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MONTPELLIER, FRANCE – There are 587 wineries from around the world participating in the 19th Millesime Bio here and there seems to be just as many stories.

Men of 70 and 80 years old with domaine and chateau names which just sound historic are plentiful. But you also see the young guns. There are a substantial number of 30-something and even 20-something year old winemakers. Some are following in their father’s footsteps while others sought out the life of vineyard work and winemaking on their own.


Cyril Bonnet

Cyril Bonnet is a very young winemaker with a very long history. He is the seventh generation to make wine. Most of that history is in Champagne where his father and family still live making the iconic bubbly at Chateau Bonnet-Ponson. But Cyril wanted to go out on his own and now has Chateau Bonnet in Villaudric, just northwest of Toulouse.

Bonnet is one of those 587 producers trying to make a name for himself. He grows an odd little variety most outside of Southwestern France have never heard of before. He blends Negrette with other more common varietals and even makes a 100 percent Negrette wine.

Being a young winemaker at 28 with an obscure grape means marketing is important. He also is a believer in organic practices and is fully certified.

“It’s very, very important, to be exported to the clients and be here at Millesime Bio,” Bonnet said. “If you can’t come to this type of fair it’s impossible to make contact to customers. My father told me this one is important because it’s very professional, very simple and we love it.

“Maybe 30 years ago it was possible to make it just working in your vineyard with what you sell there at the farm. But now maybe 50 percent of the work is to go to find customers and the other 50 percent is to make a good wine.”

Bonnet is serious about organics and grew up knowing nothing else. His father started organic practices in Champagne in 1979. “My father is very sensitive to all ecology and puts more of an emphasis on being all organic. I agree with this position, but I don’t like the extreme side when it goes toward biodynamic.”

The wines were interesting. I liked the Negrette grape and it definitely has a different flavor profile. The wine was light on the palate and it made for very drinkable red table wine. Bonnet is producing about 2,200 cases of wine each year.

I was able to do 6 interviews and get a lot done today for future blogs, Palate Press, and the newspaper column. I am getting together with U.S. importer of organic wines Paul Chartrand, who works out of Maine, to taste our way through more wineries Wednesday.

Another Young Gun

Luigi Di Tuccio

Antica Enotria – Luigi Di Tuccio was handing the pouring, sales, and marketing chores mid afternoon at his family winery’s table. He could also be described as a young guy. He was worked every aspect of the business with his father. His father was one of first in Italy’s Puglia to make the move to organics and became a leader in the region.

The winery has some great varietals that aren’t household names – Nero di Troia, Aglianico and white wine grape Falanghina. His wines are available on both coasts. The family makes approximately 8,000 cases annually.

Other stops …

Romain Bouchard – Two young brothers with no real family history in the wine business decided to buy a winery that had gone out of business in the Chablis region. They are now making two Chablis and have found some success with wines being exported to New York.

Chateau de Fosse Seche – This fun young couple are making wines in trhe Loire Valley’s famed Samur region. I tasted their Samur Chenin Blanc and found it not as light as others I’d enjoyed but sure tasty. They also had a very nice Cabernet Franc.

Sitios De Bodega – This started out as a case of mistaken identy. I was looking for a winery I would find later then the language barrier with a Spanish woman and my confusion gave us a laugh. I ended up tasting and liking her first vintage of Verdejo which I liked very much. Export manager Alejandra Sanz was a good sport, with pretty good English, in telling me about the new effort.

Domaine de Picheral – Boxed wine in France seems a pretty ridiculous opposites attract kind of thing. But I’ve seen lots of boxed wines at the fair. I approach with my typical Tew Parl Ongleah? “Do you speak English?” to get two shaing heads and plenty of laughs for the three of us. What the heck, we used hand signals and pointing – a universal language – to taste a pretty darn good Rose, and a rather forgettable red. It was fun.

Ploder-Rosenberg – Austrian winemaker Freddy Ploder was the most congenial host of the day. The short, stout man was an enthusiastic wine tour guide through is tasting. Sharing just the right amount of wine geek talk, history, and good humor. I liked the entire line. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc … with several of he wines done in different winemaking styles.

As I wrote yesterday, I visited quite a few more wineries but these were the most interesting stops. And I visited several and did interviews which will turn up in future writing.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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