See the old Lupin label hanging from the door on the right (importer website)

Bruno Lupin's Amazing Altesse from Frangy: Two Incredible Savoie Whites You Should Definitely Not Miss!

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I strongly suggest drinking the two wines from today’s offer side-by-side. Both are Altesse (Roussette to some) from one of Savoie’s most prolific winemakers. Bruno Lupin has deep roots in Frangy and he arguably produces the village’s (dare I say Savoie’s?) best, electrifyingly refined whites. Those two words, “electrifyingly refined,” might seem to contradict each other… but not here. Labeled under the appellation Roussette de Savoie Frangy, they can be most generally defined by an invigorating bullet of salty acidity. It is searing when either of today’s featured bottles are just opened. This is a good thing, FYI. If you are a lover of Savoie wines, and even if you aren’t yet, reading these words should make your mouth water. Tasting the fascinating and delicious nuances between the two bottles, Bruno’s 2018 Roussette des Frangy and his 2015 Vielles Vignes ‘Cuvée du Pépé’ should be your goal. Pour them at the same time, take those first eye-popping, tongue-shocking sips, and break out a plate of sliced baguette and earthy, soft Alpine cheeses. See how the wines gracefully diverge in their respective directions. 

Domaine Lupin’s 2018 Roussette de Savoie Frangy is a knock-out at $25. A full nose of almonds, white flowers, lemons, limes, firm yellow cherries and crushed limestone waft from the glass in hearty, saline-laced waves. The palate is brimming with flavors of small, crisp yellow and green apples, green tea, lemon grass, and a wonderful bitter kiss that extends well after the fruit disappears. As the wine opens, the aromas and flavors fatten and take on notes of richer, sweeter nectarines, kumquat, and apricot. The ballast of this wine is the zing of glorious acid that relaxes only slightly from the beginning to the end of the bottle. A wine to drink now, but given the amount of energy packed in here, I’d say best drinking will be in three years and last just shy of a decade. 

The elegance of Domaine Lupin’s 2015 Roussette de Savoie Frangy ‘Cuvée du Pépé’ Vielles Vignes is amazing, flawlessly co-existing with (and fabulously woven around) the wine’s dramatic beam of minerality and high acidity. A fiercely beautiful wine. The nose is not as lean as the younger vine bottling above. It shows less citrus and more stone fruit from the beginning. Aromas of yellow peaches and plums, along with golden apples, give a platform for fainter whifs of black tea, seagrass, and oyster shells. The wine remains very fragrant hours after opening, dialing back on some of the marine qualities and taking on more spice and floral character. The palate is led by rich flavors of apple and pear, along with lemon zest and freshly milled black pepper. There is a note of caramel on the finish that is accentuated with time, resulting in a hint of creamy texture that is beyond lovely. It lays over that boldly focused acidity with understated strength and a certain poise. This bottle should be great for another 10 years, but I obviously think the world of it today.

Frangy is the land of Altesse (or Roussette) and is very close to the Swiss border (importer website)

“I’m really happy that my little vineyard is being explored from New York,” Bruno wrote me in a recent email. In this exchange, he explained that since he gained control of the family estate more than 20 years ago, it has grown to include 6 hectares of mostly Altesse, with half a hectare dedicated to the red grape, Mondeuse. He also shifted practices to organics. “It was obvious for me to move towards organic farming,” Bruno explained to me, “for our well-being when working the vines, for the respect of nature and to keep healthy soils for the future generation and for the respect of my customers.” Still, it wasn’t always his plan to tend the family vineyard in Frangy and I agree with Wink Lorch, author of Wines of the French Alps, when she writes, “lucky for Frangy and for us that he did.” Today, he is one of the few producers in the area to put real effort into exporting cases out of the Savoie.

Bruno Lupin, pictured above, is a marathon runner. Running helps him " relieve certain tensions and discover beautiful places, especially during mountain races." (Bruno Lupin)

Beginning in 1983, after winemaking studies in Beaune, Bruno found a career in Switzerland as chief of vinification for a large cooperative, the Cave de Genéve. It was these 15 years of experience that taught him the rigid focus needed to produce clean, balanced wine, though he eventually grew tired of the business’ immense scale of production. According to Wink, since 1994 he had been lending his father a hand in Frangy and in 1998, when the opportunity arose, he and his wife decided to move to the village and take over operations.

“The vine has been present in Frangy for more than 500 years,” Bruno wrote to me, mentioning that his family has been growing vines there for 120 years of that half-millennium. “In 1432, Duke Amédée of Savoy had the good idea of marrying his son (the future Duke Louis I) to the daughter of the King of Cyprus, Anne de Lusignan.” He shared that this princess brought the original vine cuttings “in her luggage” from the Mediterranean. And why, I asked, is Altesse called Roussette in villages such as Frangy? “L’Altesse with good maturity gives small brown grapes,” he said, or “roux in French…” Roux-sette, Roussette, Roussette de Savoie...

Lady bugs of mossy old vines that go into 'Cuvée du Pépé'
(Bruno Lupin)

Bruno’s sloping vineyards are the perfect place to grow this somewhat finicky grape. According to the distributor, his holdings have a “micro-climate” of their own: “Lupin’s vineyards all lie on a hillside called Les Aricoques. This slope is fully south-facing, protected from the harsh northerly winds.” And Wink fills in the details about soil type, writing that the hillside “has a predominantly limestone soil with scree in the higher parts.” To Bruno, “limestone suits the Altesse very well,” lending his wines their “fruity and mineral” character. Les Aricoques soaks up the sun, ensuring that grapes ripen well before being picked by hand. Most of the work is done by Bruno, his wife, Suzy, one full-time employee, and seasonal workers as needed - however, it isn’t just humans using the land. When I asked Bruno what type of wildlife he shares his vineyard with, he listed foxes, badgers, rabbits, bats and birds. “Blackbirds make their nests in the vines.”

In his cellar, he uses natural yeasts for alcoholic fermentation. All wine is fermented dry, which might seem obvious, but as the distributor’s website informed me, it isn’t: “Altesse has very high acidity and most producers leave a certain amount of residual sugar to cover that up, to the detriment of the wine’s structure and ability to age.” Both of Bruno’s whites go through malolactic fermentation, though only the ‘Cuvée du Pépé’ sees 100% malo. He also insists on using only the smallest amount of SO2 needed for preservation of aromas and flavors.

Sometimes, a set of wines truly speak to me. This is one of those times. Bruno Lupin’s wines are a composite of his experiences. The technical correctness of his tenure at the co-op in Switzerland. The firm minerality derived from his family’s slopes on Les Aricoques and the fruit from his grandfather’s vines, planted 60+ years ago. The complexity of flavors and aromas, as diverse as the vineyard’s wildlife, that I cannot resist attributing to the organic methods to which Domaine Lupin adheres. And, of course, that noble acidity that drives the palate, which Bruno maintains with intentional decisions in the cellar- a measure of his wines’ vitality that any drinker with a tongue can perceive and judge. Having done it (twice) myself, enjoying the two bottles from today’s offer together is absolutely the best way to get the full picture of Bruno’s technique and the natural abilities of his slopes in Frangy. 

“Wine is a drink, but above all it is sharing,” Bruno told me. Personally, I’d like to thank this incredible winemaker for taking the time to share his journey with me and I couldn’t be happier to share his wines with you all. Also, special thanks to Ryan Looper at De Maison Selections for connecting me with Bruno and introducing me to his wines. David Hatzopoulos

Domaine Lupin 2015 Frangy Cuvee du Pepe

The elegance of Domaine Lupin’s 2015 Roussette de Savoie Frangy ‘Cuvée du Pépé’ Vielles Vignes is amazing, flawlessly co-existing with (and fabulously woven around) the wines dramatic beam of minerality and high acidity. From 100% Altesse from the village of Frangy. Vines aging 60+ years, planted by Bruno Lupin's grandfather. The wine goes through full malo, before aging on the fine lees in enameled steel tanks for a year. A fiercely beautiful wine. The nose is not as lean as the younger vine bottling above. It shows less citrus and more stone fruit from the beginning. Aromas of yellow peaches and plums, along with golden apples, give a platform for fainter whiffs of black tea, sea grass, and oyster shells. The wine remains very fragrant hours after opening, losing some of the marine qualities and taking on more spice and floral character. The palate is led by rich flavors of apple and pear, along with lemon zest and freshly milled black pepper. There is a wonderful note of caramel on the finish that enhances based on the amount of time in glass, resulting in a creaminess in texture that is beyond lovely, laying over that boldly focused acidity and stoniness. This bottle should be great for another 10 years, but I obviously think the world of it today. David Hatzopoulos

  • white
  • 12 in stock
  • $29.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur
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Domaine Lupin 2018 Frangy

Domaine Lupin’s 2018 Roussette de Savoie Frangy is a knock-out at $25. From organically tended vines of Altesse on the outskirts of Frangy in Savoie. Vines are 25 years of age and planted to clay and limestone soils. Fermented in steel, with 20% going through malo . A full nose of almonds, white flowers, lemons, limes, firm yellow cherries and crushed limestone waft from the glass in hearty, saline-laced waves. The palate is pronounced, with flavors of small, crisp yellow and green apples, green tea, lemon grass, and a wonderful bitter kiss that extends well after the fruit disappears. As the wine opens, the aromas and flavors fatten and take on notes of richer, sweeter nectarines, kumquat, and apricot. The ballast of this wine is the zing of glorious acid that relaxes only slightly from the beginning to the end of the bottle. A wine to drink now, but given the amount of energy packed in here, I’d say best drinking will be in three years and last just shy of a decade. David Hatzopoulos

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur