Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Sustainabilité

Domaine de la Bégude

Mary Wright

La belle France… a land defined by the revolutionary values of liberté, égalité and fraternité. These three themes run through our French portfolio along with a fourth: sustainabilité*.

Sustainability (or sustainabilité if you can pardon our Franglais) has increasingly become a key focus for winemakers across France. This has been particularly evident in relation to environmental sustainability, with many producers within our French portfolio adopting organic or biodynamic farming methods in their vines. To be sustainable appears to be really quite French.

Freedom! Equality! Brotherhood! ... Sustainability!

With these in mind, our French Brand Manager Mary Wright shares some of her highlights.

To learn more about the wines and producers outlined in this article you can either contact your Account Manager, or Contact Us to discuss opening an account.

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Freedom! We can regale you with tales of many producers in our portfolio who, after decades of selling grapes to their local cooperative, recognised the quality of their fruit and decided to break free and go it alone.

Domaine Soupé

This new addition from Chablis is a perfect example of ‘liberté’. The Soupé family sold their grapes to the La Chablisienne coop for almost a century, before deciding to break ties and create their own domaine in 2018.

As well as a tale of liberté, Domaine Soupé is also one of égalité and fraternité. Brothers Jean-Michel and Frédéric run the show and divide the work equally; the vineyards are Jean-Michel’s realm and Frédéric is at the winemaking helm.

We are delighted to introduce their classic Chablis 2021, their Chablis 1er Cru ‘Montée de Tonnerre’ 2020 / 2021 (often referred to as a ‘Grand 1er Cru’ given the fact it borders the Chablis Grand Cru strip) and their barrel-fermented Chablis Grand Cru ‘Preuses’ 2020 / 2021.

Domaine Desvignes

Further south in Burgundy, Domaine Desvignes tells a similar tale of breaking free.

Like many producers in the Côte Chalonnaise, the Desvignes family used to sell their fruit to the big négociants of the Côte d’Or but eventually broke these ties and began estate bottling. This approach to breaking with tradition continues with the current generation. Having gained winemaking experience in the new world, Gautier Desvignes was keen to put his own stamp on the family domaine when he took over from his father.

Gautier has invested his boundless energy in the vineyard, avoiding chemicals and adapting vinification to better express varietal characteristics and a sense of place. Domaine Desvignes shows that Givry can produce precise and elegant wines, a real departure from the more ‘rustic’ style of yesteryear. Try their delicious Domaine Desvignes Givry Rouge 2020 for proof of this.

Domaine Rolly Gassmann

Finally, Pierre Gassmann of Domaine Rolly Gassmann has been fighting to protect the freedom and diversity of Alsatian Riesling with his ‘Saving Private Riesling’ petition.

Pierre’s Domaine Rolly Gassmann Riesling 2019 at 13g/L residual sugar would ludicrously no longer be labelled “Riesling” if the legislation he is opposing passes. It is a feat of balance, with a razor-sharp acidity keeping it on the straight and narrow, a real Alsatian gem.

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Equality! The glass ceiling of cellars across France has been well and truly smashed and winemaking is no longer a career path reserved exclusively for ‘les hommes’. We are delighted to work with many formidable female winemakers across France.

Château La Verrerie

Valentine Tardieu-Vitali of Château La Verrerie, in the Lubéron, recently ranked in Le Figaro’s top 50 French winemakers’ classification.

Her organic ‘Hautes Collines’ Blanc 2020 blends Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, harvested at night to preserve freshness. It has a chalky minerality derived from the limestone soils on the estate and a creaminess on the palate from four months of lees ageing.

Jane Eyre

In 2021, négociant extraordinaire Jane Eyre, was the first woman (and possibly the first foreigner – she is Australian) to be named ‘Négociant of the Year’ by La Revue des Vins de France (the French equivalent of Decanter). We are delighted to have recently added two new Fleuries made by Jane to the list. Her Fleurie ‘Vendanges Entières’ 2021 is a whole-bunch fermented blend of fruit from top Fleurie lieux-dits ‘La Madone’ and ‘Les Labourons’. The other is the intense and powerful Fleurie 2022 from super low-yielding 95-year-old vines.

Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard

Finally, the dynamic Caroline Lestimé took over from her father at Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard in 1989 and pushed the switch to organic viticulture in their Chassagne-Montrachet vineyards. Certified organic since 2014, the vineyards are also farmed biodynamically.

Caroline’s winemaking talent and the fact that the vineyards are clearly thriving due to this sustainable switch, are both evident in the wines, from her entry-level Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune ‘Sous Eguisons’ 2020 (partially barrel-fermented Chardonnay from a vineyard bordering Saint-Aubin) to her majestic Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Caillerets’.

We have a selection of vintages available of this stunning 1er Cru, which is widely regarded as one of the top sites in the heart of Chassagne-Montrachet.

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Brotherhood! So many of the producers in our French portfolio are family affairs, often with siblings working together at the helm.

