One of the most reliable ways to shop for wine is to find importers whom you trust and seek out other wines that they import even if you're not familiar with the producer. Kermit Lynch is one of those importers where if you see his name on the bottle, you know that wine will be good, If that's the sort of style of wine you appreciate. Another somewhat similar importer is Louis / Dressner who also focuses largely on French wines. Dressner refers to the irreverent Joe Dressner (now deceased) who was a beloved gadfly in the NYC wine scene.
The style of wines they import get grouped into the category of 'natural wine'. A very polarizing term in the wine business. To be frank most wines on shelves at wine shops (Craft & Curd not excluded) are not natural. Bad stuff is put into tons of wines. Things like Mega Purple, oak chips, powered tannins or even Syrah to beef up everyone's favorite black Pinot Noir. As well as processes like spinning cone, reverse osmosis, watering back and all sorts of other creepy sounding stuff. Natural winemakers on the other hand intervene in the growing of the grapes and raising of the wine as little as possible. Even so-called natural winemakers fall into (at least) two camps. Those who use no sulfur and those that use a little. The most reasoned, I believe, use as little sulfur as is necessary.
Louis / Dressner imports the brilliant Muscadets from Pépière that I began to rave about earlier in the week. They also import two other wines that we'll be featuring in this weeks tasting:
This is Chardonnay that is actually refreshing as opposed to the sensation of licking a 2x4 that you get from some others. The refreshment comes not just from the wine never having touched oak barrels but the lively acidity that freshens the palate and works so well at the table. Don't think I'm bad mouthing oak here, there is a place for it. This winemaker loves oak and is not afraid to age and ferment his other wines in a good proportion of it. The grapes for this cuvée stand up well on their own without it.
Terres Dorées Beaujolais l'Ancien
If you've ever had Beaujolais and thought it tasted like some nasty form of banana bubble gum you are not wrong. There's a yeast responsible for that and it is called 71B. Nearly all mass market Beaujolais is fermented using this particular strain of yeast to produce those dependable flavors that are appealing to many people for some unknown reason. Uniformity at its worst. Jean-Paul Brun ferments with natural yeast which lends a broader spectrum of flavor to the wines. He adds very little sulphur to protect the wine. Carbon dioxide is a natural by-product of the fermentation process that acts as a preservative. Jean-Paul keeps a little Co2 in the wine so he can use less sulphur which also gives the wine a bit more liveliness.
Three Muscadets from Pépière:
Domaine de la Pépière is owned by a man named Marc Ollivier who also tends the vineyards and makes the wines along with a younger partner. I was fortunate to have been at a tasting in New York where he was pouring his wines. If you were to see him on a bench in central park (and I mean no disrespect by this) you might mistake him for a homeless person. Stark contrast to the Bordeaux Chateau owner wearing an ascot with fine manicured hands. I know who I'd rather share a meal with. Marc sparkles when he pours his wines. He hates being away from his home in the eastern Loire but relishes the opportunity to get to meet lovers of his wines.
Sometimes the white wines that I like can be so mineral that they are off putting to some people. Can't blame em. What I love about the entry-level Muscadet from Pépière is that the balance of mineral, fruit and acid is perfect without being too austere as Muscadet can be. It has it all and is priced so you shouldn't be afraid to drink it liberally. $12.99? Wow.
Domaine de la Pépière for most of its existence took the grapes from the various vineyards they controlled and blended them into their one wine. Yet they vinified all the parcels separately already so it wasn't too far of a stretch to start bottling the wines separate. One of the more special vineyards that they first started bottling independently was Clos des Briords. This vineyard was planted in 1930. The vines are antiques and each year we get to scoop up their gifts and pay less than 15 bucks a bottle. It is nearly a shame. This wine is more intense than their regular bottling and benefits from decanting or being left a lone in bottle for several years. I left it in the decanter for 2 hours today, threw it back in the bottle and am enjoying a glass 6 hours later. It becomes a bit rounder and the fruit and floral aspects are highlighted more now over the mineral.
The top wine of the estate is named after the amount of years - yes YEARS! - it spends resting on its lees (dead yeast cells) in tank. Lees aging or 'sur lie' as it's referred to gives an added amount of richness and depth to the wine. Typically this cuvée is named Trois but since 2010 was such a great year they decided to keep it on the lees for four years, hence the name Quatre. Once you have the bottle open for some hours the flavors become more decadent, even hinting at tropical but not quite. The wine is still young and you can tell it is built to last from the structure. This beauty can continue to improve with age for many years. Perhaps over 15. Maybe 30 in a really cold cellar. We're selling it for $20 a bottle. There are so few wines in the world where you can say that.
Oh and we'll also be tasting a California Chardonnay and Cabernet on Friday. That's all I have to say about that. I'm kidding, they are quite nice and two of my favorite under fifteens. And we'll have a French Cabernet Franc but not from the same importer as well as a few other goodies.
Also looking forward to having some nice goat cheeses out to compliment these crisp whites and a double cream from Georgia that can stand up to the top Muscadet, Chardonnays and Beaujolais. I hope you can join us. If you've read all of these words (or some) thank you so very much for your attention. I hope it's apparent that I love what I do and I'm aware of how fortunate I am for this privilege.
Craft & Curd Friday Weekly Tasting 6:00 to 8:00 PM $10 per person
This post is in reference to the 8/13/15 tasting