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We're proud to introduce the wines of Thomas Finot, a young winemaker who, after experience in different regions of France, discovered abandonned vineyards in the Coteaux du Gresivaudan" (Isère) northeast of Grenoble, and is working to restore the vineyards and the region's potential. With great passion, he is reviving local varieties such as the white Verdesse and the reds Persan and Etriare de la Dhuy as well as working with the appellation's permitted grapes including Jacquere, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Thomas is committed to organic and biodynamic farming to best express the regions quality. The terroir is an ancient valley with soils of glacial stones and sands with limestone scree and clay and the daytime temperatures are among the highest in France, but with very cool nights. Domaine Finot is also producing a small quantity of superb Crozes-Hermitage from his grandfather's 1.8 hectare of vines on great sites in Larnage on both limestone and granite with white clay (kaolin) soils. We met Thomas last winter and were greatly impressed with the freshness and originality of his wines and with his obvious talent and great enthusiasm for his project.
This June, after a drive south from the Savoie, we had the chance to visit Thomas and his family in Bernin for a day. The visit went from his garage winery (pictured above in the comic strip), to his parcels which lie between the majestic Chartreuse mountains to the west and the Alps to the east (see photo below). For a relatively young winemaker, his grasp of the land, the soil types, and the health of his vines was impressive. He's a warm, humorous, and focused vigneron with a great future ahead of him! We are very happy to have received our first shipment, and we also want to thank Thomas' brother Matthieu, winemaker at King Family Vineyards in Virginia, for his kind assistance.
Instrumental to the creation of Domaine Finot was the work of a vigneron named Daniel Zegna, who has been cultivating the traditional varieties of the Coteaux du Grésivaudan and has passed on some of his knowledge and some of his vines to Thomas. Étraire de la Dhuy (l'Adui) is a red grape, possible an offspring of Persan, discovered in the early 18th century, with only a few hectares remaining in 2008 (Wine Grapes). The 2015 Finot Étraire de la Dhuy is from a parcel of 70 year-old massale selection vines. The estate has planted additional vines with cuttings from this block. The 2015 Finot Persan is from massale selection plantings by Daniel Zegna in Bernin and Saint Ismier. Persan is a "Rare but high-quality Savoie variety" according to Wine Grapes, which appears in Piemonte as Bécuet where it is a blending grape. About 9 hectares are currently in production and Domaine Finot has made new plantings from the Zegna vines. Again according to Wine Grapes, (thank you Jancis, Julia and José) Verdesse originated in the Vallée du Grésivaudan, but production was down to 2 hectares in 2008. The Finot 2015 Verdesse "vendange sur-mûrie" is from 2 parcels, one of young vines planted by Zegna and one of 60 year-old vines.
The estate also makes a vibrant Coteaux du Grésivaudan Pinot Noir and three delicious vin de soif from varieties found in the area: Tracteur Rouge from Gamay and Pinot Noir with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet; Tracteur Rosé from 100% Gamay, and Tracteur Blanc, mostly from Jacquere, Chasselas and Chardonnay. The "Tractor" wines are delicously different and refreshing and will accompany just about anything! Last but not least, Thomas has taken over the family's 1.8 hectares in Crozes-Hermitage in the village of Larnage on both granite and limestone hillsides with soils of white clay (kaolin). It's very good terroir, and the 2014 Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Claude (an hommage to Thomas' uncle) is a Syrah of great elegance and purity which is delicious now, but probably best from 2020 to 2030.
