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Today's email takes us to the rugged mountainsides of eastern France and three estates who are working beautifully in the vines and in the cellar, creating vibrant, distinctive wines featuring local varieties such as Roussette, Verdesse, Persan, Etraire de la Dhuy and Mondeuse.
We're extremely happy to have a new shipment from Thomas Finot, a young winemaker who, after experience in different regions of France, discovered abandonned vineyards in the Coteaux du Gresivaudan" (Isère) northeast of Grenoble, and is working to restore the vineyards and the region's potential. With great passion, he is reviving local varieties such as the white Verdesse and the reds Persan and Etriare de la Dhuy as well as working with the appellation's permitted grapes including Jacquere, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Thomas is committed to organic and biodynamic farming to best express the regions quality. The terroir is an ancient valley with soils of glacial stones and sands with limestone scree and clay and the daytime temperatures are among the highest in France, but with very cool nights. Domaine Finot is also producing a small quantity of superb Crozes-Hermitage from his grandfather's 1.8 hectare of vines on great sites in Larnage on both limestone and granite with white clay (kaolin) soils. For a relatively young winemaker, Thomas' grasp of the land, the soil types, and the health of his vines is impressive. He's a warm, humorous, and focused vigneron with a great future ahead of him!
The Dupasquier vineyards are located in Jongieux, a pastoral village perched on the southwestern foothills of Mont du Chat, a few kilometers away from Lake Bourget. The Domaine has consistently provided some of the best examples of mature Savoie varieties, notably Altesse, Mondeuse, and Gamay, owing to their committment to extended elevage. Each wine is fermented in large foudre with native yeasts, and rests on the fine lees for a year with an additional 18 months in bottle before release. This tradition is an outlier for the area, where the local method is to add yeast for a quick vinification in stainless tank. Their vineyard work is equally particular. David and Veronique became the fifth generation of winemakers at the Domaine after taking over for their father, Noel. David farms the 15 hectare with painstaking detail. Clusters are hand selected and light plowing is done once a year for every other row to promote biodiversity in the soil (mostly clay and limestone). Their holdings of Altesse on the steep Marestal (Mah-reh-tehl) Cru may be their most impressive. The southwestern facing slope provides abundant sun exposure for the vines, which aids ripening in the cool mountain clime. The extreme elevation also provides good drainage of the soil, for small yields of concentrated fruit. The Marestal bottlings are well worth seeking out and setting aside for aging. The Dupasquiers are talented stewards of the Savoie who excel at terroir-driven wines from this remarkable region.
On the other side of Mont du Chat lies Bugey, where newcomers Guillaume Lavie and Aline Ziemniak came together three years ago to make a marvelous vintage of Roussette and Mondeuse. Les Vins de Lavie is the first project for the young couple, who studied in Burgundy, and wanted to produce wines of terrior using only Biodynamic methods. In 2015 they took over 2 hectares of beautiful, western-exposed vines that face the Mont du Chat. All vineyard work was done with horse and plow or by hand. The cellar work included long, fine lees aging for the Roussette, and partial wholecluster with light rimontage for the Mondeuse, with minimal amounts of added sulfur. The wines are soulful, expressive, and focused -- a testament to the potential and purity of low-sulfur wines. We learned that the 2016 vintage will be the last at this location in Bugey, but the talented vigneron is currently scouting for vineyards in the Savoie. We will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next! (Wines arrive by October 3rd)
Tonight at 6pm, Racines NY will offer a flight of half-pours: Finot 2015 Persan; Finot 2016 Etraire de la Dhuy; Dupaquier 2012 Gourmandise; Duspaquier 2013 Marestel; Lavie 2016 Roussette; Lavie 2016 Mondeuse and the Finot 2015 Verdesse. $35, no reservation required.
