The Third Generation of Domaine Faury
The Third Generation of Domaine Faury
by Tom Wolf
Buy this collection (4 bottles)
When you first meet Lionel Faury, it’s easy to mistake him for a gentle giant. At six foot five, with a linebacker’s frame, he is soft-spoken, humble, and good-humored. Lionel’s modesty and affability, however, belie the intensity he brings to the job—and sport—he loves. Last year, he won his tenth Joutes Nautiques, the French championship of water jousting (Google it!). Lionel is equally, if not more, successful in his day job as one of the northern Rhône’s great vignerons. What links the two? “Passion,” he replied when he visited Berkeley in January. Lionel represents the third generation of his family to grow grapes and make wine in Chavanay, south of Lyon. After the Second World War, his grandfather planted vines and orchards, to make wine and sell fresh fruit. When Lionel’s father Philippe took over, he replaced the fruit trees with more vines and dedicated the entire family business to wine production, crafting top-notch northern Rhône reds and whites. The Saint Joseph blanc, in particular, attracted Kermit early on: “The aroma is what I’ve always dreamed possible in a white Saint Joseph... It was so perfect in barrel we didn’t want to fiddle with it, so it was bottled by hand, unfiltered,” he wrote in our June 1996 newsletter. Philippe also made stellar Côte-Rôties, Saint Joseph rouges, and Condrieus. Today, Lionel runs the domaine and continues to take it to soaring heights. More than his father or grandfather, he has to contend with the challenges of climate change. “It seems there is no more spring and autumn here, only summer and winter,” he says. Preserving freshness and acidity in the face of warmer vintages is one of his primary goals, and he achieves this masterfully by keeping more leaves on the vines—thereby providing more shade to the grapes—as well as pursuing shorter macerations and more whole-cluster fermentation than the domaine used to. He’s also thinking about how to retain more moisture and less heat in his soils. In these wines, you will taste the passion of a classicist trying to uphold the best traditions of the northern Rhône, and also the creativity of a thoughtful vigneron navigating the hurdles of the present and future. Faury’s 2018 blancs are sublime now. The rouges will evolve beautifully, but they, too, are packed with class and drinkability today.
Kermit began collaborating with Philippe Faury in the blending of his blancs in the 1990s because he was—unusually at the time—particular about wanting the wines he imported to remain unfiltered. Today, we continue to work with Lionel in selecting the blend of parcels and aging vessels that contribute to this bottling. The 2018 is roughly 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne, and mostly aged in tank to preserve as much freshness and fruit as possible. The little bit of wine that was aged in oak will give you a delightful glimmer of opulence. The result is very delicate, round, and elegant, showcasing classic notes of peachy stone fruit.
Condrieu has the best terroir in the world for the Viognier grape. That is not to say, however, that it is easy to make great Viognier here. Without a gifted vigneron, the wine will veer into flabbiness. It takes significant skill and experience to make a Condrieu of finesse. Even though the grape is relatively low in acidity, the sandy soils and Lionel’s touch render this blanc remarkably fresh and mineral.
The general rule of thumb is that Côte-Rôtie ranks higher than Saint Joseph in the northern Rhône hierarchy, but Lionel’s Vieilles Vignes throws a wrench into that line of thinking. Made from vines planted between 1937 and 1976, this cuvée showcases impressive depth and soul.
The fruit in Lionel’s elegant Côte-Rôtie is higher-toned than in the earthier, spicier Saint Joseph, and the finish, with the wine’s velvet tannins, is slightly longer. This is the result of the Côte’s steeper slopes and schist soils, as well as a splash of Viognier, which is co-planted and co-fermented with the Syrah. Still, like with the Saint Joseph Vieilles Vignes, you’ll get those irresistible notes of black olive, succulent black cherries, and spices.
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