From Didier Dagueneau to Eben Sadie, every generation has its standout winemakers. We asked a team of experts to pick the stars of tomorrow – making wines you can afford today. Jérôme Bressy was suggested by Matt Walls, award-winning wine writer and broadcaster with a special interest in the Rhône
To this list you can add Domaine Gourt de Mautens from the southern Rhône Valley. The domaine may be new, but its vines are old and its tale is familiar. A vineyard holding is amassed over generations, grapes sold to the local co-op until a hot-headed youngster pulls out and starts making his own wine.
Domaine Gourt de Mautens, Rouge 2015
Rich red fruits, juniper, black pepper. Lively, with a grand tannic structure.
Characterful and assertive but still speaks of the Rhône.
Domaine Gourt de Mautens, Blanc 2015
Expansive, distinctly textural. A fine, complex and beguiling white.
The 15 hectares (ha) dotted around Rasteau were already farmed organically when that hot-headed youngster, Jérôme Bressy, started making wine in 1996. By 1998, he had built a small winery. Learning from friends in Châteauneuf-du-Pape such as Henri Bonneau, Le Vieux Donjon and Domaine de Marcoux, Bressy increased plantings of lesser-known local varieties like Vaccarèse and Picpoul Gris and converted to biodynamics.
The turning point came in 2010. Rasteau was promoted from top Côtes-du-Rhône Village to AOC Rasteau, and in doing so the rules of production were tightened. To be permitted to use the appellation name, only 15% of the blend could be made from ‘lesser’ varieties. Bressy’s red contained 40%. Instead of forcing his wines to conform, he chose the lower classification of IGP Vaucluse, and he still does.
Rather than causing sales to drop, this decision worked in his favour. Unconstrained by expectations, Bressy concentrated on creating ‘the greatest fine wine possible’. Old vines, co-planted heritage varieties and biodynamics all helped, as did goblet training his vines, which produce loose bunches of thick-skinned berries, naturally yielding just 8-15hl/ha.
He says what makes him different is his capacity to take risks. He may talk of the importance of listening to nature, but in character he’s more platoon commando than dope-smoking hippie. Bressy harvests as late as possible, waits for the first rains before picking and makes zero additions to the juice except a little sulphur. His fermentations can take a year to finish, and he matures the wines for years in large old barrels before bottling.
Bressy’s path is an expensive and stressful one to follow, but the results it yields speak for themselves. In a normal year, he makes just one red wine and one white. Most of his stock goes to top restaurants, including Alain Ducasse, Le Taillevent, Troisgros, Guy Savoy… He doesn’t talk about trying to make the best wine of Rasteau, or the even the Rhône. He wants to make ‘a great Mediterranean wine’. I would say he’s already achieved it.