Le Temps des Cerises - Axel Prüfer

Axel Prüfer was born and raised in East Germany but moved to France as a young man to take up a career in wine making.

He produces delicious wines naturally with as little intervention as possible - many of his wines have no added sulphur. In fact, on a visit to his winery we tried one of his cuvees which had been bottled without sulphur and one that had been bottled with minimal amounts of sulphur and the result was simply amazing. The one without sulphur stood head and shoulders above the other for freshness, vitality and flavour.

He has been described as a ‘darling of the natural wine bar movement’. He is a quiet, thoughtful and engaging young winemaker who is totally committed to producing non-interventionist wines.

We visited him in the mountains behind Beziers and were fascinated by the lengths he goes to in ensuring that his grapes are healthy and his wines are pure. Every sentence he utters is the result of deep thought. We discussed the problems of grapes grown in monocultures such as in Chablis and Champagne and then crammed into his small truck to bump our way up hillsides through thick forest and then for the final part of the way by foot until we reached his remote vineyard surrounded by forest. There is absolutely no chance of spray-drift here!

The track to one of Axel's vineyards

Spiderwebs and herbs in the vineyard

 

Because the forests are the natural habitat of wild boars, Axel collects human hair from the hairdressers in the local village and spreads it around the boundary of his vineyard. He says that the boar pick up the human scent from the hair and avoid the vineyard. The vineyard is a picture of health with spiderwebs everywhere and an amazing biodiversity on display.

All this is for nothing of course if the wine doesn’t taste delicious. Axel only uses natural yeast to ferment his wines and he adds no sulphur at all (we put a ‘Contains Sulphites’ warning on the label because some sulphites can be naturally produced during the wine making process). This gives them a liveliness that is most appealing.

He uses tanks made from stainless steel or fibreglass or large, old barrels that impart no oak flavour. The tanks have 'floating' lids so that no air can get at the wine if he does not have enough to fill a tank.

 Axel pours some Avanti Popolo from a fibreglass tank

Axel only produces small quantities of wine due to the low yields from his vines so there is not much available in this shipment.

Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Fou du Roi 2015

Fou du Roi (the Jester) is a blend of 33% of Grenache Noir, along with 33% Cinsault and 33% Carignan and weighs in at only 12% alcohol. The grapes underwent carbonic maceration to preserve the freshness of the resultant wine.

It displays cherry on the nose and has an  elegance and vibrancy that is very appealing. It tastes alive! It has good tannin structure which will help as it ages and the finish is long, clean and lively. Definitely one for those who want to explore the complexity of natural wines.

Price: $39

Tecnical Specification

Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Avanti Popolo 2015

Avanti Popolo is a lighter style of wine when compared to the Fou du Roi despite an underlying strength to the wine. Named after a revolutionary Italian cry of 'Forward People' this wine made from mainly 90 year old vines.

The wine is predominantly made from Carignan with a splash of Grenache this year. The wine in the glass looks quite light (also only 11% alcohol) but has very good depth of flavour. Axel is a fastidious winemaker and refuses to add anything to his wine or take anything out of it. So no filtering, no fining, no added yeast and no enzymes or sugar. The vines grow on granitic quartz soils and the minerality is pronounced.

The 2015 vintage is an absolute winner! It is slightly darker than the iconic Fou du Roi but it has an incredible depth of flavour from the low yielding very old vines.

Price: $32 for 2015 750mls, $59 for 2013 MAGNUM

Tecnical Specification

Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Les Lendemains qui Chantent 2013

Les Lendemains qui Chantent is a beautiful and quite restrained wine (in the sense that it is elegant rather than exuberant) made from 100% Grenache from vines that are at least 25 years old. The vineyard itself is situated at 450 metres above sea level in the forests of the rugged Parc Naturel Regional du Haut-Languedoc which lies inland from the city of Beziers.

It exhibits very soft tannins and lovely herbal and flower aromas. There is a distict minerality associated with this wine derived from the decaying granite and quartz soils. It is Axel's leading cuvée, but he only releases it in years where the crop is exceptional!

This is an excellent food wine.

Price: SOLD OUT

Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Un Pas de Côté 2014

Un Pas de Côté is a dark purple wine that has a beautiful, soft tannin structure with complexity coming from the quality of grapes used.

While it used to be a pure Grenache in previous vintages, in 2014 it is 40% Merlot, 40% Grenache and 20% of a blend of Cinsault, Aramon and Carignan (Aramon is a grape that is native to the region).

In 2015 the wine is made from 100% Grenache sourced from two vineyards.

The vines grow on granitic quartz soils and the minerality is pronounced.

Price: $46

Le Temps de Cerises La Peur du Rouge 2015

Axel Prüfer can definitely be described as a low interventionist winemaker. This incredibly complex wine has a very interesting array of exciting grape varieties. It is 40% Chardonnay from Axel's vineyards, 40% Clairette from Emile Heredia's vineyards, 10% Terret Blanc from a neighbour, and 10% Picpoul. The wine is packed with minerality and has a richness derived from the Clairette, one of our favourite grape varieties from southern France. Only a wine made from perfect fruit grown without sprays, irrigation and artificial fertilisers could possibly taste like this.

So drink this if you have a "fear of the red" since la peur means fear.

Price: $36 for 2015 and $37 for 2014 - $68 for 2014 MAGNUM

Le Temps de Cerises Le Brutal PP Blanc 2015

For this white wine Axel has sourced some high quality organic Picpoul grapes which are famous in the area closer to the coast. In fact there is a special appellation in this area devoted entirely to the Picpoul grape. The name of the appellation is Picpoul de Pinet (Pinet is a small village just north of Beziers). {Picpoul is also permitted in other appellations such as Corbieres, Tavel and even Chateauneuf-du-Papes. This wine is low in alcohol at 10% and is lip-smackingly delicious. The beautiful streak of acidity running through this wine makes it a perfect pairing with seafoods or cream-based dishes.

Price: SOLD OUT

Le Temps de Cerises Brutal Rouge 2015

The "Brutal" brand is an effective marketing campaign that sees the same label used by dozens of winemakers ranging from Spain through to Austria. Axel is one of those winemakers. Each year he produces either one or two cuvées and releases it under this brand. This year his red (a very, very light red) Brutal is made from a vineyard of old Cinsault vines. He picked the grapes in early September to ensure that the alcohol level was low (it is only 10%) thus making an easily quaffable wine.

This is an exciting wine of which we only have a small allocation so it will sell out quickly.

 Price: SOLD OUT

Le Temps de Cerises La Peur du Rouge Pet Nat  2014

This is the sparkling version of the Chardonnay described immediately above. Like most things Axel does there is always a twist. Axel put aside a certain amount of the still Chardonnay and left about 100 kilos of Chardonnay grapes on the vines. A few weeks later when the grapes were very ripe he picked and pressed them and allowed the ferment of this juice to begin. He then mixed it with the reserved wine and bottled the blended, still fermenting juice to prodcue a pet nat with 20 grams of residual sugar which we find perfect for an aperitif sparkling wine.

Price: $46