PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: JEAN MANCIAT INTERVIEW
Did you know that there is no clos to be found at Clos de la Roilette, and that the horse on the the label is actually a drawing of the past owner's prized race horse, whose name was Roilette and who presumably hung out in a clos? That's some false advertising right there!
At the end of a long, winding road, Alain and Audile Coudert live in the house Alain's late father Fernand bought when he founded the estate. Things are tidily together: the house and cellar are one, and the vines are the first thing you see when you step outside.
We stepped into the tasting room which, as an extension of the cellar, also holds the foudre barrels the wines age in.
2012 will be a small harvest, mostly due to mildew and hail. The 2011's were bottled in May, so this was our first chance to taste them in bottle. The Roilette wines are known for needing a little time, and these were no exception. I really look forward to retasting them in a few months, and can confidently tell you to get ready for some more exceptional 2011 Beaujolais.
During the tasting, we started talking about Beaujolais and its horrible reputation. As an avid Beaujolais lover, I still find this impossible to believe (I touched on this briefly in the Demoor post), but it seems the French have deemed it an unworthy region. It's gotten so bad that producers only name their wines by cru (Fleurie, Morgon, etc..) because the heavy stigma of the word Beaujolais is so strong that it scares consumers away. The result: a lot of vines are being abandoned, and Alain is sure that with this tough 2012, it looks like this might be the last vintage before many vignerons call it quits.
In my opinion, this bad reputation serves as a striking example of a broken AOC system that has betrayed itself. By oversimplifying (or confusing) "typicity" with "uniformity", we see mixed results at best: a "good" A.O.C like Chateauneuf permits producers to sell their stock and jack up their prices regardless of how good the wine actually is, because the consumer readily believes quality exists. On the other hand, a "bad" one like Beaujolais is in majority shunned for the very same -often false, or at the very least misguided- pre-conceptions. Any wine lover knows that some Chateauneuf's are much better than others, and the same goes for Beaujolais. And while yes, there is a lot of TERRIBLE, ABSOLUTELY UNDRINKABLE Beaujolais out there, the more I taste, the more I realize this is the case in almost every viticultural region in the world. This is why we must continue supporting the independants, the little guys who actually care enough to make something shine. They never stopped believing in their terroirs, and neither should we.
Anyway, Alain is in the process of building a new cellar, mostly for stocking and bottling purposes. It used to be a chicken and rabbit coop, and they had to dig out a whole bunch of the wall, but now they will have ample space. We also got to taste Griffe du Marquis 2011, which is the barrel aged cuvée Alain started making a few years ago. Only 12 barrels -or 3000 bottles- of this are produced; the wine will be bottled in December. Tasted from 4 barrels, and it was fun to taste the subtleties of Fleurie's different micro-parcels.
We didn't have to go far to check out the vines.
Isn't it weird to think Gamay can ever be that green?
Next up, more Beaujolais madness with the mysterious Julie Balagny! The big news is that this will mark the first visit recap where our amazing NYC salesperson extraordinaire, Maya "Mayhem" Pedersen, was rolling with us. She took tons of great pictures, so expect the next 20 (!) or so visit recaps to get a lot more visual!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: LOUIS DESVIGNES IN MORGON
"...by the time I started, herbicides were common and I used them. Stupidly enough, at the very beginning of my career I must of forgotten to treat a parcel, and noticed that even though I'd messed up, the grass still hadn't grown. I couldn't understand how this was possible! I thought about it long and hard, and decided it might be best to start plowing the soils again."
Entertaining interview from Jean Manciat, a vigneron we have been working with for over twenty years. Find out what being from the "humbler" part of Burgundy entails, how the estate started, why magic powders in wine are bad and much more over on the Jean Manciat profile.
Next up, a recap of our visit at Roilette!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: THOMAS MOREY PROFILE+INTERVIEW
Waiting on some pictures from Françoise Tête, so I'm scrapping chronological order and recapping our visit in Morgon with Louis-Claude, Claude-Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoit Desvignes instead.
The Desvignes all live on the same block in the center of Morgon. We swung by Louis-Claude's house to say hello, since we couldn't get in touch with Emmanuelle.
Even in his mid 70's, he's kept his raven-black hair (no word yet on if it's "au naturel" or not...). He came to greet us at the front door with some intense news: Louis-Benoit had suffered a light fracture and multiple stitches on his index while planting a new parcel in Javenières that morning. Emmanuelle had driven him to hospital, which accounted for her not picking up her phone earlier. Louis-Claude had better luck reaching her, and she told us to meet them in the Javenières parcel where it all went down.