The 2013 Altesse is exquisite. Like all of the wines from David and Veronique Dupasquier, it was fermented with native yeasts in undergound concrete vats, then aged on the fine lees for a year in large foudre before spending 18 months in bottle. The robe shows golden straw in the glass and offers vivid aromas of white flowers, mint, dried mango, and faint oxidative notes of walnut. The palate is supple and dynamic with a coiled mineral core beneath layers of ripe apricot, orange peel, terragon, beeswax, and toasted almond. Very beguiling and complex. If drinking now, decant an hour before serving or hold for 5-10 years. Amanda Bowm
The Gamay from Dupasquier is always a staple on our shelf because it is consistently expressive of the site and vintage. The red wines from David and Veronique Dupasquier often show a striking level of ripeness for the Savoie, and the 2015 is no exception. The robe is a dark garnet in the glass and the nose offers generous aromas of black plum, black cherry, crushed violets, and ferral notes mingled with black pepper. The palate is structured with dense minerality. Flavors of crunchy blueberry, tobacco leaf, blood orange, and a savory note of game on the finish make this a perfect companion for the cool, autumnal nights ahead. Amanda Bowman
The "Gourmandise" is a welcome addition to our Dupasquier line-up. It is a blend of Mondeuse, Gamay, and Pinot Noir grown in the clay and limestone soils of Amavigne in the Savoie AOC. The 2012 reminds us how close in proximity Dupasquier's vines are to the Rhône. The nose offers black pepper, tobacco spice, coffee, and citrus aromas. For all of the bold aromatics, the palate is surprisingly light on its feet, with fine, easy tannins, and cool minerality framing the densely herbal and savory flavors. A delicious wine to drink now or hold for 2-3 years. Amanda Bowman
100% Altesse (locally called Roussette) that comes from the steep Marestel Cru situated high above Jongieux on the western side of Mont du Chat; Marestel is one of four appellations within the winding Roussette de Savoie AOC. The steep, southwestern facing slope provides abundant sun exposure for the vines, which aids the ripening in the cool mountain clime. The yields from this site are low and provide very concentrated fruit. The grapes are harvested meticulously by hand and fermented wtih native yeasts in concrete vat before aging on the fine lees in large foudres for a year. After bottling, the wine spends 18 months resting in glass before market release. The 2013, with 2 grams of residual sugar (for the first time ever!) adds a pleasant honneyed sweetness to the ripe melon and toasted hazelnut aromas. The palate is characteristically rich and full with distinct flavors of mint, lemon zest, almond, and wildflower honey. This is a bold and fascinating wine that should only improve with age. Amanda Bowman
Thomas Finot makes this refreshing "tractor white" from Chardonnay, Jacquère and Pinot Gris grown in the Coteaux Grésivaudan, northeast of Grenoble. This is a delightful everyday wine, featuring lovely aromas of pear, quince, almond, hay and brown spice. The palate is ripe but balanced and lively with bright acidity, showing flavors of pear, melon, almond, citrus and stone. Serve happily by itself or with fish in sauce, roast chicken, salads and mild cheeses. David Lillie
According to the hefty Wine Grapes book (Robinson/Harding/Vouillamoz), there were a total of about 2 hectares (5 acres) of Verdesse in the world as of 2008. As of my conversation with Thomas Finot in June, the number is now between 3 and 4 hectares total. Thomas started with an old plantation of about 2 ares (200 square meters, or .05 acres) and now has about 1.5 hectares, mostly of younger vines he planted. Verdesse is a grape that, according to Thomas, is green for a long time, and typically ripens late, gaining a golden and amber color at the "very last moment." From Thomas' experience, Verdesse typically rests with a small amount of sugar, and has a good deal of richness. The grapes were harvested in October and the wine rests at 8 grams residual sugar. Luckily Verdesse has acid for days, so the effect is more of delicate richness and ripe stone fruit, and the sugar is barely perceptible. A fascinating white and a great opportunity to taste a truly obscure and rare variety. -Eben Lillie
