Julien Altaber has worked in Saint Aubin just south of the city of Beaune for a number of years. We met him because he worked for the redoubtable Dominique Derain who, at that time, we were importing. Now, Julien and his partner Carole have bought Dominique’s business as well as continuing their own – and the wines from both are absolutely stunning!
Julien is a thoughtful person who has absorbed the art and the science of winemaking and decided to branch out with his own wines made from grapes sourced from some very good terroirs in the area.
We first tasted his wines at an event in Avallon near Chablis and we were entranced by their purity and charm. So we asked if we could import his wines as well.
Julien and Carole Schwab have now bought the Domaine Derain business in addition to their commitments to the Sextant domaine and will be making the Derain wines from now on (with Dominique still in the background!).
You can read more about this change on the Domaine Derain page.
Sextant – Julien Altaber Vin de France Po à Po 2021
We love the fact that Julien Altaber is quite restless and is always searching for new challenges. It was therefore inevitable that he would make a skin contact wine using white grapes to produce an orange wine as they are known.
The wine is made from the wonderful Aligoté grape variety from a four hectare plot in the Cote Chalonaisse. The grapes (50% destemmed and 50% whole bunches) were crushed and then, instead of the juice being run off, it was left in contact with the skins for an nine day period allowing the anthocyanins and other polyphenols in the skins and pips to leach into the juice.
The presence of the anthocyanins from the skins turns the wine a light orange colour and some of the other polyphenols extracted during the maceration give the wine a lovely rounded mouth feel.
This is a very complex wine that is only available in tiny quantities, but we have been lucky enough to obtain a few cases for the Australian market.
Sextant – Julien Altaber – Clin d’Oeil 2019
Every year Julien Altaber seems to find new things to invent, depending upon the grapes that his biodynamic friends have to sell him.
This year (2019) he has again made a cuvée which is macerated Chardonnay (80%) for around ten days (it was Viognier last year) with some (20%) direct press Gamay (so the juice from the Gamay is clear juice, not red).
The grapes are grown in calcareous clay soils. The wine is stored in fibreglass tanks for around 5 months to settle.
This is an absolutely amazing example of an orange (skin contact) wine. It tastes fresh and vibrant, but it also displays everything that we love about skin contact wines that we love including soft, interesting tannins and other polyphenols and even a tiny bit of appealing bitterness at the back of the palate.
The result is an orange beauty which has lots of personality.
RRP: $64 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber – Ma Ma Mia 2021
We really like wines that are made from macerated Pinot Gris (the grapes purchased from Patrick Besson and grown on granitic soil) and this one is no exception. The skin of the Pinot Gris grape variety is flecked with red/pink spots which, when the skin is left in contact with the juice for 12 days, gives up the colour to the juice.
Julien Altaber transfers the juice to old wooden barrels to mature for 8 months prior to bottling. The fermentation happened very quickly this year. This wine can accompany just about any type of food including spicy dishes.
This is a lovely, lovely drink. The level of tannins is just right for a wide range of foods and the complexity of the wine shines through and lasts and lasts.
Note that this wine is closed with a glass stopper, so no chance of cork taint. The alcohol level is 13%.
Sextant – Julien Altaber – Vin de France Métisse 2021
The first time Julien Altaber produced this cuvée he gave it the name Métisse (mixed) because it was a mix of both white and red grapes, namely Gamay and Chardonnay. Two years later we saw that there was only Gamay on the label, so we pointed out to Julien that the name was no longer reflective of how he was making the wine. He just gave us one of his cheeky smiles!
He went on to explain that he purchases the Gamay from two parcels of his friend Patrick Besson from Beaujolais. Two thirds of the grapes are from older vines which he partially destems and then macerates (leaves the skins in the tank) for ten days. The other third of the Gamay is from younger vines and with these grapes he direct presses them to produce a white wine! Hence the wine is still a mix of white and red wine and the name is still valid!!
The juice is matured in fibreglass vats and the resultant wine is a stunner – it is one of the best examples of Gamay that we have ever tried!!!
It is a bright, lively and delicious (and very smashable) wine at a very good price for such a thrilling wine.
RRP: $47 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Vin de France Skinbull Pétillant Naturel 2022
Julien Altaber has taken his skin contact wines one step further this year with the release of a sparkling skin contact wine made from the Aligoté grape variety.
The wine is made from the wonderful Aligoté grape variety from a north-facing vineyard in excellent terroir near the famous village of Pommard. The fact that it is north facing means that the grapes ripen more slowly than if they were on a south facing slope and hence develop more flavour.