Domaine Borgeot

The Borgeot brothers, Pascal and Laurent run Domaine Borgeot in the picturesque Côte de Beaune village of Rémigny.

An old Burgundian adage claims that “if you look at the person behind the wines, you will get an idea of the style of wine in your glass”. The brothers are polar opposites, but work together perfectly. The Borgeot wines exhibit the calm and measured restraint of Pascal, balanced with the exuberance and liveliness of Laurent. Their Bourgogne Blanc Côte d'Or 2020, the product of 60-year-old vines, has significantly more oomph than your average Bourgogne Blanc and is well worth a try.

Domaine Chevrot

At the far south of the Côte de Beaune, brothers Pablo and Vincent run the certified organic Domaine Chevrot with the help of two draft horses Valentine and Hôtesse. Due to Vincent’s allergy to sulphur, they don’t use any on the wines until bottling, which requires a meticulous approach to winery hygiene and their cellar is spotless.

The brothers’ Santenay 1er Cru ‘Clos Rousseau’ Blanc 2019, from a prime walled vineyard parcel mid-slope, perfectly marries citrussy vibrancy with a beautifully rounded and honeyed complexity from 12 months in oak.

Moulin des Chênes

Moulin des Chênes’ Lirac 2017 is another brotherly labour of love. When the owner of the 25-hectare Moulin des Chênes vineyard in the Southern Rhône retired, winemakers and brothers, Laurent Bréchet (of Château de Vaudieu) and Julien Bréchet (of Domaine des Bosquets) jumped at the chance to take over the estate. This is a certified organic and biodynamic Lirac defined by the brothers’ signature elegance and finesse.

Domaine de l’Hortus

In the Languedoc at Domaine de l’Hortus, siblings François, Yves and Martin Orliac continue the legacy of their father Jean. Jean was a keen rock climber and agricultural college graduate who recognised the potential of the steep limestone slopes of Mount Hortus, not just for clambering up, but also for viticulture. He is credited for putting Pic Saint-Loup on the map. The Domaine de l’Hortus Grande Cuvée Rouge 2020, a barrel-aged blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache was the top-scoring wine awarded 17 points in a recent feature on Pic Saint-Loup on jancisrobinson.com.

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Sustainability! The crucial additional value. Despite not being a colour that features in the famous ‘tricolore’ flag, France is turning increasingly green and leads the charge with the largest number of certified organic wines in our portfolio: a whopping 125 wines, representing 42% of our organic portfolio. Here are some highlights.

Domaine La Croix Gratiot

Domaine La Croix Gratiot Picpoul de Pinet 2022, made by another femme fantastique, Anaïs Ricôme. It is beautifully textured on the palate thanks to an extended period of lees-ageing and is brimming with quintessentially Picpoul ‘meroir’ (a play on the word ‘terroir’ and the French word for sea ‘mer’) due to the vineyard’s proximity to the Mediterranean.

Domaine Gauby

Domaine Gauby ‘Calcinaires’ Blanc 2021 from a certified organic, family-run estate near the town of Calce in the Roussillon which has gained a reputation for making wines of exemplary freshness in a hot climate. This is a complex blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Chardonnay and Vermentino, sourced from 20 to 50-year-old vines on classic limestone soils. It was recently awarded 93 points and described as having “expert poise and balance” by Matthew Stubbs MW in Tim Atkin’s Languedoc-Roussillon 2023 Special Report.

Domaine de la Bégude

Located at 410 metres above sea level, Domaine de la Bégude sits at the highest point in the Bandol appellation and boasts beautiful views over the Mediterranean. The certified organic ‘Cadet de la Bégude’ Rosé 2022 and ‘Cadet de la Bégude’ Rouge 2021 (classified IGP Méditerranée as they don’t meet the minimum oak ageing or vine age requirements for Bandol) will transport you to the shores of the Côte d’Azur.

Château de Chambert

Château de Chambert Cahors Malbec 2016, certified both organic and biodynamic. Natural fertiliser for the vines here is provided by a herd of highland cattle, who roam the vineyards high up on the limestone plateau during the winter. This is a vibrant Malbec with a great depth of dark fruit flavours, hints of violet and velvety tannins coupled with a marked minerality on the palate.

There are also multiple producers in our portfolio in conversion to organic and pioneering sustainable practices in both the vineyard and the winery. For example, in Bordeaux, Château Larose Perganson were the first European vineyard to be rated ‘exemplary’ in sustainable development in 2010 and Château Macquin in Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion is certified ‘Haute Valeur Environnementale’ and have switched pesticides for ‘proteodies’. What are ‘proteodies’? Musical vibrations broadcast to the vines and proven to combat certain vine diseases.

We could go on! However, brévité* is also a virtue, so that’s your lot for now!

*sustainabilité and brévité are not French words, they are fictional Franglais creations.

To learn more about the wines and producers outlined in this article you can either contact your Account Manager, or Contact Us to discuss opening an account.