We hopped into the Louis-Claude mobile and drove over to the beautiful Jarvenières parcel.
Louis-Claude's grandfather purchased these: they are all planted on sand and limestone in the traditional Beaujolais goblet style. Most of them are over 100 years old!
The other vines that complete the parcel were planted in 1989 and 1999. The Desvignes, who work organically, are the only estate to work the soil here, which they feel is a pity since it's such a great terroir.
Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoit -arm slung with a bandaged hand-, greeted us at the bottom of the hill where their team of two was actively planting 2000 vines over .8 hectares of land.
When I asked if they were in selection massalle, Emmanuelle looked at me like I was crazy.
We started chatting about 2012, and Louis-Benoit informed us that they were struggling with mildew: in the "tropical climate" they've been experiencing, rainy and hot, humid days have been trading off since March; this is a perfect recipe for mildew to grow and spread.
"Not only that, but you spray a treatment on a hot day, then it rains and washes everything off and you have to start all over again."
Though there is no legal repercussion in organics for retreating with copper as necessary (and the Desvignes are, even at this rate, well below the authorized treatment levels), Louis-Benoit worries that constantly re-applying too many copper treatments might do more harm than good in the long term. This is one of countless struggles one faces in a challenging vintage, organic or not: at the end of the year, you need to harvest grapes, and it is the vigneron's responsibility to protect his vines as he sees fit. In a statement that echoed Thomas Morey's in an earlier visit, Louis-Benoit pointed out that guys working conventionally were struggling just as hard as they were, and in many cases their vines were looking way worst.
After our tour of Jarvenières, Louis-Claude drove us to the Côte du Py site on the way to the cellar.
We couldn't access the vines because we needed a 4x4 vehicle to get there, but to give you and idea their vines are by the house in the middle of the picture.
In the cellar, we started by tasting many of the separate lieu-dits that go into the Voûte Saint-Vincent cuvée, including Les Champs, les Plâtres (aka plaster, because after it rains it gets hard like...), le Pré Jourdon, Peru (how exotic!) and Roches Noir. The decisions on the exact blend vary from year to year and are done entirely on instinct. Bottling also varies by vintage, and this year the Voûte Saint-Vincent and Jarvenières will be bottled around harvest. The Côte du Py, on the other hand, had just been bottled, and was tasting great. 2011 turned out to be one of the few regions in France to experience an excellent vintage (with almost everyone else's varying from good to very good). The Desvignes wines always need time, but you can already taste the expressive, concentrated fruit and balanced tannic structure in the tank samples.
FUN FACTOID: The Desvignes use a deep fryer to melt the wax for the the top of their very limited Les Impenitants.
We ended strong by revisiting the 2010's. They were delicious. Our dog, and Official Canine Companion (O.C.C) Zaggy took a liking to Louis-Benoit and took a nap on his lap for the entire tasting.
I wasn't kidding about that index! For those of you that don't know, Louis-Benoit is an avid drummer, and he was bummed because he was supposed to perform at a 14th of July concert. I told him it might be time for him to start messing with some drum-machines...
Next up, I'm not really sure but definitely somewhere in the Beaujolais. A la prochaine!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: OLD STUFF FROM THE CELLAR (PART 1)
"I was always attracted to this type of agriculture, which I don't consider to be "organic" at all. Even though that's the modern name for it, my idea was to revive a work tradition my grandparents had followed their entire lives. They worked with basic products -copper and sulfur- that remain the least harmful available. I'm very aware of the environmental impact of our work, especially as a producer on the front-line of chemical use that is unhealthy for human beings. It just seems like the reasonable thing to do."
Up your knowledge on Thomas Morey by checking out his brand new profile. The big news is that he's converting the estate to organic viticulture, and you can read all about that in his interview.
As far as the visit, the 2011's are tasting great, and similar to Pernot it will be a vintage to drink young. The wines are mineral, precise and acidic, just the way I like em.
Next up, tasting kosher wine with Michel Tête! Seriously.
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: HOME BASE AND VISITING PAUL PERNOT
Everyone knows it's a young wine market out there; when you go to a retailer or a restaurant, it's highly unlikely they'll have anything but current releases. There are many reasons for this: cooking styles have changed, a taste for lighter, easier wines has started to win a lot of people over and many restaurants/customers simply don't have the space, time or patience to store and save bottles to age.