The grapes (50% destemmed and 50% whole bunches) were crushed and then, instead of the juice being run off, it was left in contact with the skins for a ten day period allowing the anthocyanins and other polyphenols in the skins and pips to leach into the juice.
It was bottled with residual sugar to allow the fermentation to continue to produce a nicely sparkling pet nat!
RRP: $60 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Bourgogne Aligoté 2021
We love Aligoté, especially when it is grown in great terroir.
Unfortunately in Burgundy this grape is often relegated to lesser areas and Chardonnay is given priority.
However we have been lucky with our suppliers because they have either been handed down great vineyards of this grape variety or they have found them.
Fanny Sabre’s father loved drinking Aligoté so he planted some in the rich, red soils of the famous Pommard commune, Alice and Olivier de Moor have their old-vine Aligoté in the emerging Saint Bris area, Yann Durieux found a vineyard quite close to that of DRC in the hills behind Beaune, Dominique Derain has his in a small parcel in the La Combe lieu dit in Saint Aubin.
Julien Altaber has bought an old (100 years old) vineyard in the village of Puligny-Montrachet on alluvial limestone soils which is actually a highly prized specific clone of the grape variety called Aligoté Doré.
This is a very, very good example of an Aligoté with a nice backbone of acidity that allows it to be used with a wide range of foods. It is lip-smackingly delicious.
RRP: $60 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Pét Nat Écume 2022
This is a Vin Mousseux made in the same style as a Pet Nat which we have written about many times before.
Each vintage Julien decides which combination of grapes would be best for this delicious drink. This year he has chosen to combine Aligoté and Gamay and it is even more delicious than before!
What he has come up with is a bright, juicy, lively, pink wine with a lovely mouth-feel and lingering flavour. It is very smashable.
Here is what the Ordinaire Wine Bar in Oakland, California had to say about tasting this wine in Julien’s cellar.
We all swirl, taste, and then swallow. When no one spits a little smile cracks in the side of Julien’s mouth. The wine is showing well—full of energy and irrepressible fruit, but unlike any of his other cuvées.
Just the thing to have around for an impromptu toast to a friend, or for a cheese plate oozing with Epoisses. Take it home and put it in the fridge. You’ll be thankful you have one cold.
This wine is sealed with both a crown seal and a cork!
Sextant – Julien Altaber Bourgogne Blanc 2021
We were delighted when this wine arrived in Australia because it had not suffered from the journey at all. The first bottle of this 100% Chardonnay was alive and vibrant. The taste lingered on the tongue and the length was very pleasing.
Although it is labelled as a humble Bourgogne Blanc, the vineyards that Julien maintains around Saint Aubin and in the Cote Chalonnaise (near the village of Montbellet), are on very good terroir, similar to the nearby Puligny Montrachet where outstanding white wines are produced. We look forward to the evolution of this wine.
The Web site Petite Caves was quite impressed with this release:
Lovely fine aromas of white fruit and hints of dried fruit. Aromatic roundness to finish with the beautiful aromas of a true Chardonnay worked with conviction.
It is 12.5% alcohol this year and, as usual, certified organic.
RRP: $74 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Bourgogne Rouge 2021
This wine belies its humble Bourgogne Rouge tag. It is made from grapes picked from their vineyards around the village of Saint Aubin which is one of the emerging villages for both white and red Burgundy.
About half of the grapes for this 2021 vintage were destemmed and there was less pigeage this year as Julien and Carole are becoming more confident about letting the grapes do the talking.
It is a silky Pinot with elegance and structure. We like it a lot!.
It is 12.5% alcohol this year and, as usual, certified organic.
RRP: $74 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Intuition Les Fas Aligoté 2018
This is one of three new long barrel aging wines that Julien and Carole are experimenting with to great effect. This one sees the juice from the Aligoté grape aged over a long period to produce an wine of stunning flavour and deep texture.
We are particularly pleased to have this wine in our offerings as it shows just what a wonderful wine can be made from the Aligoté grape variety. This is a very serious wine!
Sextant – Intuition Foudre Chardonnay 2018
This is one of three new barrel aged wines that Julien and Carole are experimenting with to great effect. As with the Les Fas described above, this is a long aged wine made from Chardonnay which underwent extended aging in foudre.
Sextant – Secret de Cave 2016
This one is the last of the 3 aged wines we have received from Sextant. This one is just so interesting. It has been maturing for even longer than the other two and is also made from Chardonnay.
The exciting thing about this wine is that it has not been topped up in the barrel, but rather has been left to form a veil of dead yeast on top of the wine. This “veil” protects the wine from excess oxygen allowing it to gain an oxidative character but in a controlled way, just like in the Jura in the same way that Vin Jaune is made using the Savagnin grape variety.
