Rasmus Aamand Olesen, a biology student from Denmark, took a year off from school to be an intern at Domaine du Traginer in Banyuls and never left. Rasmus grew up on a farm in his home country and married that experience with winemaking during his internship in 2016.
Rasmus started planting vines in 2017 and is also rehabbing conventionally farmed plots and taking over abandoned vineyards. The wines are within AOP Collioures, a region co-extensive with Banyuls. Steep vineyards shoot up from the sea and local schist stone is used for the feixas (terraces). His cellar is a tiny garage in Port-Vendres, a quaint fishing village.
Here is a snippet from Rasmus himself on why he decided to make a brandy:
“The idea of making brandy actually mostly came from a friend of mine. Being human means you do errors (like e.g. oxidising a white during bottling) and choosing to make wine with as little sulfite as possible means you are walking on a knifes edge when your standards as a winemaker at the same time drives you towards making ageable wines you can be proud of. Simultaneously I’m very much against squandering the resources of your planet. Even though I do my best to allow for as much life as possible to flourish in my vineyards I am still painfully aware that my actions are claiming a part of this planet which for a while will not be free to develop as its sees fit. Thus throwing good quality grapes away, because I’m trying to discover the boundaries of what me vineyards will ferment cleanly, feels utterly meaningless. So the brandy bridges that gap. For the most part.”
Charles Dagand (formerly of Domaine L’Octavin) and Stéphane Plance (owner of wine store Les Jardins de St. Vincent in Arbois) came together to form this new negociant project based in the Jura. After some devastating harvests while working on his own project, Carlito, Charles wanted a project that would be less dependent on nature’s whims. This is Stéphane’s first time making his own wine. This is their second vintage. The grapes are sourced from vineyards around France, in particular in the Languedoc and vinified in Charles’ cellar just north of Arbois. They have a few hectares in Jura.
Certified organic. Winemaking a la Jean Marc Brignot, lots of semi-carbonic maceration.
Marthe Henry Boillot
After working as a journalist in Paris, Marthe Henry Boillot returned to her family in Meursault to start her label in 2013. She made her first vintage in 2017, around 12 barrels. Marthe worked at Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard during her work-study program and currently is part of the team at Domaine Rougeot.
A wonderful interview with Marthe here from 2020.
Marthe’s grandfather Pierre Boillot left behind a 2.5ha estate when he died in 2004. She is currently making her wines there and will have access to the estate fruit starting in 2023. In the meantime she buys from neighboring winemakers and friends who share the same approach to viticulture; some of the grapes are organic. The wines are in barrel up to 18 months. Reds are whole-cluster. Small sulphur additions at bottling only.
La Theriaque Spiritueux
Lana Labermeier & Sunshine Erickson
Lana and Sunshine, both from the US, met in France while working as export managers for French wine companies. They made a home for themselves in the south, near Montpellier, where they created La Theriaque Spiritueux in 2020.
The gins and vermouths are made in a style reminiscent of the 18th and 19th centuries: a base of local wine, a mix of organically farmed and foraged wild herbs and aromatics, and a 300l Charentais pot still. Their methods require intuitive choices that result in terroir driven spirits.
Process and technical information here
Mas D’intras are independant vinegrowers located in the town of Valvignères in the southern French department of Ardèche. They have been exploiting the lands of their family in the hamlet of Intras since 1982.
They are a small family business of only 7 people and they produce organic certified wines. Everything from work in the vines to bottling is made by themselves at the domaine. Their decision to go organic came from a wish to adopt a responsible attitude.
Champs du Lièvre
Champs du Lièvre is located in the small village of La Livinière in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon. At the heart of the Minervois appellation, thanks to its unique soil and microclimate, La Livinière was awarded in 1999 its very own AOC, Cru classification, Minervois La Livinière. Winemaking here dates back to the Roman times and has been continuing since the 2nd century B.C.
The philosophy of Champs du Lièvre is to produce small batches of great wines that show what the extraordinary terroir of La Livinière has to offer. They individually vinify each parcel and varietal to bring forward the unique specificities of all of their vines.
The vines range from 15 to over 70 years of age. The grape varieties, such as Carignan, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsault grow in predominantly stony clay-limestone soils surrounded by aromatic Mediterranean vegetation. All harvests are manual at optimum maturity and grape selection is done directly at the vine. The domain is certified 100% organic.
Stephanie Jordan & Tim Etherington-Judge
Avallen is a young reinterpretation of the classic Calvados from northern French Normandy. This apple brandy is entirely produced in the Manche department and is made according to standards of the AOC Calvados. Made with 40 different varieties of apples and without any artificial sweeteners, it is a natural and refreshing take on the traditional “Calva”.
