Tomas Clancy reviews Domaine Des Pothiers, AC Cote Roannais 2017 and Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, Latitude Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
Domaine Des Pothiers, Reference, AC Cote Roannais 2017
Pricing : around €19.95
Available : Independent Wine Shops nationwide
We are always on the look out for the next breaking area, wine or rising star winemaker and here we have possibly all three. This wine is a potential brilliant summer wine of direct and fruity brilliance, mouth-watering acidity and begging to be served chilled with crusty white bread, cheese or big slabs of cold cut meat. Ideally this should be in hot sun-drenched weather throughout the summer.
The wine is made in a light, direct, clean organic, biodynamic style with no chemicals, pesticides or in fact any of the signs of industrial age production.
It is a tiny family run farm and winery. Today it is run by Romain Paire and his family and was founded by his father Georges, who was a cattle farmer in this incredibly hilly region when he planted a few acres of vines and sold these into the local co-operative.
From around 2005, largely after when Georges son Romain joined his father the move was made to fully organic production, the use of hand harvesting, the full on natural ideas of floral and plant usage as alternatives to pesticides and chemicals and of course complimenting this the move to using simple indigenous yeasts.
The family stopped sending the wine off the co-op and began making it for themselves and releasing it under their own farms name.
The Reference Cuvee is made on dark, well drained granitic soils, not too dissimilar to their nearest neighbours in Beaujolais which are just 30 minutes drive to the east of the Cote Roannaise.
This is the cause of their rising star as the New Wave move towards lighter, hyper local, expressive low intervention wines that Beaujolais is championing through Gamay is at play in the Cote Roannaise which uses Gamay Saint Romain, a distinct but similar variation of Gamay.
The wine has a bigger fuller, slightly riper feel than most Beaujolais, more a Morgon or a Moulin a Vent than say a Fleurie. The rush across the palate is medium bodied, crisp, clean and packed with elevating fruitiness. Chilling it, on a warm day accentuates the joyous directness of this delicious wine which rejoices in its earthy, hilly home on the sun draped hills of the Massif Central, at the crossroads of the Loire and the Mediterranean facing Rhone.
Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, Latitude Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV
Pricing : around €59.50
Available : Independent Off Licences and Wine Shops nationwide
Champagne this good usually demands a price of well above €100. Happily this is perhaps the leader of the super hip Grower-Champagne category. Larmandier-Barnier is a small family owned, husband and wife run affair, rigorously Biodynamic with a passion for minimalism and joyful over-delivery, the two best phrases we wine lovers can hear.
This Champagne comes from low yielding vineyards, which Pierre and Sophie Larmandier then bring into the cellar where low intervention Biodynamic process continues with almost no intervention, they do not use pesticides or chemicals of course and doing anything to kick start or pressurise the speed of the fermentation process.
The use indigenous yeast and are prepared to let weeks or even months pass until the fermentation process finishes in the very northerly and cool Champagne region in the late autumn and early winter.
The vines are up to forty years old adding to their complexity. They have been fully biodynamically certified since 1999 making them one of the very first to do so and they now advice and are a resource centre and example for many other Grower-Producer or Grower Champagne houses. All this means is that they are small famers making wine from their vineyards for release themselves, they control every aspect of the winemaking themselves and are prepared to be terroir expressive.
This is an alternative to the Grand Marque, big named champagnes who can and do operate in this way in many of their big starry top cuvees and charge hundreds of euros for this brilliance, but also have €50 to €70 cuvees that are made to a house style, which is tricky and who buy in grapes. Done well its super, but here you get the chance to taste the top ambitious aim of Champagne at the mass market price. Making this a true bargain, but by no means cheap, all Champagne is a treat, and we tend to save them for a big celebration.
We are saying, in Ireland a few days of sunshine and heat, is the celebration, this not Christmas when it gets mixed up with so much else is the ideal time for champagne.
It begs for chilling, it is brilliant on its own, and lifts a plate of charcuterie on a warm day to another level, or bring out the hard cheese or the strawberries and cream or fruit pavlova, this champagne will raise all games and is not just beautiful, but sustainably, ethically and lovingly made.