One New Wine Leads To Another – Du Vin aux Liens and other stories

Anyone who has known me a long time will know I have been a wine obsessive since my mid-twenties, but that back in the day, like many of my generation, I was hooked on Bordeaux, Burgundy and other classics. If you’d asked me in 1990 who my favourite producer was, I’d have said Gérard Chave. But times change. I guess my own change in tastes was only partly caused by the rise in price of the wines I loved (I remember buying Chave’s 1982 Hermitage for £25 and have the Yapp Brothers price list to prove it). It was also an opening of my eyes to new tastes and the sheer excitement of NEW flavours.

I visited Arbois in the late 1980s, and a couple of years after that I spent two years travelling. This included a little over four months driving a circuit of Europe which was 80% wine-focused (the other 20% was generally old buildings and food). In 1989 I visited, bought wine and drank “El Bierzo” (as it was then known), red Vinho Verde, the Aveyron wines (Entraygues, Estaing and Marcillac), Bugey, Savoie, Aqui-Terme, Swiss wines, and a good forty more. At the time I had planned to write a book, The Lost Vineyards of France. Back then, wines like Marcillac, Collioure, Bugey or Irouléguy were pretty much “lost”, at least in any meaningful commercial sense. Today, almost every wine region I would have written about has found a market, and has at least one or two internationally known producers.

Back in the day these were quite simple wines, mostly, but they gave birth to an interest in trying new flavours, and created an openness, I would say, which stood me in good stead when I began to be aware of the phenomenon of “natural” wines. I’ve been asked how I got so interested in natural wines, and maybe that’s another story, but by the mid-1990s into the early 2000s these wines were beginning to surface on my radar, especially through my annual trips to Arbois and Paris.

On that circuit of Europe, we spent a week in Alsace, staying in a gîte in Itterswiller. At the time it felt a little far north for mainstream Alsace, but those who know the region will know how close Itterswiller is to Mittelbergheim, which later became a personal epicentre for my love of Alsace natural wine. It is in more recent years that this passion has been somewhat reignited, not least through discovering the finger-on-the-pulse writing of David Neilson (, who has drawn me further and further north to the new frontiers of Alsace wine.

I’m forever trying to persuade UK importers and retailers that Alsace is the most exciting region in France right now, a place full of young winemakers, many with no family background in wine. I’ve had limited (albeit some notable) success, largely because for some reason retailers who are quite capable of selling now-fashionable Jura’s sometimes strange flavours seem uneasy about risking a few Alsace on the shelf. Customers, it must be said, have always been wary of the flute bottle. Personally, I think a flute magnum is the most beautiful bottle you can find! I will also add that Alsace Pinot Noir, occasionally blended with skin contact Pinot Gris, now provides some of the most smashable or glouglou (whichever term you prefer) red wines in France.

One retailer who agrees with me on Alsace is Graeme Sutherland, a co-founder of the well-known Good Brothers Wine Bar in Edinburgh’s posh Stockbridge district, and who also created Winekraft, a nifty little shop not far from the city’s amazing botanical gardens. It was on my first visit to Winekraft, last year, that I spotted a wine on the shelf and its story describes perfectly how my penchant for grabbing something I don’t know can open a whole string of leads to follow. In this case, one which covers Alsace, The Loire and Brittany. It’s the story of “Du Vin Aux Liens”.

The wine in question was called Terre. It’s a skin-contact Riesling, aged in amphora, and I wrote about it very recently (Recent Wines January 2023 (Part 1), posted on 7 February). It was bottled by a guy called Yannick Meckert for the Du Vin Aux Liens label, which is run by Vanessa Letort. Yannick made wine at Christian Binner before going solo and Vanessa helped Christian set up and run the now well-known Pirouettes label, where he advised and helped young Alsace talent market their wines under one umbrella. Vanessa went solo in 2019 and Christian has now stepped back from Les Pirouettes, but finding out more about Vanessa led me to a story I thought worth repeating.

