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I'll always remember the moment when my father and I met Lise and Bertrand Jousset in France. It was the first time tasting their wines from Montlouis and Touraine, and my father got to talking about his early days of working with Loire Valley wines. He mentioned working with the wines of Claude Levasseur, which invoked some nostalgia and a big grin from Bertrand. Levasseur was a classic rosy-cheeked farmer - and the uncle of Francois Chidaine - from the old generation of winemakers in Montlouis, and apparently his is not a name known outside of a small circle. As they traded stories, I mentioned the winemaker Christophe Foucher, which set Bertrand alight again, as he and Christophe had attended wine school in Amboise together. As the conversation continued, I had a feeling that this would be a special friendship, which it indeed has been for many years now. I have reflected back on this moment many times, in particular, when I think about the La Lunotte wines of Christophe Foucher, and the wines of Lise and Bertrand Jousset. To me, it's interesting how the stories of these two estates took such different trajectories from their origins in Amboise.
In the case of Christophe Foucher, the story is focused completely on the small hamlet of Couffy, in the Loire-et-Cher department of the Loire Valley. Here, Christophe has lived a simple life for decades, tending vines from several small parcels, some for his father-in-law, some for winemakers in the area who buy organic grapes (Pineau d'Aunis for Olivier Lemasson's Poivre et Sel often comes from Foucher), and some for his little project, La Lunotte. Christophe lives and breathes this place. Visiting the parcels, one is always under the impression that the vines are extensions of his body, as every hour spent walking his rows has developed in him a deep connection with each root and branch. He is at peace here, and each year seems more and more proud of the natural harmony in the vineyards. To him, the wines that he bottles (always with no addition of sulfites) are a pure expression of the place, and tell a special story.
Only an hour away in Montlouis-sur-Loire, Christophe's former classmate, Bertrand Jousset, forged a completely different path after Amboise. Full of energy and enthusiasm, Bertrand has slowly developed a dynamic estate, along with his wife and partner Lise. Primarily working with Chenin Blanc in Montlouis, they also obtained and maintain parcels of Gamay, Grolleau and Chardonnay in Touraine. Their approach has always been to make wines that express their character and their origins, and to work with living soils. In the past 5 years, with unstable weather damaging their Loire Valley parcels, they applied this same approach to negociant projects and collaborations with winemakers across the country. One year, Bertrand put on a backpack and traveled around France, harvesting grapes and bringing some back to Montlouis as his salary! Now, Bertrand has even set his sights on old mountain vineyards in Ibiza (yes, that Ibiza). Due in part to the magnetic personalities of Lise and Bertrand, and to the consistent quality and vivacity of their wines, the Joussets have become known and celebrated internationally. They have mentored many a young winemaker, and are always beaming during wine fairs, as people from around the world gather around to experience the wines and the glow.
I have a deep affinity for Christophe Foucher and the soulful and humble wines of place he releases. I think there is something unique and undeniably special about his commitment to his little corner of the world. The wines are singular, transportive, and hard to compare to anything else. I also love the Joussets and look forward every year to tasting new wines with them! Their Chenin Blancs are distinguished, and their Vin de France wines from the Loire (and beyond) are delicious, fun, and full of surprises (Imagine the first time we tasted the Mosquito Pet-Nat from Muscat grapes from Danjou Banessy in the Languedoc!).
Today we showcase new arrivals from Christophe Foucher, and Lise and Bertrand Jousset, with equal enthusiasm! Though the stories of the estates may differ in many ways, they both practice organic agriculture, and natural vinifications with minimal or zero-added SO2, and are producing some of the most delicious and most natural wines of the Loire Valley!
This is Lise and Bertrand's foray into the 'orange wine' (skin contact) category. Here, they take the obscure Menu Pineau grape and let it sit with the skins for 9 weeks. The wine is then aged 11 months in barrel and an additional 2 months in tank. This is a fascinating wine, with notes of bergamot, burnt orange, eucalyptus and black tea. A touch of pleasant fruit and acidity provide balance, and the palate has fine tannins and structure. No sulfites added!
Lise & Bertrand's 'Version Longue' is sourced from the same two terroirs in Montlouis as the Chenin Blanc for their regular '1er Rendez-Vous', but with an extra year of elevage in large used barrels. Vines are a mix of 40 and 70 years old; soils are a combination of sand, silex, and clay over limestone.