Thomas Finot has made a beautiful 2015 Persan, from a blend of old vines planted by vigneron Daniel Zegna and young vines planted by the Finots, all massale selection. The warm days and very cool nights in the Coteaux du Grésivaudan, Isère, produced a gorgeous wine with deep black/red color and aromas of blackberry liqueur, graphite and roast meat with hints of rose and pepper. The palate is sapid and dense with meaty blackberry and red currant fruit, with pepper, licorice, mint and herbal notes. The finish is long with elegant texture and ripe, earthy berry fruits that linger on the palate. This would be lovely with a piece of Charolais beef, and aging of ten to fifteen years should be interesting. Bravo to Thomas Finot - for this unique wine and for his project of replanting and resurrecting vineyards in Isère! David Lillie
Thomas Finot, who is working with rare local varieties in Isère, also makes this vibrant Pinot Noir from organic grapes in the Coteaux du Grésivaudan northeast of Grenoble. The region is known for very warm days but very cool nights, producing reds that are ripe and sappy but possessing bright acidity and good balance. The 2016 Pinot Noir is a lovely wine showing aromas of ripe black cherry and strawberry with a bit of oak, violet and citrus. The palate is dense and supple with slightly roasty cherry and red currant fruit with brown spice, plum. pepper and citrus. The finish is ripe and long with lingering red fruits and firm acidity. Serve cool with coq au vin, steaks and grilled foods, stews and tagines, cellaring of three to five years should be interesting.
Guillaume Lavie and his partner Aline Ziemniak have a small, biodynamic estate cradled in the hills of Bugey, facing the Dent du Chat (Tooth of the Cat) Mountain in Savoie. The young farmers are committed to traditional farming practices-- plowing with horse, carefully tending to their vines using biodynamic remedies, and harvesting by hand. Their approach in the cellar is equally thoughtful, with very minimal added sulfur, native yeast fermentations, and a focus on making pure wines that speak of their terroir. The Roussette is a wonderful discovery that we are happy to offer to fans of this obscure wine region. The 2016 is aged on its lees for 11 months, half in barrel and half in cuve with 20mg/L of added SO2. The nose offers bright aromas of verbena, crisp apple, white pepper, and sea salt. The palate, though medium-bodied, is lithe and textured with fine, powdery minerals. There's a satisfying interplay of white flowers, quince, and savory minerality on the finish. A lovely example of Roussette that we highly recommend! Amanda Bowman
Guillaume Lavie and his partner Aline Ziemniak have a small, biodynamic estate cradled in the hills of Bugey, facing the Dent du Chat (Tooth of the Cat) Mountain in Savoie. The young farmers are committed to traditional farming practices-- plowing with horse, carefully tending to their vines using biodynamic remedies, and harvesting by hand. Their approach in the cellar is equally thoughtful, with very minimal added sulfur, native yeast fermentations, and a focus on making pure wines that speak of their terroir. The 2016 Mondeuse is 2/3 wholecluster and at 10% alcohol it is absolutely quaffable. Aromas of fig, black pepper, game, and black cherry abound on the nose. The palate is light-bodied with fine, silky tannins with the same texture of powdery minerals found in their Roussette. A delicious wine to be served now with a slight chill or aged 2-3 years. Amanda Bowman
Thomas Finot, who is resurrecting forgotten vineyards and varieties in the Isère, is also making brilliant wines from his tiny family vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage. He has 1.8 hectare of old Syrah vines in Larnage on a hillside with granite and limestone subsoils under interesting soils of white clay (kaolin). It's a great terroir, and the Cuvée Claude, homage to Thomas' uncle, is a superb Crozes. The 2015 shows a bright red/black color with lovely, pure aromas of ripe black cherry and blueberry liqueur, quite vivid, with earth, citrus, nutmeg and cocao. The palate is elegant and perfectly balanced with sappy black cherry and blackberry fruit with citrus peel, saline minerals and a touch of oak, finishing with juicy acidity. This unique Crozes-Hermitage should be decanted if drinking now, best to wait a few years then drink until 2030. David Lillie