Terre, bottled by Yannick Meckert for Du Vin aux Liens

Vanessa Letort is from a Breton family, but was working in The Loire. A side-line organising wine tastings led her to a one-year course, mainly in wine marketing, at the Lycée Viticole in Amboise. It was around this time that Vanessa met Christian Binner, which led her to Alsace. The evident success of Les Pirouettes as a side project for Binner appealed massively to Vanessa and as we shall see, her “Vin Aux Liens” project to some extent mirrors it. What she has gone on to create is a label which both bottles her own product and assists micro producers in both Alsace and The Loire to bring their own tiny production to market without all of the extra promotional costs associated with small-scale bottling. It’s more than a mere negociant, perhaps more a wine collective, and Vanessa assists in winemaking with her charges.

Never heard of Vanessa Letort? Well, her wines are exported to Denmark, Belgium, Lithuania, Japan, North America, Poland and South Korea. I was going to say let’s not become an island backwater, post-Brexit, but as you will have realised, her wines have become available here (since 2021). Perhaps available under the radar, but I might be able to do a little to raise their profile.

Vanessa met Philippe Chigard back in Amboise, where he was lecturing. Along with partner Claude Cabel-Airaud he runs La Table Rouge, a micro domaine which consists around 80 ares (0.8 of a hectare) of vines over four plots at Noizay (near Vouvray). The plots are so tiny that Philippe and Claude call themselves “wine gardeners” rather than vigneron(ne)s. A clue to their farming beliefs lies in the interplanting of fruit and almond trees in the place of every missing old vine, and of lavender between rows. Even with such a small area to farm, they still work the soil using a horse. They produce a number of wines, and I’ve already drunk (but not yet written about) Babylone, an exquisite, shimmering, Pineau d’Aunis red.

Babylone by La Table Rouge for Du Vin aux Liens

Also part of Vanessa’s Loire stable are Tanguy Perrault and Anne-Cécile Jadaud; Benoît Savigny (Domaine des Fosses Rouge); and Lou Chigard/Louis Lange (Domaine de la Pensée Filante). In Alsace Vanessa works with (among others) Domaine Albert Hertz (Albert and Frédéric Hertz in Eguisheim); Domaine Loberger at Bergholtz; and, as with the wine which started this journey, formerly worked with ex-Binner winemaking intern Yannick Meckert. In all, Vanessa seems to have a range of more than twenty wines, including some petnats of her own and, remembering that connection with Brittany, ciders bottled from her family’s orchards.

Those ciders came into the range on the suggestion of Vanessa’s partner, Farid Yahimi. Farid originally worked in digital communications but began experimenting with wine in his garage, eventually founding micro-negociant Sons of Wine in 2017. At this point he moved to the original cellar of (yes, you guessed) his friend Christian Binner. I’ve met Christian a few times and was well aware of his work with Les Pirouettes, but I wasn’t aware of quite how much impact on other people’s careers he’s had. There just seem to be winemakers, rather like Stéphane Tissot and the late Pascal Clairet in Arbois, whose names crop up on everyone’s CV. I managed to get hold of one wine, a Riesling called Raoni, from Farid’s label.

We drank Raoni, named after a Brazilian chief of an indigenous tribe, now in his nineties and an inveterate ecology campaigner, several nights ago and it was superb. It comes from old vines on the slopes of the Haut Koenigsbourg, near the most imposing castle in Alsace. The soils are very complex with mica, quartz and feldspar mixed in with the granite, and the vines are tended by David Koeberlé of Domaine Muller-Koeberlé. This is a young viticulteur starting to build a reputation for natural wines, and doing various collaborations whilst establishing himself. This one, with Farid, is quite impressive and very seductive. I think this looks like another interesting winemaker to seek out. His approach is permaculture, and like an increasing number of small producers I know, plants trees in the vineyard, looking to create a diverse and self-supporting ecosystem.

