Domaine de L’Iserand

Joe Gilmour Thoughts

Driving up the winding hill towards Secheras, encouragement for past cyclists rolls beneath you. Allez Contador, Courage!!

In Secheras, a one-horse town, Jeff Malsert is piecing his estate together. Like attacking a hors-classe ascent, it is a physical and mental feat of some tactical dimension. Shrewdness and tactics are important, as is sheer bloody-mindedness.

After saying goodbye to his mate dropping of some manure: “Totally full of shit” he details the work in converting an old barn into his winery. The sheep pen will one day be a small office when he gets round to clearing out the droppings and fortifying the collapsed roof.

After vinifying his first vintage at a friends winery, he has moved here and is slowly laying the foundations as cash allows. Of friends, he has a few, having run the local wine bar for years. It was these friends who provided the influence, and the support for the new venture. In terms of specifics, he says he particularly respects the vineyard work of the Gonons and the vinification style of Herve Souhat and Dard and Ribo’s wines. What he seeks is the energy of the natural style, allied to the stability and ageworthy-ness of a more traditional style. This, to me seems to be the sort of post-modern philosophy of many producers whose wines I really enjoy drinking.

In his cellar, is an assortment of maturation vessels, amphorae, demi-muid and Kveri. He recently returned from a trip to Georgia and is clearly enthusiastic about the qualities that clay can impart in terms of oxygen ingress and lees circulation.

It’s probably ones imagination but there is a cool, mineral sort of quality that seems to be imparted to the wines, like you’re resting your cheek against the cooling clay walls of the vessel.

This year as well as the St-Joseph Reds, Sabbots, Lou Tassou and a Blanc, there is a tiny production Viognier and a really exciting Gamay, a la Francois Dumas / Souhat. All made in quantities that are at maximum 2,400 bottles.

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Whilst it was slow work in the early days for pioneering Dard & Ribo, you sense things will move quicker for Jeff. His wines are really excellent and roaringly succeeds in his aim of marrying energy with structure and stability. Something only a handful of Northern Rhone producers can do. He’ll have that office up in no time at all. Hopefully he won’t be spending any time in it.

Joe GilmourDomaine de L’Iserand

What is it Rodney?

Joe Gilmour Thoughts

It’s a baby!

To be honest, when I buy wine from anyone, I’m not usually particularly interested to know what’s going on in their private life. I can certainly take or leave Neal Martins music recommendations or musings about KFC.

But, for better or worse, when you have a kid, all kind of considerations of what other people might be thinking go out of the window. So, voila;

This is only really to explain, service for the last 4 months and perhaps the next few might be a bit patchy, so please accept my humblest apologies, as my focus is shifted a bit outside the company. Wine should be a human shaped business. Lots of time to sell stuff, not much time to be with a newborn.

Joe GilmourWhat is it Rodney?

C’est Compliqué

Joe Gilmour Thoughts

The wines of Dutraive are some of the most sought-after in Beaujolais. They have managed to escape terminal-velocity and now orbit in the same scarcity / price trajectory that Yvon Metras inhabits.

Having spent the day with solid high-achiever Guy Breton, I was drawn to buy a bottle of Dutraive’s 2018 Fleurie Cuvee Champagne to try and make some sort of evaluation. I’ve talked to good numbers of his fans, a sommelier in Lyon who worked harvest with Jean-Louis, who rates his wines as the best of all.

When you try and buy a wine like Dutriave from his wine-list in Cafe Terroirs he says: C’est Complique. Getting wines from Dutraive is, naturalement, Complique. Why it is complique, is not always tres clair. Probably the usual, not much wine, fragmented distribution, so everyone has 6 – 60 bottles, they are reluctant to sell, but they are too morally conscientious to put the price up. Donc, c’est complique.

We started the day with Guy Breton, P’tit Max, who continues to look a poster-boy for a sup of Gamay each day. He suggested a drop in my sons milk. Un Bebe Bourgignon, he said in praise of little Williams bonnie weight and stature. His 2018s were typically superb, a healthy vintage, full of joie de vivre, and from the brisk numbers of visitors during our visit, doing a bonnie trade. The 2015 Morgon VV that he pulled out for comparison was most interesting, a real Grand Vin, full and expressive. I think he is very proud of this wine in a very challenging season, and one that runs against his usual style of svelte, expressive wines that are not carrying any excess fat.

As usual, I feel his Regnie is the standout outside the Morgons. When I asked why he doesn’t put the price up, he said he felt the appellation of Regnie was not particularly well known, then made some joke at my expense that the table found very amusing, and not understanding it myself, at risk of looking like a total boob, thought I might hedge my bets by joining in their laughter. Him: My English client is an idiot! Me: Ha ha ha,

Before getting back to the appartment, we happened upon the wine shop “Le Troisieme Fleuve”. This 3rd Fleuve of the title refers to the river of Beaujolais that flows into Lyon alongside the Saone and Rhone.

