Chemin des Vins – A Commitment to Quality and Typicity
At Chemin des Vins, the estates we work with are carefully selected for quality and value. The estates have in common a commitment to sustainable organic agriculture and natural winemaking. For the most part, they are not certified organic, but a few are certified biodynamic. All practice at least what the French call lutte raisonnee which means that they are committed in a non-dogmatic way to the use of organic techniques and the reduction of the use of synthetics as much as is possible. Natural wines are made with indigenous yeasts, minimal sulphur, and without the use of chemical additives.
The goal is to select naturally made wines which express the specific character of the grape variety and the unique qualities of the soil and climate, or what the French refer to as terroir. In a real sense, the non-interventionist emphasis on purity of fruit allows the sense of terroir to shine through more clearly. I like to think of the wines as transparent. This is not an exercise in the production of cookie-cutter, international style varietal wines, but rather a homage to the concept of terroir in the French style.
All the wines in the portfolio are alive in the glass with well-defined, expressive aromas. On the palate, the wines exhibit clean, pure and ripe fruit flavors with an appropriate balance between fresh acidity and sugars. Tannins are round and smooth, and the wines finish clean and dry.
Elevage, the aging of the wines, is seen as critical. Many wines see no oak barrels, or only older oak barrels or large foudre. Many of the wines have their elevage in stainless steel to preserve the freshness and brightness of the fruit. Oak, when appropriate (along with extended lies contact), is used to enhance the texture and richness of the wines and not as a flavoring agent as in many New World wines. Oakiness should never obtrude or overpower the fruit, but should be seamlessly integrated into wines big enough to cover the flavor of wood effortlessly. Many producers, especially in Burgundy, have successfully been reducing their use of new barrels to achieve greater freshness and purity of fruit.
Many of our producers, especially for red wines, have reduced the handling of the wine during elevage. The wines are either not racked at all until bottling, or are racked less often than in the past. This means that they are exposed to much less oxygen and bacteria and thus require much less sulphur to prevent spoilage. CO2, a natural anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial that is produced during alcoholic fermentation, gives the wine protection. Fining and filtering are done lightly or not at all, and bottling is done by gravity with no pumping. The end result is wines with more aromatics and brighter, cleaner fruit and lively crisp acidity, as well as a clear sense of place or terroir.