February 24, 2017
Jean Masson Apremont Vielle Vigne Traditionelle 2015, Savoie
Jean Masson’s 9 hectares of vines are located in Apremont, a high-elevation commune with a magnificent view of the Alpine mountain range. The vineyards here are upon limestone, with large stones that were scattered by the collapse of Mount Granier in 1248 (which incidentally killed over 1,000 people).
Jean’s vineyards are planted mostly to the local variety Jacquère, with a little bit of Altesse as well. He farms organically, and makes focussed, mineral driven wines. This one is dry and floral, with rock-driven minerality, zesty acidity, and a crisp finish.
Domaine de l’Aujardière Fié Gris 2015 VDP de Loire
In 2005, after years of sourcing fruit for a large negociant in Touraine, Éric Chevalier returned to his hometown of Saint-Philbert de Grandlieu, just southwest of Nantes. A year later, he ended up taking over the family domaine. His father, a talented vigneron who did not bottle much of his own wines, was well-known as a high-quality source of bulk wine. Unfortunately, he had stopped working the vineyards and the vines were either going to have to be pulled up and replanted, or the domaine would have to be sold. Éric took on the task of restoring the vineyards and today he is proud to be the fourth generation to farm the domaine.
The 25-hectare maritime-influenced property sits upon rocky soils rich in granite, quartz, metamorphic rock, sand and silt (this area was once ocean floor). Nearly half of the property is planted to Melon de Bourgogne; the other half of his crop (mostly Chardonnay, Fié Gris, and Pinot Noir) goes towards the production of Vin de Pays du Val du Loire, or “country wine”, the most notable being the Fié Gris. This indigenous grape (also known as Sauvignon Gris or Sauvignon Rose) was mostly pulled out of vineyards and replanted with the more profitable Sauvignon Blanc. Éric’s vines are some of the only ones that remain in the region. This Fié Gris has qualities that hint at Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. It has the raciness and green streak of Sancerre, and the texture and depth of Alsace. Drink it cool, not cold, or else the elegant subtleties will be lost.
Thierry Germain ‘Les Roches’ 2015 Saumur-Champigny
Thierry Germain left his native Bordeaux for the Loire in the early 90s, when he was just 23 years old. He was seduced by the land, and fell under the spell of Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard, of whom the great Charles Joguet of Chinon once remarked: “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellar”. Inspired, Thierry converted all of his vineyards to biodynamic farming. His domaine, Roches Neuves, with vineyards planted in the Saumur (Blanc) and Saumur-Champigny (Rouge) appellations, are considered amongst the best examples of biodynamically-produced wines in France. Indeed his wines are hard to come by, as most stay in Europe. We got a little bit of this one, as well as Bulles de Roches (non-dosage sparkling from 65 year old (mostly Chenin) vines on a 1.5 ha plot), a teeny-tiny bit of “L’Insolite” (still wine from 90 year old Chenin Blanc on 3 ha), and an equally small amount of “Terres Chaudes” (Cabernet Franc, 45 year old vines from a 4 ha plot). All are 2015 vintage.
Saumur-Champigny is on a tuffeau plateau in the village of Champigny. Les Roche is 100% Cabernet Franc from 25 year old vines, grown on a 6 ha plot of chalk, sand, clay, and limestone. Grapes are 100% destemmed, fermented in stainless, then aged in stainless steel and wood tanks on fine lees (without sulfur) for 3 to 4 months. It’s pure, full of crunchy red fruit, and vibrant acidity. Get it before it’s gone.
Fredi Torres “Classic” Priorat 2014
Fredi Torres was born in Galicia, spent much of his childhood in Switzerland, spent nearly a decade as a DJ in the European house music scene, and then made his way into the wine world (he studied viticulture and winemaking in Switzerland, Burgundy, Argentina, & South Africa) and came full circle back to Spain in 2004, landing finally in Priorat. There he founded Sao del Coster with partners from Switzerland; the focus from the get-go was on organic and biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking. Eventually he and his partners parted ways, and Fredi went on to purchase his own 8.5ha in Priorat. He also farms a nearby 5ha plot in Monsant, and he recently started a project with two friends in Galicia, where they are restoring old vines on treacherously steep and rocky slopes of Ribeira Sacra.
This wine is 75% Garnacha, 20% Carinena, 3% Syrah and 2% Macabeo, and it’s impossibly fresh and drinkable for a Priorat. It’s only 13.5% alcohol, in a land where 15% is normal. All Fredi’s wines are fermented with native yeast, no fining or filtering, and only the tiniest amount of sulfur at bottling. The goal is to make wines with bright acidity, pure fruit and low alcohol, and he has succeeded. Here you have rich and dark earthiness mingling with lively minerality, pretty flowers, plums and blackberries, wrapped around elegant, fine-grained tannins. Don’t miss this one either!