Featured: Vouette and Sorbée's Bio-dynamism!
Vouette and Sorbee is renowned among the world’s wine-drinkers for being singular, focussed, and absolute in its terroir transparency. But, as Peter Liem notes in his book on Champagne, “deep in the verdant and pastoral countryside of the Cote des Bar...the rest of the world seems a faraway place.” You can forget, when standing with the slender, soft-spoken Bertrand Gautherot, that there is a near-constant bustle of demand for his wines.
Vouette and Sorbee put forward incredible wines which are singularly terroir-driven. We have several of his wines in stock right now. You can shop the whole collection here. But, don’t miss out on this blog. We’ve got the story behind Bertrand, a vanguard of biodynamic viticulture.
The Biodynamic Pioneer
As a winemaker and farmer, Bertrand is staunchly biodynamic. He is perhaps one of the most outspoken proponents of biodynamic viticulture in the world. He certainly ranks near the top in Champagne, since the region is still dominated by houses, consumer demand, and “branding.” When you visit with Bertrand, however, you see someone who has been humbly committed to farming and knows, intimately, what works best for his vines. He is quietly wise and packs important information into casual conversation without seeming pushy or false because he truly believes in his work.
He keeps chickens and cows. In addition to his vines, he biodynamically tends to a small garden of vegetables and a grouping of fruit trees. He lives his entire life with organic and biodynamic principles in mind. But, not just for principles’ sake; he wants to minimize any inputs that don’t come from the farm itself, because they could detract from the terroir. His vineyards operate on a nearly self-sustaining enclosed ecosystem: all working together holistically to produce the healthiest, naturally thriving vines.
The Terroir is Star
The Aube wasn’t always known for its richness in terroir. For decades the Aube was known as a blending place. That is to say, it was populated by poor farmers who would have to sell their grapes to big houses. Located in the far south of Champagne, almost to Chablis, there is prized kimmeridgian limestone and a warmer climate. This makes an ideal combination for getting ripeness out of grapes. Berries were able to ripen even in tough vintages for the rest of the region. The Aube, therefore, was valuable long before it gained a reputation as a source for high quality Champagne.
Bertrand is at the very front of the movement that changed the Aube’s reputation. Betrand had been farming there (He was already biodynamic, in fact.) for many years when his friend, Antoine Selosse, convinced him to plunge into vinification. He released his first vintage of wine in 2003. Soon, he led many fellow growers to vinify their family wines for the public. And we feel endlessly grateful!
Betrand focuses on farming. The roots of his vines are able to slide through rarified soil: rich, warm, vibrant and soft-- soft enough to allow entrance into the impressive limestone terroir of the Aube. But, your vines cannot dive deep enough if the soil is dry, dull, and hard. In contrast to Bertrand’s soil, which is full of earthworms and healthy microbes, and gives off the rich smell of forest rain, the soil just a few yards away is grey and totally lifeless. It doesn’t matter how tall your vines are if they aren’t touching the prime terroir.
Terrior is fun for wine geeks to talk about. We can go on and on about subtle differences all day. But it really comes down to this: Betrand’s careful attention is what makes his wine so singular and expressive. The very same vibrancy and life that is in the soil, comes through in the Champagne you drink. The same love and care that he puts into the environment surrounding his wines, shows up in the wine itself. Isn’t that why we all drink wine in the first place? Vouette and Sorbee is a prime example of contemporary values intersecting with prime terrior and good old fashioned yumminess. He does all this--remarkably--without ego.
The Winemaker’s Vision
Of course, Vouette & Sorbée wouldn’t have become one of the most sought-after grower Champagnes if Bertrand didn’t know what to do with the incredible fruit he grows. Wines tend to fall apart quickly when the terroir is not backed up by impressive and thoughtful winemaking. Bertrand’s passion for terroir transparency extends seamlessly into his winemaking. In addition to biodynamics, he was one of the first and primary winemakers to challenge the idea that long lees aging and serious dosage automatically equal high quality Champagne.
Since his wines tend to have above average ripeness and concentration, he opts for less lees aging and no dosage. Perhaps, classically, this would lead to wines that are too austere. But, the truth is that balance needs to take center stage. The amount of lees aging, like the amount of dosage that’s needed, should be varried in order to create harmonious wines. Harmony is what ensures a long life for Champagne.
The Impeccable Wines
What we are offering here today are the brand new disgorgements and base vintages of Vouette. They have just landed from France! Frankly, we didn’t think the wines could get any better. But, when we tasted them with Bertrand last fall, we saw that they were better! All his wines, year-by-year have more focus, concentration and a trademark vigor.
Bertrand ferments everything with indigenous yeasts, in neutral French oak barrels. Nothing is filtered, chapitalized, or acidified. He doesn’t employ cold macerations and only a small amount of SO2 is added right after the grapes are pressed. With minimal intervention in the cellar, Bertrand aims to transparently express the terrior and purity of fruit.
100% Pinot Noir, with a precise goût de terroir and a vinous backbone.
Bertrand keeps experimenting at the margins. In 2015 he put 10% of Blanc d’Argile in demi-johns and concrete eggs (instead of old wood tanks) to find even more purity. A powerful but elegant vintage.
Only the fourth release of this very limited, 100% Pinot Blanc cuvée. Some of the wine is fermented in amphorae. Decidedly avant garde, textured (as the name would imply), and with a pronounced Pinot Blanc character that is bursting with floral and herbal aromatics.