What's New in June

Further Explorations in France

The real motivating force behind our endeavors in France (other than simply finding great wine to drink, of course) is the discovery (or, just as often, the rediscovery) of unheralded terroirs, the ones whose potential has been long forgotten or was never quite unlocked. In the right hands, with the right guidance, wines made from some of these lesser-known places can be a true revelation.

Exhibit A

You mean you've never heard of Frangy? Buried in the long list of Savoie crus, geographically separate from the areas where most Savoie wine is made, Frangy is not exactly a household name. Yet Frangy is where Bruno Lupin makes his brilliant Roussette, one of the most compelling expressions of the Altesse grape we've ever come across. What makes this wine so good? The full south exposure of the hillside and the plentiful summer sunshine? The way the vineyard is situated near the bottom of the hill, protecting it from cold northerly winds? Or is it Bruno's deft, light touch in the winery, his ability to bring out just the right balance of richness and taut nerve from his grapes? It's probably all of the above, but what's for sure is that this is a great wine from a place nobody is talking about.

Let's call Lupin our exhibit A.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B is Nicolas Badel. Though he also makes wine from the more famous St.-Joseph and Condrieu appellations, his flagship wine is Intuition. The grapes for this wine are grown in the vineyards surrounding his winery, outside of any AOC. Much like Thierry Tissot's Mataret vineyard, this site, called Les Grands Vignes, was known to the old timers in the area as the best place around to grow grapes. The hillside was abandoned decades ago, but Nicolas saw the potential and decided to reclaim it. The site has sandy granitic soils, full south exposure, and an elevation of 350m. Down below is the Cance river, which runs perpendicular to the Rhône. The area is remote, sauvage, the vineyards surrounded by scrubby forest. It's all quite a contrast from the industrialized landscape of the Rhône Valley proper.

As for the wine itself, let's just say that Nicolas' instincts to plant here were right on the mark. When you taste Intuition, there is no doubt you're drinking a great Syrah from the northern Rhône. Yet it doesn't quite taste like anything else, not like any other Rhône appellation. It's a unique expression. It tastes like Les Grands Vignes...