"Every region needs an Yves" - Incredible wines from Bugey's Yves Duport

5/28/21 -

“Every region needs an Yves,” writes Wink Lorch, a friend of Chambers and the author of the priceless book, Wines of the French Alps. In her section dedicated to the winemaker, Yves Duport, Wink tells her audience to “expect the unexpected” when tasting his wines from Southern Bugey - and so that is what I did. Today, I have a new favorite winemaker, and can confidently say, “Every wine lover should drink Yves Duport.”

Since its arrival earlier this year, I’ve enthusiastically praised the Céline 2020 Vin de France from Duport, a wine that balances, better than any I’ve tasted before, on the border between rose and red. It is a delicious blend of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Gamay, and 20% Mondeuse. Frankly, it depends on how the drinker chooses to use the bottle that ultimately decides what type of wine it is (how cold it is served, what it is paired with, if it is brought to the beach, or if it is eaten at the family table, etc). Have you had a wine like this before? I say this rather frequently about my affordable, drinkable favorites, but I always mean it: you’ll regret not buying more of this, so grab extra. You’ll thank me. 

The color of Yves Duport’s 2020 Céline VDF is a deep rhubarb. The nose is a pungent display of wild fruits - blackberry, cherry, and blueberry. Crisp minty aromas keep the bouquet fresh. On the palate, the wine has flavors of ripe red currants, small plums, and a touch of zingy citrus. A minerally core adds dimension to a fruity, juicy mouthfeel.

Duport is the 4th generation to grow grapes and make wine in his family. According to Savio Soares’ website, “Yves tends to all the vines and sees them through to bottling, preferring to work with nature, the soil and the climate, using no chemicals whatsoever.” He fully adopted organics in 2007, and is practicing more and more with biodynamic methods. His vines can be found around the village of Montagnieu in Southern Bugey, and cover a range of soil types: white marl clay, silica and limestone, and mountain scree of clay and limestone. His grapes are hand harvested. His wines are fermented naturally in the cellar, and see little or no added SO2 at bottling.

A map, though a tad fuzzy, shows Montagnieu north-west of Groslée (producer website).

On a recent hot and sunny Tuesday, I made a trip to the Savio Soares offices near Madison Square Park in Manhattan to try a couple of Duport wines that I hadn’t yet tasted. Ariel Prince, our Savio rep, introduced me to two thrilling white wines. The first was Duport’s Aligoté 2020 Vin de France. Aligote from the Savoie? Yes, indeed! A far shot from the Aligote we can expect from Burgundy. 

The nose of Yves Duport’s Aligoté 2020 VDF is stunning - white flowers, orange oil, and beach grass, sway above a firmer smell of cherry. This type of red fruit is something I detect often in the white wines of Savoie, which is a feature I find hard to resist because it is both unusual and enticing. As the glass opens, generous smells of melon and riper stone fruit appear. On the palate, the wine has a touch of salinity with white pepper, apricot, and an essence of that red berry flavor. The structure is the most Burgundian thing about this wine, with a tender mouthfeel surrounding a persistent core of zippy acidity that seems to build long after a sip is taken.

In contrast to this vibrant Aligoté. Le Beaurot 2020 Pinot Gris Vin de France is like an archeological dig. There are so many interesting, delicious features to this wine, but they need to be teased out. Ariel and I spent ten minutes discussing the nuances of this skin-contact white, and I grew fonder and fonder of it with every detail we revealed. To me, a great wine engages the drinker, and this wine wasn’t letting me go. Out of all of Duport’s wines, this is the one that I reflect on most often.

On the nose of Duport’s Le Beaurot 2020 Pinot Gris VDF, there is a beautiful, faint spiciness of golden pear, with hints of salt, almonds, raw coconut flesh and clementines. As the wine opens, wafts of fresh linen, along with mountain herbs and flowers come from the glass. The palate delivers flavors of tart yellow apple, cured lemon, and a light taste of woodsy smoke. The structure is invigorating, with high-toned acidity and a dash of tannic foundation.

The wines of Yves Duport have made a lasting impact on me. I plan to drink them all summer long. They are unique amongst themselves, as well as amongst the many wines I’ve tasted from the French Alps. Thank you to Ariel at Savio Soares for introducing me to this one-of-a-kind winemaker, and opening my eyes to what Bugey can do. Blend white and red grapes to make a border-smashing wine named after your wife? Duport did it. Deliver an exceptional Aligoté, though most drinkers don’t even know the grape is planted in your region? Duport did it! Fashion a skin-contact white that is so compelling that two drinkers in NYC get caught up exploring it, forgetting the other wines on the table? Duport did it!! Incredible wines, made by someone doing his own thing. We can all appreciate that.

-David Hatzopoulos

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