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As we finally segue into a sometimes maskless (outdoors anyway) spring and summer, what better way to celebrate than with the joyous natural wines of Anjou and Touraine! After long delays we're very happy to offer new arrivals from some of our very favorite Loire Valley producers - all organic farming of course and minimal or zero added SO2. (And just arriving today from Pierre-O Bonhomme is everyone's favorite tail-wagging Poil Dur "Le Telquel" - don't miss it!)
Bertin-Delatte In the past decade or so, the town of Rablay-sur-Layon has become a small hub for dedicated young winemakers in the Loire Valley. There’s a strong community spirit – each year the town organizes a small music festival, and there is a cooperative grocery store in the town center. Geneviève Delatte and Nicolas Bertin started out in the area working for other winemakers, and in 2008, they purchased their own small vineyard, a 1.5ha lieu-dit named "L’Echalier". In 2012 they built a small home and winery at the edge of their vines, and found a few other small vineyards in the hills around Rablay. Having worked with Mark Angeli and inspired by their neighbor, Richard Leroy, it was evident from the start that they would farm organically and work naturally in the cellar. The 2018 "L'Echalier" and "Ving
t-Neuf" are complex and distinctive Chenins that reflect the unique schist terroir of Rablay-sur-Layon.
As Agnes and Rene Mosse pass the baton to their sons Joseph and Sylvestre, the estate is producing a fascinating array of somewhat tradional wines from organic farming such as their superb Chenin Blanc "Le Rouchefer" as well as delicious new creations such as the thirst-quenching "Le Bisou," a blend of Grolleau Noir, Pineau d'Aunis, Cot, Gamay, Grolleau Gris and Cabernet Franc. Serve the serious "Rouchefer" with seafood and white meats over the next 20 years; serve the "Le Bisou" cool with grilled foods and light meals this summer...
We'll begin with the vibrant natural wines of Herve Villemade. Since I began visiting the Loire Valley in 2011, I have always held high esteem for Hervé Villemade. He is a focused, professional winemaker, and an open-minded and fun-loving colleague and friend. His wines have both defined and defied the Cheverny appellation for me, teaching me of tradition and then occasionally throwing it out the window. Year after year, I have found myself returning to the Villemade line-up when I feel like pure-fruited, honest, un-manipulated wines. Hervé Villemade hails from a farming family that originally settled in Celettes, in the Loire valley, in the 1930’s. Hervé’s father took over in the 60’s, focusing the polyculture on vines, vegetables and grains. In the late 90’s, Hervé and his sister Isabelle took over, taking the estate organic, and only using natural treatments in the vineyard. Grapes are hand harvested and sorted, juice ferments with indigenous yeasts, and the wines typically receive a small dose of sulfur at bottling. The farming really is impeccable here, treatments are only used when necessary, and limited to sulfur and copper only. Otherwise, grass is allowed to grow, and wild herbs and flowers contribute to biodiversity. Most of the vineyards are tranquil, enclosed plots, surrounded by forest and shrubbery. Today's wines are all tasting great. They are full of life, acid driven, terroir expressive, and just plain fun to drink. Some are perfect for the moment, others have potential for short or long-term aging, particularly the "Les Ardilles" which is superb in 2019. We hope you enjoy Hervé's wines as much we do! - Eben Lillie
Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, formerly of Puzelat-Bonhomme, has graced us with another tail wagging "Telquel!" Primarily Gamay from organic grapes, the wine is simply dlelicious and perfectly chillable to serve at any summer get-together. The name Telquel is, suprise suprise, a pun. It's a riff on Teckel (Dachshund hound) spun to sound like "as is." The wine's "Un Poil Dur" tag line to describe the dog extends the canine pun. It literally translates to "A hard hair" but is slang for "rough around the edges." This sells out quickly every year...
We're very happy to offer the beautiful wines of Philippe and Simon Tessier from Cheverny, despite the tiny quantities! The Tessiers are making soulful wines, true to their terroir, with Simon now in charge. The wines are both complex and easy to drink which is not easy to achieve. In warmer years like 2018 and 2019, the vineyard work paid off without a doubt! The entire line up the shows upfront juicy ripeness supported by a backbone of structure you expect from the domain. Without a doubt these are great wines to enjoy in the next months, but don’t hesitate to cellar the Romorantin, especially the Les Sables. The estates 26 hectares are roughly split 50/50 between the white and the red grapes: 6.5 ha of Romorantin, 5 of Sauvignon, 1 of Chardonnay and some Menu Pineau; for the reds they grow 6 ha of Pinot Noir, 4.5 of Gamay, .3 of Pineau d’Aunis they planted 10 years ago and some Côt. In the cellar things are very simple - everything is hand-harvested, then pressed or macerated in a mix of different types of vessels and sizes, including a Georgian qvevri. Fermentations are spontaneous, malo is done for the white, sulfur dioxide is added with parsimony, depending on the cuvée and the pH. (For the full story please see Pascaline Lepeltier's fascinating article here.) This is an extraordinary line-up of natural wines, we apologize for the small quantities available...
Hervé Villemade's 2019 Sauvignon Blanc hits the spot with lovely aromas of floral white fruits, almond, fig and citrus with invigorating flavors ripe pear, Granny Smith and nectarine. The palate is supple and balanced with a flinty, mineral quality that adds a refreshing tang and texture to this versatile wine. The finish is long and elegant with stone, white fruits and citrus that linger on the palate. Perfect for sipping on a warm day with a variety of foods - how about grilled shrimp garnished with snap peas and summer vegetables...
Hervé Villemade's extraordinary Cheverny Blanc "La Bodice" comes from a single vineyard of 40 year-old vines on sandy soils with silex on clay of Sologne, where the 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay reach maximum ripeness and expression. Yield is only about 10 hl/ha. The wine ages on the lees in old barrels for a year or more and is bottled with zero or minimal SO2. The wine shows a pale bronze color and notes of fresh and candied fruit (pear, quince, apple) nuanced by angelica and fennel, with a dense, even almost "tannic" texture, and quite sapid, nourished by aging on the fine lees. The substance, elegance and length on the palate give this wine a real personality and a great aptitude for pairings with complex fish and white meat dishes or goat cheeses.
"1 Litre à boire d'une traite" - A liter to drink in one go - We think the message makes things pretty clear: this is a fresh, fun bottle of Gamay that is dangerously easy to drink. Mineral, with spicy red fruits and well worth a light chill. A bovine beverage that's "Vachement Delicieux!" EL
(60% Pinot Noir, 40% Gamay grown on sandy clay and flint soils over limestone in Cellettes, Chitenay and Fougères sur Bièvre, AOC Cheverny; 15-day whole cluster fermentation, aged in old barrels) 2020 is another excellent vintage for this light and lovely Cheverny Rouge from Hervé Villemade; very pretty aromas of cherry, ripe raspberry, violet, earth and blood orange with rose and white pepper; tart cherry and chalky raspberry/strawberry fruit on the palate, light but chalky, sappy and long with earthy citrus and berry fruits in the refreshing finish. This is a delightfully natural thirst-quenching red - serve cool with any chicken or pork dish, charcuterie and mild cheeses
Our friend Hervé Villemade made another gorgeous "Les Ardilles" in 2019. Made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Gamay grown on sandy clay with silex over limestone in Cheverny with yields of about 25 hl/ha. There was a 20-day maceration with light extraction followed by aging in old barrels, with no added SO2 during vinificaton. The wine is particularly ripe, elegant and intriquing in the excellent 2019 vintage. The nose is a bit closed, with deep, brambly black cherry/black raspberry fruit with earth and minerals, adding notes of citrus peel, spice and licorice with air. The palate is dense and elegant with deep, sapid black cherry and raspberry, chalky and full with velvety tannins and firm acidity. The finish is clean, elegant and long with beautiful sapid, ripe black fruits, minerals and citrus. Just a great natural wine. Decant if drinking now, best 2023 - 2030.
Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme currently works about ten hectares and sources some fruit from trusted friends, also working organically. This vintage of the Vercheny (an anagram of Cheverny) is 100% Pinot Noir from 60 year-old vines in the "La Boissiere" vineyard. Grapes are hand-harvested, whole cluster fermentation occurs in vat, and the wine ages for at least six months in used 500L barrels. A spectrum of bright red fruits is present on the nose, with fresh red cherries and raspberries. The wine is bright with acidity with nice density and a chalky texture with a touch of structure framing juicy red raspberries, strawberies, cherries and tangy red apple skin on the lingering finish. Just delicious!
Late harvest Chenin from Echalier. Harvested late (end of October 2017) with a potential alcohol of 23%. The wine fermented naturally in cuve for 3 years with skin contact, finishing at 11% alcohol and 170 g/L RS, no SO2 added. Elegant nose of quince and candied fruits, extraordinarily complex and natural. 3 btls available.
