Among the many wine bars centered on natural wine that are now popping up across the French provinces, some are opening right in the domaines' grounds like here at Lise & Bertrand Jousset's Le Bar à Vins (you hardly compete with this production-to-consumption distance...), bringing the wine tourism to a more interesting, blood-and-flesh level. At this time of the year all the wine regions (flush with communication subsidies) helped by commercial wineries try to embark you in dubious wine-tourism experiences often involving walks or cycling along poorly-managed vineyards and I think in many areas protective suits and masks should indeed be added to the already-ridiculous helmets & high-vis jackets worn by these herds of clueless cyclists touring the wine roads and other fuzzy UNESCO World-Heritage wine sites.
I am often confounded by the view of these crowds all over the renown terroirs, either in cars or on foot, busy reducing their life expectancy by jogging along the rows : Is all this going somewhere ? I mean, does this benefit to a better understanding of what wine is about, the wine Bacchus or Dionysos would have drunk ? I'm not sure. Another (and wiser) choice to immerse yourself in the vinous culture of a given region would be to instead experience the thing itself, maybe not by lying down the mouth open under the barrel like our uneducated ancestors wouldn't have shied away from doing, but almost : go to the tavern, bar or bistrot right on the production place and have the glasses of your party filled...
Lise and Bertrand Jousset took the decision to open this wine bar or bistrot for a few reasons, one of them being that for the 4th consecutive year, the domaine had suffered from weather accidents, be it frost, hail or disease, and in addition to setting up a négoce operation with which they could vinify purchased grapes, this other, wine-bar business could help by itself make the ends meet.
The domaine has a nice courtyard with this out building that had no clear function, and that was a good way to use them. The bistrot mode means you have to order something to eat, even if just a plate, and they took the Licence III, an administrative authorization permit that is slightly different from the famed Licence IV but I never understood the difference, except that the latter is prohibitively expensive.
The other reason was that Lise Jousset who has an experience in the restaurant scene had always kept the idea to one day put her skills to use, and with the other compelling reasons the decision was made to open this wine bar. Of course, this is just a summer wine bar, meaning it will be open from thursday to monday (included) from june to the end of august, actually it will close just in time to make way for the harvest preparation in the wine farm. I'm sure if you comze in august you might see the early stages of the thing, with cleaning of the chai and stuff like that. Lise's first career was in restaurants and before Betrand took the decision to launch a winery they were hesitating to start a restaurant. This project allows them to satisfy their old dream and possibly extend it in the opening time. They already plan to open the wine bar now and then during the rest of the year for special occasions and on demand.
Pictured on the sides, the salivating wines of the Exilé range (from grapes picked in the south of France).
The person who is in charge of the wine bar is Lisanne Van Son, who comes from Holland. She is skilled sommeilère who worked for almost 6 years at Le Dôme in Anvers, a restaurant managed by Julien Burlat (trained with Gagnaire) and his Flamish wife Sophie Verbeke, there's of course an exciting wine list there and lots of natural wines. Belgium is as you may know the European country that is the most loyal buyer and consumer of natural wines, possibly even more than the French if you take into account the population ratio. Lisanne who speaks good French with a lovely accent is Flamish and you can listen to her explaining in her native language the wine-serving things on this video.
Lisanne has been coming in this part of the Loire region for years, since 2013 when she did the harvest at Noella Morantin and she met with plenty of artisan vignerons in this very area including Lise and Bertrand Jousset. She had for a long time the dream to make wine herself but was waiting for the opportunity and now at last she's on her way and will start attending the Wine School of Amboise next september for a year, with the compulsory training taking place here at Lise & Bertrand's domaine. Beyond here she also worked at Toby Bainbridge and also in Australia from february to march), meeting there exciting people involved in natural winemaking in the Afelaide region (these folks now are in France for several weeks, staying at her place, and immersing in the artisan-winemaker milieu here).
Lisanne already made a small-scale try into winemaking with grapes given to her by a local grower. Here is (pictured on left) Beau Gosse 2016, a Cabernet Franc fermented for the beginning a stainless-steel vat from destemmed grapes, then in a barrel. The wine is dry, no sugar left, it's unfiltered and there was no SO2 at all added, including for bottling. For a first try it's pretty nice, very delicate and refined. She was still working as sommelier in Belgium back then in 2016, she harvested this Cabernet Franc october 20 and 21 and even though the fermentation started quickly the mùaceration took 10 to 12 days with several pumping over after which she pressed and put the wine for 3 months in a barrel, but she had to make several express trip from Belgium for the following of her vinification.
