CHAMPAGNE PIERRE GERBAIS, Côte des Bars – Organic
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- CHAMPAGNE VAL’ FRISON, Ville-sur-Arce – Biodynamic
CHAMPAGNE PIERRE GERBAIS, Côte des Bars – Organic
The Côte des Bars is the most southern vineyard of the Champagne appellation. A region more previously identified
with Burgundy than with Champagne, it is a natural extension of the vineyards producing the great wines of
Chablis. Clay and limestone characterise the diverse soils and give their imprint on grapes such as Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc Vrai. All the vineyards are rooted on the sunny slopes in the Ource Valley in the heart
of the village of Celles-sur –Ource, a microclimate that offers a variety of soils and unusual exposures.
The vineyards have been certified AMPELOS in accordance with its standards for sustainable viticulture and
respect for the environment. Terroirs and grape varieties are vinified separately. The Réserve is based on a single
vintage, a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Blanc from a vineyard on Kimmeridgean
marls. The average age of the vines is 30 years old, fruit is hand-harvested and the varieties are vinified separately.
L’Originale is from a combination of Pinot Blanc Vrai vineyards, but predominantly one which is 110 years old.
Aged on the lees for 48 months and a low dosage.
L’Audace is pure Pinot Noir from an exceptional parcel planted in 1960 which gives enormous depth of flavour to
the eventual wine. This is a naturally made wine with zero sulphur added and zero dosage.
L’AUDACE BLANC DE NOIRS BRUT NATURE
L’ORGINALE BLANC DE BLANCS EXTRA BRUT
CUVEE L’OSMOSE (BLANC DE BLANCS EXTRA BRUT)
GRAINS DE CELLES ROSE
CHAMPAGNE VAL’ FRISON, Ville-sur-Arce – Biodynamic
Thierry de Marne took over his family’s vines in the village of Ville-sur-Arce in 1997, selling his grapes to the local
cooperative. He began converting his vineyards to organic viticulture in 2003. And in 2007 the first vintage eligible for
He began to make small quantities of his own champagne. He released his first wines in 2010, but in
typically bureaucratic French fashion, the CIVC didn’t allow him to market the wines under his own name, de Marne: they
felt it implied that theycame from the Marne, when in fact they were from the Aube. To satisfy the authorities, de Marne
combined his name with that of his wife Valérie Frison and a new champagne estate was born. While de Marne and Frison
(they separated last year and allowed Valérie to start making her own wine) own a total of six hectares of vines in Ville-sur-
Arce, two and a half hectares are still sold to the co-operative each year. just one hectare to produce wine from, meaning that
quantities are necessarily small:
In the inaugural vintage of 2007, de Marne made just 4,000 bottles. Most of de Marne’s vines are Pinot Noir, with just five
percent of his total surface planted with Chardonnay. As is typical for this area, Kimmeridgian soils dominate, although de
Marne draws a distinction between parcels that contain white clay and yellow clay (argile blanche and argile jaune). He also
has two Chardonnay parcels that lie on Portlandian soil, and one of these—Les Cotannes—is bottled separately. All parcels
are allowed to grow a natural cover crop, which is ploughed in March to prevent the vines from having too much competition
for nutrients; de Marne notes that a different set of plants grows in each parcel, reflecting subtle differences in terroir
In 2009, however, de Marne built his own winemaking facility, installing a 2000-kilogram pneumatic press and since then he
has made all of his wines there. All vinification takes place in secondhand barriques, purchased from La Chablisienne, and
the wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts. They are never chaptalized, and they are allowed to go through a natural
For now, Val Frison produces two different champagnes. Lalore is a blanc de blancs from Les Cotannes, and while it
demonstrates the voluptuous depth expected of the Aube, Frison is careful not to harvest the grapes at excessive levels of
ripeness: She prefers to pick at around 11.2 of potential alcohol
Goustan Brut Nature is from three parcels on one hectare. Pinot on Kimmeridgean clay, and Portlandian limestone.
Indigenous yeast fermentation takes place in used barriques resulting in a natural malo and finally tirage is done without
filtering or fining. This stands as the non-vintage brut even though it’s all 2012 juice. Rich, expressive fruit notes of white
cherry with a wonderfully savoury lip-smacking note all framed by a persistent Chablis like minerality and acidity that keeps
everything in harmony.
of wild rocket. The terroir inflection is reminiscent of superior white Burgundy. Indigenous fermentation with wild yeasts in
used barriques from Chablis, naturally occurring malo and tirage without filtering or fining.
