Wilfried Valat - Domaine de la Nouvelle Don(n)e
Seeing Wilfried getting out of his massive and muddy Ford Ranger, I instantly understand that it takes a solid rugbyman physique, a mind of steel and a big heart to make wine here. Here, it’s the Col de la Dona in Calce, one of France's roughest and wildest vineyards. 300 days of wind, a torrid climate, 25% slopes, little to no rain and hell a rugged terrain.
That’s the toll that Wilfried is willing to pay to benefit from the great exposure and the many types of soils that the Têt and Agly Valleys have to offer. Trust me, his schists and marnes have nothing to envy to the grandiose Mosel Valley.
In 2007, he took on the challenge. To save, by himself, these 5 hectares of abandoned old vines that no one had the balls (or the insanity) to save. It takes a sip to get that his hard work paid off.
Having practiced his scales in some of the best Burgundian estates in Vosne-Romanée (Méo-Camuzet) and Givry (Joblot & Clos Salomon), Wilfried makes a point to have elegant, glouable and fresh wines that always come with a solid mineral backbone. His very unique touch lies in many things.
In the vineyards, his northern exposure, strong winds and cold nights (due to altitude 250 to 350m) allow him to have fresh and low in alcohol wines. The long and warm sunny days combined with low rainfall and low yield, in between 7 and 15 hl/ha, give the wine its mind-boggling richness and depth.
Last but not least, the vines are surrounded by local flora, including wild lavender, fennel, olive trees, gentian, hawthorne, oak and chestnut trees.
In the cellar, his geeky oak ageing skills enable him to get the best out of the barriques or foudres. Burgundy-inspired, Wilfried’s wines are like these books that you read over and over to spot new details.
It’s no surprise that Wilfried’s wines are generously poured in 3 Michelin Stars restaurants as well as in honest bistrots. It’s also no surprise that I distribute them. They break that “cow shit rotten egg” bad reputation that tends to stick to natural wine, sometimes rightfully so.