It is as natural as it can be. Avallen founders Stephanie and Tim wanted to create a tasteful drink as ecological as possible. And they succeeded. With that goal and their deep love for bees and nature in mind, they designed every step of the production to be respectful of nature. From the sustainable orchards to the ecological labels and bottles, everything was made to reduce water consumption and the carbon footprint of the drink. Thanks to the apple trees, that naturally capture CO2 from the atmosphere, each bottle of Avallen is CO2 positive: it generates less carbon dioxyde to produce it than can be captured by the apple trees in the company’s orchard.
The entire production process is done by the Distillerie Coquerel which have been striving to reduce water and fuel consumption in the past years.
Domaine des Jeunes Pousses
The Domaine des Jeunes Pousses is a quite unique estate. With organic vineyards in the villages of Émeringes and Chénas in the Beaujolais, the entire winery is given to young winemakers for three years. During this period, they assume full control on all aspects of the production, from the vines to the shop. By doing so, the estate owner Thibaut Liger Belair wants to give the possibility to young winemakers who are new to the wine scene to train and gain fame in the sector.
The winery is currently in the hands of Angela Quiblier and Hugo Foizel, two dynamic young oenologist. Since 2019, they have been in charge of development and maintenance of the domain and have been producing their very own wines. They consider this experience as a wonderful chance that will teach them how to become autonomous producers.
The name “Jeunes Pousses” (“young shoots”) was not picked randomly. after all, the very goal of this estate is to let young winemakers grow big.
Domaine des Fauvettes
After working along side her husband for many years, Maryse Chatelin acquired a small patch of land outside of the small village of Uchizy, Burgundy, where she planted Pinot Noir vines. The small vineyard is remote to the rest of the village and allows a focus on biodiversity.
Maryse has a real natural approach to wine making. Wines are aged in old foudres, unfiltered, and nothing at all is added at bottling.
Château des Eclaz
Les Noces Alchimiques
Domaine des Miroirs
Kenjiro’s path to his own domaine was a long and slow one that included work in many of the greatest wine cellars in France and when you talk to him about his production, he’s often referencing a lot of that experience. He has a hold on how VA ages and integrates thanks to watching the amazing wines of Bruno Schueller develop in bottle. He learned about the details of how to handle Jura varieties from Jean-François Ganevat. It wasn’t until moving to the other side of the world, learning a new language, going to oenology school, and learning from some of the greatest producers alive did he acquire a 4 hectare parcel outside of Grusse, near the famed village of Rotalier. It’s a special parcel on a fairly steep slope completely surrounded by forest. I’ve got a particular appreciation for vineyards surrounded by nature. They make wine in a small, old building in town and they all spend time in old barrels before release. For me, this is one of the things the best natural wine makers do if they can afford it, which is to wait on the wine and bottle them at precisely the best moment for each wine. I think he’s a real master at this as the wines ofter hug that edge of reduction and openness.
Céline Peyre and Alexandre Gressent
“We cultivate 14 hectares of old vines in hillsides, on the Hautes-Corbières terroir, in Aude. Family vines cultivated for several generations, in organic farming. In biodynamic farming since autumn 2018.
Our objective is to produce fine wines valued by a cultivation approach implicated in the environmental cause, and to commit ourselves to offering natural wines, which reflect our precious and unique terroir of Hautes Corbières. Terroir expressed by shale soils on hillsides at an altitude of 140 to 280 meters surrounded by scrubland and shrub. The climate is Mediterranean, dry, sunny ,and windy – perfect support for expressions.”
Jennifer Bariou & Thibaut Bodet
Jennifer Bariou and Thibaut Bodet
Brigitte Maestrojuan and Michel Maestrojuan
Clos de Bernardi
Jean-Laurent de Bernardi and Jean-Paul de Bernardi
Founded in 1880, by the grandfather of Jean-Laurent and Jean-Paul De Bernardi, the estate covers 10 hectares, on a clay-limestone land by the sea.
The vines are worked in a traditional way that is to say by hand, the culture is certified organic.
The A.O.C, recognized in 1968, is the result of the work of their father, Mr. Pierre De Bernardi, then President of the Wine Union of Patrimonio.
De Bernardi’s philosophy is to favor quality rather than quantity, to guarantee natural, organic production, while respecting the environment and the know-how of the profession.
In the center of the village of Patrimonio, a 19th century stone building houses this 3rd generation of wine growers. In this cellar, steeped in history, Jean-Laurent and Jean-Paul, lovers of their land and their craft, will enjoy making you taste their exceptional wine.
Before becoming a vigneron, a 20 year old Lolita Sene had another life as an artistic director of a nightclub. This inspired her to combine her loves of partying and science so she returned to school to study agronomy with the ultimate goal of making wine. She quickly became bored of conventional winemaking and discovered the world of natural wine, which she felt touched on “a very particular emotion.” After school, Lolita worked in a cellar and as a sommelier in the U.S., passionately defending natural wine. After a few years of this, Lolita was tired of just serving and talking about natural wine, and so made the decision to move back to France to make her own.
