Les Vins contés

 
 

Having tried several of Olivier Lemasson’s wines in various places over the years, we rang him up one day when our travels took us through the Loire Valley.  Come by tonight, he said right away when we introduced ourselves as a couple of Canadian natural wine aficionados.  And what a welcome!  Good conversation and amazing wines from Les Vins contés, that we’re very happy to bring to the West Coast. 


Originally from Brittany in western France - not a wine region at all! - Olivier first trained as a sommelier before learning the art of vinification with natural-wine guru Marcel Lapierre in the Beaujolais.  Befriending several Loire vignerons, he decided to settle there in the early 2000s, teaming up with another great winemaker: Hervé Villemade.  Striking out on his own in 2006, Olivier cultivates his own parcels in the Touraine region, while also sourcing grapes from other organic producers in the area, allowing him to work with a variety of terroirs.    He’s a big fan of little known varietals, which he develops using carbo-maceration techniques.  Lemasson’s free-thinking approach means that he’s often rejected for standard AOC designation, something that only adds to the intrigue and uniqueness of his wines.  To try them is to love them!

 

The story

The vintages

Bois sans soif - white, 2015


Rich and textured, this 50-50 blend of menu pineau and chenin highlights all the distinctness of the Loire Valley.  Indigenous to the region, menu pineau is a rare varietal.  It has long been snubbed by the conventional wine industry that scandalously disallows it in Loire wines with the formal AOC designation.  Thankfully, independent winemakers like Lemasson show us all the potential and personality of this little known grape.  Look for smooth finish with a seductive undertone of oxidization.  Drink with sage-braised turkey breasts or sole fillet in cream sauce.  Or just on its own. 


Fermentation in Vitro - sparkling white, 2016


Here, Olivier uses the same blend as in the Bois sans soif, but as the name suggests, ancestral method fermentation happens in the bottle, producing a beautifully balanced sparkling wine.  Look for a nice crisp texture, a luscious bubble, and a smooth finish that will both refresh and dazzle.  A true showcase of the life-affirming qualities of natural wine!


R15 - red, 2015


New to natural wine?  Start with this one!  This is a blend of grolleau, gamay, and côt, with notes of wild berries and a hint of pepper at the end.  Nice round tannins make this wine complex, yet easy to drink.  It’ll go well with a platter of charcuterie, or a barbecue with friends, but make sure you have plenty of this on hand as its generous flavours are sure to make everyone want just another sip...


R16 - red, 2016


With a year in the bottle, the R15 has mellowed out a bit, for our greatest drinking pleasure.  Along comes the R16: this year’s light, vibrant, and fruit forward iteration - the young upstart trying to upstage its older sibling.  Try them side by side for a telling sense of how vintage shapes a natural wine.  Will you pick a favourite?   


Poivre et sel - red, 2016


Pepper and salt, playful and serious, peppy and somber, pineau d’aunis’s yang to gamay’s ying.  Or is it the other way around?  No matter which side of its personality you land on, this wine is sure to attract you with its spicy nose and carefree finish.  We all know opposites attract, and you’re sure to find these two varietals a perfect match.  An elegant touch of raspberry and spice from the very rare pineau d’aunis, the Loire Valley’s most ancient varietal, with the gamay’s characteristic peppery charm.    


Cheville de fer - red, 2015


100% old-vine côt (Malbec), this is a beautiful, sophisticated wine that shows off all of Olivier’s winemaking skill.  Supple and refreshing, with only the slightest hint of tannins, this wine has a smooth and lasting finish.  It’ll be a charm with your wild mushroom ravioli or even your bison-sausage risotto.  But why complicate things?  Enjoy it on its own, with good friends around the table, or in a moment of quiet contemplation...  


Pow Blop Wizz - sparkling rosé, 2015


A name that says it all!  These are old-growth vines (70-year old grolleau; 40-year old cabernet), but with its delightful pink hues and light bubbles, this sparkling rosé has all the youthful energy of the sexy Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot song it’s named for.  A nice balance and creamy finish, with just a hint of residual sugar, make it an incontestable crowd pleaser.  Enjoy now, ideally on the patio!