At our official Louis/Dressner headquarters in Poil Rouge, France, Joe started a cellar that, while highly unorganized, is full of really cool shit. Some of it is young, some of it is old. Some wines could benefit from more cellaring, some have been sitting in there too long, and some are just right. Wine is meant to be drank, so I've decided to be a good samaritan and taste through the good, the bad and the ugly to tell you how some of the wines we work with age in bottle.
1996 François Pinon Vouvray "Brut Sec":
Golden color. Nose and palate have that old chenin thing happening. Nice fruit. Bubbles are small but still present. Nice finish. It ages well!
2002 Cuvée St Maur by Henri Goyard:
This was a short lived project from Henri Goyard, the original vigneron at Domaine de Roally. Henri retired in 2000, but kept making a tiny amount table wine from the vines behind his house. Dark, golden color. Rich, honeyed nose. Depth and dense fruit with a present acidity. It ages well!
2000 Château d'Oupia "Les Barons":
Much better second day. Dark but transparent red color. Cassis on nose. Roundness and weight in the body. Probably could still hang in the cellar for 5-10 years no problem.
2001 Marcel Richaud Cairanne White:
2001 was an exceptional vintage in the Rhône. This was the freshest of the four, and could easily be confused for a current vintage. Light, translucent color. Really nice acidity and balance in mouth. I approve.
Stay tuned for part 2!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: VINCENT THOMAS IN TONNERRE
After visiting Vincent Thomas in Tonnerre, we headed South to the official French Louis/Dressner headquarters in Poil Rouge, France.
Located 22 km from Mâcon, Poil Rouge -or "red hair"- is a hamlet in the village of St-Gengoux-de-Scissé. My mother's family still has some very old vines here, which go into the Terroirs de Scissé cuvée, produced exculsively by the Cave de Lugny, who have a "quasi-monopole" on the region.
I've never had it, but I'm willing to bet it doesn't adhere to our philosophy... Anyhow, every summer we stay in our 16th century farm-house, which serves as a pied-a-terre while we visit growers. I used to hate coming here as a child, because I found the country to be the most boring place on earth. Now I like it a lot.
After barely having time to settle in, we drove over to Puligny-Montrachet to visit Paul Pernot.
Much to my dissapointment, Paul, who is now 75 but still in great shape, had just left for his annual vacation so I didn't get to meet him. His two sons, Paul Jr. and Michel were there to host us though. In fact, you should go check out the little interview I did with Michel, which provides a thorough history of the estate and its evolution over the last 30 years.
The Pernot family practices sustainable farming. They haven't used herbicides since late 80's, as they prefer working the soils manually and by tractor. Some parcels are too rocky, so instead they cut and burn the grass.
Before tasting, Michel started on how the 2012 vintage had been going so far; like most in Burgundy, it's been a very tough year, with a lot mildew and oidium issues. Frost damage and hail has already caused some serious damage, so quantity wise, 2012 will not yield much.
"It reminds me of 86: it was a cold, rainy year, but we still made a great wine. It's the last two months before harvest that really count anyway."
While this isn't the best news, we all know that great vignerons make good wine even in tough years, and Michel seemed confident that the bad weather would not affect the quality of the actual wine.
We got to taste the 2011 whites, which had been bottled 10 days prior. It's a really easy, accessible vintage, that Michel doesn't think will age incredibly and that should be drank young. Highlights for me were the Garenne, Follatieres and Santenay. The reds are still in barrel and quite promising, with nice acidity, tannic structure and expressive fruit. I really liked the Volnay.
This year the Pernot's introduce a new cuvée, the Champ Canet.
It was always part of the estate, but this is the first time it's been bottled independantly. It only represents 15 ares of land! I got flower petals on the nose, and found the wine to be ripe, with a lot of fruit and nice, if tucked back acidity.
Next visit, Thomas Morey of Chassagne-Montrachet! It's about time we catch up with Thomas, so expect a brand new profile, recap visit and interview.
Louis/Dressner just started selling South American wines! Well, kind of... Back in 2009 we started importing a small scale project called Clos Ouvert. The 2010 earthquake messed that all up, but Louis-Antoine Luyt, the front-line guy of the operation, is back at it with more Clos Ouvert wines, as well as many bottlings under his own name. We're talking organic, dry-farmed, horse-plowed, natural wines from some of Chile's best terroirs, including wines made from 80=90 year old Cinsault and Carignan, not to mention 350 year old Pais vines!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's what happens when you don't get hit with phylloxera...
