I first met Em and Raph in late October 2019. I was tagging along on a visit with their Australian importer Campbell Burton, and we arrived to their home (and cellar) in Saint-Germain-Nuelles in southern Beaujolais in the early evening. As such, we weren’t able to go and visit the vineyards but we did sit down together to an excellent dinner prepared by Émélie, and what a meal! She’s an avid and very talented cook, and as well as a saliva tsunami enducing array of cheese and charcuterie, roast chicken and sides, she also made the most delicious vegetable dishes. For anyone that has been on an intensive tour visiting vigneron after vigneron you know how dearly beloved a good plate of vegetables can be, and I ate like it was my last meal on earth. We opened a lot of bottles of wine that night, making trips out to the car parked outside to dig into our stash gleaned from other stops on the trip. The wine flowed, we talked and we danced long into the night, we manged to blow the stereo cable but luckily and very randomly I had a spare, which lives there to this day. It was one of those nights to remember, a wild new experience, with vibrant conversation and with Em and Raph just being Em and Raph - they were bursting with energy, hospitality and goodwill, and, unsurprisingly we became firm friends.
A month later we caught up again in Paris on Beaujolais Nouveau day - they were showing their wines at a party at a friends bar in the 10th, and again I was struck by the energy, warmth and motivation of this dynamic couple. We stayed in touch, and as well as bumping into each other at the odd salon and sleeping on the floor of their van in a field at the delayed and re-located 2020 Féte de Chassignolles, I went to stay with them again in August of 2020 and helped with various tasks in the garden and cellar as we enjoyed a few quiet days in the last couple of weeks before the heavy work of harvest would begin for each of us.
Down in their cellar on that visit, the 2019 wines that were still in amphora, tank and barrel were looking very good, as we bottled wine and re-arranged the cellar I remember Émélie telling the story of how the super vibrant Ouareau cuvée is named after the river that flows near the house where she would holiday with her family back ion Canada, and of the story of Raph’s single barrel marked ‘Sarcey’, from the vineyard of the same name. Raph was incredibly excited by this wine, and very interested to see where it would go as it had developed a flor in barrel……it went on to become his 2019 cuvée which he named “Noah” after his son, as he was so proud of it. Then, in news that was at first sad but then also tremendously exciting, I also remember Raph sighing (and Émélie laughing) in the cellar as he explained that it would be the first but also the last cuvée that he will make from the Sarcey vineyard - as Émélie bought the site!
Em and Raph are thinkers, and they have many ideas and plans - for their home that they are renovating (Émélie is a certified boss at searching for bargains on Le Bon Coin, kind of the french version of Gumtree), for their cellar, for the vines, the garden, the future…..
One of their plans is that they have decided that from the 2019 harvest they will cellar certain cuvées for longer before release, and perhaps reduce their production a little to aid with having more time to focus on their farming and winemaking, to gain a little more space with which to work and experiment in the cellar, and maybe even some time for a little more life outside of the vineyards - Raph’s teenage son Noah is getting ever older, and Émélie hails from Quebec, her family and friends are flung far and wide, and there’s always those dreams that they have for the future, perhaps to switch from tractors to work with a Percheron horse in the vines, a bigger garden to grow their food…maybe a little restaurant…..
The idea of a restaurant isn’t so alien for these two, as mentioned before, Émélie is brilliant in the kitchen and Raphael’s parents owned and operated a restaurant back in his home of Alsace. It was here that he first found his way into the world of wine, and 'natural' wine in particular, working for a long time with the Meyer’s, and forming deep friendships with many vignerons in the area, including everyones favourite Alsatian vigneron, Jean-Marc Dreyer.
After his time in Alsace, Raph moved down to the Auvergne and was working there when he met Émélie, she had been working in Paris and Lyon and then had come to Auvergne to work for Patrick Bouju and Justine Loiseau. The natural wine community is strong there, and they had both beome a welcome addition to the fold and eventually with some help from the crew, Raph ended up finding and farming their own vines in Saint-Germain-Nuelles in 2017, where Émélie was soon to join him.
Not shy of a little fun on a label or in bottle - think of ‘Tutti Frutti Punch Aux Fruit‘ or ‘Enculés!’, their wines are also considered, well crafted, and show a real sense of place. There is depth and integrity here, and great reward for anyone who can manage to stop themselves from immediately drinking whichever of their cuvées that they've got their hands on.
As the vintages pass, it’s an absolute pleasure to witness their understanding of their craft, their patience and their hard earned knowledge alongside their ongoing willingness to learn.
It’s brilliant to still see the vibrant experimentation in this couples winemaking - and it’s also refreshing and inspiring to see this play out in their personal dynamic as well as in the bottle.