Let's Bugey from Here to Isere: Wonderful Alpine wines from Les Cortis & Thomas Finot

7/1/21 -

According to our friend Wink Lorch, author of Wines of the French Alps, Jérémy Decoster of Les Cortis took what he learned working at the hallowed Domaine de Moor in Chablis and applied it to his own estate years later in Bugey. He and his wife, Isabelle, started the business in 2016 with the idea that their low-intervention wines would "sell locally," writes Wink. However, "word-of-mouth quickly led importers to snap up their first vintage," she explains. Although the couple focuses on international markets, production is small and bottles don't pop up on retail shelves as often as Alpine-obsessed Americans would like. Snag both of the beautiful whites we have on offer today - crisp fruit, herbs and salinity. My absolute favorite style of wine, as dedicated readers will know.

The nose on Les Cortis' Mérune 2019 is salty and herbal. Green tea and sea breeze followed by lovely chopped, raw almonds on the nose. Fruit is yellow cherry and clementine zest. After half an hour open, smells of sliced ginger and white pepper appear. On the palate, there is minerally smoke and salinity. Fruit is a mix of bitter citrus and white stone fruit. Structure-wise, the wine has a nice texture, substantial enough in the middle with an edge of medium acidity.

Les Cortis' Naxide 2019 has a very faint yellow hue. The nose has lemons, cucumber, and snap peas. A great floral aroma grows after the wine is open for an hour. The palate has salt, cured lemons, and crushed, zingy limestone.  Green papaya and clementine, and a long, bitter(ish) finish. The palate is medium bodied, balanced by wonderful acidity, and a light hint of tannin.

Vines in Bugey belonging to Jérémy & Isabelle Descoster (stevengraf.wines)

Though typically grouped with the neighboring Savoie region, Bugey is actually located at the bottom of the Jura mountains. It is strongly influenced by both the Savoie, the Jura, and by Burgundy to the west. Further south is the Isère, a winemaking area that draws from both the Savoie and the Rhône Valley. This is where Thomas Finot makes most of his wines - and they are delicious!

Since 2007, Thomas has been making wines in the Côteaux du Grésivaudan. From the beginning, a huge piece of his mission has been to nurture old vines of Verdesse, Persan, and Etraire de la Dhuy. Domaine Finot has been certified organic beginning in 2014 - inspired, in part, by time spent in the Savoie working with Domaine des Ardoisières, writes Wink. These wines are a staple here at Chambers Street Wines, and we're always excited when a new batch hits the store. The night we tasted them turned into a small party here... they have that kind of magic!

The color of Domaine Finot's Persan 2018 is dark, with a black/red core and light red edges. The nose has a vibrant mix of fruit and spices, including cumin, leafy green herbs, black pepper and deep, savory dark cherry. The palate is just as complex, with plum and orange peel, along with refreshing notes of mint and graphite. The minerally finish turns into something lingering and smoky. The wine is rather tannic, with great acidity.

Domaine Finot's Verdesse 2019 is a glimmering yellow, with dashes of green. The nose is warm, with a little smoke, grilled yellow apricot, and crumbled Provencal herbs. The palate here is beyond lovely - one where the flavors and the structure of the wine cannot be separated. When the wine hits the tongue, there is a brief moment where it is light and simple, but it immediately grows. A rich and tender palate with lemons, orange zest, apricot, and minerals. Long finish, ends with herbs and green tea.

Thomas Finot with his vines in the Côteaux du Grésivaudan

Thomas is from Crozes-Hermitage, the well-known appellation in the Northern Rhône. He's taken control of 1.8 hectares of his family's Syrah vines there and produced an absolutely thrilling 2019 bottling.

Domaine Finot's 2019 Crozes-Hermitage is full and dark, with a black/red core and lighter edges of clear purple. On the nose, classic briny notes of black olive hover above smells of plum and Provencal herbs. The palate is earthy, with flavors of warm espresso, hints of raw, milled cocoa, and warm, semi-rich black cherry fruit. The finish is long and focused on the malty/spicy essences of cocoa and coffee. Structurally, there is a soft core to this wine, with medium levels of acidity and tannin.

Below you will also find Thomas Finot's fabulous skin-contact white, Cugnète Maceration 2018, his structured and very tasty Tracteur Rosé 2020, and his Perlant 2020, a refreshing super-value made from half Jacquère and half Chardonnay. These are released under Finot Frères, a label Thomas uses for his wines made from purchased grapes.

The Savoie typically gets all the attention - but to understand French Alpine wine as a whole, you need to experience the wines from producers like Les Cortis in Bugey and Thomas Finot in Isére. Let's continue to give these great winemakers the love they deserve! David Hatzopoulos

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