Sextant – Julien Altaber Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru Blanc 2018
This silky premier cru Chardonnay is a new line from Julien and a very good one it is. It once again shows that the Saint Aubin appellation is capable of producing outstanding white wines due to the quality of the limestone soils here.
The plot is from one of the very best areas (La Chateniaire and La Combe au Sud) of this very good appellation and the careful handling of this cru wine shines through. Once the wine is pressed the wine is transferred into two old wooden barrels where it is left to mature until bottling.
We are amazed at the finesse and depth of this outstanding wine and we think it can give many of the nearby Puligny wines a run for their money!
RRP: $126 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Puligny-Montrachet les Reuchaux Blanc 2015
The famed vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet lie south of the town of Beaune. In this region some of the most famous white wines in the world are produced. Les Reuchaux is a very good site with good exposure and excellent soil. This village-level appellation is emerging as a site for excellent white wines yet at prices that are around 25% of their more famous nearby cousins. The soils here are brown limestone alternating with marl and clay. We only received a very small allocation of these wines and we expect them to sell quickly to savvy buyers.
RRP: $119 (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Cote de Nuits Villages Rouge 2017
This delightful Pinot Noir is a village level appellation wine from the northern part of the Cote d’Or. Remember that the Cote d’Or is divided into the Cote de Nuits in the north running from just below the outskirts of Dijon down to, but not including the village of Pernand-Verglesses. It is in this area that you find such famous wines as Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny to name a couple of appellations where you don’t have to sell your house to buy a bottle!
It is a beautifully structured wine showing notes of red berries and cherries with finely integrated tannins. You might even detect some of the characteristic Gevrey flavour in this wine!
There has been no sulphite added to this wine and the alcohol level is a sensible 12%.
RRP: SOLD OUT
Sextant – Julien Altaber Monthélie 1er Cru Sur La Velle Rouge 2018
If you drive south out of Beaune on the D973 you very soon pass through the famous wine villages of Pommard and Volnay and then arrive at Meursault on the left side of the road and Monthélie on the right.
The Monthélie vineyards are, in fact, very close to some of the finest vineyards of Volnay! It is definitely an appellation to watch. The soils are excellent, the exposure good and the proximity to the other fine appellations means that great wines are possible here.
This is a very fresh and lively wine with good tannin structure, lively acidity and flavours of cherries and red berries.
If you are looking for a wine from an emerging and exciting appellation then you should give this one a try!
Unfortunately, due to the popularity of this amazing Pinot Noir, we have sold all the 750 ml bottles that arrived in the recent shipment.
RRP: $200 for MAGNUM (SOLD OUT)
Sextant – Julien Altaber Foufou’nette 2022
This cuvée has become part of the standard production despite it being originally an experiment and a fun thing to do! Here Julien has made this amazing pétillant naturel with a difference. And the difference is that it is made primarily from the Aligoté grape variety which has had an infusion of apricots!
Julien puts a large “tea bag” of apricots in with the fermenting wine and it develops undertones of the apricots without dominating the resultant sparkling wine.
Why did he do such a radical thing for this wine. Well, it is all rather simple. The famous Belgian brewer of lambic beers, Cantillon, has a beer called Fou’Foune and guess what they do. You guessed, they add 300 grams of apricots for every one litre of beer and leave it to macerate for 5 weeks. So this is an homage to a beer that Julien likes very much.
You will notice that this sparkling wine is labelled as “Extra Brut” which indicates that there has been no dosage, that is no sugar added to this cuvée.
Last year we had very limited quantities of this wine and we have to admit that we drank most of it ourselves! This year there is still a limited number of bottles available but we are offering them to whoever gets in first.
Sextant – Julien Altaber Coteaux Bourguignons 2021
Coteaux Bourguignons is a relatively new appellation in Burgundy and wines can be made under this appellation from the southernmost part at the bottom of Beaujolais to the northernmost part up near Chablis.
This wine is, like the 2020, made from 65% Gamay and 35% Pinot Noir grapes which were grown on calcareous clay soils. Julien left 80% of the grapes as whole clusters and the skins were left with the juice for 15 days to extract some colour.
After the maceration 75% was transferred to a 15 hectolitre wooden foudre and the rest was stored in oak barrels that were between 5 to 10 years old. The wine was matured for 8 months in these vessels before being bottled.
The result is an extraordinary wine where the two grape varieties sing together to present an harmonious wine that provides great drinking pleasure. We are delighted with this wine and we are sure you will be too. And it is only 11.5% alcohol!
RRP: $57 (SOLD OUT)