France’s culinary capital, Lyon, is situated directly between the French wine regions Beaujolais and the Northern Rhône. Did you know that Lyon was once the Roman capital of Gaul and one of the most significant cities in the Roman Empire? It was here that grapes were planted to produce wine. Since the first documented record, which dates back to 45 BC, grapes have been planted here.
As a wine expert and chef living in Lyon, it is my utmost honor to share with you my beloved Coteaux du Lyonnais!
It is a very, very small wine region in France, yet it produces amazing wine. You will probably NEVER experience this wine until you physically travel to Lyon, which is a fantastic excuse to come!
First Stop: Le Bouc et la Treille
I visit the breathtaking Le Bouc et la Treille as my first stop on my Coteaux de Lyonnais tour, where I meet my friend Timothée.
“I am a winemaker with Le Bouc et la Treille in Poleymieux, Mont d’Or, we have Coteaux du Lyonnais. Originally, we were called Le Bouc et la Treille, because we were in mixed farming. And then since 2014, we are really specialized in the wine. Today we have nine hectares, all of which are farmed organically.”
This grass essentially maintains a healthy biodiversity in the vineyard and soil. It also assists in the retention of rainwater, which Lyon is currently in dire need of. Despite being in the north, there aren’t many winemakers up here because this is the only area of the appellation with clay and limestone. The only grapes permitted for cultivation in this AOC-designated French wine region are Gamay, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Aligoté.
On the tour, as Timothée leads me into the cellar I ask if there are any large spiders down there. He asks whether I think that’s big while holding up his large hand with extended fingers. A resounding “yes,” Timothee!
So we make our way into the cellar which is part of the old chateau complex. This is from the 12th century, it is VERY old. The cellar is full of spiders and mold, but it’s nice, cold, and the perfect place to store your wine!
Despite the rolling hills giving the impression that the area is vast, these are actually very small domains that often employ just a few people while producing very small amounts of wine. It’s incredibly stunning and exclusive!
Next stop: Domaine de Prapin
I then travel to Domaine de Prapin in Lyon’s southern region. In addition to the above-stated grape varietals, this vineyard also produces a few other varieties.
“So we have a little bit of everything. We have Chardonnay, a little bit of Aligoté… we have Gamay and then we have French wines with Viognier, Pinot Gris, and we also have Gamaret.”
-Domaine de Prapin Winemaker
It’s incredible that these small wine regions are in a situation where they can plant, cultivate, and produce wine from a grape like Gamay because the French wine region is not as well-known as Burgundy. On smaller domains, there isn’t much risk, and people WILL buy it! Although this wine is only referred to as Vin de France and cannot bear the Coteaux du Lyonnais designation, it constantly sells out every year nonetheless.
“We will try to communicate much more in the center of Lyon so that people get to know us. Because there are even a lot of people from Lyon who don’t even know that there is a vineyard at the gates of Lyon and we are fifteen winegrowers who have really worked, I think rather well, with a nice dynamic. We have many winegrowers who are organic. It’s pretty cool and really fun!”
-Domaine de Prapin Winemaker
I add that after tasting these wines that Gamaret, in my opinion, is richer and has more tannins than Gamay.
“So in fact, Gamaret is a grape variety that is already dyed. So when you pick it up it’s a red grape variety, so we already have a coloring intensity that is very present from the harvest and in fact, yeah, it’s really rich in spices. The aromatics are really atypical.”
-Domaine de Prapin Winemaker
Final Stop: Cave La Tétue
Our final stop is more central, where one hyper-local producer is making her mark with an urban winery in the heart of Lyon. She had the idea to create a winery that reduces waste and limits pollution and the overall carbon footprint!
“I wanted to create La Têtue precisely because there WERE vineyards in the immediate vicinity, because the idea of La Têtue above all, is to be in a ‘short circuit’. [The idea] is to have vineyards less than twenty kilometers from the cellar, to bring the grapes to Lyon and to do all the production here. Especially so [this way] the production happens close to the consumption, to stay in short circuit, and also because the bottles are reusable. I just wanted to try to find another solution [to waste] and to show that it CAN exist, to have another vision….. to drink the wine that was made locally and then to bring back its bottle so that the bottle is never transported in a truck. We still recycle glass bottles that are washable. [Otherwise] it’s like throwing away your [glass] plate at the end of the meal.”
-Cave La Tétue Winemaker
The transport sector is actually the biggest polluter in the wine industry, but no one ever brings it up! They only ever discuss organic wine and winemaking. However, they never address transportation or recycling, which are actually not very carbon-friendly practices. So, what she is doing here and what she has accomplished with her wineries are quite outstanding!
These wines from this isolated french wine region take us back to an era before herbicides, Roundup, shipping containers, and mass production. This region takes us back to a period when wine was about nourishing the land and providing for your community.
I hope YOU get a chance to try them one day with me here in Lyon!
Do you have a question? Drop it in the comments.