Our visit to Raphaël was by chance, really, I’d noticed this new grower popping up and emailed him without tasting any of the wines, when I was on a trip to Beaujolais in 2018. I was with Dani Davies of Skyborry Cider and we had just spent the night at Domaine Des Grottes.
We met for lunch and were surprised to be joined by some other winemakers, Jerome Balmet, Gregory Guillaume and Cyril Voillod were all around the table. After a delicious lunch cooked by Emélié we took a trip to their - then new cellar where the wines from 2017 were yet to be bottled. The potential - we could see was enormous.
It was only on our second visit that we got to see the vineyards, which is perhaps Raphael’s natural home, having started as a very young man working in the vineyards of the Meyer family in Nothalten, Alsace. It was there he discovered natural wine, not being from a winery family, but his parents having a hotel and restaurant in the region. He went on to work with Jean-Marc Dreyer, who remains one of his best friends and eventually made the move to the Auvergne to work there with Vincent Marie of No Control and Patrick Bouju. This is where he met Emelie who was working with the same tribe of Auvergne winemakers. Eventually, through Vincent, Raphael was offered some vineyards in Beaujolais to maintain and start his own project. 2017 was the first vintage there, in 2018 Emelie joined and now they work together. They compliment each other very well, both incredibly commited, a firm attention to detail, but definitely not afraid of having fun - anyone who met them when they came to the UK to visit can attest to that!
They are working with varied terroirs - limestone, granite, ‘pierres bleue’ and have a clear vision for the project, inevitably owing a lot to what they have both learnt beforehand. Incredibly dedicated and hard work goes on in the vineyards which are either organic or in conversion. In the cellar, where the work is painstaking and by hand, it has to be as they work with zero additives, fining or filtering. Their wines have a purity that is rare, full of sun-kissed fruit, vibrancy and are incredibly drinkable.
Winemaking for the two main red wines is similar, whole bunch maceration for around three weeks with no pigeage and minimal pumpovers to extract lightly, then elevage in massive wooden foudre (25/30hl) for as long as it takes. In 2021 we will see less wine from them as they intend to give extended elevage to the wines. This is a project we are very happy to have been following from the start and we can’t wait to see where it goes next.