Bertrand told me he was soon to travel south to overlook the picking of his purchased grapes for his négoce part of the production. Négoce often sounds a dirty word but we know how it works in the natural-wine milieu, the growers are friends and there's good exchange and shared value on the vineyard management, healthy & organic qualities, not volume, being the objective. He will be there in the south between august 5 & 25, last year already he picked at Domaine Danjou Banessy near Perpignan for the Muscat, then Grenache elsewhere (didn't understand the name), then in Gaillac at Marine Leys (la vigneureuse) and at Olivier Jean (les Vignals).
Bertrand does all the picking with the local team he hires on the domaines but he's there in person to have it done on his own rules (the pickers anyway are already trained for thoughtful grape quality). He also does all the pressing over there and brings back the juices here in a refrigerated multi-vat tanker truck (very efficient, he says, juice arrives in perfect condition with very low SO2 addition). For the picking here in the Loire it will take place beginning september 20 and the last picking a month later. The thing is that this year because of the frost the vines have 3 generations of grapes that will not be ripe at the same time. Between the two grape sourcing they manage more or less to keep the winery working in spite of the frost losses.
These days Aurélie helps for the wine bar on the communication side for the opening, including when news people come for a visit, she's a long time friend of Elise from what I understand. As I asked again about the opening days and hours, Aurélie confirmed it's open from thursday to monday for lunch and dinner, and on weekends there's no interruption in the afternoon between lunch & dining hours. Of course it's possible to have a look at the cellar if she or another staff is available for it, don't miss that opportunity, the cellar is impressive.
There are about 15 wines by the glass most costing 4 €, first of course the doçmaines' wines (5 of them when i visited the bar) including their Menu Pineau, vin de France 2015 (made with grapes purchased to François Chidaine if I'm right) at 4 € a glass and 23 € a bottle. Then they pour the négoce wines from the grapes picked in the south, 5 of them including their excellent petnat Mosquito 2016 (lovely, fresh with a sweet edge), made with Muscat & Chenin (4 € glass/22 € bottle, 14 € to go).
They also have wines from other friends/domaines, all naturally made of course, like Ludovic Chanson, Bobinet, Chateau Lestignac, Danjou Banessy, La Petite Baigneuse, Domaine de la Tournelle, and there are a few foreign wines as they want people to know that great wines are made on other latitudes (Australia, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Austria, Germany) : Il Moralizzatore "Vespaio", Antonino Barraco "Vignamare", Dario Princic "Jakot", Gutt Oggau "Theodora", Naturkinder FlederMaus, Vincent Wallard Bodega Bogus "Blanco Païs", Gentle Folks "Chardonnay", Testalonga "Cortez", Cascina Tavijn "Vino Rosso", il Moralizzatore "Cabaret", Colombaia "Rosso", Bodegas Moraza "Tempranillo", Lucy Margaux, Anton va&n Koppler "Rosso", Gentle Folks "Vin de sofa", Jauma Wines "Like Raindrops"...
And they have a few othe drinks craft beer from Tours, cider and spirits (Chartreuse, Cazottes) including one of their own made with Chenin grapes distilled by Laurent Cazottes.
All these wines (and you can order a few of them in magnums) need some food to go with and help try more wines (don't forget the possible breath checks on the roads though, keep one of your party for the wheel job), you can see on the left above on the ardoise the menu for the day when I dropped there, these are a few side dishes which they wanted a little more elaborate than the ubiquitous saucisson/fromages, the prices start at 4 €.
In the bar you can find the iconic wine posters of Tolmer, I love his short comics, they're very sharp on natural-wine hype, proving that we real-wine lovers don't take ourselves seriously and appreciate self-mocking humor....
I also spotted leather goods (pictured on left) that looked like wallets with a typical Tolmer character on them, I must admit that I thought, OMG this is the end, he's now into fancy by-products like Star Wars (which would at the same time imply that the movement is very popular, but still...). No, it wasn't a wallet made by some chinese subcontractor but a notebook cover, a creation of Mylène Pratt, a Quebec-born sommelière who is also a leather-bag designer and who also works a few hours on the side for great natural-wine restaurant Le Desnoyez in Paris. Mylène also designed and made the leather clipboards on which the patrons read their menu.
Pic on right : street name in the vicinity.