Favourite French Wines Within The Louis Dressner Selection

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I’m waiting at the airport in Austin, Texas having spent the last week and a half in the USA. For the sake of transparency, it should be said that I was there showing the wines of a producer for whom I work, but who does not feature in any way in this list.

It’s been an intense but fun trip. Louis Dressner Selections imports some of the most interesting natural wines into the USA (clearly they’re not the only ones…) and so it’s been highly amusing frolicking with the likes of Thierry Puzelat and Arianna Occhipinti for a week.

It’s also been fun tasting wines that I don’t get to try too often. Here’s a selection of my favourite discoveries:

DAMIEN COQUELET (Beaujolais) Morgon Côte du Py 2015 Gamay – vieilles vignes

Côte du Py is the most emblematic appellation in Beaujolais, largely because of Foillard and Lapierre. I’ve even had so many good experiences with that particular cru that I get rather excited when I come across it again.

Damien Coquelet is a young (just turned 30 years old) winemaker who, having legendary Georges Descombes for a step-father, has spent his entire life living and breathing Beaujolais.

This is a light-bodied but poignant wine with good length and depth, having been aged for 8 months in Burgundy barrels. It is a far more serious wine than his other expressions; I also tasted the Beaujolais Villages and the Chiroubles, both of which are only aged in stainless steel and lack the body of this Morgon.

In my glass, I have a wine bursting with red cherry and strawberry aromas, all whilst being underlined by the terroir’s characteristic ferrous base note. The mouthfeel is austere and profound; rooty and rustic. Typical Côte du Py, in my opinion.

It’s easy to say that gamay wines made through carbonic maceration are simple, juicy “fruit bombs” but, with this wine, there’s more than meets the eye. It’s like a child who’s pretending or possibly aspiring to be a grown up. There’s a structure and austerity to this wine which makes it old beyond its years. Just 3000 bottles were made.

KEWIN DESCOMBES (Beaujolais) Morgon 2016 Gamay

I remain in Morgon for the next wine but shift over to talk about another producer and a different vintage. Kewin, or Kéké as he is more commonly known, is Damien Coquelet’s younger half-brother. Both Damien and Kéké have the lion’s share of their vineyards in the cru of Morgon, but despite the same origins they produce such different wines.

Now, admittedly it’s not an entirely fair comparison because 2015 was a hot and sunny year and 2016 was far more difficult in Beaujolais, which received several lashings of hail during the growing season.

That said, there’s no denying that Kéké’s Morgon is exuberant, magnanimous wine, with lavish black fruit, raspberries and prunes. Whereas Damien’s was austere and somewhat introverted, this is a completely different style: it’s outgoing and bold. The tannins here are plush and velvety and the result is remarkably enjoyable. It’s a country mile away from what I think of as traditional Morgon but is this the new emerging style of Beaujolais?

DOMAINE FILLIATREAU (Loire) Saumur Champigny 2015 Cabernet Franc

Listening to Fredrik’s description of his winery to the various clients who approached his table, I mentioned that out of all of us winemakers on the tour, he’s working the hardest. Those clients were treated to an enthusiastic and passionate spiel about his father, about the uniquely shaped vineyards, even the troglodyte tunnels and habitations that gives Saumur its unique features. “Yes, but I need to. Nobody wants Saumur-Champigny these days.”

He’s not wrong. It would seem that these days Loire reds – if it’s not Gamay or Pinot d’Aunis – are not seen as particularly sexy.

These old vineyards were planted by Fredrik’s father and grandfather. The local limestone “tuffeau” soils are key: firstly they continue to release water to the vines even during dry summers and this, in turn, gives a superb elegance to the wine.

Such an attractive nose; all the spice of Cabernet Franc with none of the barnyardiness. 30 days of maceration means that it’s a substantial medium-bodied wine, but it’s wonderfully soft with perfectly ripe tannins. It finishes a little short but it’s a pleasure to take another sip. 

COMBEL LA SERRE (Cahors) Château Combel La Serre 2015 Auxerrois / Malbec 

Cahors is another appellation that has seen a sharp fall from grace… because until recently drinking many of those black wines was like taking a suckerpunch to the face. For that reason, it’s refreshing to find a Cahors wine with the perfect amount of weight.

