Axel Prufer – Introduction
Axel Prufer 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 Prufer’s 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 Prufer’s 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!
Because the forests are the natural habitat of wild boars, Prufer 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. Prufer 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.
Prufer only produces small quantities of wine due to the low yields from his vines so there is not much available in this shipment.
To find out if we currently have any of Prufer’s wines go to our Buy Natural Wines page.
Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Fou du Roi 2021
Fou du Roi (the Jester) is a blend of Grenache Noir, along with Carignan and Cinsault and weighs in at only 12% alcohol (which is an increase of 0.2% on the previous year). The grapes underwent carbonic maceration for 15 days 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: $44 (SOLD OUT)
Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Avanti Popolo 2021
Avanti Popolo is a lighter style of wine despite an underlying strength. Named by Prufer after a revolutionary Italian cry of ‘Forward People’ this wine made from mainly 90 year old vines.
The wine is a blend of Carignan and Grenache this year. The wine has not been filtered or fined, and has no additions. The vines grow on granitic quartz soils and the minerality is pronounced.
The 2021 vintage is an absolute winner! It is juicier than usual and a deeper shade of red than previous vintages and it has an incredible depth of flavour from the low yielding, very old vines. And, at 12.5% alcohol and being a light red, it is perfect for summer drinking if slightly chilled.
Price: $37 (SOLD OUT)
Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Les Lendemains qui Chantent 2021
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 Noir from vines that are at least 35 years old. The grapes underwent 20 days of carbonic maceration.
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 distinct 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! And this year it is certainly exceptional.
This is an excellent food wine.
Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table Un Pas de Côté 2020
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.
This season it has returned to being pure Grenache as it has been in most previous vintages. In other years it has also included some Merlot, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Aramon which is a grape that is native to the region.
The vines grow on granitic quartz soils and the minerality is pronounced. The grapes undergo carbonic maceration for a period of two weeks.
Price: $51 (SOLD OUT)
Le Temps de Cerises La Peur du Rouge 2021
Axel Prufer can definitely be described as a low interventionist winemaker.
This complex wine is made from Chardonnay from Axel’s vineyard that is dotted with large limestone rocks and some Clairette he sourced from another organic producer. The grapes were macerated for just five days.
The wine is packed with minerality derived from the limestone. 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.
Le Temps de Cerises Jalava 2021
Due to the problems in his vineyard in 2018 Axel decided not to make some of his cuvées and, instead, combined them into new cuvées that reflected the season.
He thought it worked so well that he used the same approach in 2021.
He decided to pick his Cinsault vineyard three times and make two new cuvées. This wine was made from a number of the passes through the vineyard. This was followed by 10 days of carbonic maceration before pressing.
This is a light, fresh wine made entirely from Cinsault that was matured in steel tanks. It is low in alcohol (10.5%) and can be served chilled like a rosé.
It is perfect for drinking all year round.
Price: $51 (SOLD OUT)
Le Temps de Cerises Vin de France Brutal Rouge 2018
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 light red with a good tannin background) Brutal is made from 80% Carignan and 20% Syrah to give a wine that is nothing like it was last year. However, it is still quite light despite the darker colour and it is still distinctively an “Axel” wine. He picked the grapes later than last year and the maceration extended over 6 weeks to extract a bit more colour.
Price: SOLD OUT
Le Temps de Cerises La Capitulation Ne Paie Pas 2021
This is a bit complicated! In the last couple of years the wine from Axel which sells most quickly is Brutal (sometimes called Fatal Brutal), his super-fresh and light Cinsault, that’s always between 10 and 11% alcohol (except this year it is 9.9%).
Axel’s decided to mix things up a bit this year. The whole idea of the Brutal project (many winemakers make a Brutal) is that it was to be something unexpected and he thinks now his Brutal is no longer unexpected.
The old Brutal now has a permanent name. It’s called “La Capitulation Ne Paie Pas”, based on a journal cover / poster from the resistance during the 1968 protest movement.
(The translation is “Capitulation does not Pay” – very Axel!)
This wine was made using 5 days of carbonic maceration before pressing.
Price: $48 (SOLD OUT)
Le Temps de Cerises La Peur du Rouge Pet-Nat 2021
This is a slightly sparkling wine made in the pet-nat style from Chardonnay and Clairette by Axel. It is a delightful wine that is refreshing on a warm summer’s day. The two grape varieties complement each other as they do with his still version (La Peur du Rouge) as well.
You will notice that he hasn’t completely embraced the changes in terminology in France where wines not covered by a regional or local appellation are labelled now as Vin de France. At the start of the French writing on the label you will notice that it begins with the old “Vin de Table” (table wine) designation.
In addition, the bubbles on the label identify this wine as the pet-nat as he also has a still Peur du Rouge as well as the pet nat.