After over ten years working in Chablis under the tutelage of Lilian Duplessis—then, critically, Agnes and Olivier de Moor—Jérémy and his partner Isabelle Coiffier began the quest for their own small, organic domaine. The search took the pair across much of France and ended in 2016 at the southern end of Bugey near the Savoie border. According to Jérémy, as they drove from lower Burgundy into a landscape of fairy-tale perfection, it was love at first sight.
Jérémy told us that before he arrived in 2016, he didn’t know much about this tiny speck on the wine map. We must confess, neither did we. In his, and our defence, Bugey does not make a lot of wine and there are less than 500 hectares of vines.
Jérémy met an old vigneron on the cusp of retirement and the deal was done almost on the spot. He now has six hectares and a small winery in the village of Condon, where the couple now live with their two daughters. All the vines lie in the Bugey commune of Belley on the lower Jura foothills just south of the majestic Le Grand Colombier (about halfway between Lyon and Geneva). If you’re a cycling fan, you know exactly where we are. Belley is the most southerly and the wettest of Bugey’s big three. If the northern sector around Cerdon is more influenced by the Jura massif, then Belley makes the most Savoie-styled wines of the appellation.
Nestled at 400-500 metres above sea level on glacier-carved hillsides, Les Cortis’ vineyards cover five separate parcels. Four sit in on the silty, moraine glacial deposits of the Belley basin, with the fifth a short drive away on rockier limestone soils. The plantings cover the gamut of regional influences; Mondeuse, Chardonnay, Gamay and Altesse make up the primary varieties, alongside Pinot Noir, Corbeau and Chasselas.
Les Cortis practices its brand of regenerative agriculture. This means that the vineyards are not ploughed, with the idea instead to create a robust agroecosystem. Jérémy talks of farming soils, not vines, and to this end, the practice is entirely organic with biodynamic preparations used to enhance the natural defences of his plants.
With a range of wines inspired by the vintage, it is hard to discuss winemaking specifics. In general, the whites are pressed immediately, left to settle for one night and then sent to a vat or neutral barrel for alcoholic fermentation. The reds, often field blends including white grapes, are vinified as whole bunches in semi-carbonic ferments. There are no additions, aside from a tiny dose of sulphur at bottling.
Although Les Cortis can release up to four or five wines a year, from the cool and low-yielding 2021 vintage, there are just two. The red, Gastine is a field blend from two co-planted parcels covering Gamay, Chardonnay, Mondeuse, Pinot, Corbeau, Altesse and Chasselas. Think of it as a crunchy Alpine Bojo. The white blend, Naxide, is made from Chardonnay raised in tank and Altesse raised in older oak. Both wines are as easy on the palate as their region is on the eye: full of gorgeous pristine fruit, alpine crunch and mineral bite.
Chardonnay and Altesse
Naxide is a marriage of Chardonnay and Altesse, commonly called Rousette in Bugey and Savoie. Each variety is treated separately, with the whole bunches pressed directly to tank (Chardonnay) and old barriques (Altesse), where they ferment slowly and naturally on fine lees. The vessels are stirred a few times, without sulphur, and raised for 12 months before blending and bottling. Talking about the composition, Jérémy explains that the Chardonnay brings the flesh, while the Altesse adds aromatic precision and tension.
Gamay, Chardonnay, Mondeuse, Pinot, Corbeau, Altesse and Chasselas
From a low-yielding vintage, the 2021 Gastine is an all-in blend of Gamay, Chardonnay, Mondeuse, Pinot, Corbeau, Altesse and Chasselas from two high-altitude, co-planted parcels on the moraine glacier soils of the Bellay basin. The red varieties were spontaneously fermented from eight to 15 days as whole bunches, and all varieties were blended as soon as possible post-fermentation. The wine was then raised for seven months in vats before being bottled without filtration.
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