Today, Lolita is the owner of a plot of land in the southern Rhône that grows Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. She began with just 1,800 bottles in 2018 and is currently producing 8,000 for 2020. She is committed to never exceeding 10,000 bottles because her motto is “Start small, stay small.”
Lolita does absolutely everything by hand, from working the vineyard (hand harvested) to designing the labels. She utilizes a clique press, lightly crushes by foot, and fills her barrels by bucket. Bottling takes place on a small 4-bec machine. Committed to minimal intervention, Lolita’s wines use only organically farmed grapes and are never fined or filtered with zero sulfur added.
Champagne David Léclapart
David Léclapart is the 4th generation to farm his family’s 3 hectare estate, located in Trépail, a premier cru village in Montagne de Reims. He took over the winemaking mantle from his father who passed in 1996, and began releasing wines under his own name in 1998.
Within the 3 hectares are 20 parcels of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay (the dominant grape in Trèpail), and Pinot Noir, all on chalky marls. David was certified Ecocert and Demeter in 2000, making him a very early adopter of chemical free farming within the context of Champagne and its long love affair with industrialized processes. Everything is single vineyard without blending or reserves, and just between 10,000 – 15,000 bottles per year. Native yeasts, enameled steel (defiantly not stainless, as David feels stainless imparts a “negative energy“), small used oak barrels, and full malolactic fermentation are all part of the program. No dosage ever, of course. There is a much stronger emphasis here on the vineyard than the cellar, which is pretty countercultural for a region defined by “house style” and conventional farming, to put it lightly.
These are true individualistic expressions of vintage and the south easterly slopes of Trépail and its surrounding forests.
Thierry Bonnet and Cyril Bonnet
Grégoire Bonnet founded the estate in 1862. That’s 150 years of continuous production within the same family, now helmed by Thierry Bonnet and his son Cyril. They farm over 10 hectares including the Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages of Chamery, Vrigny, Coulommes la Montagne, Verzenay, and Verzy. This is spread over 50 parcels of 35-80 year old vines, all farmed organic since 2013 and certified in 2016, which puts them in rare company for Champagne. All initial fermentations are native yeasts, no filtration, and minimal sulfur. Their production is approximately 60,000 bottles per year.
These represent honest expressions and are part of the new guard (at least philosophically) of organic viticulture and crystalline assertions within a sea of mass production. They even make some true zero-zero cuvées, including their not to be missed Coteaux Champenois. These still wines are direct translations of the terroirs and remind us of the purity of Pinot and Chardonnay when they have not been “messed” with.
Romain Le Bars
Romain Le Bars
Romain Le Bars is part of a band of young vignerons (Valentin Valles, Sébastien Chatillon, Gregory Guillaume, and Charles Soulier) who are putting the deep southern Rhône/Gard on the natural wine map in a significant way. Romain works a minuscule 1.50 hectare vineyard and had his first harvest in 2018. Before bottling his first vintage, he spent 7 years working for Tavel legend Eric Pfifferling (Domain L’Anglore) and that influence is evident in the glass! The wines are mostly blends of Grenache and Syrah, vinified in used wood barrels, that are either carbonically macerated or direct press. These are light, zero-zero wines made in the same spirit as his former employer. In other words, light in color and powerful in expression! Romain is certainly a name to pay attention to as these tiny production wines have garnered an immediate following!
Château Lafitte is located in Monein between Pau and Oloron Sainte-Marie within the Jurançon appellation. The castle can trace its origin back to the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the current owners, Philippe and Brigitte Arraou, began making wine here that the viticultural history was recaptured.
Aurélien and Charlotte Houillon
Aurélien and Charlotte Houillon began their project in Vaucluse in 2017 after having worked for years in the Jura with Pierre Ovenoy and Emmanuel Houillon (Aurélien‘s brother). Here they have taken the same minimalist approach to the winemaking and biodynamics in the vineyards that have made the wines from Ovenoy so legendary (not to mention that other Houillon unicorn, Bruyere-Houillon!)
They have 9 hectares of mostly rescued vines in the village of Faucon, which rests in the shadow of Mont Ventoux.
These are wild wines, but still possess the depth and southern Rhône intensity from the classic grapes of the region (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault). And, in a nod to just how artisanal and hand made this project is, some of the labels are made from their own papyrus they are screening from scratch in their barn!
Recrue des Sens
Since 2010, Yann Durieux has worked a small area of 3 hectares in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits in Villers-la-Faye. With a solid apprenticeship at Domaine Prieuré-Roch in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Yann embarks on the adventure and upsets the preconceived ideas of a very traditional Burgundy. He vinifies with talent and according to biodynamic methods.
