May 12, 2017
Tonight Peter Buckley of Vineyard Road is in the shop with two French producers. We’ll taste a couple wines from Gilles Bonnefoy in Cotes de Forez, and another two from Domaine Leliévre in Lorraine.
Gilles Bonnefoy’s Les Vin de la Madone is situated so far on the Loire River that it’s actually closer to Beaujolais. Côtes du Forez is located on a geological fault formed in the Tertiary Period when Africa pushed into Europe and formed the Alps. There are up to 105 volcanoes in the greater area of AOC Volcanique Du Massif Central; thirty of them are in Côtes du Forez, and Gilles’ vineyards (in both Cotes du Forez and Urfé) are situated around two of them. So volcanic soil plays a big role here. Gilles has been tending vines here since 1997. He biodynamically farms 8 hectares in the village of Champdieu. Seventy-five percent of his vines are planted on volcanic soils of Urfé, the rest are on clay and granite.
Domaine Lelièvre is located in Cotes de Toul, Lorraine. The Lelièvre family goes back generations here, to the time when Romans first planted vines. At one time Cotes de Toul, situated just 60 miles south of the German border, was a thriving wine-production region, covering parts of Alsace and Lorraine. It was famous for Riesling (this makes sense, as it’s located on the western banks of Moselle River–follow it north and you’re in Mosel, Germany) and as a source of base wine for Champagne. Unfortunately the region was ravaged by phylloxera, war, rabid industrialization and poor vineyard management. During the First World War the German occupation, and subsequent liberation by the Allies, left most of the vineyards as battle trenches. The final blow came in 1919, when a law was passed restricting the name champagne to the wines made from grapes grown in the region of Champagne. By 1951 there were only 30 hectares of vineyards left and most of the wine was bottled by negotiants. In 1998, a handful of remaining vignerons fought for and won AOC status. The Lelièvres were one of the producers to champion the region. After the famous 1971 vintage, Jean Lelièvre decided to no longer sell to negotiants and to bottle everything at the estate. From there the family started to rebuild, replant and recapture the glory of Lorraine. It is still an obscure little region, with most of the wine staying within the area, and very little of it leaving France. Lelièvre makes about 1100 cases annually, and they’re one of the most well known producers in the area.
The wines, not necessarily in order:
Madone Sauvignon Gris et Blanc de Madone, VdP Urfé, 2014
60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Sauvignon Gris, this is an elegant, clean, mineral-driven beauty. Delicate, rocky, with echoes of Sancerre and Aligoté. Think seafood and summer, should we ever see the sun.
Gamay de Bouze and Gamay Noir de Madone, Gamays sur Volcan VdP Urfé, 2014
A blend of two varieties of teinturier (red-fleshed) Gamay, this is a vibrant wine full of cherries, bright acidity, barely-there tannins, and a touch of dried herbs. Sauçissons, roast chicken, fresh and grilled veggies…
Domaine Lelièvre Gris de Toul Rosé, 2015
A blend of 90% Gamay and 10% Pinot Noir from the producers best plots located in Lucey, Bruley, Blénod les Toul and Buligny. The well-drained clayey slopes are protected from the wet winds coming from the West. Grapes were hand-harvested and vinified separately in stainless steel, matured briefly on the lees, and then assembled just before bottling. This wine is salty, tart, tangy, bright; pink grapefruit up front and a dash of cherry on the finish. Delicious. It might be a little too delicate to handle spicy food, but it’s game for just about anything else. Just fill a glass!
Domaine Lelievre, Sparkling Gamay Rosé Leucquois
Come on, it’s fizzy Gamay with a bunny on the label. Fun, crushable, puts a little hop in your step in the midst of grey days. Glug-glug!