GOUSTAN BRUT NATURE (2012)
GOUSTAN BRUT NATURE – magnun
LALORE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NATURE
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CHAMPAGNE MARIE COURTIN, DOMINIQUE MOREAU, Côte de Bars – Organic
Champagne Marie Courtin is located in the village of Polisot in the Côte des Bars, in the southern part of the Champagne
region. With its slightly warmer temperatures, this area is particularly prized for its Pinot Noir grapes. Combined with the
Kimmeridgean limestone sub soils, the champagnes retain a freshness similar to Chablis, which is actually closer to Polisot
than Reims! In fact, many of the Grand Marques source their Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bars because of this unique
combination of texture and delineation that the sub-zone provides.
Dominique Moreau created the estate in 2005 with a vision to produce a series of single-vineyard, single varietal, single
vintage Champagnes from biodynamically-grown grapes that are farmed and elaborated with meticulous care. This
philosophy is in stark contrast with the predominant mindset in Champagne which is all about blending grapes, vineyards and
vintages (for a consistent product), and with a tendency towards very high yields and full-on chemical treatments.
Dominique named her estate after her grandmother, Marie Courtin, whom she describes as a “woman of the earth”. Most of
her wines come from a hillside vineyard of 40-45 year old, massale-selection Pinot Noir in Polisot (located the next town over
from Celles-sur-Ource, where Cédric Bouchard lives and works). The combination of low yields, clay-limestone soils (with
bands of Kimmeridgian) and an east/southeast exposure gives the wines both power and cut, with an intense brininess and
minerality at their core.
The estate makes several cuvées, the largest of which are called “Résonance” and “Éfflorescence”, the former fermented in
stainless steel, the latter in used barriques. The grapes for Efflorescence tend to come from the bottom of the hill, which she
says “has greater power and potential”. At harvest, the grapes are all harvested by hand. The wines are fermented with
natural yeasts that have been selected from their vineyards and cultivated separately. These native yeasts are used for both the
primary and secondary fermentations. Lastly, there is no dosage added upon disgorgement.
The estate also produces tiny amounts of a Blanc de Blanc (from Chardonnay), a Rose, and also a cuvee made without any
added SO2. The style of all her wines is super-energetic and chiselled, though with an underlying power from both her
viticultural practices and the terroirs and varietals that she exploits. These are spectacular wines at the table as they combine
multiple vectors of complexity, power and delineation that all play off each other depending on the dishes they are served
Along with Dominique’s intense dedication to the care of her vineyards and her winemaking, she also embraces a spiritual
philosophy in her production and viticulture. In one particular technique, she uses pendulums (often used in energy healing
practices) in both the vineyard and cellar to aid in evaluating both the evolution of the grapes on the vine as well as the wine
during élévage. She explains that the pendulum changes its natural rhythm and swing based on the energy emitted from a
living being, whether person, vineyard, or wine.
The names of the wines carry spiritual significance for Dominique as well. “Résonance” refers to the balancing energies of
earth and sky that affect the creation of a wine from its surrounding terroir. For Dominique, “Efflorescence” refers to
“something that evolves in perpetuity”. Starting with the evolution encouraged by the small oxygen exchange in barrel, she
feels that this wine in particular will show a very different face at each stage of its development in bottle. She recommends
that both wines be served in traditional white wine glasses to allow for their development through increased aeration.
Resonance is from biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir sourced from massale selection vines 35-40 years in age from a single
parcel located in Polisot (Côte des Bar). The fruit for Resonance comes from the top of the slope where there is little topsoil
with clay and Kimmeridgean limestone bands similar to those found in Chablis. The wine is fermented in stainless steel using
native yeasts for both fermentations, aged in stainless steel and bottled with no dosage.
Efflorescence is also farmed biodynamically and hand harvested and vinified in used barriques using natural yeasts (for both
fermentations) and aged sur lie for three years and bottled with zero dosage. This bottling is made from grapes from the
bottom of the hill, which Dominique believes results in greater power and aging potential. Zero dosage, natch.
Eloquence is Chardonnay on clays and Kimmeridgean marls on soils similar to Chablis, farmed biodynamically and
harvested by hand. It is fermented in used barriques using natural yeasts and then aged in same and bottled with zero dosage.
It is normally a blend of two vintages.
Striking aromatic nuance and lift, although it is a bit less expressive on the palate. White flowers, lemon peel, mint and white
pepper are some of the signatures, while distinctly mineral-inflected veins of salinity recall the wines of Chablis, whose
vineyards are closer to the Aube than those of the central Champagne districts.
