André Tamers with Thierry Tissot in Bugey
Named for his grandfather, whose father who had a general store in old Savoie on the Annecy Lake, De Maison Selections is returning to its French roots. “A long time ago,” said André Tamers, “we had quite a bit of French wines. But then I realized I had to let it all go and focus on Spain, because Spain, for obvious reasons, was just red hot. And since I’d lived there for three years, I thought I’d take the opportunity and run with it.”
With a handful of French wines and Bernard Chéreau of Chéreau Carré in Nantes, André started De Maison Selections in 1996. And then he shifted his focus towards Spain with Remelluri, Ameztoi, Viña Sastre, D. Ventura and a number of Bodegas in Jerez. However, he said, “about six years ago, as Spain became really defined, we realized we didn’t need anything [else from Spain], we were pretty much set.” And so De Maison decided to shift its search to France. “Let’s just look at France and go back to France,” he said, “because France was at the point where it’d hit its apex and was being taken over by Argentina and Chile and Spain. So, this for me is always an interesting time to look at a category, when nobody else is looking.”
And this is how he found Clos Cibonne in Provence, a rosé made from Tibouren that’s aged in 100-year-old foudres under fleurette. “I’d heard about Clos Cibonne for a while, through a friend that’s a winemaker,” he said. “And I thought, I’m going to have to go down and see what this guy’s doing. That was the beginning where I got super lucky. It was an incredibly lucky find. It made me realize that there are all kinds of things to find in France, because at first, it doesn’t look like there’s anything to find in France, because what are you going to find that’s new?”
Looking outside the traditional regions, outside of Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux, André said,“The first thing we did was cross the Pyrenees border into Irouléguy. We know the Basque people. They think we’re Basque. So we found two Irouléguy producers. One is a cider producer [Bordatto] who we’re super excited about, and then there’s another producer [Ameztia Etxaldea] who we haven’t really talked about, because there hasn’t been any quantity.”
André and Jean-Claude Berthillot at Vin des Fossiles
Driving further inland to Jurançon, he sought Clos Guirouilh. “When we looked him up, we had all these leads in Jurançon. And then we tasted this in a restaurant and I told Alex [Wallace], This is the one we’re going to import. I’m telling you, I can tell this is the one. The wine is exceptional, but we couldn’t find where he was. We couldn’t find anything on the internet, so we did what we do. We drove to the village and went to some nasty bar where they said, It’s that road, with the telephone pole on the left,” he said and laughed. “It took us two years to get him to sell us any wine because he doesn’t need to and he didn’t want to,” said André. Now a reliable partner, Jean Guirouilh is a fourth generation winemaker at the estate, who first exported wines through Kermit Lynch some 30 years ago.
Habitually encountering a wine or a region when looking for something else, André found Sherry when looking for an ‘old school Rioja’. When seeking wines from Ronnaise, he found Vin des Fossiles in Saône-et-Loire, right outside of Beaujolais. And while en route to Savoie, he stopped in Macon and encountered Marcel Couturier, who has multiple parcels of 70+ year-old vines. “We weren’t even looking for any Macon,” said André, “but I’ve always had a sweet spot for Chardonnay from that part of Burgundy, because they offer such great value. And this is a guy who’s just addicted to very high quality production. The 2014s are going to be full throttle when they come out next year. We got in on the ground floor and beat out a bunch of people, so that was pretty exciting.
“And that’s what we’re finding is so exciting in France,” he continued, “that this turnover, either generational turnovers or people just coming out of the co-op.”
Nicolas Badel's Intuition Vineyard
And so, when André first met Nicolas Bidel, with holdings in three separate areas of St. Joseph, he knew that Bidel had been doing his time at a co-op, waiting until he was ready to release his own wines. It took a few years, but it was worth the wait. “There’s a little property off a tributary that dumps into the Rhone. It’s called the Cance River. Nobody’s ever really heard of Cance River, but back in the day, they were famed vineyards. They were abandoned, so he took a plot of land from where his family vacationed, and restructured it. It’s all granite and hasn’t had anything growing on it in the last 40-50 years,” said André. “He planted it to Syrah. It’s crazy. It’s called Intuition Cuvée and the wine that is coming out of there from very young vines is screaming right now. We’re talking about four year old vineyards and the fruit is exceptional. It reminds me of when I first tasted – and this is slightly outlandish – but it reminds me of when I first tasted Allemand’s first plantings. These are vineyards that are not going to taste like Cornas, but they have a specialness to them. You can taste the specialness in the wine. What’s it going to be? Right now, I don’t know because its IGP, but it’s super exciting stuff.”