Julien Ilbert, another young, dynamic French winemaker, only grows Auxerrois (a synonym of Malbec) for his Cahors wines; but he uses a mix of cement, stainless steel and some fibreglass for the vinification and some old wood barrels for the ageing. As a result, you get beautiful fruit characters (black fruit, berries, herbs and garrigue) and just the right balance of tannins and acidity.

It strides down the middle path between traditional, rustic, tannic Cahors and a carbo juice which has lost all sense of territory, resulting in a wine which is thirst-quenching but not frivolous. A sure bet.

DOMAINE DE LA PEPIERE (Loire) Monnières-Saint Fiacre 2015 Melon de Bourgogne

Domaine de la Pepière is situated in Muscadet. How could an appellation as dull as Muscadet slip into my six favourite discoveries? Well, as well as the classic Muscadet expressions, they make a handful of more interesting, individual single crus. My favourite of which (after trying each of them a couple of times at least over the course of the week – pity me!) was this: Monnières-Saint Fiace.

Unlike the other single vineyard cuvées which are on granite, volcanic basalt or clay soils, the Monnières-Saint Fiacre vineyard is planted on a very particular type of schist soil, called gneiss. It gives a slight bitterness to the finish of the wine which, in my opinion, gives it the edge over the others.

Relatively long ageing (2 years) in stainless steel gives complexity without adding adornment.

Holding up the glass to the light and you don’t need to The colour is one of those ‘barely there’ nude tones – Melon de Bourgogne was never the Picasso of the grape world. All the wines have great minerality and tension. This particular cuvée has a particularly high citrus feel – lime and lemon peel – which would lend itself superbly to shellfish and sea food – and let’s face it: that’s what Muscadet does best.

JULIEN PINON (Loire) Vouvray Pétillant Brut Non Dosé 2011 Chenin Blanc

Last but certainly not least, another surprising wine from one of the more traditional French wine regions. 100% Chenin Blanc, harvested a little later than normal, left for 5 years sur latte (i.e. on its side, with all the yeasts of the secondary fermentation) before the dégorgement. 

I really liked this wine. It had such an distinctive nose with so many savoury, umami notes: peanuts, soy sauce, lemongrass…. That the grapes are a little riper than normal means more aromas, more originality and more personality. Don’t get me wrong – it’s dry, salty and there’s a frank earnestness to it that I find in other zero dosage wines too.

I would happily sip this while sitting outside on a warm summer evening, or kick off a meal with this as a substitute for Champagne.

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Two Wines from Domaine de la Renardière (Jura, France)

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I’ve written about it already (here) but the Jura is a region which continues to entice me. It has its own very distinct culinary traditions (vin jaune, comté cheese and poulet de Bresse), some of the friendliest people and it makes damn great wine.

Last week, at home, I tasted a couple of bottles from Domaine de la Renardière. The winery is located in Pupillin, towards the northern end of the Jurassic stretch, in the highly reputed Arbois appellation. The bottles had already been open for four days before I started writing these tasting notes.


DOMAINE DE LA RENARDIÈRE (Arbois Pupillin) “Jurassique” 2016 Chardonnay (13%) 

At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about this wine: it’s clear (most likely filtered) with a pale gold colour. Despite the fact that these bottles had been open for a few days, there were no tell-tale signs to suggest that they had in any way suffered. The nose is discreet but enticing – white flowers, honey and medicinal plants. No oxydation.

But stop just there. The mouth is off the charts! There’s lots of fresh juicy fruit (apricots and mango) but the beauty of this wine lies in its minerality. It has such zip and zing and that’s why my love affair with the Jura has endured so well. I hope you haven’t been led down the wrong path by my talk of honey and apricots because it’s bone dry, with a mouth-smacking acidity and a tablespoon of salt!

Minerality is one of those terms that’s very hard to define and I hesitate every time I need to use it. Angiolino Maule and I have had many conversations recently on what it is, how to tease it out, why some wines do and some just don’t. We still haven’t reached a consensus but I like to think of it in the following way: similarly to how oranges have Vitamin C, grapes have certain metallic compounds and minerals which come from the soil. These don’t have a particular flavour but they do generate a sensation in the wine – that desirable, highly addictive mouthfeel.