Paul Perarnau and Willy Roulendes
Willy is the winemaker. After working at Domaine De Montille, he took care of wines from Clos du Moulin aux Moines to Auxey-Durresses. With this great experience, he gained a deep knowledge of the terroirs of the Côte de Beaune. For him, Ami is the opportunity to let burst a bubble of madness.
Paul is the farmer. Having been trained in the art of tasting in London and Paris, he is the link between the city and the countryside. His passion for wines of character led him to work with talented winemakers such as Oronce de Beler and Dominique Hauvette.
In 2016, after working as the head sommelier of Le Chateaubriand in Paris for seven years, Sébastien Chatillon moved to Vallabrix in the Gard to start Ad Vinum.
Originally from Normandy, Sébastien went to university for about 4 months before deciding it was dull and not for him. Questioning his life path, he tried out many jobs. He sold candy, worked in stables, led rock bands… What would bring him true fulfillment?
Sébastien often ended a night of partying at his friend’s dad’s wine cave, drinking until the early morning hours. It occurred to him that he liked wine. He figured if he was going to drink the beverage until dawn, then maybe he should learn how to make it. He moved to the Loire Valley and worked with René Mosse in Anjou for four years. René opened his world to natural wine. “It was fresh, different, and in the morning I had no headache. A dream for a guy like me.”
Sébastien’s next move was to Paris for a girl. René set him up with Iñaki Aizpitarte, the chef of Le Chateaubriand. At the young age of 25, he became the sommelier of a restaurant that in 2010 was ranked no. 11 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chateaubriand enabled him to dive deep into natural wine. There was absolutely no turning back.
In addition to starting Ad Vinum, Sébastien Chatillon owns Le Cave. Le Cave is a tiny wine shop sandwiched between Le Dauphin and Le Chateaubriand that sells natural wine from more than 15 countries.
Domaine de la Pinte
At the heart of the Arbois vineyard, Roger Martin writes a page in the history of Vin Jaune. At the place called “La Pinte à la Capitaine,” on the blue marls of the Lias, he planted 14 hectares of Savagnin. It was then the largest estate planted in Savagnin. Today, Pierre Martin perpetuates the work of his father and has enlarged the Estate which totals 34 hectares of vines.
In 1999 the La Pinte estate made a brave choice by converting its entire land to organic viticulture. Since 2009 they have reached a new stage of practicing biodynamic farming throughout the 34 hectares.
Born from celtic “ar” and “bos” meaning “fertile land”, the appellation Arbois was the first French AOC to date. It is also the first of the Jura by its volume of production, producing 45,000 hectoliters a year. This appellation is spread over 13 communes with a total of 843 hectares. The five grape varieties authorized in the Jura are eligible for AOC Arbois, which produces around 70% of Jura red wines and 30% of whites. Indeed, the reds dominate in terms of surface and production on this soil which is favorable to the grapes. In a rugged terrain with calcareous scree, the soil consists of very deep iridescent marls and clay – silicous and compact.
They practice shallow plowing which does not destroy the soil, but on the contrary, will contribute to the harmony between each element which composes it: microorganisms, minerals trace elements, micro fauna.
Biodynamic culture also allows the yeasts to grow on the skin of the grapes. The grapes are harvested by hand and are vinified with these indigenous yeasts. The use of sulfur is limited and not systematic: a little on the juice before starting the fermentation, sometimes during breeding.
The fermentation happens in barriques, demi-muids, and foudres, the duration varies according to the grape varieties.
The wines are aged on fine lees and extracted according to the lunar calendar. We prefer the transfer of wines by working by gravity.
The Grosbois family vineyard is located at a place called “The Pressoir” Panzoult in the Chinon appellation in the heart of the Loire Valley. The Chinon appellation, recognized in AOC, offers wines with aromas of red fruits and violets and covers 2,300 hectares. Located on the hillside of Chinon facing the south, Domaine Grosbois consists of 9 hectares of vines spread over 13 different plots in order to adapt the cultures to the soil. This varied plot configuration allows a palette of expression for their wines. Nicolas wanted to preserve this heritage and to respect its 600-year history. We also work 28 hectares of grains.
Nicolas came back to the vineyard in 2008, to take over for his parents, whilst bringing a new outlook and techniques from other wine regions – Southern France, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Chile.
The wines are made from the Cabernet Franc grape called “Breton”, growing on limestone bedrock. The soils mostly consist of clay and limestone. A fragmented geography respected since the 15th century makes it possible to produce four vintages of character. Different soils modulate the personality of the wines. The gravelly soil of low hills gives fruity wines, where the top of the hill, the argilo-siliceous lands produce more structured wines. The know-how of Nicolas and the knowledge of his vineyards allows him to create distinct elegant, wines, while respecting the soil and the product through organic agriculture. The work of a winemaker is to adapt to the physical and climatic constraints, to question constantly, and thus, to uncover the character and personality of the terroir through the wines they produce.