While many of France’s co-ops go out of business or struggle to sell uninteresting plonk, the cave co-operative in Estezargues has for many years stood out as a co-op with an artisanal approach to winemaking making some of the best value wines in the Rhône Valley.

Things began to change in 1989 when Jean-Francois Nicq arrived to take over as winemaker. Rather than blend everything together, J-F decided to bottle the members’ production separately, highlighting the individual terroir of the 10 member estates. By the end of the 1990s, everything was being made in a hands-off, natural way - conscientious farming, no yeasts, no enzymes, no new oak and no SO2 before bottling.

The results were fantastic and following Nicq’s departure to set up his own domaine (‘Les Foulards Rouge’), his assistant Edouard Laffitte took over. When Edouard left to set up his own domaine (Bout du Monde) he was replaced by Denis Deschamps who has since overseen the continual improvement at this most innovative of co-ops.

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