I really enjoyed this wine. There’s nothing that would offend those used to conventional wines, but there’s low enough sulphur and more than enough character to appeal to natural wine buffs too.

Tasted: 19th January 2018

Price: unknown

Rating: ****


I have to confess that I didn’t know much about this winery. It was not one that I had time to fit in during my trip in June 2017 but, as chance would have it, I got to meet and chat with Jean-Michel Petit, the owner and winemaker, at the VinNatur wine tasting in Genova last weekend.

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Jean-Michel Petit at VinNatur Genova 2018

DOMAINE DE LA RENARDIÈRE (Arbois Pupillin) Ploussard 2016 Poulsard (12.5%)

In a tussle between light-bodied red grape varieties, Poulsard beats Gamay hands down every time, in my opinion. Actually, it is definitely up there with the final contenders for being my favourite grape variety. Lightly-coloured, its tendency to go into reduction gives it a rather bad boy character.

Poulsard, or Ploussard as it is also known locally, is so delicately light that it certainly won’t stand a chance against any New World full-bodied reds. It’s also a style of wine that should be proffered with a certain amount of caution at the dinner table – food pairings are not its strong point. Instead, think of it as an alternative for rosé: a wine for long, sunny afternoons with folk who rejected uptight Côtes de Provence long ago. If L’Anglore’s Tavel isn’t anywhere to be had, reach for this instead.

Love it or hate it, semicarbonic maceration accounts for the first part of this Ploussard’s vinification. In the glass, there are lashings of red fruit characters – particularly raspberry, and morello cherry. It’s just juice. The tannins are grippy and refreshing even if they are few. This wine has the same exquisite drinkability as the Jurassique Chardonnay. Glou glou glou!

Tasted: 19th January 2018

Price: unknown

Rating: **** (but only in the right company)


Domaine de la Renardière doesn’t have a website but there is no better resource for wines from the Jura than Wink Lorch. This is her blog entry.

A Self-Imposed Time Out

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You may have noticed that I’ve taken a bit of a break from the blog. I’ve actually taken a break from most social media platforms because I’ve needed to turn off and disconnect in order to avoid being triggered by certain people, places or labels.

It’s been more than 6 months since the judges found Marc Sibard guilty of harassment and sexual assault and more than five years since I handed in my resignation but I still have nightmares and recurring dreams. Just last night I found myself justifying to some imaginary character why I moved away from France. 

It’s not only inanimate objects that trigger my subconscious; even real people in real life will call me a storyteller or a money-hungry witch to my face.

“Why did you make it all up?” they ask.
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Beaujolais Nouveau Release Day

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The third Thursday in November means the release of the latest Beaujolais Nouveau vintage. Another year and still the craze persists. Italians have Novello wine too… but, like with most things, the French are better organised and therefore more commercially successful. 

Well, commercially successful is a relative term. 

Photo (c) Paco Mora / owner of La Cave d’Ivry (the photo was obviously not taken in his shop!)

That supermarkets are plugging the new wine at 1,99€ a bottle devalues the work of the vineyard labourers, the winemaker and his equipment, and the price of the land and of the grapes.

Beaujolais is hugely successful in generating interest and increasing consumption for a couple of days, yes, but in a year like 2017 with unprecedentedly low yields across the board, shouldn’t we be making consumers pay a little more? 

I was reading a piece (in Italian) by my friend Angelo Peretti this morning in which he talks about his incomprehension of the unwavering support that people give to their favourite football team. He likens it to his bafflement at how the different sides in the wine world (conventional vs natural) also jeer, shout and mock the other. Whilst I most definitely fall on the natural end of the spectrum, I hope I succeed in keeping an open mind. I wholeheartedly agree with Angelo’s conclusion: if a wine is made well, I’ll drink it. (I mean, remember that I am English after all!)

That said, when I’m at home choosing which wine to open, I have very simple criteria: it must be made well, taste good and suit the occasion. There’s so much choice of wine out there today that I don’t understand why we still feel obliged to drink something we don’t enjoy. As some famous person once said: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” 

Now I know the standard of Beaujolais Nouveau has vastly increased when you think back to the banana years but most of them are not my cup of tea. 

