Hirotake Ooka is a Japanese winemaker based in St Peray in the Northern Rhone Valley (in an extraordinary cellar burrowed into the side of a mountain). Since he established Domaine de la Grande Colline, he has become one of the most talked about young winemakers in France, with all manner of blogs and fellow natural winemakers working themselves into a frenzy over his wines.
The winemaking is devoutly natural. The farming is biodynamic, grapes are foot pressed, fermentations are spontaneous, yeasts indigenous and there are no chemical additions including absolutely no SO2 used at any point in the entire process - a feat which, according to Hirotake, less than ten winemakers in France genuinely manage to pull off. Most natural wines will use small amounts of sulphur at the bottling, but Hirotake refuses to use any. The wines are left to do their own thing and there are no manipulations at all. This means that they often take a long time to finish their fermentations, with some of his cuvées still bubbling away after five years or more.
The resulting wines are startlingly original and exceptionally good. When our buyer Mark Andrew first tasted them at the domaine, he said, 'this was one of the most exciting tastings I have ever done at a winery. Hirotake is an amazing winemaker - so meticulous in his craft and completely committed to making expressive wines that are full of character. The fact that he is a natural winemaker is only a small part of the story - the main thing is that he is a true artisan who will become one of the most sought-after producers in France.'
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