It’s been a while since I updated on bottles of interest, two months when I have actually had a high ratio of hits with wines tried both in France and back in the UK. Whilst in Coulobres I had some bottles delivered from companies which no longer deliver to the UK after Brexit, including a good range of wines from other countries, Slovenia for example. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about my views on this country.
I had a curious encounter with a sommelier in a Michelin starred restaurant with an excellent chef. The wine list was very conventional and he declared himself “not a fan of natural wines”, so he doesn’t include them or many organic / biodynamic wines on the wine list which seemed a skewed approach to creating one, not providing choice. I have also begun Jamie Goode’s new book, ‘Regenerative Viticulture’, there is an excellent review on my friend David Crossley’s site here.
So, to the bottles. I am going to mention just a handful of wines which really stood out for me. Natural wine really got going in Beaujolais, a region I have spent a lot of time visiting and getting to know its crus. One of the most attractive of those crus for me is the appropriately named Fleurie and I really enjoyed a good example from Justin Dutraive, Fleurie La Madone 2020. Son of a famous father, Jean Luis Dutraive, Justin is one of the next generation of Beaujolais producers like Alex Foillard and Charly Thévenet. This was bright in colour, attractive red fruit nose and flavours. One of those bottles where you wish you’d bought a magnum.
Alexandre Bain has been making natural wine under his own name since 2007 and I have enjoyed many of his bottles over the years. He has had plenty of run ins with the authorities during that time with the Appellation label sometimes refused because his wines are different to the ‘norm’. La Levée 2019 is typically very ripe compared to other producers and has exotic fruit notes, very round and approachable. The wine is balanced with a good clean finish, more typical of most Sauvignon Blanc wines. One of the best white wines I have enjoyed in recent times.
Two more white wines were amongst my summer highlights, a seasonal influence perhaps? Another of the senior figures of natural wine is Thierry Puzelat. Together with his wife Zoe he created Le Clos De Tue Boeuf in the Loire village of Les Montils. Puzelat was one of the influences which brought American writer Alice Feiring to natural wine, surely one of its most important advocates. The wines are distinctive and exciting to my taste. I loved Tue Boeuf’s Pineau De La Loire 2019. This is the historic name of Chenin Blanc and this bottle had the classic Chenin trick of being dry but having the merest hint of sweetness without ever actually being sweet. My first real love of French wine was for the Chenins of the Loire and this bottle rekindled that enthusiasm, great wines.
In my article on the Faugeres wine tasting I regretted the absence of wines by Clos Fantine, Alexandre Durand and Sybil Baldassarre amongst others. Maybe it was a response to that which influenced me to open a bottle of Sybil’s La Graine Sauvage Lutz 2016, one of her first wines. Lutz is a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, has the roundness associated with those grapes but a clean, refreshing acidity to balance it. White fruits dominate, a wine of real class.
My final offering is from Adelaide Hills producer Gentle Folk, Vin De Sofa 2019. I am fortunate enough to have visited Gareth and Rainbo Belton when I was staying with Scintilla Wines producer James Madden in 2018. Their cellars are high in the hills with beautiful views across the Basket Range hills. This is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, usually fermented together (though not in the following year 2020 when the grapes ripened at different times). The result is a light bodied and light coloured red which had enticing red fruit aromas and my favourite combination of red fruits and fresh acidity. It is dangerously easy to drink, a fabulous wine from an outstanding producer.
So, those are my favourites, I have omitted some of Jeff Coutelou’s wines as I have mentioned them before and you, regular readers, know that I would always include them amongst my favourites. Here are some with other bottle I liked too.