This month’s Club Sauvage selections come from top-tier natural producers in two of Europe’s most important (and least understood) growing regions–Italy’s Alto Adige and France’s Loire Valley. Long in the shadow of more glamorous regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, the Loire still represents a treasure trove of value for those looking to drink seriously complex, terroir-driven wines on a budget. Not to mention that the commitment to organics and biodynamics here is among the most dedicated in all of France. Then to Alto Adige, a subalpine region on the Austrian side of northern Italy–a treacherous region of jagged mountains and obscure native varieties. It’s in both of these forgotten corners that two of our favorite winemakers are crafting some of the most exciting wines anywhere.
There is no question that Catherine & Pierre Breton are an unstoppable force when it comes to natural wine. They’ve been making seriously clean natural wines, farming biodynamically, and living the good life in Bourgueil for decades. They make everything from zippy, funky reds like this Grolleau to complex, age-worthy Cabernet Francs that rival great Bordeaux for their complexity and ability to age. The Bretons are committed to biodynamics with an unrivaled fervor, and their wines more than any others typify the possibility to make natural wines that are also incredibly clean and typical of a place.
Catherine & Pierre’s Grolleau is their lightest bodied red made from their small parcel of the obscure Grolleau grape variety. This grape has always been planted rather widely in the Loire, mostly owing to the fact that it’s easier to farm than the more famous Cabernet Franc. The thinking here has long been that Grolleau may be less interesting than Cab Franc, but it makes a perfectly quaffable rosé that is less expensive to farm. Throw that all out the window when you pour your first glass of Breton Grolleau. Theirs gets every bit as much patient attention as the most expensive wine in the cellar, beginning with biodynamic farming continuing onto conscientious winemaking. Nonetheless, Grolleau is naturally thin-skinned and herbal and this wine is as good a candidate for drinking cool than just about any other red. Expect notes of earthy funk, black pepper, rose, and zippy cranberry.