hand, very gently. The Bouillac winemakers chose to focus on Petit Verdot and Malbec in their nursery, due to the fact they suit the terroir, whereas in this region Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon may be popular, but aren’t necessarily the correct choices.
Petit Verdot – I love this. Slightly rustic, big gritty fruit – black cherries, spice, blackcurrants and some liquorice, earthy notes and more spice on the finish. Some graphite, mineral notes.
Malbec – Intense cherry nose with a big, round mouthfeel. Chewy cherries and prunes in the mouth, with a powerful, textured, leathery finish.
(represented in the UK by Inverarity Morton)
A very interesting wine company, that is highly focused on its production in the Côtes-du-Roussillon (also producing wine across the world) with some fascinating wines; I love the direction this company is moving in, promoting freshness and low sulphur use. Francois Lurton is the fifth generation.
Le Mas Janeil, sans soufre, 2016
Monastrell, Grenache, Carignan and Syrah.
The climate here is ideal for producing wines without sulphites. Sunny and windy, reducing the risk of disease. The schist stores heat at night to ensure homogenous maturation of the bunches.
Tasting notes: Lovely bright, fresh, quite floral fruit here. Nose of redcurrants, raspberries, figs and lots of herbs with a little spice and some violets on the finish. Lovely aromatic wine with a fresh yet rather powerful body.
(represented in the UK by Yapp Brothers)
Domaine Py Cuvée Mondière, 2015
Syrah, Grenache, old vine Carignan. Organic
Tasting notes: Lovely, fresh nose of bright cherries, raspberries, as well as some fresh earthy spicy notes. A wonderful, easy drinking wine.
Tout Naturellement, 2016
Tasting notes: Fresh, fresh, fresh. Violets and zingy frozen raspberries as well as some fresh blackcurrant and a little garrigue on the finish: a very long finish, a persistent wine. Seeking representation in the UK.
Cuvée Lucien, 2014
Carignan old vines (100% carbonic maceration), Grenache and Syrah.
Tasting notes: Bright and chewy. Fine grained wine with such big, bold, pure fruit on the palate. Very impressive wine; a wine that leaves a lasting impression. Seeking representation in the UK.