Anyway, check out our interview with the man himself, Louis-Antoine, over on his brand spanking new profile! Specific info on the wines themselves real soon...
Also, I know I just posted it yesterday, so don't sleep on on our visit recap of Vincent Thomas' estate in Northern Burgundy and to read his interview as well.
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG 2: ALICE AND OLIVIER DE MOOR
We've been having technical difficulties with our internet. This has set me AT LEAST two posts back, so maybe next week there will be 3 posts. We'll see.
After our lovely visit to the De Moor's, we swung by Tonnerre to visit one of our youngest producers, Vincent Thomas of Domaine de la Chappe. We met Vincent at the 2011 Dive Bouteille, and after bringing our group to his table, everyone agreed that his wines were something we wanted to work with. At the time, he didn't have much wine to sell, and only small quantities have been brought to New York so far. This was our first visit to the estate, and also a first chance to get to know Vincent, who is a bright, passionate guy with a really interesting outlook on wine and life. He's only 32, but took over the estate when he was 25! Much has changed since he's been in charge, namely an immediate conversion to organic agriculture and natural winemaking practices in the cellar.
We started the visit by checking out the cellar, a 15th century building that used to be a beet farm. It's obviously quite old, and is currently over-going some renovations. It is not temperature controlled.
We started with the 2011 Aligoté, which is the only wine already bottled. For the first time since 2004, Vincent lightly filtered it; there was a little residual sugar left, and he didn't want to risk a re-fermentation by leaving any lees in the bottle. And while he usually feels that filtration shuts a wine down but in this case it opened it up. Because of its heavy clay soils that some would consider more suited for reds, the wine is less ample and fruity than most Aligoté, playing more on acidity and minerality. It's quite nice.
We then tried the Chardonnay from 3 separate barrels. Vincent cyphers 1 new barrel per wine each year, just to keep a rotation; the goal is never to add an oaky flavor to the wine. Denyse really enjoyed it, pointing out its rich structure and giving fruit. Vincent will blend the barrels and bottle at the end of July.
After the barrel sampling, we got to sit outside and taste the amazingly delicious "La Limonade" This exciting bottle of bubbles is a sparkling Aligoté in method champenoise. Lemonade is an apt name, since the wine has a great balance of sweet and sour (sugar and acidity ,duh!). What we tasted was unfinished and it probably won't be as sweet as what we tried, but Vincent assured us that some R.S would remain. Yum.
We then got to check out a bunch of vines, including the beautifully secluded Aligoté parcel.
Here, we sat down and did our interview, which is full of really interesting info on Tonnerre's viticultural history, as well as how Vincent discovered organic viticulture and natural wines. He's definitely a talker, and I learned a ton about his region from our chat. We also got to talk about the inspiration for his new labels. The wines have changed names but are made the same, so here is the low-down:
Joseph is a single parcel, sans souffre cuvée Vincent doesn't make every year. Named after his great-great grandfather.
Paulette used to be La Cadette, and is a carbonic Pinot.
André used to be Tradition, and is a traditional Burgundian red. Named after Vincent's father.
Apoline is the Bourgogne Aligoté.
Thérese is the Bourgogne Tonnerre Chardonnay.
If you want the nitty gritty details on the inspiration for each character, check the interview.
Our sit down ended with us continuing our conversation from the interview about how natural wine, for Vincent, is a a technique to make a great wine of terroir. Denyse brought up how Vincent had mentioned his carbonic Pinot as tasting almost identical to a carbonic Poulsard from the Jura, and asked how he felt about this increasingly popular winemaking technique that, in her opinion, often creates a uniform style that detracts from sense of place. It could have been a touchy subject, but Vincent had no problem stating:
"I never made the carbonic red to make a wine of terroir. The idea was simply to have a vin de soif. A lot of oak, yeasts, these all hide terroir. So does carbonic maceration. But it tastes good and I enjoy drinking these wines, so I make one."
Next up, our visit to Paul Pernot and Thomas Morey!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: JULIEN FRÉMONT IN NORMANDY
After our relaxing weekend in Montpinçon, it was a 5 hour drive to Courgis, the small village where Alice and Olivier De Moor reside. Our visit started in the cellar, which is split two ways between an older, traditional underground room that only holds barrels, and a larger, more modern space with concrete containers, some fiberglass tanks, a lot more barrels and a recently renovated tasting room. We tasted through the 2011's, which were universally great. Stuff of note:
À Ligoter: A little R.S remained this year so they filtered it for the first time ever, just to try and see the results. Also a first, this year the bottle will feature a screw cap; the idea is that the cap will indicate that this early release is a vin de soif, and meant to be drank fresh and young. It is indeed all those things, and the first shipment will be arriving stateside sometime this month.
