L.A's new website is live and full of great information!
Go check it out!
To celebrate the launch, L.A's friend put together the video above. It's a beautiful, short documentation of the 2014 harvest for L.A's Pipeño line. If you still haven't heard about this amazing project, it's Louis Antoine's homage to local Chilean farmers -many of whom appear in this video- who have been making wine for generations. These guys have always sold their wine locally and in vrac; by forming a partnership, slightly updating their cellars and giving them a hand with vinification, L.A has permitted them to bottle their wines for the first time (2013 was the first vintage), thus capturing previously undiscovered expressions of Chilean wine tradition and terroir for the export market.
As importers dedicated to traditional winemaking and farming methods, it is an honor being part of this. Drink up!
It is with much excitement that we OFFICIALLY announce our newest estate: Champagne Tarlant! Based in the village of Oeuilly (located in the Vallée de la Marne), head vigneron Benoît Tarlant is the 12th generation working this land under his family name. Benoît is the real deal: his great understanding and respect of history, tradition and nature, coupled with his experimental, forward thinking tendencies have been the driving force of some truly next level, terroir-centric Champagnes.
The estate consists of 14 hectares of vines spread far and wide over 55 parcels of Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Meunier (20%). Small amounts of Champagne's "forgotten"grapes" -Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier- are also planted. In the vines, chemicals are never used and biodiversity is prioritized. Because of Marne's extremely diverse terroirs, Benoit adapts his viticultural approach parcel by parcel, using the soil, grape and micro-climate to guide him. 12 generations of know-how doesn't hurt either!
The house makes many parcel/terroir focused cuvées that will make it stateside in the future, but for our first drop, we are bringing in 3 cuvées: Brut Zéro, Brut Zéro Rosé and Cuvée Louis. Brut Zéro is the Tarlant's calling card, and consists of a non vintage, no dosage wine made equal parts Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. The Rosé is a majority Chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Noir. Cuvée Louis is Benoît's homage to his great, great, great grandfather (he's great!), and the top of the top from Tarlant's single vineyard offerings: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a single parcel of 65 year old vines called "Les Crayons", vinified and aged in oak.
We've been groupie-level obsessed with these wines for many years now, always making a point to taste with Benoît at any given opportunity. We couldn't be more excited to be sharing these with you!
The team just got back from an incredible tour of Italy. Expect re-caps and a shit ton of pictures from Cascina Degli Ulivi, Odilio Antoniotti, Franco Noussan, Vinirari, I Vigneri, Arianna Occhipinti and maybe a surprise or two along the way!
Photo of best outfit ever taken in Naples by Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA.
After eating lunch in Saumur, Fredrik Filliatreau met us up for coffee before setting out to his vines. Before seeing any of his own land, he asked me (and consequently, the 6 other cars following us) to pull over to the side of the road.
"From here, I can give everyone a general overview of the area."
Saumur-Champigny is located between the Loire and Saône rivers, and was declared an AOC in 1957. It consists of 1600 hectares of Cabernet Franc spread over 9 villages. 100 independent growers make wine from their own land, and 40% of the AOC's vines are run and produced by huge cave cooperatives. With 45 hectares to their name, Domaine Filliatreau's is one of the biggest independent producers in the area.
The Filliatreau family has been based in the village of Chaintres for many generations. Fredrik's grandfather was the first to focus entirely on viticulture, and before that their main crops were asparagus and cereals. He was also one of the first 4 independent vignerons in the area. His father Paul started in 1967 with a very small production, but through many decades of successes and ambitious expansion, the estate now exists as 45h of land spread over 37 parcels.
The first site Fredrik showed were young vines from the lieu-dit La Croix.
As you can see from the photo above, it's been a rainy winter in the Loire.
We then walked by a clos whose name I didn't catch.
Fredrik had forgotten the key to this site so we couldn't go in. He shares this surface with a handful of other growers.
Just a short walk further, we entered one of Fredrik's favorite parcels, Clos Candi.
This 1.2 hectare clos' vines are 75 years old and some of the oldest at the estate. The soils consist of clay and limestone with limestone subsoils.
Fredrik explains how this is technically a "monopole" of a terroir, but since growers and consumers don't take things like that too seriously in the Loire, it makes it hard to justify bottling such a small amount of wine as its own cuvée. This did however happen once, and ended up as a Cuvée Buster.
Before getting back into our cars to go taste in the cellar, Fredrik wanted to show us a project very dear to his heart.
