September 16, 2017
The Rhone river plunges past the town of Villebois oblivious to all that surrounds it, flush from Alpine glaciers, and intent on finding the Mediterranean. There is something mesmerizing about its impassive, headlong force. The surrounding hills rise up around it, rich in green vitality, sloping up to the southernmost escarpment of the Jura Massif, and beyond that, the Alps. This is where François Grinand makes wine.
Though often associated with Savoie, the Bugey region is situated on the Southern tip of the limestone-rich Jura massif. In their natural state, the wines, too, often resemble Jura to the North and Burgundy to the West, with which Bugey is historically affiliated. Francois’ approach aims to restore this less common face of Bugey, favoring low-yielding vineyard management, hand-harvesting, and elevage-intensive cellar work. On a mere 2 hectares, he farms Pinot Noir, Gamay, Mondeuse, Altesse and Chardonnay. The vineyards are farmed entirely without chemicals and only occasional biodynamic treatments.
François’ Gamay and Pinot Noir are fermented whole-cluster in upright fiberglass vats. His Mondeuse, by contrast, is de-stemmed to avoid bitterness. Unlike some of his natural winemaking colleagues in the region, who prefer maceration for their aromatic white grapes, François’ whites are pressed directly without being de-stemmed. Grapes are pressed through an upright press with a rock basin, then transferred to old oak barrels, where they age until François decides they are ready to bottle, generally 12 to 18 months. Since 2010, François bottles all of his wines without filtration or the addition of sulfur dioxide.
François talks about wine the way he might talk to one of his piano students about scales, prioritizing process and practice over whimsy and improvisation. Scales are transparently simple, but also inscrutably complex in their array of potential combinations. One does not master them through experimentation, but instead through daily practice, a repetitive labor that requires attention to detail, trusting that beauty will organically arise out of the mysterious interaction of disparate elements.
These are amongst the rarest wines we carry at the shop, and we are thrilled the 2015 vintage yielded enough juice for us to host a tasting this Saturday.
2015 Couffe Chien (Jacquère) $37
2015 Katarina (Chardonnay) $37
2015 Serene Blanche (Altesse) $37
2015 Ermitures (Gamay) $32
2015 Etapes (Pinot Noir) $37
2015 Persanne (Mondeuse) $37
$10 to taste all six wines. Fee waived with a $100 purchase.