L'Humeur du Temps: is a blend of three parcels that are vinified separately then blended: Côte de l' Etang, Les Envers de Côte Chétif, Les Goulots de Jouan.
Bel Air et Clardy: As obvious as this may seem to some, the Bel Air Et Clardy cuvée is a blend of two separate parcels. From barrel, the Bel Air was crisp and precise with a rich finish, while Bel Air was on the more mineral side, with pronounced acidity. When I asked Olivier why he chose this specific blend, he explained that the parcels are the same age and have complimentary soil types; ideally, he would use this technique make every cuvée (blending a bit of Rosette with the Chitry for example, so on and so forth…), and that single parcel wines -which A.O.C's like Chablis encourage- don't always make the best ones.
Les Vendangeurs Masqués: this négoce wine is a blend of three sources the De Moor's purchase from, including the local up and comer Thomas Pico. They all work organically.
As we tasted through, Olivier joked that he must be boring us with all (four) of his Aligoté cuvées. I personally love good Aligoté, and am always surprised when I hear of French disdain for grapes or regions that tend to be loved in the US; I couldn't believe how many people told Denyse that Jean Paul Brun's 2010 L'Ancien showed them that good Beaujolais actually existed at the party in Normandy. Duh! This topic got Olivier talking about Chablis and the myth that Chardonnay has always been the only grape grown here.
"There used to be Chenin Blanc, Dammery (local name for Romorantin), Pinot Gris and there are still some Sacy vines hanging around (Tressaillié in Saint-Pourçain). Gascon was also planted for red. This was only 200 years ago. I try bringing this up at council meetings and people don't believe me, but if you do your homework you can read about this stuff."
The De Moor's also made a red this year! It's called "Le Rouge D'Etienne", and is named after their first full time employee; at the time he was hired, Etienne had never made whites and the De Moor's had never made reds, so they helped each other out and therefore the cuvée is named in his honor. The grapes were sourced from Vincent Thomas, and only 800 bottles were produced.
After the tasting, we got to check some vines out. The first stop was the aforementioned Côte de l' Etang.
It was very grassy.
This is one of the parcels that they've started using a horse on over the last two years.
Notice how much better of a photographer Olivier is... He is very happy with the results, and can't believe how much stuff the horse has been pulling out of the ground.
"I've been working this soil for 15 years, and when I saw all the stuff I was missing, I told myself I was really doing a terrible job!"
Next we checked out the Clardy parcel. It was a good time to compare and contrast Olivier's work with that of his neighbors, which he sadly he considers a "abandonment of work" on their part. Here's one of Olivier's vines:
And here's one of his neighbors just a few rows down:
As you can see, they use tons of herbicide, and tightly tie the vines together to ensure as little human interaction as possible. They also trim the shit out of the vines.
"They look like bonsai trees."
Olivier then explained how 20-30 cm of extra folliage changes everything, because they help the grapes ripen. 8 to 10 leaves above the highest bunches used to be the traditional way of knowing you had the right vine size.
"Slow maturation is what makes good wine here, and you need to do all you can to help this, not impede it."
After the vineyard visit, we hung out for a great dinner Alice cooked up for us, drank some Ganevat bubbles, Heredia Pineau D'Aunis, À Ligoter and Heredia Sparkling Gamay that naturally led to some fun conversation, hearty laughs and- at least in my case- a good buzz.
Next up, our visit with young up and comer Vincent Thomas! Expect a visit recap, an interview, a rewritten profile and a look at his trippy new labels. Vincent is a really cool and smart guy, I liked a lot of what he had to say.
Recap of our recent visit to Julien Frémont's.
"There are much more conformist ways to make cider. The way I learned, there was an oenologist who swung by the cellar all the time: he'd taste, then tell me put this many grams of that and that many grams of this… I quickly felt a disconnect working this way, because it was some guy giving me the same recipe over and over. This isn't my approach towards existence, and I got bored very fast. I then started meeting people like the vignerons we were just talking about, and I realized that I was completely free to make cider the way I wanted to make it."
Great interview with Julien Frémont. Read up on the history of his farm, his connection to Jean Foillard and the Dive Bouteille, taking over the Parisian scene and much more over on his profile.
Next up, Summer Log 02 with Alice and Olivier De Moor!!!!!!