The Wines of Alexis Hudon

One the most exciting things about the wine world right now is that younger, more adventurous winemakers are opening up shop in more traditional winemaking enclaves, shaking things up in the process. One such person is Alexis Hudon, who by way of Quebec City and Paris, studied under Julien Guillot, Nicolas Réau, Cyril Zangs, and Bertrand Jousset. 2018 was his first year of solo releases, made from grapes out of various plots around Bourges, a small city in the Loire known for its distinct half-timbered houses and Gothic cathedral.

For 2019, Hudon has made three wines that we were eager to try. The first ‘La Charge!’ is Pet Nat made primarily from Menu Pineau, with small amounts of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. The second is ‘Matouse’, which trades traditional Sauvignon Blanc for a richer but still precise flavor palette. Finally is ‘Groseille’, which manages to let the youthful Gamay fruit shine.

Interestingly, all of Hudon’s wines feature high ABVs, ranging from the mid-13s to the mid 14s. For all the complexity they offer, Hudon manages to find balance that each of the individual grapes bring, which can be rare at price points under $25 in the Loire or anywhere in Europe at the moment.

Alexis Hudon, La Charge (2019)

Alexis Hudon, La Charge (2019)

The ‘La Charge!’ – as we mentioned above – primarily relies on Menu Pineau (also known as Arbois), even though it is typically only used as a blending agent due to its high yield and softer acidity.

The vigorous bubbles upon opening evolve into smaller, more persistent bubbles throughout each sip. On the nose, there are whiffs of green apple and minerals. Upfront the wine also features these apple notes but we also get honeydew melon. Since ‘La Charge!’ is lower in acid, it relies instead on a dominant, chalky minerality to guide itself forward to pleasing effect. Interestingly, honeyed and almost caramelized sweetness builds into the finish. Though this wine is quite dry, this textural contrast adds a depth that we enjoy.

Alexis Hudon, Matousé (2019)

Alexis Hudon, Matousé (2019)

When you think of Sauvignon Blanc the first thing that comes to mind is probably easy, breezy summer fun. Right?

With ‘Matousé’, Hudon shows the riper and richer side of the grape that for his 2019 vintage clocks in at over 14% ABV. Despite its richness, however, the racy acidity and refreshing notes that build as things open up reveal a wine with much life. On the nose, savory, herbal notes are predominant with nutty and white peach qualities as we take our first sips. Acid is the guide here, providing a vehicle forward for a clean and precise wine that allows grassy, limey notes to build subtly. It might not be a pucker fest with each glass but this wine is still a remarkably enjoyable, standalone sipper for a summer evening.

Alexis Hudon, Groseille (2019)

Alexis Hudon, Groseille (2019)

Who doesn’t love a young, fresh Gamay? Hudon’s ‘Groseille’ clocks in at a hefty 14% ABV but still remains lithe. In the glass, we can’t help but notice the rich purple color. This wine is fruit forward on the nose and palette with tart red cherry and hints of blackberry dominating along with structured acidity. Obviously low in tannins, the predominate complexity of the wine comes from it earthy, soil notes that build through the mid palette. A few years of cellar aging would likely develop these further but for now they provide a counterbalance to the fruitiness that leads this wine. While drinkable now, it would also be a perfect transition into the cooler fall months.

We are excited to have Alexis Hudon’s wines in stock. They are affordable and honest winemaking in a moment when tariffs and unpredictable weather have rendered French winemaking, in particular, a challenge. As late frosts continue, hail storms become more numerous, and heatwaves grow ever longer, we hope the charms of the Loire continue to shine as they have with these three bottles.

Until next time, happy sipping!

Peak Summer Wines

We made it through Tropical Storm Iasias! Thankfully in the city we managed with some downed tree limbs and toppled potted plants. As we’re writing this, the sun is out in full force, the humidity has decreased, and we’re getting peak August summer vibes. And what better way to celebrate summer than a trio of white wines?

While rosé is the official beverage of summer, there’s something exciting about a simultaneous blend of body and lightness that certain white wines can offer, even the ones that appear at lower ABVs than expected. Two of these wines from France pack a flavor punch while a surprising Californian blend takes a more nuanced approach that doesn’t sacrifice the dynamic fruit flavors you’d expect from Mendocino County and Contra Costa Counties.