Concordance is 100% Pinot Noir. Harvest is from massale selection vines 35-40 years in age from a single, 2.5 hectares
parcel located in Polisot (Côte des Bar
Fermented in tank using wild yeasts, aged in same and bottled with zero dosage and
zero sulphur added after three years sur lie. The bouquet offers up a fine blend of apple, tart orange, warm biscuits, lovely
minerality and a gentle top note of yeastiness. The wine is deep, full-bodied and quite complex on the palate, with pinpoint
bubbles, crisp acids and lovely mineral drive on the backend on the long and zesty finish
RESONANCE EXTRA BRUT
CONCORDANCE EXTRA BRUT SANS SOUFRE
ELOQUENCE BLANC DE BLANCS EXTRA BRUT
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The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
CHATEAU DE HAUTEVILLE, ERIC BORDELET, Charchigne – Biodynamic
You will not adam and eve these apples and pears. It’s as if thirsty trees have sucked up a myriad of minerals and earth-
bound flavours and concentrated them into wrinkly fruits to be pressed into apple champagne. “Swift, slow, sweet, sour,
adazzle, dim” as Hopkins wrote – could be a tasting note for a cider.
It was Didier Dagueneau who convinced Eric Bordelet, former sommelier at Paris’s three-star Arpège restaurant, to
develop a new, artisan style of cider, a natural product of character and thirst-quenching ability, which would also work
with a wide range of different food. And so Eric refurbished his family’s ancestral orchards and ciderworks and would
use his knowledge of viticulture to push for the highest level of quality.
The biodynamically farmed orchards – covering roughly nineteen hectares – are situated in southern Normandy where
the Domfrontais extends between the boundaries of the Mayenne and the Orne. The land is composed of schists and
sedimentary rocks dating back to the pre-Cambrian period three million years ago. The granite and broken schists form a
complex soil and sub-soil that provides the foundation for the terrain.
There are more apples in these brews to shake your pomme-pommes at. Those used include the poetically named Douce
Moene, Sang de boeuf, Tete de Brebie, Rambaud, Closette, Marie Menard, Barberie, Javron etc. etc., whilst fifteen or so
varieties of pears such as Autricotin, De Cloche, Certeau (originating in the champagne region), Petit Fauset, Connerie,
Domfront and Rouge Vigny make up the perry brigade.
Then the pomology (which is not reading the future in apple pips, surprisingly), a process of selection, crushing, pressing
and settling. The natural traditional fermentation takes place in vat or barrel and in bottle over weeks and months
according to the amount of residual sugar in the respective cuvées and therefore without the addition of any sugar
(chaptalisation). The Sydre Brut is a classic dry cider, tender or mellow in the mouth, yet also lively with plenty of acidity
and extremely refreshing. This would wash down those marvellous Breton galettes or crepes, and it would be pretty good
also with charcuterie or cheese.
The name “Argelette” has been used since long ago to describe the nature of the terrain composed of small fractured
rocks and poor soil where the apple trees found it difficult to flourish and pushed their roots deep into the ground yielding
small apples with a wild, concentrated flavour. The branches of the trees are pulled down and tied to restrict the sap
which makes the small fruit work harder, giving the cider more structure rather than more juice. This prestige cuvee is
made from a rigorous selection of over twenty different varieties (40% bitter; 40% sweet and 20% tangy/acidulous)
The cider is made according to traditional maceration techniques and has several grams per litre of residual sugar but is
loaded with the stony character of the eponymous soil along with delicious flavours of caramel, baked apples and crunchy
apple-skin. The result is a drink of great quality, almost vinous and mouth-filling, with sufficient length and aroma to
match with creamy dishes or spice-inflected ones as well as cheeses or vanilla-based desserts.
The Poiré Granit is the sublime expression of fruit from ancient trees, now measuring over twenty metres, which like all
the other trees in the orchard have never been sprayed. The tradition says that it takes one hundred years for the trees to
grow, one hundred years to produce the fruit and one hundred years to die. Treat this like a wine; like the ciders it has an
edgy earthiness and terrific structure. Bordelet often serves it with pan-fried scallops; it would probably also work
beautifully with goat’s cheese.
With an Ecocert certification for organic farming and a scrupulous and scrumpy-tious attention to detail Eric Bordelet
makes wonderful natural products that are far removed from the denatured, gassy drinks that masquerade under the cider
label. His classic ciders can age for five to seven years, with the Granit and Argelette able to go to ten years to develop
superb complexity of flavour. Bordelet says that the impression of sweetness improves with age, the same as with older
wines. To which we say “Pip, pip hooray!”
