By: Keith Mabry
K&L Staff Member
I met vigneron Alex Suter three times over the course of two months when traveling through France earlier this year. We first met at an exposition in Paris where he was showing the wines of Domaine de l'Amandine and his Seguret was one of the big standouts at the event for me. Alex himself is an engaging and thoughtful person and we quickly struck up a kinship and had lunch and dinner a couple of times over the length of the exposition. We met shortly thereafter at the big southern French wine event, Vinisud. I tasted his wines again and was struck by the clarity and focus of this terrific little red. I was prepared to begin working with the wines but since I would be returning in a few weeks to the Rhone, I thought a vineyard and winery visit should be undertaken. At the winery I was greeted by Alex's father-in-law, Jean-Pierre Verdeau, the founder of the estate. Jean-Pierre speaks almost no English (and my French is actually quite poor) so he wanted to wait for his granddaughter Mathilde to return to the property to help translate. While we waited, he offered me some coffee and apparently he had never made drip coffee before (no joke). It was quite intense to say the least, but a perfect way to wake myself up on a cold and cloud-covered March morning. Mathilde arrived and we jumped in the car to tour the vineyards. Some of the vines are 50+ years old but almost everything on the property was either planted, built or restored by Jean-Pierre, which included the original family house. The vines were planted in deep clay and sandy soils and the ground was covered in chunks of fractured limestone (called scree). Almond (amandine) trees were planted all around the vineyards. Most of the vines sat at 450 meters which is quite high for a village Rhone this far south. The mistral wind blows fiercely through the vineyards on many days helping keep the vines free of too much moisture during the growing season, but easily cut through my jacket that day. We tasted from tank and barrel and the range of wines was terrific, but I still kept coming back to this little red. I knew we were going to move forward with our relationship but I had one more visit with Alex a little later that trip at the German wine fair, Prowein. Once again we talked almost as if old friends now and that's when it really struck me. This wines are as familiar and friendly as the family making them. They are pure, unadorned and thoughtful. They are from the soil and they express the hard work and history of the estate. This is one of those "ah-ha" moments when you realize that the concept of terroir goes beyond the soil and the weather and is as much about the people and their history in the cultivation process. So, I'm thrilled to introduce you to the Verdeau-Suter family through their wine, this delightful and engaging red that is so much a reflection of the wonderful people making it.