Franz Saumon, Petite Gaule du Matin (2019)

Franz Saumon, Petite Gaule du Matin (2019)

This bubbly blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc is equal parts structured and fruity fun. In the glass, the wine features persistent bubbles with a floral and apple quality on the nose. This wine highlights the mineral quality of Loire wines but doesn’t hold back on the peachy and green apple fruit flavors we love to see. It features an acidic backbone but Saumon’s wine nimbly winds this acid throughout itself, enhancing the candied apple notes that lead to a dry, dry finish.

If bubbles are not your thing, Saumon makes an array of other exciting and relatively affordable Loire wines you can find here. When it comes to the Loire, these wines are all about highlighting minerality.

No Control, Les Crosses (2019)

No Control, Les Crosses (2019)

Okay! We know we’re already sold out of this wine but we do have large format bottles available and we can’t recommend it enough. We also have an array of other No Control offerings to take you well beyond the summer months.

The Les Crosses white is 100% Chardonnay aged in stainless steel, which provides an array of tropical and fresh fruit notes without any of the richness you’d expect from something oak aged. We get ripe pineapple on the nose and tart green apple that turn into creamy pear notes as the wine evolves, providing necessary textural depth. As things continue to open up through repeated pours, the persistent acidity shines along with touches of lemon and stone fruit skin into the finish.

Martha Stoumen, Post Flirtation White Blend (2019)

Martha Stoumen, Post Flirtation White Blend (2019)

We had fully expected to stay in France for this week’s wine tasting but Martha Stoumen’s always glorious Post Flirtation was calling, sending us on a beeline to Northern California, for a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Muscat blanc, and Colombard from two parcels.

Though it clocks in at only 9.5% ABV, big flavor is to be had from this seemingly diminutive wine. Whiffs of saline and kiwi fruit lead to a mineral forward palette and lower acidity that is driven by interwoven and complex fruit flavors, featuring touch of tartness from grapefruit pith, white peach sweetness, and a hint of lemon. Licks of sea spray salinity provide yet another element of beach delight. There’s something about this wine that can take us to any summer home share, even if we’re not experiencing it in 2020.

Stoumen has a number of other wines that effortlessly capture the terroir of Northern California. If you want to venture just a little further afield, we cannot recommend Craig Haarmeyer’s California wines enough.

We are excited that we’ve made it through the oppressively hot July weather into a little bit more summer quiet that August takes on. While we might be able to enjoy everything we expected from summer, a super chilled bottle of flavor packed white wine can do a whole lot to calm our mood and get us ready to sail through to the end of the summer.

What is Natural Wine in 2020?

The evolution of language is very interesting to observe even for someone with no expertise in this matter. Over the past years of being involved with “natural wine,” what the term means to me has changed into something I am not as proud of. What happened? Countless transgressions, many involving social behaviors that are contrary to what someone would call “natural,” and have slowly eroded the value of a term we once loved and put our trust into.

We often use indie vs mainstream when it comes to music and brands, but rarely think of the implications of such definitions beyond popularity as a metric. Ever hear the line that goes a little like: “which weighs more 100 pounds of bricks or 100 pounds of feathers?”

Think of the difference between the following: thousands of music streams or downloads vs millions of streams or downloads and thousands of wine bottles or sneakers vs millions of wine bottles or sneakers. The capital requirements, labor standards and environmental impact are so much more relevant in the latter industries.

As industry participants, we must be conscious of what certain production levels imply, it helps us remain educated and aware. Recently, a tipping point occurred with @glougloumagazine investigating the labor practices associated with Valentina Passalacqua’s father’s businesses, of which she is a beneficiary and at some point had an active role. We found ourselves ignorant, complicit and frustrated on many levels. Accountability mechanisms is a topic for another day, but very much a part of this conversation.

Organic growth is not only great for the grapes in wine, but also the industry that supports the many businesses involved. As the demand increases too fast, the supply side has to get creative and for a product that is not streamable or downloadable, this can be a very delicate matter. There’s been a rush to start or adapt businesses, create content, publish media and sell hyped wines (guilty) to capitalize on the growing trend.

