Tasted with Eric Forest, 18 June 2020 in Vergisson
I enjoyed some lovely wines from Eric when I made my 2018 Pouilly tasting – so took the chance to pay him a visit.
Eric is the 8th generation of his family here in the heart of the village, but it was his grandfather, André Forest, who was the first in the family that was ‘100% vigneron‘ and bottled his wine – all the generations before lived with the traditional ‘polyculture.’ André expanded the domaine in the 1960s when he bought some parcels and replanted some others, but he’d made his first bottling in 1945 – though it was only 2 barrels that year. This new approach was prompted by a tour in Alsace in the same era after the war – André had noted that there were signs for tastings – such things didn’t exist in the Mâconnais at that time. Much of the quality of today’s wines come from my Grandfather. In the 1960s he only had massale selections available which he chose and prepared himself. He also ploughed so the roots went deep from the very start. My father used some herbicide as they were new and easy, but he still ploughed every Spring, so it was not too hard to return to organic.
“It’s grown since then, of course, there’s 7.5 hectares in production today, and I’ve another half hectare that I’ll plant over the next years but I’ll be happy to stay with 8 hectares – I’d rather double the quality than the quantity.” 2019 is already the 20th vintage for Eric and only 0.40 ha is young vines, the next youngest was planted in 1971. “For me the real treasures are those vines of over 80 years-old – not a lot of juice but great juice.” Included in Eric’s hectares is steep clos in Pierreclos – the Clos des Charmes which just a little over 1 ha – 2019 is the first vintage for this new fermage; “There was a little frost so perhaps the reason for 22 hl/ha. It was also conventionally treated for 20 years so I’ve managed to cut a lot of the roots too in the first year of ploughing – so that didn’t help either! I think its obligatory to plough the first 15-20 cm.”
Eric is mainly taking a manual approach in the vines – there are no big tractors here. He starts with short pruning, then there’s de-budding too, particularly the middle of the vine ‘which allows better aeration and less disease’ – he even uses scissors to take out the extra shoots – “It’s only 30 seconds per vine! I think the skins of the grapes more perfumed if they are not completely protected from the sun. Everything is hand-harvested and carefully handled but then the grapes are crushed before entering the press – but not too hard a press for 2-3 hours. I preserve a good acidity this way.”
Eric has 5 small cellars under the house, which are emptied just before the harvest; I won’t have any drying wood and buy only new barrels. So it’s timed that the barrels are emptied, washed with hot water and then refilled with the new juice/wine within 24-48 hours after washing. “What remains in the pores of the wood from the previous vintage I consider to be like a relay, passing the baton to the new vintage. I haven’t used batonnage in the barrels for over 10 years but it’s important that the fine lees are in the wine.” The wines are first assembled in tank and then dropped by gravity into the barrels. The bottling, 4 times out of 5, is at the same time each year, but once in a while he waits. So the total elevage is one year in barrel and anything from 2-6 months in tank until he decides it’s ready to bottle.
“Today with my style of work I have less and less concern about hotter vintages. My 2003s were not great to my taste, like many white areas that year. The wines sold and I kept practically nothing – 2 cases – I found them not so long ago and I was amazed how good the wines were with some time in the cellar – there was never any doubt how much material was in the wines that were bottled – they weren’t meagre wines, but time was needed. I remember the 1976s too – my vintage – a dry hot year that was commercialised very quickly – they are great. So since 2015 I worked a little differently, I don’t believe in bringing in fruit that’s not quite ripe. Some years you have 12.8 others 13.8 but with the same maturity of fruit.”
In 1998, Eric started to work with Jean-Marie Guffens, so has plenty of the same contacts, hence, much of his wine is exported. He has multiple importers in the US and UK, though with the financial crisis in 2008 a lot was lost so since then the home market became more important; “I was pretty much unknown at home for the first 10 years but today it’s about one-third of sales and I think I’ve a better balance of regions for the sales now too.”
Eric on 2018:
“2018 was a big volume, so much of the first press went for the Bourgogne label. I did only a short settling as the finer part of the pulp and skins that remain add something to the wine – some character, some richness. I like rich wines and I’ve a terroir that permits that – if you have good acidity then that’s the type of wine that I like. There are 4 ‘jars’ but the rest is done in barrel – my grandfather actually made his own barrels. The jars bring a little more direction to a portion of the wine so it’s more for blending than to have an ‘amphora-cuvée’ I think they will get used in hotter vintages but not all vintages.”
