Eric Texier, France
Despite having no experience or contacts in wine, Eric decided to give up his career as a nuclear engineer and study winemaking in 1992, interning with Jean-Marie Guffens at Verget in Mâcon. Lacking the network to buy his own vineyard, Eric did his time with established winemakers then made négoce wines with the fruit of like-minded purists until he was introduced to François Pouchoulin, AKA the Godfather of Brézème. Eric was fascinated by the history of this tiny enclave on the southernmost edge of the Northern Rhone, on the left bank of the Rhone. It is South facing, has limestone-rich clay soils and, at 300 meters of elevation has an increasingly steep aspect with terrain that grows rockier as the slope rises. In the mid-19th century, its wines rivalled those of Hermitage but, by 1961, just one hectare remained. Thanks to Pouchoulin’s help and guidance, Texier eventually succeeded in purchasing a tiny parcel of vines in Brézème. Many years later, Éric has now put the Brézème appellation back on the map, and is the leading grower there. After Brézème, Eric and his wife Laurence (the backbone of their business-they are very much a team and travel everywhere together) purchased another tiny plot, this time in the Ouvèze valley in the Ardèche, on the right bank of the Rhone. This site has granite soils, is at a higher altitude than Brézème and has higher growing temperatures. According to Eric, both of these classic Northern Rhone plots had almost been forgotten because of their isolated geographic position and small surface areas. Today, Eric and Laurence have 12 hectares under vine, with vines aged from 30 to 90 years old on both sides of the Rhone, all worked organically. This is not a sudden conversion or a response to trend, Eric has worked organically since the beginning. As for biodynamics, he follows some of its principles but is not dogmatic about it.
Although he considers his approach to viticulture to be that of an old-fashioned paysan, don’t be fooled. Eric is more of a pioneer than he would have you believe. His fresh take on an old terroir has been instrumental in reviving appellations of the Northern Rhône that would otherwise have been lost. The estate consists of two very distinct terroirs - Brézème in the Drôme (left bank of the Rhône) and the Ouvèze valley in the Ardèche (right bank). Brézème is a limestone hillside facing south, the last ridge of the Vercors Massif at the mouth of the Drôme river, whilst the Ouvèze valley, on the Ardèche side, marks the geological separation between the Massif Central and the Cévennes, where the vineyards facing south, are granitic with a mixture of schist and gneiss on its surface and islands of limestone. Most of the wines come from the vineyards of Brézème and the Ouvèze valley, today worked by their son Martin. They also produce some Côte Rôtie and both a red and white Châteauneuf du Pape, purchasing grapes from a close friends who work with their same philosophy.
The former scientist in Eric means he takes an intellectual approach to winemaking. His considerable knowledge comes from experimenting, reading and exchanging with other like-minded growers. He favours a traditional yet minimalist approach. He only works with indigenous yeast, has a preference for whole bunch fermentation and the use of open-top fermenters or foudres from anywhere between 10 to 48 months depending on the cuvées.
- Éric Texier has now put the Brézème appellation firmly back on the map, and is the leading grower there.
- His wines are pure and precise and give a true insight into the forgotten terroirs of the Rhône, and showcase the soils of the Northern Rhône the way they used to be - the way they should be.
- Favouring a traditional, minimalist approach, organic cultivation of the vines, indigenous yeasts, whole bunch fermentation, open-top fermenters and minimal if any Sulphur at bottling.