Raoni by Sons of Wine

All of these bottles will appear with others in my “Recent Wines” articles in due course, as will a wine called Native from a producer in Lorraine. Maison Crochet is the only producer here that cannot properly be described as making “natural wines”, although they do follow an increasingly low intervention approach and are currently “in conversion” to organic viticulture. They are clearly moving towards natural wine, doubtless under the influence of their friends Farid and Vanessa. They are based in the village of Bulligny, about 30km southwest of Nancy, in what is technically the small region of the Côtes de Toul, although Maison Crochet bottle their wine as Vin de France.

Apart from the opportunity to try wines from Lorraine, which I’m pretty sure the kind of adventurous drinkers who read my blog will be interested in doing, the other significance of Maison Crochet is that they are assisting our couple, Vanessa and Farid, in setting up their own Toul vineyard. So, soon enough, we shall have some new wines from a new region coming from the creative minds of Vanessa Letort and Farid Yahimi. Whether they will appear as Sons of Wine, Du Vin Aux Liens, or most likely some other label, who can say? This new project is called Domaine de la Légèreté, and Vanessa and Farid, along with their friend Naoufel Zaïm, have purchased one hectare in Bulligny and a further 3.5 ha at Lucey.

I should mention that Vanessa and Farid currently share the same cellar and winemaking facility in Beblenheim, but the couple’s winemaking and wines are totally separate. Whilst they establish the domaine at Bulligny they are driving between the two, a trip of just a couple of hours, west, over the Vosges.

The wonderful thing about wine is that the discovery of one bottle can lead you on a detective trail for more, but I have to say that few chance encounters unearth quite so much new wine as finding a solitary bottle of “Terre” on the shelf of a small Edinburgh wine shop did on this occasion.

All the bottles from Vanessa, Farid and the Crochet family that will appear over the coming months have so far been purchased from Winekraft in Edinburgh. The importer for these wines is Sevslo Wine, based in Glasgow, where they have a sister company wine shop, “Made From Grapes”. Made From Grapes is at 166 Nithsdale Road (Glasgow Southside), whilst Winekraft is at 6 Brandon Terrace in Edinburgh.

In keeping with Sevslo’s support for young winemakers I notice that they also list wine from Jan-Philipp Bleeke, at Traben-Trabach on the Mosel. J-P is another young guy who moved into wine as an outsider and after a stint in New Zealand went to work for Jan-Matthias Klein (Staffelterhof), who regular readers will have come across many times in my writing. Now on his own, with two hectares in the Mosel, he’s also a member of the interesting “Solawi Bodensee” organisation which encourages ecological, climate-friendly and social land management. Think I will be trying his wine soon!

I do love connections (like England’s Matt Gregory whose wine I tried simply because he worked with the pioneering Theo Coles at Hermit Ram in NZ). I have to admit that I got to taste many of the wines which began my natural wine journey largely because they at some time worked with the two Jura winemakers I’ve already mentioned. I guess following such leads is part of the fun for me in wine’s big adventure.

The information in this article was provided in part by Vanessa herself and from the Du Vin aux Liens web site, by David Neilson ( and by Séverine Sloboda, founder of Vanessa’s UK importer, Sevslo. Any errors are my own.

About dccrossley

Writing here and elsewhere mainly about the outer reaches of the wine universe and the availability of wonderful, characterful, wines from all over the globe. Very wide interests but a soft spot for Jura, Austria and Champagne, with a general preference for low intervention in vineyard and winery. Other passions include music (equally wide tastes) and travel. Co-organiser of the Oddities wine lunches.
This entry was posted in Alsace, Artisan Wines, Loire, Natural Wine, Wine, Wine Agencies, Women in Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to One New Wine Leads To Another – Du Vin aux Liens and other stories

  1. Hi David – excellent piece on one of these Alsace stories. Always a pleasure to see other people write about the new energy and creativity in the Alsace wine region.
    Vanessa and Farid are definitely part of the #alsacereinvented space, even though they operate much further afield. Alsace Reinvented is a term coined by Yannick Meckert who gets a few mentions in your article. Keep up the good work on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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