In the past decade or so, the town of Rablay-sur-Layon has become a small hub for dedicated young winemakers in the Loire Valley. There’s a strong community spirit – each year the town organizes a small music festival, and there is a cooperative grocery store in the town center. Geneviève Delatte and Nicolas Bertin started out in the area working for other winemakers, and in 2008, they purchased their own small vineyard, a 1.5ha lieu-dit named "L’Echalier". In 2012 they built a small home and winery at the edge of their vines, and found a few other small vineyards in the hills around Rablay. The winemaking philosophy is to keep things simple, intervene as little as possible. The 2018 Echalier was aged for 12 months in used wooden barrels on the fine lees, with further aging of 3-6 month in tank before bottling. The wine shows very high-toned aromas of citrus, pear, mint and beeswax, the palate is very mineral and saline with dried fruits, herbal and stone flavors, bone dry and long. Any lover of Chenin should try this, enjoy over the next ten years...
From vines planted in 1929, aged in new 500 liter barrels, then in steel tanks for 6 months. 170 cases made. The "Vingt-Neuf" is very reminiscent of the wines of Richart Leroy in it's perfect balance, elegance and high-acid minerality. This will need some time to open up, so carafe or age five to eight years before drinking. 6 btls available.
The 2019 "Le Bisou" frm the Mosse famly is an blend of Grolleau Noir, Pineau d'Aunis, Cot, Gamay, Grolleau Gris and Cabernet Franc, vinified in carbonic maceration. It'a very light-bodied red - or a dark rosé - showing lovely aromas of raspberry and red currant with floral notes. The palate is bright, light and refreshing with a lovely melange of red fruits leading to a clean, lively finish. Serve quite cool as an aperitif or with any light meals and charcuterie this summer. David Lillie
The Mosse family is making superb natural wines in Anjou, and the 2018 Vin de France Rouchefer is a classic example. From a 1.6 ha parcel of 50 year-old massale selection vines in soils of clay and quartz over schistes, the wine is produced with minimal SO2 (total 20mg/l) and is aged in barrel. The wine shows beautiful floral aromas of quince, pear, citrus, almond and stone. The palate is quite ripe, expressive and elegant without being heavy, and the lovely fruit is backed by firm acidity, herbal and mineral flavors, with terrific length - a real Chenin of terroir that will accompany a wide range of seafood and chicken dishes and mild cheeses. Serve cool, but not too cold, over the next ten to fifteen years. David Lillie
Hervé Villemade has been working his family's vines in Cellettes since taking over from his father in 1995. Today, the estate represents about 22 hectares of organically farmed fruit within the Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny AOCs. Hervé makes seriously soulful wines, with minimal or zero SO2 - one of the standouts is this vibrant new cuvée of Orbois (Menu Pineau) made from 50 year old vines on clay and flint. 2/3 direct press, fermented and aged on the lees in 20hl concrete eggs, 1/3 macerated for 15-20 days, fermented and aged on the lees in a small concrete egg. This vintage the wine shows a bright gold/bronze color and aromas of lemon peel, hazelnut, white flowers, and linen. The palate has a nice weight to it balanced by vibrant acidity, with a funky, savory finish that lingers. This distictive, natural Menu Pineau will accompany a full-flavored ceviche. fish and chicken in sauce and goat cheeses, or just sip on its own.
The 2019 Tessier Cour-Cheverny is 100% Romorantin from young vines grown on sandy clay soils over limestone. The wine goes through the malo and is vinified and aged in vats. This is a beautiful Cour-Cheverny showing distinctive aromas of pear and citrus fruit, lime-flower, toasted almond and hints of spice, really quite lovely. The palate is scintillating and very dry with citrus, pear, herbal, stone and nut flavors, with nice ripeness and density and firm refreshing acidity. The finish is very long, with mineral, citrus and pear flavors that linger on the palate. Perfect as an aperitif or serve with full-flavored fish and chicken dishes, Asian foods, and especially with mild cheeses like Morbier or Raclette, or goat cheeses from the Loire. This will drink beautifully over the next three to five years. Lovely wine and a great value!
We're happy to have "les Sables" back in stock for the fist time in many years! This beautiful dry Romorantin from Tessier is from 25 to 40 year-old vines on sandy clay soils with silex. The wine ages 10 months in tronconic wooden vats and 5 months in cement and was bottled in November 2020 with minimal SO2 (14mg/L total). Serve over the next 5 to 8 years, with seared scallops, fish or chhicken in sauce, goat cheeses. Only 24 btls are available, don't delay!
