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Patrick Lesec

How many times I wonder, do we bemoan the fact that something is not as good as we feel it should be? How many of us actually do anything about it? Well a certain restaurateur in Santa Barbara became so disgruntled by the average quality of the French wine he was being offered in the mid 1980s that he travelled across the Atlantic to do just that. This was of course Patrick Lesec who began persuading a few well-sited estates to grow grapes and make wines his way. ‘His way’ was simple – not to make new-world wines in France, but rather to use ripe fruit, low yields and non interventionist winemaking techniques to provide a true expression of the great terroir of the French vineyards. In many instances, his initiative came at a perfect time for some of the estates that he approached: as they passed from one generation to another. The experiment was a resounding success and now, some 12 years on, Patrick manages an impressive portfolio of highly individual wines. He works very closely with vignerons whose vineyards have interesting grapes and noteworthy terroirs to help them optimise the potential of their land and vines. The wines are bottled without fining or filtration and a careful selection and judicious use of new oak is paramount. The charisma, class and balance of his wines are formidable.

Today, Patrick is without doubt one of the Rhone’s finest and most innovative wine makers. He still has no vineyards of his own but is a master of the sorcerers art of blending - creating wines from small, hitherto forgotten plots of vines, whose juice was traditionally sold en vrac (in bulk) only to be lost in some innocuous co-operative’s output. Patrick’s reputation is such that his various creations of Chateauneuf-du-Pape have themselves become benchmarks for the appellation. For example his Galets Blonds and Bargeton cuvees are now considered among the greatest wines in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, their source – very old vines from the famous La Crau vineyards.
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