Now there was a wine I had not seen in an American wine shop before, for that matter any wine shop: Côte Roannaise. So I snapped it up and went home and looked it up. Located just northwest of Lyon, the Côte Roannaise is known more as a vacation spot for the French and wines produced from the gamay grape that are best consumed there, while in a vacation state of mind. I did not expect much from the wine. One sniff totally changed my mind.
The wine was 2004 Domaine du Fontenay, L’Authentique, Côte Roannaise. Out of my glass came gloriously refined, clean and floral gamay aromas that most Beaujolais can only dream of - most don’t even dream of it. This charming wine is light yet mouth-filling on the palate with a singing purity of fruit that makes even a simple meal a memorable experience. The exact opposite of most of today’s highly pointy wines, this is a wine based on finesse and grace and it only costs $12 a bottle. What a tremendous bargain!
But what’s the deal here - great Côte Roannaise? . The wines of Domaine du Fontenay are made by an Englishman, Simon Hawkins, whose dedication to quality is very obvious in the wines he makes. Hawkins believes the tiny Côte Roannaise, with its granite soil, is the ultimate climate for gamay. He is producing wines from vineyards with extremely low yields using natural, minimalist treatments in both the cellar and vineyard. Hawkins actually uses a traditional vertical basket press, a rarity in the age of horizontal presses. The wines are un-fined, un-filtered, un-chaptalized and un-everything. This “un-ness” shows in the beautiful purity and expansive, yet delicate flavors and aromas of Hawkin’s wine.
Thank goodness for small importers like Triage Wines in Seattle, who imported this gem as I dont think the Côte Roannaise is on Diageo’s priority list.