The 2018 Cuvee Champagne was drunk out of my son’s plastic milk top. My rental apartment had only one wine glass, which gentleman that I am, gave to my partner. Nevertheless, some thoughts about Dutraive based on this bottle and others in the past.

  1. They can flaunt with faultiness. This bottle was on the edge, the other one I drank recently was I think flawed, a 2014 Fleurie Grand Coeur.
  2. The colour is not clear, they are very transparently put in bottle.
  3. There is great complexity and definition, with high acidity. Which makes me think they are picked earlier then a producers like Breton, Foillard, Lapierre, Thevenet, who perhaps strive for more in the way of expressive fruit.
  4. This sense of minerality / acidity / extract that comes from less ripe fruit is a meta-theme of very trendy wines with a certain segment of the population, of which I might be one.
  5. I put the wine in the fridge and have just finished the other half enjoying France has talent (See Punk Accordian player below — 3 yes’s BTW) and the mousiness was really quite marked on the second evening.
  1. Verdict: In the words of Bill Nanson, rebuy – no! Not for me. I do applaud in one sense, producers like this, Metras, and Desjourney who are reframing Beaujolais in different directions. But for my very closeted personal drinking, it is not a direction I particularly want to go unless someone else is paying. I do like the wines, but got a bloody kid to look after, after all.. C’est complique.

Joe GilmourC’est Compliqué

-‏‏‎Gouye, Trollat and the Madness of Crowds

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

­Legendary old-timer Raymond Trollat would sometimes off-handedly remark that one vintage or another was ‘a wine for a wedding’, something gulpable, always elegant, his wines for many embody the platonic ideal of St-Joseph.

Little did those guys glugging down bottles of Trollats wine at local weddings in the 1980s know that it would be selling for 1000s of dollars per bottle twenty years later.

The Gonon’s, who inherited many of his old vines, make more structured, and really, I think, better wines than he ever made. But, better is to miss the point, they were what they were. Honest reflections, without artifice, of the St-Joseph terroir where worked he his vines. Whilst he never sold a bottle for more then 15 Euros in his life, and he remains humbly compensated for his work, his wines can sell for quite stupefying amounts of money. You wonder what he makes of it. You might hope he has a sense of humour. As much as I appreciate and are willing to pay for the work of the older generation of Rhone vignoble, maybe we are starting to lose a bit of perspective here.

Let’s not fetishize a vignerons work after they retire, let’s celebrate their work while they’re still around. Let’s support vignerons doing great work, instead of mindlessly buying the same celebrated names. So, what should we buy then? Answer, this! Even as a disciple of the Northern Rhone, this was a relatively new name for me until a caviste in Lyon insisted I try it in a flurry of enthusiasm and comparisons to the great old, long departed names of the Rhone valley.

If you look up from Trollat’s house, you can see the vines and small farmyard of the Desbos family up the valley. If you look even closer, you can see the chickens, goats and perhaps Rameses, Philippe’s horse. The work they do there is I think every bit as worthy as that of Monsieur Trollat, and their wines are what they are, authentic expressions of St-Joseph made in small quantities, in the most traditional of styles. No more, no less.

Phillipe Desbos of Domaine de Gouye is part of the ‘confidential wine culture’ as John Livingstone-Learmonth puts it, and although he spent some timing working with Jean-Luc Colombo, their outlooks couldn’t really be much different. Ambling in bare feet amongst the chickens, he is grounded in a stable outlook and philosophical pragmatism about the process of winemaking and business in general. One of the advantages of running a domaine of his size is there is never pressure to sell wine. There is always more demand than supply.

The domaine gets its name from the lieux-dit it sits in above St-Jean de Muzols. Gouye is seperated by a small ravine from the Pichonnier and Aubert plots that Trollat used to farm. Philippe has 3 hectares here planted between 1955 and 1975. Due to its height, the grapes can maintain freshness even in hot years like 2003. Whole bunches are utilised, and the vinification is done in a mix of concrete and wood. Pressing is completed in an old 1868 press and the wine is aged in foudre for between 9 and 24 months. About 7,000 bottles are produced, a majority of which is St-Joseph rouge but there is a little VDP Gabouilon from a small syrah plot on the plateau. There are three versions of St Joseph, a vielles vignes rouge, a 24 mois cuvee, which is aged for a longer time in foudre, and a rare white wine. The family farm manually and use almost no herbicides as they plow by horse, a gentler practice that is also still very efficient for these hill-side vines.

A quite wonderful clip from TF1 showing man and beast in action.