In addition to some of the old injustices, like Caporalato, there are other newer instances of the supply side getting creative leaving me unsettled. There is a media that regurgitates PR scripts written to take advantage of the increased SEO value of “natural wine” as a way of converting customers through a form of deception. There is the emergence of Good Clean Wine, which to anyone with a sound mind, let alone the knowledge of anything wine related, can tell is a marketing/branding ploy. They are not leaders promoting smart environmental practices or even walking the talk they are putting forth. Might be clean in the name, but with undisclosed minimal additives and other missing details, it sure seems opaque to me.

People saw the success of natural wine and pushed to make it bigger. Sometimes the growth was not organic and fueled less by passion for the wine, and more passion for the profit (this will be a challenge for anyone that depends financially on their activity within the sector, myself very much included). There’s a healthy, clean dollar to be made, but there’s nevertheless some compromise behind it.

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’d like to argue we should start thinking more in terms of patronage and support for the great causes as the sincerest form of flattery.

What can this mean? Drink more with your heart, palate and morals. Care about details that don’t always impact the taste, but almost always the price, such as regenerative agriculture, fairly paid labor, and the integrity of a winemaker. Value the wines that you know meet these and other moral standards, because we all know how easy it is to pretend that they are met.

The economy rarely accounts for the true cost of a product and a consumer rarely pays the right price as a result. As participants in the global wine trade we are all involved in, we should start to think about these externalities and be proactive about them, especially when they deal with nature or systemic injustices.

Grapes are not like songs that can be streamed time and time again. They are not even like chickens that can lay eggs daily year round or vegetable beds you can turn a couple times. Grapes grow once a year and never in a predictable enough way. They are participants of an environment that has changed rapidly mostly due to us humans. Growing grapes is challenging and harvesting them is not any easier. Let us care for the nature that provides us with such wonderful fermentable juice and keep the cycle as healthy as possible.

The glass bottle is not the receptacle that is best for the environment and there will most likely be constant improvements to whatever is, but part of the problem is customers embracing the format, so let’s talk about boxed wine and getting more high quality products into the most eco friendly receptacles. If you’re selling it as glou glou and a wine to drink now, then maybe it does not need the glass bottle and high quality cork since you’re not cellaring it anyway.

As a consumer, retailer and participant in the industry, there are plenty of compromises that are ok to make, the winemaker bottled with a little sulfur to make sure the wine gets well received in foreign markets. The wine has a little residual sugar and may or may not have gone through a secondary fermentation. These are compromises we’re ok with and just want to make sure these facts are not hidden. We’re not ok with mistreating people or the earth as part of the product and we’ll work towards more transparency on both fronts.

AS a NY retailer, we’re here to bridge the gap between the importer and the consumer. This comes with it’s own set of challenges, but often also involve a delicate balance of supply and demand.

Let’s make sure natural wine is more than a trend that astute marketers have come to want to capitalize on.

I will work harder to exemplify some of the above in my business. I believe building out the website’s content will be key. Obviously, this is our businesses responsibility and takes a lot of work, but if anyone ever wants to share information, resources, we’re happy to be a part of that.

So what is natural wine in 2020? Consider the above and let’s say, it is not something that takes advantage of humans or nature, and in fact should be one with a healthy cycle around both people and the environment.

We’re going to go with the following starting point and hopefully have a more permanent and thorough definition always on our website and updated when necessary. Remember a natural wine can have a catchy or cute label, but that label does not mean the wine is natural.

  • organic or biodynamic farming (people sometimes assume this means no spraying, which is not the case, there are organic materials that can be sprayed)
  • native yeast fermentation
  • fair labor practices (no employee can earn less than the local minimum wage and fair conditions)
  • no additions with the exception of sulfur up to 30mg/L (we’re ok with hybrid products that mix different fruits together or other ingredients that grow from the earth and are clearly presented as part of the product)
  • limited to no filtration and if so preference for simple racking
  • no chaptalization
  • TRANSPARENCY – winemakers, importers and retailers can still maintain trade secrets, but should be ready, willing and able to offer the necessary information about wines and do their best to present them as truthfully as possible.

Added bonuses:

  • regenerative agriculture
  • zero zero aka no sulfur at all
  • eco friendly packaging
  • local community involvement
  • charitable pledges (many wineries have found ways to support causes at no added costs by creating awareness on their packaging Anders or Kopitsch) NOTE: there are companies trying to tie in charitable causes to non natural wine products.

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