Christophe Foucher is doing great work at his tiny domain in Couffy, near St. Aignan in Touraine. A neighbor of Clos Roche Blanche, he shares their philosophy, working organically in the vineyard and naturally in the cellar, with no added sulfur and no filtration. Trio is a blend of Menu Pineau and Sauvignon Blanc — the aromas are of honeyed pear and apple, dried herbs, white pepper and citrus peel, very earthy with a bit of spice and a hint of oxidation. On the palate there is ripe honeyed lemon confit, pear and stone and there is considerable weight with a bitter kick at the earthy finish. Serve with a full-flavored ceviche, fish in sauce or chicken with morels, Asian foods and strong cheeses - really fascinating and complex and highly recommended to any lover of natural wines. David Lillie
Christophe Foucher's 2017 "Rossignoux" (Sauvignon Blanc) is an outrageously delicious natural wine showing a bright gold color and slightly oxidative aromas of ripe pear, citrus, stone, hay and caramel. The palate is dense and creamy with sapid, ripe stone fruits framed in very firm saline minerals and earthy acidity. The finish is dense and long with dried pear, pine, lemon and herbal flavors lingering on the palate. Christophe is making beautiful, artisanal wines that are completely unique - we have 20 cases that will disappear quickly. Highly recommended! David Lillie
This is a superb Menu Pineau from Christophe Fouche at La Lunotte, combining density of fruit with the unusual high-acid character of the grape. From very low-yielding vineyards above the Cher river, near St Aignan in Touraine, it's a richer style than those of Villemade and Tue-Boeuf. Christophe transfers his wines from tank into small barrels as soon as the fermentation is under way, where they stay until bottling by hand without filtration. The 2017 is a bright pale gold/bronze color with beautiful aromas that combine slight oxidation with lemon, pear, almond, anise, and mineral notes; on the palate the wine is rich and sappy backed by the very high acidity with flavors of toasted almond, dried pear, citrus, caramel and wildflowers. Serve this unique wine with full-flavored oysters, fish and white meat dishes, or just sip and enjoy! David Lillie
A first pass of Gamay yielded juice that Christophe found a bit lacking in material for a red, so he made this one-off rosé, vinified as always with no added SO2. A bit wild on the palate, with wild cherry and pomegranate notes, and a subtle 'funkiness' that is becoming less pronounced as the wine spends more time in bottle. -EL
Chenin & Muscat! "Mosquito" scratches that itch for a sublime bottle of thirst-quenching bubbles. The 2018 is made from 80% Muscat grapes from Domaine Danjou-Banessy (Roussillon) and 20% Chenin from the Loire. This is a pét-nat made by friends to share with friends. At 13% it's ripe and luscious and just a touch off-dry with aromas of exotic orange citrus, nutmeg, salty peach and honeycomb. The touch of Chenin Blanc lends flavors of juicy pear and tart acidity. Try it with tangy goat cheeses, salads, or on its own. Delicious!
Lise and Bertrand Jousset have crafted a delightful dry Chenin, "Vilain P'tit Chenin." The wine has an extremely complex nose, with notes of green apple, melon, sea breeze, and green olive. The wine's palate is rather dry, with vibrant acidity throughout. The tartness from the nose is certainly present in a citrus-driven palate, along with a lovely note of brioche, and a slightly savory brine.
A light red from the Loire is a great choice for Thanksgiving... The 2018 "Y a rien qui presse" is 50% Gamay and 50% Grolleau from the Jousset's one hectare of red grapes in and around Montlouis. In English the name says "there's nothing pressing" and the label indicates "Vin de Table - de Chevet" meaning table wine, but bed-table wine. We have to ask the Joussets what that's all about...at any rate the wine is delicious! The superb 2018 vintage in the Loire Valley has brought us some very lush, delicious "glou-glou" wines for immediate enjoyment and the Y rien qui presse is one of the best, showing a bright garnet color and lovely aromas of ripe black raspberry, red currant and cherry with hints of violet, spice and mint. The palate is silky and refreshing with darker black cherry and red currant fruit backed by meaty earth and mineral flavors, with a finish that is fresh, sappy and long. This is simply delightful and will accompany charcuterie, of course, and any mild chicken or white meat dish and cow cheeses. Highly recommended - only 60 btls available. David Lillie
This is a Chenin Blanc that makes me picture spring meadows. Lise and Bertrand Jousset have created this wine from two organically farmed terroirs in Montlouis sur Loire - 40 year-old vines on sand and silex soils over limestone and 70 year-old vines on clay/limestone soils. "Premier Rendez-vous," which translates to 'the first encounter', is all about freshness and vibrancy. The nose shows notes of ripe cantaloupe, yellow peach, and budding flowers, and the palate has a beautiful texture and acidity brought on by the limestone and silex soils. The Joussets prefer to use as little sulfur as possible and have aged this wine in 2 to 8 year-old large barrels, giving this energetic wine slightly softened edges. Michelle DeWyngaert
The 2016 "Singulier - Clos aux Renards" is a brilliant dry Montlouis and certainly one of the finest dry Chenins of the Loire, made from 60 to 80 year-old Chenin vines on clay soils called "Aubuis" over Turonian limestone. All cellar functions are by gravity without pumping, fermentation is in two and three year-old 400 and 600 liter barrels. (The Joussets have banned all mechanization from this beautiful vineyard since 2015 - only people, horses and wheelbarrows allowed!) Best if decanted two hours in advance, the wine shows complex mineral infused aromas of citrus, pear, lime-flower and honey. The palate is lean and mineral with white fruits, racy citrus flavors and fresh herbs framed in saline acids. Serve this crystalline Montlouis with shellfish, scallops, foie gras, chicken with cream sauce and aged cheeses.