I like the Gamay grape; it has unique qualities that remain largely under-appreciated. Beaujolais was also the first French region for which I learnt all the appellations (Burgundy is impossibly complicated for a beginner, Alsace unpronouncable, but the 13 crus of Beaujolais, perfect!)

The problem lies in the fact that I am not a huge fan of carbonic maceration. I know that light and fruity red wines appeal to a certain sector of the market but there’s no getting over my predeliction for wines where you taste the soil, the roots, the minerals. 

It’s not that Beaujolais Nouveau wines are bad, it’s just that there are better alternatives. If you don’t mind, I’ll be drinking this Beaujolais today at lunch.

La Vigne du Perron – KATAPNHA 2009

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Once upon a time, for a fortunately very brief moment, the wine world that I was surrounded by was full of English men in red trousers (tendentially) boasting about the old vintages that they’d recently (or not so recently) tasted.

The conversation would go something like:

> “Oh, don’t you remember how wonderful the Chateau So-and-So 1986 was…”

> “No, no, old boy, the 1982 vintage was far superior…”

It was a side of the wine industry that I didn’t like – firstly because I hadn’t even been born when these wines were bottled and by the time I knew how to work a corkscrew, they had become as rare as a pink unicorn.

The atmosphere was so ridiculously pompous and self-absorbed that I wanted none of it.

The thing is, in many markets, wine is seen as a luxury product. It is a status symbol and thereby, a subject about which many people aspire to be seen as knowledgeable.

Nowadays, the sector of the wine industry that I have chosen to immerse myself in (natural wine) seems to focus less on back vintages and more on figureheads. Instead of showing off which historic vintages you’ve tried, it’s a roll call of producers who have succeeded in developing a cult-like following.

I remember a card game called Top Trumps that my little sister liked to play in the playground at school. The behaviour of natural wine fans is remarkably similar: when you share a photo online (Instagram or Facebook are the main playing fields) you get 20 points for a Puzelat label, 50 points for Ganevat and Sélosse… but Overnoy trumps anything else that’s been played before.

I rejected the self-important bluster of nineteen hundred and something and I also reject this unfounded frenzy around certain names. I prefer to take my own way, discovering new producers, little-known regions and under-valued grape varieties.


LA VIGNE DU PERRON (Vin de France – situated in Villebois 01150) Katapnha / Katarina 2009 Chardonnay (13.5%) 

That said, there is something very special about old vintages. The way wine evolves over time is one of the main aspects that fascinates me.

On the odd occasion that I have something remarkable, I save it for a special occasion – birthday or anniversary – and only in deserving company.

However, today, Sunday lunch, for no particular reason, the boy pulls out a bottle from 2009. It’s written Katapnha but I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Katarina. With no other information, we pop the cork and pour a glass. Just from the nose alone, it is quite evidently chardonnay.

Chardonnay has this fantastic quality – oxidation. Young, it is like going for a walk along a Scottish beach in January. Bracing winds, with your coat zipped up as far as your ears.

But by the time the wine has evolved (8-10 years will do the trick) it is as enveloping and intoxicating as dusk on a summer’s day. Aromatic, leafy, as you bask in the last of the sun’s rays. Rich, generous, bordering on opulent. There’s that tell-tale acidity but it is cooling, refreshing, and indulgantly pleasant. It is, quite simply, stupendous.

And on that note, I must away. Grapes need to be picked.

A Happy Find – Clos du Tue-Boeuf’s La Guerrerie 2009

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I should start this post by explaining that my wine collection is not vast. As you would expect if you have even the slightest idea of who I am and what I do, the provenance of these wines is mainly French and Italian. Curiously, as a whole, it is weighted more towards red wines than to whites or sparkling. I have about 30 bottles laid out on a wine rack and the others are still in their boxes. Despite all my best attempts to catalogue the bottles, every so often, I find something unexpected.

Gallo’s 2006 Merlot is one of them. Thierry Puzelat’s 2009 La Guerrerie is another.