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. As of my conversation with Thomas Finot in June, the number is now between 3 and 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." From Thomas' experience, Verdesse typically rests with a small amount of sugar, and has a good deal of richness. The grapes were harvested in October and the wine rests at 8 grams residual sugar. Luckily Verdesse has acid for days, so the effect is more of delicate richness and ripe stone fruit, and the sugar is barely perceptible. A fascinating white and a great opportunity to taste a truly obscure and rare variety. -Eben Lillie
Thomas Finot has made a beautiful 2015 Persan, from a blend of old vines planted by vigneron Daniel Zegna and young vines planted by the Finots, all massale selection. The warm days and very cool nights in the Coteaux du Grésivaudan, Isère, produced a gorgeous wine with deep black/red color and aromas of blackberry liqueur, graphite and roast meat with hints of rose and pepper. The palate is sapid and dense with meaty blackberry and red currant fruit, with pepper, licorice, mint and herbal notes. The finish is long with elegant texture and ripe, earthy berry fruits that linger on the palate. This would be lovely with a piece of Charolais beef, and aging of ten to fifteen years should be interesting. Bravo to Thomas Finot - for this unique wine and for his project of replanting and resurrecting vineyards in Isère! -David Lillie Extra note: I spoke to Thomas about my favorite Persan, from Nicolas Gonin, and asked what differences he saw. He's also a big fan of Gonin's wines, and explained that the difference most likely comes down to 'elevage' (or ageing.. i.e. how they bring up the wine). Finot chooses a long aging, whereas Gonin's elevage is shorter, so there's less structure and a bit more freshness of fruit. I really enjoy both styles, so I can now officially say I have TWO favorite Persans! - Eben Lillie
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 soils of white clay (kaolin). It's a great terroir, and the Cuvée Claude, homage to Thomas' uncle, is a superb Crozes from old vines showing a deep red/black color and elegant aromas of pure black fruits with hints of graphite, earth, bitter chocolate, menthol and clove. The palate is dense but not heavy with blackberry and red currant fruit, showing a bit of oak with citrus, mineral and pure fruits in the long finish. Delicious now, the wine will benefit from 4 to 6 hours of decanting, or cellar for a few years then enjoy until 2030. David Lillie
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 - in this case the Tracteur Rouge, a light, refreshing blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The wine shows a lovely bright red color and pretty aromas of strawberry, raspberry and tart cherry with hints of violet, earth and spice. The palate is bright and slightly peppery showing strawberry and red currant fruit with a nice lift of earth and citrus in the finish. It's lovely, served quite cool, with charcuterie, burgers, chicken and cheeses from Comté to Raclette. David Lillie Quick facts: in the 70s, the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) wanted to study conventional grapes, so they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Gamay in the region. Thomas has gone about recuperating some of these vineyards, and uses the fruit for the fabulous Tracteur rouge! 35 gamay/35 pinot/20 merlot/10 cab -Eben Lillie
Thomas Finot makes his "Vin de Maceration Cugnete" (aka Jacquère) from purchased fruit grown in Isère and on the Isère/Savoie border, thus Vin de France. The long skin contact gives the wine a pale bronze color. The aromas are light and pretty - dried flowers, brown spice, citrus peel and white fruits. 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. 11% alcohol. Lovely wine! David Lillie Extra facts: Thomas says that Cugnete is an ancient type of Jacquere. Maceration for the 2015 was 2 and a half months, and 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 palette. -Eben Lillie
Thomas Finot, who is working with rare local varieties in Isère, also makes this vibrant Pinot Noir from organic grapes in the Coteaux du Grésivaudan northeast of Grenoble. The region is known for very warm days but very cool nights, producing reds that are ripe and sappy but possessing bright acidity and good balance. The 2015 Pinot Noir is a lovely wine showing aromas of ripe black cherry and strawberry with a bit of oak, violet and citrus. The palate is dense and supple with slightly roasty cherry and red currant fruit with brown spice, plum. pepper and citrus. The finish is ripe and long with lingering red fruits and firm acidity. Serve cool with coq au vin, steaks and grilled foods, stews and tagines, cellaring of three to five years should be interesting. David Lillie
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 Gamay, the wine shows a pretty light pink color and aromas of red currant, raspberry, watermelon and rose. The palate is light and lovely at only 11% alcohol with subtle mixed-berry fruits and hints of spice backed by mineral flavors and refreshing acidity. Serve well-chilled all year-round with salads, charcuterie and white meats. Quick facts: Destemmed, into cuve, kept cold for 24 hours, then to the press... Doing a maceration of about 24 hours gives the rosé more material, and color. It's the way Thomas likes his rosés! - Eben Lillie