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We have our last 3 cases of 2015 Cuvée Pépé coming to the shop by the middle of next week. This vintage of Bruno Lupin's old vine Altesse has had a stunningly successful run on the shelves at Chambers. In my experience, Altesse expressions from masters like Dupasquier, Peillot, and Charlin take on a golden appearance, developing dry honey notes and a lapping richness after a bit of bottle age - but Bruno's snappy Frangy retains a trim freshness with herbs and yellow fruits. No style is better than the other. Some stinky, soft Alpine cheeses beg for a nuttier, more savory style of white, and some call for a wine with a little more zing. Altesse is a wonderful grape that can achieve both profiles. The '15 Cuvée Pépé has an exquisite, Chablis-like tenderness to its mouthfeel, and exhibits a core of great, high-toned tension - a trademark of Bruno's winemaking. It is a brilliant wine, responsible for turning many of this store's customers into Savoie drinkers.
But today is a happy day! Yes, we're saying goodbye to the 2015 vintage of Cuvée Pépé with tears in our eyes... but we're also welcoming the 2020! It's an obvious jump in vintages (though I hear some 2016 might be landing soon). Take heed, Savoie-nuts: there is great power in this younger bottling of Bruno's vielles vignes Roussette de Savoie.
The 2020 Cuvée Pépé from Bruno Lupin is a clear lemon color in the glass. On the first night open, the nose shows firm aromas of yellow apple, underripe pineapple, banana candy, white pepper and flowers. After a night open, smells of anise, pine and eucalyptus appear. There is something smoky to it, but more woodsy than mineral and flinty. Persistent salt and pear on the palate, plus bitter herbs and lemon zest, with slightly more mature orchard fruit developing by day two. Pucker-inducing acidity vanishes on the tongue to leave a soft structure after each sip. The finish is a cool green tea, with a lingering mintiness. A boldly delicious wine, full of verve, it should show beautifully on day three. It promises to age like the 2015, and it should be hitting its stride in the next 5-10 years, maybe even later.
"All [Bruno's] vineyards are on the slope behind the village [of Frangy], including the original steep parcel of his grandfather's vines," writes Wink Lorch in her book, Wines of the French Alps. These 60(+) year old vines contribute the fruit to his Cuvée Pépé. "[A]fter a year in bottle, this is consistently my favorite," writes Wink, comparing this cuvée to Bruno's younger vine bottling of Altesse... which is also a great bottle of Alpine white.
To taste this '20 is to better understand the '15, and vice versa. "The year 2015 is quite similar to the year 2020," according to Bruno. "The vine was 10 to 15 days ahead of schedule, the month of August was hot and dry with a return of the rain at the beginning of September which allowed for beautiful maturity." The winemaker explains that "the only big difference" is that September 2020 was warmer, a feature that points to the vintage's "lower acidity..." But, for a taster, if a younger 2015 had more acid than this 2020 has, it must have been sizzling. David Hatzopoulos
**Please also note the Domaine Lupin 2019 Roussette de Savoie Frangy below (from Bruno's younger vines) and his Vignes du Lac 2020. The Vignes du Lac project is part of a special effort to reclaim lost vineyards on the slopes around Lac d'Annecy. If you haven't had them, you definitely should!**
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
From Bruno Lupin's 60(+) year old Altesse vines behind the village of Frangy. Fermented naturally, low sulfur. The 2020 Cuvée Pépé is a clear lemon color in the glass. On the first night open, the nose shows firm aromas of yellow apple, underripe pineapple, banana candy, white pepper and flowers. After a night open, smells of anise, pine and eucalyptus appear. There is something smoky to it, but more woodsy than mineral and flinty. Persistent salt and pear on the palate, plus bitter herbs and lemon zest, with slightly more mature orchard fruit developing by day two. Pucker-inducing acidity vanishes on the tongue to leave a soft structure after each sip. The finish is a cool green tea, with a lingering mintiness. A boldly delicious wine, full of verve, it should show beautifully on day three. It promises to age like the 2015, and it should be hitting its stride in the next 5-10 years, maybe even later. David Hatzopoulos
From organically tended vines of Altesse on the outskirts of Frangy in Savoie, tended by the one-and-only Bruno Lupin. Vines are 25 years of age and planted to clay and limestone soils. Fermented in steel, with 20% going through malo . Like the 2018, the nose of this Altesse is floral and fresh, with lovely aromas of soft almonds, tangy yellow cherries and zesty limestone. Clean orchard fruit, like crisp pear and apple, add weight to flavors of salt and white tea. The most beautiful thing about Bruno Lupin’s Frangy is the way it develops after an hour or so open, as the flavors become more plush, with lovely stone fruit, like nectarines and apricots, wrapped around the crunchy mix of fantastic acidity and minerality. Although there is density to the wine, it has a remarkable weightlessness on the tongue. Drink this today, but it’ll hold up well in the cellar. One of the most elegant expressions of Altesse that exists. Alright, Bruno!! David Hatzopoulos
From vines planted in 2015 to clay-limestone slopes overlooking Lac d'Annecy in France's Haut-Savoie. Vines are tended organically by the talented Bruno Lupin, known for his Altesse from nearby Frangy. Exposure is southwest and plot is 550 meters above sea level. In the glass, the wine is a glimmering yellow. The nose is healthy and lean, with lemon, limestone and zesty apricot skin. The palate is fantastic, with sparky citrus and white minerals balanced above flavors of green apple, cold pear and a woodsy essence of pine. The structure is bright and zingy, with full texture around a saline driven core that pushes a long, herbaceous finish. Fuller than other Altesse, this is a very gratifying wine to sip - and it promises great development over the next few years. Drink up! David Hatzopoulos