Philippe and now Simon Tessier are making really delicious wines from the organic vineyards in Sologne. Under the Cheverny AOC, they make white and red, but also rosé : the sandy clay soil as well as the grapes (Pinot Noir and Gamay) are perfectly suited for the style. Of course, don't expect a boring, insipid, pale salmon whitish rosé. There is always some serious depth and length in their wine! With the 2020 as in 2019, you have on top more texture and power than usual: the warm summer led to ripe, concentrated berries. This bottling is more aromatic than usual, with notes of dried rose, pink grapefruit and pomegranate. The attack is creamy and rich, but the wine quickly balances out the alcohol but a really nice bitter edge of pomelo, and the acidity kicks in at the end. It is the type of rosé that can pair really with pretty much anything, and that will have the texture you want when the days will start to be chilly: comforting yet energetic. Serve it in a white wine glass and pair it with what you be pleased to cook, be it some fried squids with spicy aioli, a chana masala or any kind of cheese. 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Gamay.
(Note, only 12 btls available) Tessier's Le Point du Jour is a beautiful expression of Cheverny, a blend of 20% Gamay and 80%Pinot Noir from the oldest vines of the estate planted on two types of terroir, clay and sand and sandy clay over limestone. Hand-harvested, the grapes are vinified for 80% whole-cluster, macerated for 2 weeks or so before being aged in a mix of barrels, demi-muids and foudres. Aging is short, the wine is blended in January and bottled a couple of weeks after unfiltered with only 22 ppm of sulfur dioxide. 2019 was a ripe and dry vintage giving powerful and full wines, but the old vines enhanced by the farming preserved the acidity in this bottling, keeping it remarkably fresh. It is really a round, easy-to-drink variation. For the moment the aromatics of the Gamay are slightly taking over the Pinot's, with lush wild strawberry and pomegranate, some pink peppercorn and fenugreek, and very soft tannins. As we say in French, it is very "gourmand". I will bet in a year of so the Pinot will show more. But for the moment, it is really easy to drink and pair with so many foods like a beef tartare with sesame oil and tarragon, a fricassée of roasted chestnut with porcini and goat cheese ravioli, or to enjoy by itself as the perfect aperitif wine - serve it with tapas, anised-charcuterie, etc. Don't hesitate to give it a slight chill. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Gamay. Pascaline Lepeltier.
"Nota Bene" is Philippe Tessier's rare and beautiful Gamay, made from his oldest vines and only in the best vintages. The 2019 is extraordinary showing a deep black/red color with intense aromas of blackberry, earth, mint and violets - lush but bright. The palate is quite dense with complex black fruits lifted by firm acidity, with hints of mint, licorice, spice and earth. The finish is long and dense with almost bitter black fruit and mineral flavors. We would suggest decanting or cellaring for three to five years. 6 btls available.
The superb 2019 "Point Nommé" is from 100% Pinot Noir grown on silex and clay over limestone, vinified with minimal SO2 and aged for 10 months in old barriques, bottled unfiltered. This is a vibrant Pinot, showing lush high-toned aromas of blackberry, black raspberry liqueur, citrus peel, brown spice and licorice. There is lush fruit on the palate brightened by firm acidity - black raspberry and red currant - very ripe with a touch of tannin, deep and long. As in 2018, this is an unusual and delightful Pinot Noir showing the beautiful fruit of another hot and dry vintage in the Loire Valley. Only 6 bottles available, don't delay.
A spunky and sippable Pinot Noir from Herve Villemade. The 2020 offers high notes of brambly red fruits, rhubarb, sea salt and pie crust on the nose which is pleasantly funky. Ripe fruit and savory spice abounds on the attack and a jaunty mineral acidity buoys the succulent red berry notes over a bitter black tea finish. A delicious Pinot to serve now with a slight chill. Pair with grilled mushrooms, roast chicken, tuna burgers...
This "poil dur" is wagging its tail again in 2020, showing the ripeness and balance of this good vintage in the Loire Valley, with juicy aromas of blackberry, rose, spice and citrus. It's Gamay with a bit of Cabernet Franc in this vintage, with an extra layer of ripeness, and nice density of bright blackberry fruit, a bit floral and spicy. Quite refreshing with good length of lush berry fruits and citrusy acids in the finish. Serve a bit cool with charcuterie, chicken and pork - just delicious! David Lillie