Christian Ducroux's 2013 "Exspectatio" - a Great Natural Wine!

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Christian Ducroux makes some of the most delicious "natural" wines of France on his tiny estate in Thulon, above Regnié-Durette. HIs wines have achieved cult status in France and are almost impossible to find there, but happily Christian gives Chambers Street a nice allocation. Monsieur Ducroux is unique, really existing outside of the "commercial" wine world -  a bit unrealistic perhaps but producing magical wines that are a joy to drink! Just arrived are his 2013 Esquisse Rosé, and the 2013 "Exspectatio,"  the wine formerly known as Regnié.

The domaine is almost entirely self-sufficient, possessing enough animals for fertilizer and vineyard work, and being ony four hectares, Christian is able to perform most vineyard duties himself. He has been working with organic and biodynamic methods since the 1980s and is certified Biodynamic by Demeter. Plowing done with two horses and a bull avoids compacting the soil, and fruit trees and hedges have been planted throughout the vineyards encouraging a healthy biodiversity. To protect the soil, Christian constantly experiments with natural treatments against mildew in order to diminish or eliminate the use of sulfur and copper. Fermentation and aging is in old wood, with zero added sulfites, and alcohol levels are always low due to the high altitude of his vineyards, the absence of fertilizers, and the diminished foliage compared to conventional producers. None of this quite describes the physical and philosophical reality of Christian's estate, which vibrates with green in the herbicided desert of the Beaujolais and which produces such delicious, delicate, complex, "living" wines. They are not for everyone perhaps, and often not for the INAO, so Christian has abandoned the AOC Regnié in favor of Vin de France and has re-named it "Exspectatio." Here's the French label, roughly translated:

"Exspectatio: Third form of time, that which assures the presence of freedom in the time of creation (augustine 5th century). Small domain on pink granite, cepage Gamay. To accompany the plant in its development, the horses Hewan and Kaina participate: in the plowing favoring microbial activity and controlling the natural grasses, in transporting the harvest, in the pulverization of tisanes and special preparations of biodynamic agriculture which encourage the essential rhythms of life. Wine unfiltered, vinified with wild yeasts and without addition of sulfites."

The 2013 Exspectatio is one of those wines whose intriguing complexity makes it seem to disappear, as each taste leads to another and another. The low alcohol and lack of SO2 make it supremely, deliciously drinkable. As Pierre Overnoy said "For us, a natural wine, it's a wine that one wants to drink and drink again!" It may not be a trophy wine on a high-priced list and wine snobs of various varieties may not deign to try it, but all the better, more for us. Christian's vineyard work is among the best in the world and his careful no-sulfur vinifications are beautifully done. We call that great wine!

For those who appreciate natural wines, we've added a few examples from Michel Guignier in Vauxrenard. Also certified biodynamic for many years, M. Guignier  works totally without SO2 and produces lovely Beaujolais-Villages, Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent, which we urge you to try.

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Ducroux 2013 Vin de France Prologue

Each year we get a small shipment of Christian Ducroux's "Prologue" — his term for Beaujolais Nouveau, the difference being that Ducroux's is a serious wine that drinks well for a few years at least. We were a bit worried about the 2013, given the difficult vintage, as even our usual favorites did not show particularly well. We opened a bottle after hours as soon as it arrived, and the immediate smiles on the faces of the sales and stock staff gave the verdict: this stuff is fantastic! At 10.5% alcohol and made with zero added sulfites, sugar or other additions, the wine is pure, remarkably complex and simply delicious. Fabulous aromas of wild strawberry, plum and violet with hints of citrus and white pepper — really lovely! The palate is light but vivid with citrusy red fruits and soft velvety texture. With time open, earthy black fruits and spice emerge -  even on day three the wine was refresing and lovely. The vineyard work of Christian Ducroux is among the finest in the world, and his careful, zero-additive vinifications create some of the most naturally delicious wines to be found anywhere, regardless of price... DL

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  • $14.99

Ducroux 2013 Vin de France Esquisse Rose

Normally, Christian Ducroux makes the Esquisse Rosé for the "grisemottes" — the tiny secondary grapes that he gathers after the main harvest. In 2013 the season was so late that this was not possible and the Esquisse was made with grapes from his highest parcel of Beaujolais vines. It's a lovely natural wine, with pale orange/bronze color and aromas of raspberry, orange peel, melon and rose. Quite pretty, complex and unusual, and very light and refreshing at 10.5% alcohol, with no added sulfur.

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  • $14.99

Guignier, Michel 2011 Beaujolais Villages La Bonne Pioche

A light and lovely Beaujolais-Villages from the Biodynamic estate of Michel Guignier in Vauxrenard, (certified Demeter) produced with zero added SO2. Complex aromas of raspberry/strawberry, beach plum, spice and citrus. The palate is light and bright with earthy berry and cherry fruit, refreshing acidity and good length. At 11.5 degrees of alcohol, this is a superb, dare we say "natural" wine that will quench your thirst served with charcuterie, chicken and lighter meat dishes.

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  • $17.99

Guignier, Michel 2011 Fleurie Au Bon Grès

Fleurie at its purest! I have long been a fan of Michel Guignier's wines and this is no exception. The vines for this cuvée are planted in degraded sandstone soil as opposed to granite which may lend a hand to the finished wine being so much lighter and ethereal. It is hands-down the most delicate of his cru Beaujolais wines and is so pure and precise it's hard not to finish the bottle in 10 minutes. Wild berries and currants on the nose mingle with beautiful notes of violets. On the palate it opens up with high-toned red berry fruit, a touch of earth and spice all grounded by an intense mineral core. A lip-smacking acidity on the finish keeps you coming back for more and, at 11.5% with no added sulfur, I'd call this a "sessionable" wine if there were such a thing. It would be at home on a table piled high with morcilla, terrine or just about anything fatty you could want. TG

 

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Guignier 2004/2006 Vin de France Les Grumeaux (Beaujolais)

Blend of Beaujolais-Villages from 2004 and 2006, élevage in foudre. The beginning of subtle secondary notes — dried cherry, rose petal. Mellow/ delicate overall. Medium body, bright acid, very good concentration with mild, supple tannins that round out the finish.

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  • $31.99

Guignier 2005 Vin de France Moncailleux (Beaujolais)

60+ year-old vines in Moulin à Vent, aged in old Burgundy barrels for two years. More advanced than Grumeaux and more depth overall — eucalyptus and earthy notes mix with red and dark berry fruits that are developing into Pinot-esque secondary aromas. Medium body, round with great cut, most tannic of the line-up, excellent length.

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  • $35.99