Joe Gilmour-‏‏‎Gouye, Trollat and the Madness of Crowds

-Carrying on Regardless – Lyon

Joe Gilmour Evenings Out, Thoughts

“The Lyonnais: they like their food, they eat it, they talk about it all day long. They don’t care what you think about it. They don’t care if you like it, if you eat it, if you never even try it. They don’t care about you at all.” Bill Buford

The 2019 Michelin guide was published this week and for the city of Lyon, it was nothing to celebrate. A single new star for La Sommeliere, and two restaurants, Guy Lassaussarie and Pierre Orsi downgraded. Bummer. What to do? – Guy confessed his confusion and promised to redouble his efforts after quizzing the inspectors for their reasons. That should be a fun chat. Pierre was more sanguine, he would carry on regardless.

I’ve not eaten at either restaurant, or Paul Bocuse for that matter, but I think it does point to a sort of identity crises in a city that puts gastronomy front and centre of its self-image. We know the history, but where is Lyonnaise cuisine actually going?

London and New York it is not. As they go merrily and expensively picking their way through global influences, hauling in shipments of artisan produce wherever they can find them, draining France of its natural wines and adapting their menus to encompass the two trends in dining that seem to me to be the most striking, lighter options and vegetarian food, so the Lyonnaise mostly plough on with their quenelles de brochet, andouillette and so forth, sitting in cream, or my personal antifavourite, foam, with a galic shrug towards the new.

As for wine, well, in many places, the towering influences of Georges Duboef and Maison Guigal hold sway. There are honourable exceptions for sure, but not that many. Yet maybe the Lyonnaise like it this way. History runs deep here. After all, the heartland of France, a country that has gifted the world with a treasure chest like no other of wine and food, are perhaps operating on a level of gastronomic appreciation that I just cannot wrap my small brain around. It’s not just possible, its likely. Maybe the secret to life actually is cheap Cote de Rhone and tripe?

So, whilst I started writing this heading towards making some dining recommendations, I suddenly felt like I was drawn into a black hole of uncertainty. Feeling totally inadequate to the task of evaluating classic Lyonnaise cuisine versus International or French modernity, my small brain just  exploded with the enormity of the subject. Therefore, I thought I would pivot, and merely describe briefly some of the greatest wine lists in Lyon, after all, with a glass of Rayas in hand, well, you should be game for anything.

Café Terroirs 

One of my favourite spots, and as close to a local restaurant as my partner and I have at the moment. The wine list is a great blend of natural and classic stuff. They get good allocations from Dutraive, Labet, Bernard Moreau, DRC and plenty more. Cracking prices, a 2014 Grand Echezeaux from ‘The Domaine’ was a tad under 500 Euro, CF £1,500 or so in the UK. Pretty remorselessly young though if you’re tempted.

L’Ame de Soeur

Name after the Ogier Cote-Rotie cuvee – this fine restaurant has superb stocks of Ramonet at great prices and some rare Rhone from Allemand and others.

O Vin D’Anges 

The very serious, but utterly devoted Sebastien is a questor and always has a good eye around the next corner and the next domaine. As well as good stocks of wines like Dard and Ribo that he sources direct, he has great recommendations. Why not try something new? Forget about Instagram for a second – you’ll get something really good. Also, super simple, but incredibly good food.

MurAAto

After loading up at Cafe Terroirs, cross the Place des Jacobins towards MurAAto. Cutting edge wines in this newish wine shop / bar, including a bottle of Gentaz I’ve got my eye on in the bar. No word yet as to if AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous – which now I think about it, would be quite a good name for a wine bar..

L’Ivresse

If you can survive standing up in Antic Wine, the omnipresent Lyonnaise institution of a shop whilst George barks various orders at you as you struggle to input various invoices and purchases orders into the single laptop in store, then you can graduate with hard-earned knowledge of Georges’ extensive contacts and incredible wine expertise. This is what Sylvie has managed and used that experience to help open L’Ivresse, a wine bar on Rue General Plessier. Excellent wine selection of over 500 listings, and basic, well-done food. Strong on the Loire with names like Sylvain Dittiere and Richard Leroy will represented.

En mets fais ce qu’il te plaît

Somewhat idiosyncratic place in the 7th but has a great, very natural list. Katsume Ischida worked with Robuchon, Chapel and Ducasse and he turns out some great French food. Lots of Pacalet, Selosse and naturally-aspired juice.

Burgundy Lounge

If you’re looking to drop some serious coin on Grand Cru Burgundy, enjoy a nice view over the Saone and dig a fine-dining vibe, this may be your place. Casual it is not, but perhaps worth ironing a shirt, if you know someone who wants to crack open some Coche-Dury. Give me a shout if you need someone to drink it with a late notice – I’m just around the corner.

Cafe Sillon

Would have made it and perhaps was the best restaurant in Lyon but now closed. RIP and hope to see you again although I think one of the owners has moved back to the Auvergne. Cheque please!

Joe Gilmour-Carrying on Regardless – Lyon

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Joe Gilmour