“Less is more” is the monthly selection of Les Vins Célestes. I introduce 5 of my favorite healthy, natural wines through the tasting, the growing methods and the estate.
NeroBaronj, Azienda Agricola Gulfi, 2010
A mix of Mediterranean flavors – Let’s begin the monthly selection with the sunny perfumes of the Nero d’Avola, a Sicilian grape, with a wine that is a real expression of this part of Italy, NeroBaronj.
NeroBaronj gets its name from the vine of 3 ha of the same name (Baroni), located 50 meters of altitude at the extremely Southeast part of Sicily, on the locality called Pacino.
There, the low density of plants ensures a high-quality harvest on a very calcareous soil where appear the influences of the African continent. The climate, and particularly the wind (Sirocco), brings very hot flows (more than 40°C) from Africa. Hopefully, the proximity of the sea brings a little fresh air to this non-irrigated vineyard to temper the extreme climate.
A meal based on soft spices such as saffron will reveal this melting pot between Europe and Africa: a chicken tajine with roasted cashew nuts and candied onions will be the perfect match!
On this vintage (2010), served at 15°C to refresh a little the spicy notes of the chicken tajine, the flavors are quite smooth and subtle. The nose is very much black fruits such as plum or blackberry but with light notes of dried herbs (oregano) and dried tomatoes. Spices of this North African recipe also reveal more vegetable notes of freshly cut wild herbs. This wine reflects its terroir with a hint of salty note due to the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea. Mouth is silky and the ripeness of grapes is well-balanced with a slight acidity.
NeroBaronj is a pleasantly digestible wine for this region which usually deliver much more robust wines.
Gulfi is situated in Chiaramonte Gulfi, in Sicily. Practicing organic farming for about 20 years, the estate applies a low-intervention process in the vineyard and the cellar.
Spread on 70 hectares, the vineyard is mainly located in the oriental part of Sicily but there are also the volcanic parcels, further North, in 850 meters of altitude, on the slopes of Etna volcano.
Sicily’s climate is particularly convenient for organic farming. Therefore, Gulfi uses only locally produced fertilizers to treat the vines. Climate’s stability, hot and dry, protects the vineyards from major cryptogrammic diseases. There is usually no need to use additional products such as copper and sulphur under these latitudes.
When bottling, added sulfites are very low to only ensure the necessary stability to export wines in good conditions.
Gulfi’s wines are wiser than those from Azienda Agricola Cos or Ariana Occhipinti but their elegance will delight all the refined palates!
NeroBaronj, IGT Sicilia, 2010
100% Nero d’Avola
20 euros – wine merchant (export)
La Fage, Cosse Maisonneuve, 2013
Cahors, differently – Matthieu Cosse and Catherine Maisonneuve deliver a unexpected well-balanced wine, between presence and lightness.
When tasting this wine, the first word which comes to me is “delicacy”, not that obvious for Cahors’ wines! Indeed, on an appellation where powerful wines are often weighed down by their tannins and their alcohol, it is pleasant to discover aerial wines, with an elegant freshness. The nose is not exuberant and delivers subtly distilled notes of blackcurrant, followed by more flowered notes (cornflower). In the mouth, the aromas of black fruits persist and the pleasant tannins bring a beautiful minerality to this wine. However, La Fage does not deny the density of Malbec under these latitudes.
Last evening, at Café Chez Zinette, in Geneva, it was the good match with a lamb’s knuckle cooked with olive tapenade. It was also very pleasant by itself the next day, remembering how I was happy to discover this wine.
Cosse et Maisonneuve estate is located in Prayssac, not that far from Cahors, along the Lot river. Back in 1999, Matthieu Cosse and Catherine Maisonneuve started from scratch, worked for a time on rent lands, and then were accompanied by Lilian Bérillion, a nursery gardener recognized for his amazing work on diversity and sustainability of vines plants, in their selection of vines of Côt (or Malbec) which is planted on almost all of the fifteen hectares of the estate.
The estate proposes 5 cuvées which express very well the diversity of their terroir with big aromatic sharpness outcomes. Because of their complexity, we could believe that these wines are from older vineyards.
Cosse et Maissonneuve chose a low-intervention approach to reveal completely the personality of every vintage. Of course, the estate is driven based on biodynamic viticulture principles since the early days.
Today, these wines are quite difficult to find because the offer remains limited. If you find them by any chance, I would only recommend you to invest for your personal cellar because they have a great ageing potential.
La Fage, Cahors, 2013
16 euros – Wine merchant
Métisse, Maxime Magnon, 2015
First of the year! – Another one from Southwest France for the third wine of the month. More precisely from the Corbières with a unique rosé that presents a delicate red colour and amber reflections. Produced by Maxime Magnon who delivers a wine full of freshness, delicately spicy, made from Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault.
Distilling at the same time floral flavors with subtle fruity and mineral notes, Metisse is the perfect match for cooking from Asian inspiration such as a Thai shrimp’s broth – for its iodized notes.
Since 2002, Maxime Magnon works in Corbières, on 14 hectares. Hard work and passion are the common thread of his work and, over the year turned him into a noteworthy winegrower in the area. Elegance and balance of all his wines are often a surprise on this usually rather rustic appellation.
The estate is naturally organically-driven, also influenced by the practice of the biodynamic agriculture. His farm is an harmonious place where ovine herds graze in autumn until the beginning of spring, improving the quality of grounds on this hilly area where it is quite a challenge to use tractors.
Today, without pretending anything and at his pace, Maxime Magnon proposes, with some others winegrowers in the area, a reinterpretation of these terroirs: respect for biodiversity and a sensitivity to participate to the wealth of local landscapes and their preservation.
Métisse, Corbières, 2015
40% Grenache gris, 40% Cinsault, 20% Mourvèdre
(apparently depending on vintage)
18 euros – wine merchant
Magnus, Haut-Campagnau, 4102
Coolness and pleasure – Knowing Dominique Andiran’s (owner of the estate) trend to produce uncompromising wines, I had planned to aerate this bottle a few hours before lunch to make sure we will fully enjoy it.
Magnus is made from the Bordeaux vines trilogy (Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon) completed by Tannat, a local vine used in a number of French Southwest appellation. It is a greedy wine, with a beautiful mastered acidity that moderates the power and the ripeness under these latitudes.
No hassle with such a wine, only pleasure. It is an easy juice that shakes you up for a good moment at the apéritif or during a cool and unformal diner. No need to wait, go for it!
For those who would have slept during geography courses, Montreal is also a village of the Gers in France and not only the second city of Canada! Located in Southern France, between Grand Crus of Armagnac and the Europe’s biggest vineyard (Tariquet), the domain produced its first vintage in 2001.
Dominque Andiran proposes instinctive wines, guided by his desires. He does not refrain himself to work with vines from Bordeaux or Burgundy but also loves working with old local vines. He produces dry, sweet, under veil, etc. His wines often rise awareness of the most adventurous wine lovers, even if this means producing wines outside appellation and as Vins de France.
Magnus, Vin de France, 2014
Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon et Tannat
10 euros – Local wine merchant
Atsuko, Les Mille Vignes, 2011
Elegance under cherry blossom trees – All things come in threes. Thus, we stay in the Southwest France, on the first Languedoc appellation which has received the certification in 1948, the famous Fitou. A too long abandoned wine-making area where there are promising things happening today.
Over the past years, my reference in Fitou was the funky Oufti! A plumpy and sensual Fitou from the newcomer Mas des Caprices in Leucate. Atsuko makes us travelling without moving, it is more toned than Oufti!, but with a beautiful length and a hint of fresh white pepper. The sweetness of its name recalls Japan and its blossoming cherry trees. Grown from old vineyards of Grenache, which were originally used to produced sweet wines from Rivesaltes appellation, until a Japanese diplomat gives the idea of a pure Grenache to Jacques Guerin, founder of the estate and the father of the current owner, Valérie Guerin.
Atsuko is a sharp and elegant wine with also density and power from the grand crus of the Southwest France, refreshed by the sea. To enjoy it, a 4 to 5 years vintage will be a must. Being produced only the best years, in very small batches (i.e. 2’000 bottles), and made from a single plot, it is a wine for exceptional moments of friendship and family gathering.
Created at the end of the 70’s, Domaine des Mille Vignes is located on the Mediterranean side of Fitou appellation, in La Palme. The estate covers about a dozen hectares of vineyards, cultivated in very low yields (25hl/ha) and according to organic-growing principles. Healthy grapes from sélections massales are used to produce wines that highlight terroir’s originality.
In the cellar, wines are produced with indigenous yeasts and long macerations to obtain perfect extractions. Red wines are aged for about 18 months in oak barrels and the white wines raised on dregs during 6 months to reveal more complex aromas and stabilize wines.
All wine from Domaine des Mille Vignes are from appellation Fitou, Rivesaltes, Muscat de Rivesaltes IGP des Pays de l’Aude.
24 Avenue San Brancat
11480 La Palme
+33 (0)4 68 48 57 14
Atsuko, Fitou, 2011
Grenache (together with Carignan et Mourvèdre in varying proportions)
40 euros – at the estate