Clos du Tue-Boeuf (Touraine AOC, Loire) La Guerrerie 2009 66% Côt, 33% Gamay (12.5%

If you are in any way familiar with the natural wine scene, Thierry Puzelat should need no introduction.

However, you may be unfamiliar with the grape variety Côt; it is essentially another name for Malbec. In France, Malbec is most notably found in the Cahors region in the south-west, where it can go by the name “Auxerrois,” and in Bordeaux where it is minor variety, predominantly used for blending. It has also made a name for itself in Argentina where it seems perfectly at home at high-altitudes of Mendoza. 

Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, we need to look more closely at the Loire Valley.

Whilst Côt has a couple of more famous neighbours, it has its own, distinctly original form of expression.

Unlike Cabernet Franc, it does not have the black pepper, green capiscum and cassis aromatics that you find in Chinon and Bourgueil.

Unlike Grolleau, it’s a heavyweight wine, which is sturdy and sure of itself.

It’s obviously not Pinot Noir (that you find in Sancerre and a little further in Burgundy.)

It is instead spicy and warming. It has a heavily tinted, deep, mulberry colour and a very pleasing aromatic profile. 

Upon first opening, the initial impression is the unmistakable sign of its vinification in wooden barrels. However, for a 2009, it still smells remarkably youthful. There is no sign of oxidation.

Now almost 8 years old, this wine is at its peak. It harmoniously blends fruit (ripe red fruit – think raspberries, sloe berries and redcurrant jelly) with spice (hearty, cajun spice. Incidentally, it made a wonderful accompaniment to our BBQ-ed jerk chicken.) There’s still enough acidity to keep it lively and enough mellow tannins to be pleasing on the palate. A great find!


Tasted: 23rd August 2017

Price: unknown

Rating: ****


Clos de Tue-Boeuf website

In The Vineyards With: Géraud Fromont (Domaine des Marnes Blanches, Jura)

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They started with 4 hectares but now Géraud and Pauline Fromont work 10 hectares of vineyards in three different villages (Cesancey, Vincelles and Ste-Agnès) all in the southern part of Jura, in what’s known as the Sud Revermont.

The Sud Revermont doesn’t have any of the dramatic hills (i.e. Chateau-Chalon) that the north of the Jura (around Arbois) boasts but the Sud Revermont does have the highest concentration of lesser-known (but still very interesting) winemakers.

“Are you taking another photo of me…?”

Marne blanche means white marl and it is the dominant soil type in their first vineyard – just outside Cesancey. That’s not to say it’s the only soil type there – the Jura is known for its rich diversity – in their other vineyards, you find more red marl and fossilized limestone. (In the title photo, you’ll see the distinct red colour of the Vincelles vineyard.)

Since the very beginning, they sought and then obtained organic certification. Coming from farming backgrounds, the decision to work organically was never up for debate. However, nowadays, despite the presence of a handful of sheep, the farming aspect has been put to one side in order to focus on the vineyards and wine-making.

Standing guard.

Speaking of wine…. Domaine des Marnes Blanche’s wines were some of the most expressive and wholesome that I tasted during the visit to the Jura. (And we covered a lot of ground, I can tell you!)

Looking into the ‘voile’

Because Géraud has such little stock left, most of what we tried were tank samples, settling for a week or so before bottling – therefore, I don’t remember the particular names unfortunately. What I do remember are the sensations.

Savignan is not normally known as being an evocative variety but, my goodness, here they take on a life of their own. One of them – the 8th wine we tasted – had such intense aromas of pepper and spice. Another – from a variety of Savignan Rose (a relative of Muscat and Traminer) smelt of rose, elderflower and lychee.

I also particularly liked a Chardonnay, aged in large wooden barrels (foudre) which I found rich, enticing and, I quote directly from my notes, “super bon!” Géraud treated us to another Chardonnay ouillé (topped up) but this time from the 2015 vintage which was showing its complexity wonderfully.

I was lucky to come away from the visit with 2 cases of wine to put in the car. There are such small quantities of wine available that every bottle is precious… but had we arrived after the bottling had taken place, I would have happily emptied the cellar… 😉

The ‘cave seche’ where the oxidised wines are made

Domaine des Marnes Blanches website / Facebook

Visit: 23rd June 2017