by Megan Jones

What’s up winos,

Okay, okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. Can this woman not read a calendar? Fear not. I’m not talking about that Valentine. I’m talking about our very own Valentine Mathieu, latest addition to our flexing portfolio of imports. Gotcha! Hope no-one had a heart attack and suddenly ran out to the flower shop after reading that headline. I had a long day of packing boxes, okay, I’ve got to get my kicks from somewhere.

So anyway. Back to the Valentine at hand.

Valentine Mathieu, aka Domaine Valma, was the final stop on our incredibly productive trip to France back in April. I was pranging out because it was T-minus three hours to our flight when we arrived, which is normally the time I arrive at the actual airport. But it took me about five minutes to realise that these wines would be worth missing our flight for (which, incidentally, we didn’t). We were greeted at the door by Stéphane, Valentine’s partner, who runs the business side of the estate, and their lunatic dog (are you even a winemaker if you don’t have a lunatic dog?) and welcomed into their stunningly beautiful home. We downed a quick espresso and then Stéphane took us on a tour of the vines.

The couple have 5.5 hectares in Fleurie, spread over several lieu-dits - Les Labourons, La Madone and Chapelle des Bois, which Stéphane drove us around while Dan was crushed under the weight of the aforementioned gigantic dog in the front seat. When Valma started out, they were specifically on the hunt for north-facing vineyards; not something on every winemaker’s shopping list, but they had their eye on the future - specifically the increasingly toasty climate. North-facing vines will allow them to preserve the freshness they seek above everything else in their bottlings, no matter how roasting the summers get to be.

Before pursuing the vigneron life, both Stéphane and Valentine worked in the wine industry in Paris, but pivoted in 2019 when Valentine began her agricultural studies. She interned at Chartogne-Taillet, and then assisted Chateau Thivin with their 2020 vintage. When they started out with their own domaine, they had help from a lot of others in the region - in Valentine’s words, she started their first vintage with the phrase ‘I know nothing’ ringing in her head - in particular vine expert François Dal and botanist Gérard Ducerf, who helped her understand the health of the vines and the importance of organic viticulture, which they’re currently pursuing certification for. But it didn’t take them long to learn the ropes. Considering that ‘21 was their first vintage, these wines are insanely accomplished, and Valentine’s clear talent shines through in every bottle.

So what do we have for you?

The quote-unquote entry level cuvee is from the Les Labourons vineyard, a hop and a skip from their cellar, and is a great introduction to Valma’s house style, which I would describe in the inimitably brash Parched manner as serious yet smashable. It’s fresh, welcoming and effortless. The Rangs Tards bottling is taken from a section of Les Labourons that ripens later, and also benefits from older vines, lending this bottling great concentration while never losing energy or vitality. The La Madone bottling is a spice-laden, herbal bomb of vibrant fruit and liveliness, imbued with enviable class. And finally, the crowning jewel is their Chapelle des Bois, deeper and darker than the others, with florals and liquorice coming through strong. This is serious, serious Gamay, done seriously right.

So, again, you’re welcome! We’re unbelievably pumped to have these guys on our roster and equally pumped to share them with you, our beloved customers. So beloved that if you chuck code VALMA10 at these before the end of the day, you’ll get a juicy 10% off.

Last point of note from me: wine school 2.0 is kicking off at the start of August. So if any of the words in the email you just read made no sense to you, you know what to do. Looking forward to another four weeks of sharing our nerdy knowledge with you.

Love u!