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When I disembarked from the TGV, it was hard not to spot Arnaud Combier's long silhouette with his cap screwed on his head. The weather is still nice in the Mâconnais at the end of September. I left Paris early in the morning to spend two days in this beautiful Bourgogne, but mostly to take the time to discover Arnaud's work and talk about his projects.
It's not even 10 o'clock but already as we drive along the roads that lead us to the Beaujolais I know that these 48 hours are going to be exciting. It is the full period of vinification. And when we make natural wine, it is the moment when the quality of the juice reveals the months spent in the vineyard. Even before entering the winery, we can hear laughter and a loud sound coming from a loudspeaker not far from an elevator. Quentin is treading the pretty Gamay grapes with music. Arnaud lifts the lid of a vat and listens to the fermenting juice. I think I prefer this score... Arnaud has been making natural wines in Burgundy for over 20 years. The natural wine is his identity. If genealogy is the list of the members of a family, then we can speak of the mythical family of Lapierre, Foillard and Valette. Winegrowers with whom he shared founding exchanges a long time ago. At the time, if his Saint-Véran wines were already organic, he continued on the path towards nature by releasing his first "sulfur-free" wines.
But this choice is not without consequences and this is what Arnaud explains to me as he leads me through the vineyards of Fleurie. The burden of the vineyard, the climatic hazards, the costs... the transition is never easy. It is because he would have liked to have had the opportunity at the time to benefit from the financial support of a négociant-winemaker-breeder who could reassure him of the durability of his work that he is making this transition today. Arnaud is convinced: the transition to organic and then natural requires support and for those who want to start this process, feeling supported by a technical and financial partnership allows them to move forward safely. This is the moment to meet one of the winegrowers with whom Arnaud has been working for several years. In the heart of the Côteaux de Fleurie, we stop to taste some of the juices being vinified. The producer turned to natural wine when he realized that this was what his son was waiting for, passing on his vines to the next generation could not be done without a clear evolution. He can count on Arnaud's technical knowledge and the good payment he offers for the purchase of his grapes. The day is getting darker on the gentle slopes of the Beaujolais and we go back to spend the evening with Arnaud's family.
We cross superb landscapes with the Mont-Blanc massif in the line of sight and after a brief stop at his parents' house to fill up on tomatoes and eggplants harvested in their garden, we just have to let our host do his thing, who in addition to making magnificent wines knows a thing or two about cooking! A flambé for this cool autumn evening and we warm up quickly by tasting his Premières Gouttes 2019, a vintage that I love for its suppleness and the spices that awaken the finish. The next day we happily join Arnaud's teams. Quentin, Romain and David watch the vats, taste, analyze and then brush and polish non-stop. The natural wine does not support a doubtful hygiene!
Arnaud insists on the transparency of his methods, the volumes he produces and his partners. And his desire to offer wines that are certainly natural but at a fair price, he knows that the expensive prices of these wines often scare away potential wine lovers. What he wants is to succeed in lasting and nothing will be done without sincerity. Because this is how we can create a social fabric, perpetuate the vineyards and accompany the transitions towards healthy and living soils.

Camille Naud - Les réseaux du vin

What is your relationship with natural wine??

I started to make natural wines 20 years ago, the idea at the time was to propose better wines than the classic ones, more digestible, more personal too. To do that, you have to be very meticulous during all the steps of the making, very precise, so far from the "a natural wine is made by itself", know-how rather than letting it be. 

Why a trading wine activity?

I want to offer natural wines at affordable prices and it is by accompanying my partners that this is possible. Moreover, this activity allows me to have fun producing more original wines, such as orange wine, and to build vintages with some of my customers, something difficult to achieve when you are a winemaker..

How are the grape varieties and grapes selected and what is the partnership with the winemaker?

It is the link with the winemaker, the ability to understand each other and eventually the friendship that can be created that decides the selection. Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir, and tomorrow Aligotté, I remain for the most part quite Burgundian. The idea is to work on the long term with the same winemakers, to make our different techniques evolve and thus to make the different vintages produced progress. My field of action will therefore depend on the winemaker's needs, either viticultural (organic conversion, use of equipment, soil life) or oenological (working without sulfur, blending, preparation of wines for bottling).

How does the wine making process work in practice?

There is no recipe, we adapt to the configuration of the different types of vats where the wines are aged. In the broad lines: grapes from organic or in conversion, no input during the vinif (neither sulfur nor yeast, nor stuff, nor things...) except by accident, soft music, and according to the stability of the wine before bottling we add sulfur or not (the idea is to be at less than 30MG of SO2, limit dose for natural wines).

What kind of wine do you want to make?

Fine and intelligent wines like me (laughs), if they have fruit and freshness that's good too.