Eric Texier: Trailblazing Natural Wines from the Northern Rhone
Eric Texier is no stranger to anyone familiar with the natural side of the wine world.
A transformational figure, he’s resurrected a once lauded appellation from extinction and has been a guiding light and inspiration for countless vignerons, young and old.
His legacy is all the more impressive when you consider that wine was not Eric's first career.
Eric started his post collegiate work life as a nuclear physicist. Bit by the wine bug pretty early into his chosen career, he headed back to school in 1992 and by 1993 he was working for Jean-Marie Guffens at Verget in Mâcon. This was a rather auspicious beginning.
When he struck out on his own he quickly gave up on the idea of owning his own vineyards. So, he started a small négoce where he selected particularly interesting vineyard plots worked by the sincere, hard-working farmers who grew the healthy grapes he wanted to buy and vinify.
But Eric really came into his own in some nearly forgotten areas of ancient fame, in particular Brézème in the northern Rhône.
He formed strong long lasting relationships with the old timer who had preserved what was left of the appellation, a mere hectare of syrah. Once considered an equal to Hermitage, Eric knew that there was enormous potential in this overlooked corner of the Northern Rhone.
Thus, over the years, the has shifted from négociant to vigneron.
Today, Eric owns and rents the vast majority of the vines that go into his production. He has also replanted several hectares in Brézème as well as in the once equally neglected Saint-Julien en Saint-Alban with Syrah and Roussanne.
With Eric commitment and passion, he has led the revival of these once “lost” appellations, inspiring new producers and shining a spotlight on the exceptional terroir of these appellations.
Both in the vineyard and in the cellar, Eric is trailblazer. He began using biodynamics in the vineyard in 2001, and the first properly biodynamic vintage was 2003. Eric’s feelings about his farming choices are strong, and strongly expressed as is his way, but they are not dogmatic.
While he is Ecocert and Demeter certified, he does not want to put that on the bottle. This way he has the freedom to make decisions without the input of an outside body.
The same goes for his cellar practices. In his own words, he is “very old-school and very minimalist”, adapting the particulars for vintage variation. Eric's attention to the most minute details from start to finish is exacting and exhaustive.
Reds and white both are generally made with whole clusters; native-yeast fermentation; short macerations; very gentle pressing; little to no sulfur, and only at bottling if at all. The goal is finesse, not weight or power, which one senses in the fine acidity, the high-toned aromatics and the clean lines of his wines.
As complex and intellectual as he is, there are few folks in the wine world that are as funny, generous and warm as Eric Texier.
His wine very much reflects that. While they can be complex and layered they are never fussy or heavy.
They display the Northern Rhone wilder side with freshness and minerality yet never let their complexity get in the way of their joyous nature. Each is a fascinating interpretation of this exceptional terroir and a reflection of the exceptional man that makes them.
All Roussanne from rather young wines that have very clearly taken to the limestone soils found in Brézème beautifully. The wine is fermented with whole clusters and indigenous yeasts and raised in cement tanks. The 2019 version is complex and already quite expressive on the nose, wafting from the glass in a blend of pear, chalky minerals,wild fennel and musky yellow flowers. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, focused and beautifully balanced, with a mineral core, zesty acids and a long, complex and very classy finish. This is too good to not drink now but like all great Roussanne it will age gracefully over the next 10 years.
This is a ridiculously fun take on Cote-du Rhone. From Eric's warmer vineyard in St-Julien en St-Alban the blend is half Grenache, a little less than a third Cinsaut with the rest a blend of white grapes including Clairette, Viognier and Chasselas. Co-fermented with only a short maceration in concrete, this is always a light and fresh “vin bistro”. Aromaticity exuberant with flavors and aromas of soft purple flowers, fresh cut strawberries, yellow plums and spicy underbrush. Light medium body with crisp, tart red fruit and just the right amount of grip through the mineral and savory finish. Chat Fou means ‘crazy cat’ and is named after one of Eric's cats who was apparently rather nuts.
This comes from younger vines planted in the limestone rich solid of Brezeme. Whole-cluster fermentation with native yeasts in open concrete tanks with no sulfur and a 6-8-day maceration; no extraction techniques (only a submerged cap for gentle infusion of color and flavor); aging in concrete tanks on the fine lees for 18-24 months with no racking. Powerful with subtle smokey dark berries, licorice and pungent flowers on the mineral-inflected nose. Chewy black and blue fruit and sweet floral notes take on spiciness with time in the glass. This wine is very generous but with a rather lively edge that adds lift through the long finish dominated by dusty tannin and dark silky fruit.