SYDRE BRUT – 5.5% – 75cl
SYDRE ARGELETTE – 4% – 75cl
SIDRE NOUVELLE VAGUE – 5% - 500cl
POIRE AUTHENTIQUE – 4%
POIRE GRANIT – 3.5% – 75cl
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How a lush-kept, plush-capped sloe Will, mouthed to flesh-burst, Gush! – flush the man, the being with it, sour or sweet,
Brim, in a flash, full! Gerard Manley Hopkins
I love the countryside. I feel myself linked to it in all my emotions.
My oldest childhood memories have the flavour of the earth. Federico Garcia Lorca
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Spain’s problem lies in the
marketing of their wines. Every so often they seem to convince
themselves that they are the biggest thing since sliced Cloudy Bay
Sauvignon. As soon as a grower produces something vaguely original
and worthwhile prices rocket stratospherically as if to anticipate a
stampede of bullish demand. Thus Rioja has fallen prey to millennial
madness, mediocre Ribera del Duero requires a mortgage, and one is
forced to look further afield: Navarra, Toro or Carinena, for example.
The quality is, to put it mildly, variable. A recent tasting of top producers
of Ribera del Duero revealed too much oak masking dusty-dry fruit.
Trading on the reputation of the DO evidently attenuates quality. We
can’t win – in one camp the growers too insular to accept that they are
producing underwined oak; in the other those who genuflect utterly to
the altar of internationalist style (Pomerolisation across the nations), or
as Tennyson felicitously phrased it: “Faultily faultless, icily regular,
splendidly null/Dead perfection, no more”. Extraction + alcohol + new
oak = gimme some Txakoli for gawd’s sake!
At the cheaper end I’ve noticed several disturbing trends: a
disproportionately high number of oxidised wines, secondly, the use of
carbonic maceration to mask poor quality fruit and finally the inaccurate
blending of crianza wine into a base joven which results in a dull fruit
soup with oak croutons swimming the backstroke. The potential is
outstanding and there are really good examples of how it should be done,
just not enough.
champagne compared, this is the sulphurous
urination of some aged horse.”
Letter From Parma to Rhys Davies
LATE NEWS (1999): The price of grapes in Rioja has
increased by 15-30%. The giants of the region have
been buying grapes for double the price, squeezing out
the smaller wineries. If Rioja were a person, he would
be Don Quixote, un entreverdo loco, a muddlehead
fool, tilting at the sacred glass ceiling of Value-for-
LATER NEWS (2001): Last year the demand for
Rioja fell by the percentage equivalent of the price
rises. What does this tell you?
LATEST NEWS (2002): Forget Rioja!
LATER STILL (2006): Remember Rioja?
FINALLY (2017): How many Riojas do we have?
The Newish Spain
For some Spanish growers novelty means replacing new American oak with new French oak. We are interested in those souls who seek to
express the individuality of indigenous grape varieties and the typicity of the soil and the climate.
One of most attractive regions currently is greater Galicia. Terras Gauda, in Rias Baixas, has been a fixture on our list for many years. The
Albarino-based wines are zesty and ocean-breezy with an additional mineral inflection from the Caiño. Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and
Valdeorras have provided us with a variety of crunchy whites and reds. From complex mineral Godello to floral, fruity Loureiro, from
savoury Mencia to grippy Merencao, the wines vividly recall the climatic confluence of stony hills and Atlantic-charged freshness. Our
Galician growers, if they work with wood, use it sparingly. At times this is heroic viticulture from vines clinging to precipitous slopes rising
out of river canyons.
Granada is not a wine region as such but a small merry band of quirky growers have sprung up to make wine on the mountainous moon-
scapes in and around the Sierra Nevada. The vines tend to be at 1000 metres plus above sea level, viticulture is usually organic and even
biodynamic, and winemakers such as Manuel Valenzuela and Ramon Saavedra work with minimal interventions. A melange of grapes are
planted: Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabs, Petit Verdot and even Pinot Noir as well as Chardonnay, Vermentino and Vigiriega. Results are
mixed, but there is no denying the rustic power of some of the wines.
No other country can do value like Spain. The wines of Bodegas Pirineos in Somontano are superbly fresh and fruity, their Alquezar white, a
blend of Macabeu & Chardonnay with a whisper of Gewurztraminer, arguably one of the best value wines on our list. The Tremendus wines
of go-ahead Honorio Rubio bodega in Rioja are consistently well-made whilst the distinctly rural, earthy reds of Bodegas El Cortijo de la
Vieja punch massively above their weight. Add a dinky zero-dosage Cava and the interesting Catalan pair from Artesano and you have a
terrific selection of wines between £5 and £8.
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Map of Spanish Wine Regions
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