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

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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

Les Cortis 2019 VdF Merune

Produced by Jeremy and Isabelle Decoster, who started Les Cortis in 2016 in Bugey at the foot of the Jura mountains. Consisting of 95% Chardonnay, balanced out with Roussette (Altesse), from organically/biodynamically farmed vines 500 meters above sea level. Soil is limestone and marl above granitic bedrock. The nose on this wine 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.  I love this wine - delicious and interesting. Drink up! David Hatzopoulos

  • white
  • 8 in stock
  • $30.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Les Cortis 2019 VdF Naxide

Produced by Jeremy and Isabelle Decoster in the Alpine region of Bugey. From hand-picked, organically farmed Chardonnay and Roussette (Altesse), planted at 500 meters above sea level. From soils of limestone and marl, above a granitic subsoil. Clear, with a very faint yellow hue. The nose has lemons, cucumber, and snap peas. A great floral aroma grows after the wine isopen for an hour. The palate has salt, cured lemons, and crushed, zingy limestone.  Green papaya and clementine, and a long, semi-bitter finish. The palate is medium bodied, balanced by wonderful acidity, and a light hint of tannin. A great, great wine! David Hatzopoulos

  • white
  • 9 in stock
  • $30.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot Frères 2020 Vin de Pays Isere Perlant (Jacquere/Chardonnay)

The Perlant is not a Pet Nat! it is a blend of Jacquère and Chardonnay (50/50), in the style of a Vinho Verde with low alcohol (9,5%) and slightly sparkling... The color here is a clear, clear yellow, with flashes of silver. The nose is lovely, with airy, grassy aromas, along with sliced yellow apples and savory green herbs. After some time open, the bouquet becomes more floral, with apricot and yellow cherry. On the tongue, it is full of minerality, with light flavors of crisp stone fruit and a long, zingy saline-laced finished. An awesome wine for one of these sweltering days - and would enhance any meal of grilled veggies or seafood. Drink today! David Hatzopoulos

  • white sparkling
  • 5 in stock
  • no discount
  • $17.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot, Thomas 2019 Coteaux Grésivaudan (Isère) Verdesse (Sec)

According to the hefty Wine Grapes book (Robinson/Harding/Vouillamoz), there were a total of about 2 hectares (5 acres) of Verdesse in the world as of 2008. Thomas Finot now says there is about 3-4 hectares total. Thomas started with an old plantation of about 2 ares (200 square meters, or .05 acres) and now has about 1.5 hectares, mostly of younger vines he planted. Verdesse is a grape that, according to Thomas, is green for a long time, and typically ripens late, gaining a golden and amber color at the "very last moment."The color 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 literal second 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. David Hatzopoulos

  • white
  • 6 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot, Thomas 2018 Vin de France (Isère) "Cugnète" Macération

Thomas Finot makes his "Vin de Macération Cugnète" from purchased fruit grown in Isère and on the Isère/Savoie border, thus Vin de France. The three month skin contact gives the wine a pale bronze color. The aromas are light and pretty - dried flowers, brown spice, citrus peel and peach. The palate shows creamy dried pear, mineral, brown spice, almond and citrus notes, quite subtle and with a clean, long finish without harsh skin tannins. This is a fascinating wine that will accompany shellfish, ceviche of many kinds, sushi, goat cheeses and much more.  12.9% alcohol.  Lovely wine!  David Lillie

Extra facts: Thomas says that Cugnète is an ancient type of Jacquère.  Aging was in big used barrels from 2005 and 2006. My guess is the maceration was more of a soaking, with little or no punch down or extraction, as the wine appears more like a white than an 'orange,' and only has a delicate and subtle amount of tannin in the back of the palate. Eben Lillie

  • white
  • 10 in stock
  • $29.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot Frères 2020 Vin de France Tracteur Rosé (Isère)

In 2007, the energetic and talented Thomas Finot discovered the terroirs of the Coteaux Grésivaudan - a valley with steep mountainsides extending northeast from Grenoble, just north of Savoie, Here he is rescuing local grape varieties such as Verdesse, Persan and Etraire de la Dhuy and also making delicious and affordable vin de soif from other grapes - in this case the Tracteur Rosé. Made from 100% Gamay, with 24 hour skin-contact before pressing. In the bottle, the wine looks to be darker than it appears when poured into a glass. In a glass, it is a faint salmon color. The nose has a rich aroma of pink cherries and light strawberries. The palate has a distinct saltiness that adds an edge to a foundation of red berries. David Hatzopoulos

  • rosé
  • 17 in stock
  • $14.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot, Thomas 2018 Coteaux Grésivaudan (Isere) Persan

Thomas Finot produces this wine from Persan, a rare grape variety indigenous to the Isère, from a blend of massale selection old and young vines. The color here 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. If you are fan of the Rhone, you must try Finot's Persan! David Hatzopoulos

  • red
  • 8 in stock
  • $34.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Finot, Thomas 2019 Crozes-Hermitage Classique

Thomas Finot, who is resurrecting forgotten vineyards and varieties in the Isère, is also making brilliant wines from his tiny family vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage. He has 1.8 hectare of old vines in Larnage on a hillside with granite and limestone subsoils under interesting topsoils of white clay (kaolin). The color of this Syrah 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. Truly delicious, and incredibly well priced wine from Finot! David Hatzopoulos

  • red
  • 1 in stock
  • $23.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur