Dublin based Nomad Wine Importers was set up ten years ago by Sommeliers Charles Derain and Thierry Grillet, and now has an enviable reputation for sourcing exciting wines from all over France, with Burgundy being a particular speciality. Here are a few of their wines which impressed me at their recent trade tasting co-hosted with Grapecircus and Tyrrell’s:
Domaine des Ardoisières IGP Allobroges “Argile” 2015 (12.0%, RRP €28 at Mitchell & Son (Glasthule & CHQ), Blackrock Cellar, Redmonds of Ranelagh, Green Man Wines, Martin’s Off-Licence and SIYPS)
The Alpine territory of Savoy (or Savoie) has been variously a county, then an independent duchy, a part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and then the French Empire. Partly due to its remote location there are several local varieties which are seldom seen elsewhere.
Aside from the AOCs such as Chignin Bergeron (Rousanne), Chignin and Roussette de Savoie, there is also the IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) des Allobroges named after the area’s original Celtic inhabitants The Allobroges.
Domaine des Ardoisières was founded relatively recently in 2005 and is run on organic principles. Slopes of up to 60% might sound better for daredevil skiing than for viticulture, but the extra sun falling on the vines offsets the cooler air at higher altitude. The wines are mainly made from local grapes and are named after the soil types of the individual plots (very interesting for wine geeks!)
Argile is the French for clay; the blend consists of local heroes Jacquère (40%) and Mondeuse Blanche (20%) plus the ubiquitous Chardonnay (40%). Fermentation is with wild yeast and maturation is a third in older oak barrels (for texture) and two thirds in steel tanks
It’s a fleshy wine, with zingy acidity and a very long finish. It’s quite unique as a wine and deserves a far wider audience – though production is limited to around 20,000 bottles which won’t stretch that far.
Domaine Tissot Arbois “Les Graviers” 2015 (13.0%, RRP €47 at Baggot Street Wines, Jus de Vine, 64 Wine, Green Man Wines and SIYPS)
From the Alps we move north to the Jura, still mountainous border country but with its own local specialities – particularly the use of flor in some of the wine styles to ramp up the umami. It’s not always obvious whether a particular wine is flor-influenced or not – it all comes down to whether the barrels that the wine matures in are topped up (or not) to replace evaporation losses – if they aren’t then a flor will often form. To make sure you get the style you prefer, ask if the wine is “ouillé“.
As befitting a region next to Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are well established varieties, with Savagnin (aka Traminer, not Sauvignon) also used for white wine and Poulsard and Trousseau (also known as Bastardo in Portugal) used for reds and rosés. Poulsard is so pale that Pinot Noir is sometimes blended in to add colour!
The oldest Jura appellation is Arbois, not to be confused with the grape of the same name which is mainly found in the Loire Valley. This is the home of Domaine André & Mireille Tissot, now run by Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot. They run the estate on biodynamic lines and are certified as such.
Les Graviers is 100% Chardonnay, a third of which was matured in oak barrels and two thirds in tank. As the wine is young the oak is quite noticeable, but it’s already drinking superbly – one of my favourite wines from the whole tasting. It has texture, pithiness and freshness, with a certain tang that I haven’t tasted outside of the Jura. A must-try wine!
If you are a keen wine drinker you may have heard of Wink Lorch’s excellent book Jura Wine which was published in 2014 after Kickstarter crowd funding. Wink has recently started another Kickstarter campaign to fund production of her next book on Savoie Wine – have a look here!