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Where is Lisson? Do you need to know? No, if you're a mainstream wine drinker. Yes, if you like to follow paths off the slopes. At the last "Vinisud" wine fair in Montpellier, which takes place every two years, eight winemakers invited for the first time to their own tasting under the title "hors piste", a "counter program" to the 1,650 exhibitors vying for attention at the fair. Unfortunately, I was not there because at that time (February 2010) I was on a wine trail trip in South Africa. There is much less chance of going off the beaten track. But outside the piste, you can find what was the motto at the event: "Nature, organic or simply committed winemakers with love for their terroir and their grapes and wines made with care". Behind this, there is not just any certificate with precise, bio...logical specifications. Behind it are people, winegrowers who live and work in and with nature.

Poster of the "Hors piste" tasting at Vinisud 2010.

So I set out to go where one of these eight winemakers lives, works and also blogs. To Lisson. But where is Lisson? I did what one does in such cases nowadays: Google Earth. It's wonderful how the globe dissolves into continents, countries, territories, villages, even houses and vineyards. Only - Lisson is not a village, it is a hamlet, actually a vineyard in the municipality of Olargues in the valley of the Jaur, between Montpellier and Narbonne. Google Earth flies unerringly to this winery if you choose the right one among four Lissons. At first, the virtual landing may seem a bit scary, it takes place somewhere in the forest, far away from the village and the road, at the only house in the vicinity. But if you look closely, you will recognize a vineyard, just under two hectares in size, and the panorama button even reveals it: a rather steep vineyard, a very sunny place.

The vineyard of Iris and Klaus in Lisson.

I drove up from the coast to a good 200 meters above sea level, with my little Smart, also called "Chruzli" by us. On the last four kilometers to Olargues - which is one of the "most beautiful villages in France" - it had to shake and puff a lot on the adventurous dirt road. On the way we stopped at a place opposite the vineyard, where the last houses of the village stand. Iris, the winemaker, had picked us up at the former train station of Olargues (there are no trains there anymore since decades) to guide us safely to the winery. She stopped at the most panoramic spot on the narrow path and proudly showed us the terraces where her vines grow: "We cleared all this, wrested it back from nature, when we started to realize our dream in 1990" - a dream full of work, sweat, disappointments, daring and hardships, as I know by now. But it is the dream of owning a vineyard. Iris explains to us that - in an area where vines have "always" been cultivated - she could do what she wanted in terms of grape varieties, cultivation and vinification, because here there is no AOC area, here only the love of nature and the vines becomes the leitmotif. "After the clearing, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Côt, Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre were planted, the noble grape varieties of the great wines of France and the New World. Later, Oeillade and Grenache, old-established grape varieties of the region, were added on a small leased area". She did not mention that she has been running the remote wine estate - her life's dream - for ten years now without Claude, her husband - a vintner's son - who died in an accident.

Behind the house are the terraces of the vineyard.

Anyone who tries to realize a dream so consistently in this beautiful but imponderable area for viticulture must believe in it, both the dream and the reality of life. "They're crazy, these..." Spontaneously Asterix and Obelix come to mind, who are also at home in France. Obelix can't live without wild boar loins, preferably two or three a day. The question is therefore justified in the midst of this little-tamed nature: "Aren't there also a lot of wild boars?" Then Iris suddenly becomes serious, very serious indeed: "If anything ever breaks our neck, then it is these and other wild animals living here, which repeatedly break into the vineyard and do so when the grapes are just reaching their physiological ripeness. Last year, they almost destroyed our whole harvest". Yes, we are really "off the beaten track".

The 500 year old farm% where wine has always been made.

"Vins sauvages" should be made here. The term is difficult to translate. Literally: wild wine; in the sense: original wine, wine connected to nature, close to nature. I think to myself, if there are wild bees, wild rice, wild animals, etc., there may well be wild wine. "Vinification naturelle, culture organique". When I look at the vineyard and later - in the five hundred year old house - follow the development of the wine and listen to the winemaker, then I understand: These are not just buzzwords, like all the organic talk in the supermarkets. These are terms for a wine culture "hors piste", which is not only persistently pursued but also lived.

On the farm, we then also meet Klaus, Iris' current life partner. A collector, handyman, tinkerer, practically inclined, with a lot of heart for a simple life in nature. He makes that in the house without electricity the sun can bring electricity, that the press weighing tons comes into the cellar, that the only small caterpillar vehicle moves well on the narrow terraces ... He also prepares, as he did on our visit, a simple but delicious meal that we enjoy with a sip of wine in the open air. "Vignoble de vin sauvage" - vineyard or place where the wild wine is at home. All the technically highly upgraded wineries, the cherished, sprayed and highly cultivated vineyards, all the exclusive, highly styled tasting and marketing rooms of the Bordeaux wine industry come to mind. Lisson, the counter-program: "vins sauvages!"

Iris and Klaus in their sunroom in front of the farm.
The "wild wines", what are they like? How do they present themselves? A visit to a winegrower without a tasting - unimaginable. In the cool cellar, the wines presented themselves something like "cool", maybe even a bit unapproachable. But they opened up after the first sip - their wild gestures calmed down on the palate - the wildness became a fine, differentiated, seductive, juicy sip. The apparent nooks and crannies blend in, with a panorama of nature that I imagine, that fires my imagination: first thyme, rosemary, bay, savory and marjoram, then parsley, tarragon, chervil, even wild chives and chestnuts. Just imagination? The result of nature that has just been sensually grasped in all its olfactory diversity? Can all the sniffed aromas really be found in wine? Or do they only exist in my imagination?

In the end, this does not matter, it is only important for the chronicler. The only thing that matters is: The wines are good, they are unique, they are uniquely good, vins sauvages.

Presentation of the wine.

It is very rare that I write a column about a single winery. This time I'm making an exception. Why? Because everything is a little different, the winemaker and her partner, the winery, the vineyard and the wine. I have known the winemaker for many years, only virtually. Once she also wrote in the wine forum of Wein-Plus. Then she dived off into her own blog (www.weingut-lisson.over-blog.com). Then I met her again at the wine rally. And now I also got to know her real world (a little bit). The realization: It's good to leave the internet every now and then, not only to drink and enjoy wines, but to learn how they are created, fought for, for example against the distinct good taste of wild boars. Special wines are not created in a protected space, quasi in quarantine. They are created above all in nature with midwives like Iris Rutz-Rudel, who knows how to press something unmistakable, namely vins sauvages.


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