6 years ago, Saumur-Champigny became the first viticultural region in France to invest collectively as an AOC to transform into a bio-diversity zone. Bio-diversity has been discussed numerous times on this website, but the gist of it is a) to not use herbicides and b) to plant anything OTHER than vines. By taking these two steps, the growers of Saumur-Champigny are permitting a more balanced eco-system to form itself around its vineyards, thus attracting other types of life (plants, animals and bugs) that will help nature defend itself with minimal to no chemical aid.
30 km of hedges have been planted alongside many rows of vineyards.
These have brought insect populations that haven't been present in many generations. Furthermore, herbicides have been abolished completely in order to permit not only grass, but all of the flowers and plants that grow along with it to invigorate the vineyards' soil and micro-biological life.
"It's impossible to force everyone to work organically, but with this agreement we've found a way to reduce chemical use as a whole. I consider this a very important accomplishment."
From the rain soaked vines, we drove over to the Filliatreau's vinification cellar, built by Paul in 1978 and nicknamed Le Chai.
Originally, the entire production was made in concrete tanks. The resulting wines were very tannic, and often tricky to vinify due to lack of proper temperature control. In 1978, Paul discovered stainless steel and had a revelation: not only could this vessel be temperature controlled, but it could also permit him to make a lighter, fruitier wine in the style he'd always wanted to make. Domaine Filliatreau was the first to produce this style of Saumur-Champigny, which he jokingly labeled "Champigny Nouveau", a term which has since been banned.
Paris went apeshit for the "Fillatreau style", and as a result more and more producers started bottling similar wines to supply the ever-increasing demand of Parisian bistros and bar à vins. Unfortunately, as with most trends, big négoces and caves coopératives also started emulating and mass producing this style, eventually pushing things too far (à la Beaujolais Nouveau) and ruining that the reputation of the light gulpers Paul had pioneered in the late 70's.
Though thick and thin, Fredrik has continued to make this stainless steel style, which remain in high demand due to his knack for quality. Every year, a 50 to 60 person harvest team that works over the course of 2 weeks.
"You never really need to rush."
80% of the estate is hand-harvested. For the other 20% (young vines), Fredrik had this to say:
"If you make the decision to machine harvest part or all of your crop, It's very important to have your OWN harvesting machine, because it gives you control. Most people who machine harvest hire guys who are trying to get the job done as soon as possible, and don't care about timing or multiple passes."
Tanks macerate 1 to 5 weeks depending on the wine. The 13 Domaine had 10 days maceration.
In the tasting room, we got to try a bottle a bottle of 2013 Saumur Rosé.
"Every year, a local bar holds a competition for the best rosé. 3rd place gets an entire Serrano Ham, 2nd place gets 10kg of extremely rare and seasonal mushrooms, and first place gets:"
That's right, folks. First place for best rosé get you a weird boob statue. Fredrik in no way tried to explain how this made any sense (probably because it doesn't), and since we all know that a whole Serrano ham is way better than a weird boob statue:
"The secret is learning how to make the 3rd best rose!"
Fredrik then disgorged some Fillibule 13.
The wine is much darker in color this year, and slightly sweeter. Grapes for this PET NAT are sourced from the same parcel as the rosé, and it was delicious.
From Le Chai, we went to the Filliatreau's underground tuffeau cellar, which was built in the early 18th century.
As you may have noticed, all the barrel aged stuff is down here. A lot of old, moldy bottles also age down there, and we got to try a bunch of them.
2003 Chateau Fouquet was very fresh and balanced 95 Domaine Vielles Vignes had beautiful cherry fruit. I wanted V.V 1986 to be the best since it was my birth year, but Fredrik disagreed.
"It wasn't the best vintage. Still pretty good though!"
Thanks a lot Fredrik! The 85 V.V, on the other hand, was banging.
We then got to take a mini break back at the hotel before joining Fredrik for dinner at La Grande Vignolle, the lieu dit that produces the cuvée of the same name. This is what it looks like from a bird's eye view:
Yes, that's a vine maze. If you look towards, the top of the photo above, the beautiful monuments are built purely out of tuffeau limestone.
Outside, we spotted a super creepy and mysterious mannequin man.
Fredrik told us he has always been there, and any soul foolish enough to get too close has inevitably been hexed with a curse of getting drunk way too fast at public functions and making a total fool of themselves.
Dinner was awesome.