by Megan Jones

What’s up winos,

Megan on a Thursday! Just seeing if you’re all paying attention. I was off sunning myself in Greece this weekend (sunning myself = putting on factor 50 and sitting in the shade) hence the switcheroo. But I’m not here to talk about my holiday! I’m here to tell you about something extremely exciting that’s just landed on our shores: the latest arrival in our rapidly growing list of direct imports. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

If you’ve been reading my emails for a while, you may be aware that I’m not normally a fan of any red wine with more body than a Pinot. So suffice to say on our little trip to France, a visit to the Northern Rhone, amidst an itinerary which included the Jura, Burgundy and Beaujolais, didn’t exactly get my pulse racing. But boy, was I wrong. You might want to screenshot that, coz I’ll never say it (or be it) again. But I was.

Domaine de l’Iserand is the project of Jean-François 'Jef' Malsert, and he’s putting out some of the hottest new wines in and around the Saint-Joseph appellation. Jef owned the pumping wine bar Carafe aux Foillies in Tournons, but in the back of his mind, his dream was to make wine. With his mind set toward the long game, he re-planted his grandfather’s vines and tended to them meticulously, continuing to run the bar until they started to bear fruit. Once they did, he sold up shop and began producing his own wines in 2017.

We met Jef, his partner Saïda, and their slightly mental dog, at their estate, where we were treated to a full tour of their five hectares of beautiful vines, planted to Chasselas, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier and Syrah. He works the soil with two of the biggest mules I’ve ever seen in my life (Gabriel below for scale), Lana and Cassius, and plants grass in between the vines to keep the terroir in tip top shape. The Syrah vines are south-facing, but the wines are kept nice n fresh thanks to the altitude - 350m, to be precise.

After losing the aforementioned mental dog somewhere in the vines (Jef assured us he would make it home at some point) we headed back to the cellar to taste the wines underneath an impressively old and mouldy leg of jamon (new interior design for Dan’s incoming). Spurning the area’s propensity for producing big, beefy reds, and inspired by the likes of Dard et Ribo and Pierre Gonon, Jef often works with whole bunch carbo, which gives a lovely, fresh stemminess to the reds, and mostly uses amphora (which Jef and Saïda’s young son, ectastic at managing to sneak into the normally forbidden cellar, spent a happy five minutes bashing his toy truck against with no apparent regard for his future inheritance) and concrete for ageing - oak here and there, though less and less. After we’d tasted through his incredible, nuanced range of wines, Saïda, the former chef at Carafe aux Foillies, delivered us a ridiculously delicious dinner, which we demolished alongside any other open bottles which happened to be on the table.

So what do we have for you?

Starting off fun n frothy, we have the estate’s negoce Gamay pet-nat, aromatic and strawberry fruited. Picnic wine personified. Next up is perhaps the only Chasselas I’ve tasted that’s made me think making wine with Chasselas is a good idea at all - zippy and textured and fresh, just in time for summer. We’ve also got a macerated bottling of Marsanne + Rousanne + Viognier, floral, peachy and sweet-fruited, riding that elusive line between white and orange. There’s also a Grenache + Syrah + Carignan blend that’s all brambly fruit and fresh acidity, and a bargain negoce Syrah that’s more classic Rhone in style, meaty and smoky.

On to the crowning jewels of the collection. Le Décanonisé (so named as the vines are too high for the Saint-Joseph appellation, so much the better for wallets everywhere) was fermented in a combo of amphora and demi-muid and is full of violets and crushed rock notes at the start, evolving into an olivey tapenade vibe if you give it enough time. Sabots de Coppi is stupidly complex, ticking off meatiness, red fruits and earth before changing tack and going all herbal and peppery. Finally, Lou Taïssou is just ludicrously good for the price (ludicrously good for most prices tbh) with olives and spice aplenty. Serious, serious stuff here, and I get the sense that Jef is only just getting started. If this is his starting point, buckle up.

Hope u love them as much as we do! We’ll have several of them on the go at Dan’s BTG for the foreseeable, so come down and check em out if you’re in the area, or even if you’re not. They’re worth the trip, je promise u. Oh, and chuck code ISERAND10 at them for 10% off, today only :)

Love u!