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translation missing: en.ACellars Newsletter 17th March, 2022 - Domaine de Bellevue + Frederick Stevenson + Thick as Thieves: ACellars Newsletter 17th March, 2022 - Domaine de Bellevue + Frederick Stevenson + Thick as Thieves

With the French Film Festival in full swing around Sydney, this week we pay homage to the nouvelle vague movement, focusing on some winemakers who throw caution to the wine without caution, simultaneously embracing yet disregarding tradition, flirting with avant-garde and lo-fi
 winemaking, and experimenting on the crest of a new wave to put their stylistic slant on their wines, both in the old and new worlds.
Domaine de Bellevue

When a disastrous frost in 1709 wiped out most of the red grapes growing around the city of Nantes in western France, Muscadet, or the grape known as Melon de Bourgogne, was imported from Burgundy to the Loire Valley city for its ability to resist the cold, and its accessibility by the Dutch traders to the Loire's estuaries who purchased the prolific and neutral grape for distilling.

And so the weather-resistant and neutral grape Muscadet continued to be cultivated in the area to produce simple and neutral wines for very local consumption. But like the mid-Century French film directors who sought to change up the industry with novel and stylistic approaches to their films, the Muscadet industry saw a revolution in the 1980s with producers experimenting with lees aging, barrel fermenting, battonage, and even extended maceration on the skins. The added texture, phenolics and complexity brought Muscadet to a whole new audience.

Jérôme Bretaudeau was just a young man in the 1990s when he saw this movement start in the Loire Valley, but he has continued the non-conventional trend at Domaine de Bellevue. Gaining experience in biodynamic farming from Moustached Muscadet legend Jo Landron, Jérôme took over the abandoned vines in his family's estate in the Loire village of Gétigné in 2001, and completed his first vintage in 2005. The estate was certified organic in 2009 with a view to becoming fully biodynamic.

Jérôme's avant-garde nature can be seen in the unusual vines he has planted in his estate: the majority of his portfolio is labelled Vin de France, and we are particularly excited by his Chardonnay-Savagnin blend La Justice, where the Savagnin, combined with the sea spray of the Atlantic coast deliver a umami saltiness drenched in lip-puckering acidity.

But it is the Muscadets of course where this auteur of taste truly puts his signature. Across the different soil types within his estate, Jérôme's vines yield just 35hl/ha, a third of the norm in the region. He hand harvests, and ferments with only native yeasts to really allow his Muscadets to speak of place. The fruit harvested on the granitic soils to produce the mineral, flinty and floral Granite Clos des Perrières Muscadet show a complexity with their vines planted back in 1920. And Gaïa, grown over the Loire's other igneous rock, Gabbro, is aged in ceramic egg amphorae and is bright, energetic and balanced. Such a refreshing change to mediocrity and a one-dimensional narrative! View the beauty here.


Frederick Stevenson

It seems fitting to include in our French cinema celebration of experimentation and iconoclasm, a winemaker who has set up shop with a delinquent in an old church in Adelaide, the city of churches.

Rather than follow the norm, making their wines in the picturesque, but somewhat inaccessible wine country, Oddio brings the wines to the cityfolk: the former heritage-listed church, city-based winery is home to Delinquente Wine Co, Bizzaro Aperitivo and Frederick Stevenson.

Frederick Stevenson started as a side project for winemaker Steven Crawford whilst he still had a winemaking day job for another winery; the first vintage under his alias was released in 2013. Originally wanting to be a chef, he describes himself as a flavourist, but flavour, he searches for naturally in his wines; nothing is synthesised.

Globetrotting steered Steven off the well-worn path of mass-production, and the new wave winemaker was enlightened with vintages across Australia, Italy, Germany and France. Steven pursued texture and interest in wine whilst abroad. He learnt from organic and biodynamic producers who taught him to think intuitively, rather than clinically as he had during his tertiary studies. Steven sought to make the kind of wines he had enjoyed across the bistros and wine bars of Europe; light to medium bodied, lofi, crunchy and made to be enjoyed without fuss.

Steven sources biodynamic fruit from regions around South Australia. Everything is small batch here, and minimal intervention is a must. The wines are fun and lively in the glass and speak of the regions from which they come.

Never overblown or overdone. Find them here.


Staff Pick: Thick as Thieves

'Another Bloody Chardonnay'

"Since humble beginnings in 2009, I've never lost sight of my goal of crafting thought-provoking lo-fi wines that are savoury, textural and food friendly."

Syd Bradford started his own label, Thick as Thieves, after working in the industry for ten years. Not having to answer to bean counters and marketing departments, Syd found the freedom to experiment with alternative varieties and styles which means Syd gets to make interesting wines that he loves to drink, not wines that simply sell or are in vogue.

Another Bloody Chardonnay is for the naysayers who are sick of convention and are ready for a new narrative.

Judge it by its label, it will tell you the score. Find another bloody one here.