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Winegrowers without borders - Mix & match wine production

Pierrick Jegu By Pierrick Jegu, Editor 16.03.2021
Winegrowers without borders - Mix & match wine production
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With winegrowers from abroad moving to France, increasingly regular exchanges with foreign producers, and small French domains exporting vast quantities, French wine is traveling the world like never before! 

Along with Italy for example, France is no doubt one of the wine-growing countries that has the most diverse terroirs and therefore wine. This could explain why France’s wine industry was for a long time quite inward-looking, and why amateurs turned their backs on foreign wine and French winegrowers paid little attention to what was happening beyond their borders. In any case, this era seems to be over: the new trend is opening up to the world, on lots of level. 

Travel and exchanges 

Foreign winegrowers are starting to set up shop in France while French winegrowers are moving abroad. This phenomenon which was very rare a couple of decades ago is now increasingly common. And we are not talking about investors but actual winegrowers. You will find Swiss winegrowers in Languedoc, like Pierre Jéquier from Mas Foulaquier, and Japanese such as Kenjiro Kagami from the Miroirs domain in the heart of the Jura, while across the border, there are just as many French winegrowers setting up their business in Spain for example. Olivier Rivière is based in Rioja for instance, and Vincent Carême works in both Vouvray, in Touraine, and South Africa. And winegrowers who don’t move away permanently work closely with their foreign colleagues. They can share useful experiences on technical aspects like cultural practices, and on methods of vinification or maturation. It is much easier to take part in international meetings these days, for example at trade fairs, which are increasingly inclusive, as well as through groups of winegrowers from different countries, such as Biodyvin. Borders and blinders disappear there: Alsatians can be heard talking about great German Rieslings, while others discuss the comeback of orange wine in France, following in Italy’s footsteps, or the natural sparkling wine trend observed in several countries. 

International trade 

We all know that for a long time Champagne has been shipping its bubbles all over the world, that Beaujolais Nouveau is sold in many regions, and that great Bordeaux and Burgundy wines are popular far beyond the French borders. But today, winegrowers from other French regions are also exporting large quantities abroad. This is thanks to the growing number of foreign importers who are exploring all wine regions, including the most remote appellations. On the other hand, although most of their selection is still mainly French, some wine merchants, sommeliers and restaurant owners in France are showing a growing interest in European wine and in vintages from the New World. So even though the habit of consuming local wines and national chauvinism have not completely died away, the wine world has suddenly opened up in recent years, and France’s wine industry has followed suit! 

Taste France Magazine’s organic selection 

Mas Foulaquier – IGP Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert – “La Chouette blanche” 2017 
Who said that Languedoc whites were always heavy? This wine by Pierre Jéquier, from Switzerland, proves otherwise. With citrus fruit notes and others, this superb white, matured for 30 months, has a great mineral base. True elegance! 

Domaine Matassa – Vin de France - “Romanissa” 2019 
New Zealander Tom Lubbe moved to France from South Africa. He set up his business in inner Roussillon, where the terroirs are spectacular, but sometimes harsh to work with. It is the birthplace of Romanissa, an unpretentious wine that oozes tranquility, naturalness and class. Just like a Bourgogne from the south! 

Domaine des Miroirs – Vin de France – “Entre deux bleus Les Saugettes” 2016 
Kenjiro Kagami rose through the ranks working alongside great winegrowers such as Thierry Allemand, in Cornas. Now set up on several hectares in the south of the Jura, this Japanese winegrower has produced some outstanding vintages, including this one, which is made entirely of Savagnin and is renowned for its rare purity, featuring aromas of white flowers and yellow fruit. 

Château des Rontets – Pouilly-Fuissé – “Les Birbettes” 2017 
At the height of the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation, in every sense of the word, Fabio Montrasi, who used to be an architect in “his” native Italy, and Claire, his spouse, are virtually self-made winegrowers - and to great success! This very comprehensive wine, with a lot of depth and energy, is both tender and sound, and has great aging potential. 

Andréa Calek – Vin de France – “Babiole” 
This part of Ardèche, near Alba-la-Romaine and Valvignères, is home to a hub of bio-natural winegrowers. They include Andréa Calek, from the Czech Republic. You can discover his “Babiole” vintage, which is a blend of very juicy Syrah and Grenache and is marked by aromas of ripe fruit and spices. 

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