A domaine where the winemaker is as engaging and talkative as his wines. There are many delicious wines here, and some are certainly worth searching out!
All cork used here: “I try to use some of the best quality that I can get.”
Planted 74-75, just 11 ha here of recovered pasture, just over 400m and NE-exposed – so cool. In 1936 nobody expected that this would produce ripe grapes so wasn’t included in the AOC and stayed as pasture. It was from the 1960s when there was an increasing demand for PF there was some pressure to extend the aoc – the INAO agreed but didn’t expand the aoc of Pouilly, rather they introduced a new name. Small volumes here 40-50 hl/ha as there’s not a lot of soil over the rock. ‘Nice concentration with slower maturity – patience required for harvesting.’
Hmm – that’s an attractive and rather forward nose of yellow citrus – an invitation. Silky, yellow fruit again, faintly oaked, completely delicious – wide and persistent finishing. Bravo – that’s super!
2018 St.Veran La Renommée
From the climat Côte Rôtie; bottom of the hill, plain south facing. ‘There is more ‘active’ limestone here than most of the Mâconnais’
A little more compact nose, more mineral and a certain intensity. Vibrant, layered, more overt citrus, less overt oak – the energy here is really fine – a hot terroir but a great wine.
2018 Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Ame Forest’
The cuvée referring to André, Michel and Eric. 4 different terroirs assembled: one planted in 1952 the others in 1960s. East and north-facing – ‘in theory cooler places though you wouldn’t know in the last few years. In 2007 I was separating every single parcel but I had wines everywhere and it was not easy to commercialise the small parcels, so I made this blend.’
A wider nose – there’s energy here and an attractive golden-fruited invitation. Directly open, wide, a certain minerality. There’s an extra acidity here – a citrus style of acidiity – holding a fine and still changing flavour in the finish. Really excellent, also great for its level.
2018 Saint-Véran Terre Noir
Bottled April, nearly 90 yo vines, first vintage. 70-80cm of soil then only white stones…
Not a wide nose but a stony depth of aroma. Silky, calm, pure – quite open. There is a fine base of acidity here yet the wine isn’t overly energetic – just a calming contemplative style. A beautiful line of finishing, slightly floral, flavour with a little lick of phenolic texture. This is a wine to keep, excellent for sure…
‘There are 9.5 hectares of this and I have 2.16 of this future 1er cru.’ Plain south-facing under Vergission which also protects the vines from the north wind. Different marnes, gravel, different layers. 10-20% of this is ‘declassified’ into the AME cuvée
Not a wide but a wonderfully deep nose of greener citrus and faintly reductive style, above a suggestion of florals – airy but not lacking weight. Bubbling fresh, energetic, open wine – very mineral, nicely textured – no fat. Then it bursts with an extra dimension of flavour in the finish. That’s great PF – bravo!
This a big terroir of over 22 ha; 17 below the road and 5 above – the higher part – where these vines lie is not a 1er cru.
An open, slightly floral nose, a little less focused to start vs the Crays – – this is fine but I have a small preference for the Crays – but this wine pulls together and gets better and better with aeration. Super presence in the mouth – mineral, a touch saline, great flavour here. I love the texture and the way this wine moves over the palate. A finish that grows in intensity after swallowing. Bravo, pure, pure wine.
2018 Pouilly-Fuissé ‘24 Carats‘
‘An assembly from the parts that have the maximum – but with harmony. It’s as much about me as the vines – it’s a great Bourgogne but from Pouilly – 2/3 new oak. Not made every year.’
That has a nice and almost silky width of aroma – no overt oak – a very faint crackle of firework reduction. Really very mineral, a little more saline. Open and showing good energy. I sense more than taste the extra oak and the clarity is just a little less than the last two wines if not the minerality. Long but without the energy of finishing flavour of the previous two wines. It would be great to compare the three in 5 and 10 years – excellent as a minimum, but I’d buy the previous two today.
2017 Petite Arvine Fully Les Raffos
Initially served blind. Yes from the Valais – Switzerland! Harvested 2-3 weeks after here. The lees of Les Crays in some barrels taken to Switzerland and Eric presses himself in Switzerland.
An airy – engrossing nose – fine citrus here but never loud. A little more depth of concentration practically a more oily, silky texture, certainly sweeter. Fuller in the middle but then stretching its mineral legs long, long – different style but captivating. Super wine.