Millésime Bio is one of the bigger organic wine fairs in Europe. Every year at the end of January it sets up base at the Park Expo utside of central Montpellier – an area of shopping malls, whole sale stores and drive-through restaurants. It is a veritabel no mans land positioned between the historical city center and it’s winter dormant Riviera, and when the clouds part and let the bleak winter sun shine through the whole area is bathed in a weak but beautiful light.
As any large wine fair these days Millésime has developed a number of satellite fairs – smaller gatherings of vigneron groups who either don’t feel like they fit in with the major event or whose views and philosophy on winemaking prompt them to set themselves apart from more ‘lightweight’ organic producers.
Having arrived late Saturday evening and spent the evening drinking beer in Montpelliers student quarters I painfully assembled myself on Sunday morning and took a long walk out to the first satellite wine fair of the day – Les Affranchis.
Les Affranchis like most of the French natural wine fairs feels absolutely no need to explain itself. At least not in English, and at least not in a way to make it understandable to the likes of me. The important points are however self-evident: only organic producers and an unabashed focus on wines instead of marketing.
Amongst the most interesting producers this time around were Jean-François & Anne Ganevat, the Banyulsproducer La Vinyer de La Ruca and René & Agnès Mosse from Loire.
As always Ganevat had an impressive line-up, most notably Savagnin Cuvée Prestige 2006 (a wine which is actually an unclassified vin jaune) and a very light and sleek new vintage of La Tour de Couron. The warped mastermind behind Vinyer de la Ruca – former professor of ampélographie Manuel Di Vecchi Staraz – presented two new dry wines this year, both in the same type of hand blown glass bottles as his Banyuls and both exhibiting the same obsession with quality. Another addition to the range was Judas Pink Kiss 2015 – a filtered, sulfured Syrah rosé made in steel tanks with bought grapes and sold in tetra pak. In other words a wine representing everything that Vinyer de la Ruca is not. This might have been the brilliant business plan of visionary finally realising the need for cash flow but alas – Manuel only made about 300 tetra pak of the stuff and has been giving it away to friends and aquaintances left and right.
A new and quite interesting acquaintance was Lois-Antoine Luyt, a Burgundian making wine in Chile. Lois sources fruit from several small independent farmers and presented amongst others a few wines made with the Mission or Pais grape, a grape that I had no idea could make such complex wines as his. Definitely a producer to keep an eye on!
After tasting our way through Les Affranchis we jumped into a cab and headed for another small fair – Les Vin de Mes Amis. This fair generally has a stronger line up than Les Affranchis, at least when it comes to well-known producers.
Elisabetta Foradori and Terroir al Limit showed a strong range as always. Elisabettas Granato 2011 tasted if possibly even better than the last vintage and her Fuoripista challenged my concept of pinot grigio, whilst Vouette et Sorbée presented their new cuvée Textures – a 100% Pinot Blanc which showed a lovely nerve and complexity. If the Rayos Uva from Olivier Rivière is any indication his 2015 vintage is going to be an exceptional one and the always stunning wines from Chablis producer Pattes Loup showed great precision & length.
On the whole both Les Affranchis and Le Vin de mes Amis were very rewarding. Some of the 2014’s seem to be in a difficult phase right now, but the few 2015’s that we had the opportunity to taste showed great promise. If this is any indication, 2016 is definitely going to deliver as far as wine fairs and new releases are concerned…