Two of the main salons of the year take place in Montpellier in January, Les Affranchis and Le Vin De Mes Amis. Both are based around natural producers though there are other producers present who follow organic or biodynamic methods but who do use SO2 in their wines.
Les Affranchis (The Liberated) meet at Chateau de Flaugergues, happily this year the event was back in the main rooms of the domaine rather than the marquees of 2016. The Sunday was relatively quiet and it made it easy to get around and talk to the producers as well as taste their wines. Though some were familiar, Jeff Coutelou and Olivier Lemasson for example, there was plenty of opportunity to meet producers whose wines were new to me.
Rather than a bottle by bottle description here are my highlights from Les Affranchis:
La Busattina (Tuscany) – completely new to me but what an impression. The white San Martino was lovely and came in two forms, the traditional and the longer maceration which I actually preferred with cleaner, direct fruit and acidity though both versions were very good. Legnotorto 2012 was a Sangiovese of real cherry fruit and impressive length, and the Ciliegiolo 2008 was even better showing the value of aging these wines with truffle, cherry and round flavours. It was pleasing to hear other friends also praise these wines, the real highlight of the day.
Kumpf et Meyer (Alsace) – I am a fan of Alsace wines but this was a new domaine to me and quickly became a favourite. Julien Albertus presented an excellent range from a lovely fresh PetNat, top still wines and a delicious sweeter wine. Favourites were a Crémant of Chardonnay and Auxerrois plus a Pinot Noir Weingarten 2014 of lovely fruit and depth. I never thought an Alsace Pinot Noir and Crémant would be highlights of any tasting so these were a lovely surprise. Best of all though was the Riesling Westerberg 2014, classic Riesling flavours with a freshness and drinkability all too rare. I shall be looking out for Julien’s wines in future.
Binner et Cie, Les Vins Pirouettes (Alsace) – yes Alsace again. This is a range of wines where Christian Binner has enabled young producers to move away from the co-ops and bottle their own wines. There was one producer, Stéphane, whose wines shone here. His Tutti Fruti, a blend, was lovely classic Alsace wines but the single cépage Riesling Bildstoeckle, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were all just lovely, marked by freshness, fruit and flavour. The Riesling was top class and Gewurz is a grape I find difficult but was delicious. Prices are very affordable too.
More familiar wines which again proved worthy of a place at the top table came from:
- La Ferme Saint Martin (Rhone), a long term favourite of mine and this time it was the Beaumes De Venise Vieilles Vignes 2015 and the delicious Le Blanc 15 which took the prize
- La Sénéchalière (Muscadet), proving how the region has really moved on and is producing top fruity wines of distinction. Favourite cuvées were the well named Miss Terre 16 and, especially, the longer macerated Nuitage 15.
- Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme (Touraine), more lovely, fresh Loire white wines from all across the river’s length. Lovely Melon De Bourgogne 16, round apple and pear fruits made from grapes bought from the Landon family. Very nice Pouilly Fumé 15 of real minerality and clean fruit and lots of other good cuvées too.
- Boulard (Champagne), lovely wines, champagnes of real freshness and length. Les Murgiers was my favourite cuvée and came in two forms, non-dosage and 5mg dosage. Both had their merits though the former had clearer floral notes and a zesty finish.
Other wines I really enjoyed were:
- Les Roches Sèches (Anjou) – Pentes Douces with a lovely, dry fruit and a well-judged touch of sweetness from Chenin Blanc
- Tetramythos (Greece) – Muscat Sec 15, fresh and grapey
- La Paonnerie (Anjou) – Les Champs Jumeaux 15, a lovely Chenin Blanc, clean, fresh and mineral; Loire white wine at its best
- Rémi Dufaître (Beaujolais) – Côte De Brouilly 16, darker fruit and lovely Gamay, joyful
- Chateau Meylet (Saint Ėmilion) – the 2010 showed the benefits of age for this lovely wine. I had forgotten how good Bordeaux wines can be and this has freshness and very deep fruits. The other vintages were good but this was lovely.
An excellent event, relaxed atmosphere, great producers and not too crowded. I missed out on some other top producers as always at any tasting, however the wines above and many more made for a lovely day. Surprises in the form of enjoying Crémant and St Émilion, variety from Greece and Italy, favourites from previous years – liberating.