Monday, November 30, 2015

Floating away in barrels of wine...

Ever onward.  In the interest of giving fear and hate the middle finger held high Jude and I made our way down to la porte de Versailles for the Vigneron Independant wine fair.

Last year over 1,100 vintners installed themselves in Building 3 for 5 days to offer samples of their wares and to try and sell us a few bottles of wine.  This year they changed buildings to Building 7 which is a much smaller space.  Only 600 vintners could fit into the show space.

Previously I had trouble finding wine growers who did not add sulfites to their wines.  Yes, many/most folks say chemicals are required to stabilize the wine and to keep their harvesting yields up.  But by chance I stumbled upon Chateau l'Escart (Bordeaux).  They, in turn, pointed me to Binner (Colmar) and another vineyard from the Loire.

Jude absolutely loves the different wines offered by Chateau l'Escart.  Their wines are bio-dynamically grown and their fields are tilled with the aid of heavy horses.  No steek'n dinosaur-juice guzzling tractors for these folks!  Even better, no sulfites are added to anything they cultivate and ferment.

We also found a wonderful vineyard in Colmar that offers bio white wines.  They don't even add yeast to their mix.  Everything is as nature intended from vine to crush through fermentation and into the bottle.  Their Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are finished dry, light, and they are very lovely, indeed.  Though they're perhaps just a wee bit out of our price range.

So it came as a surprise to find this year that there were to be 20 bio-dynamic vintners in attendance.  I wrote them all down and Jude and I started our Wine Trek the day the fair opened.  I was hoping for a Near Religious Experience.

Vigneron Independant ~ Paris ~ 2015

Day One - None (the ninth hour)

First stop after gathering our free wine glasses at the entrance was, of course, Chateau l'Escart - yum!  It was great to see the man and woman again.  They remembered us from last year.  Such a lovely couple and they seemed to want to share a good conversation with us.  But damn! do they give Big Big Pours.  Our First Stop knocked us on our butts right quick.  It put to paid our "serious tasting" for the rest of the day.

We learned that the show the prior weekend in Lille was a bust.  Nobody from Brussels came to the event.  They were in lock-down over terrorist threats the entire weekend, so it didn't surprise us that not even free wine sampling could bust the Belgians loose from home and hearth.

The Day's Haul included enough cartons to make hauling home a chore without an aid of some kind.  Our Hunting and Gathering included some things Jude found from one of the bio-dynamic vintners on our list of Things To Try.  It was a Good Thing(tm) that we took le diable with us.  It made the Day's Haul easier to get safely home.

Vigneron Independant ~ Paris ~ 2015

Day Two - Terce (the third hour)

I met our good friend Jacki at the exit to the Metro station across the street from the expo center.  He arrived by bicycle in 0 degree centigrade weather.  He wore no hat.  He sported no gloves.  He said he as comfortably warm.  The guy's An Animal! I tell you.

Before stepping into the vast Wine Tasting Space we set plans for our pre-dejuner adventure: Vin de plaisir.  These, I learned, are wines poured during an apero or desert, or during a fete.  They are typically white, sweet, and/or champagne/cremant avec les bulles.

I suggested that Jacki lead the way since he seemed to know where he was going, so off we went, stalking les vins de plaisir.

At one of the counters we talked with two physicists who have a friend who works at Lawerence Livermore in CA.  What started the conversation was the that they'd overheard that I was from the US and had lived in California.  It was a fun conversation and they proudly showed off T-shirts with a photo of their French Friend who lives in California.  I didn't understand the humor, but the pictured man had a clump of yard in the shape of a bow on his bald forehead.

I really enjoy going to the fair with Jacki as I learn something new and unexpected each time we go.  This time I learned about wines from Jurancon, and Monbazillac.  The Monbazillac we tried was a fabulous semillon cepage.  The wines from Jurancon were equally interesting and had a bit more bite to them.  Still, very nice, those.

Next, we stopped at a counter of a man who's vineyard had not been represented at the fair before now.  His vineyard was from the property sitting right next door to Chateau Yequim.  It was glorious stuff, but it gave me a headache.  It contained too much sulfite.  Every bio or bio-dynamic vintner I talked with said the same thing; sulfites can give some people headaches.  So Jude's not the only one in our house who can't drink just any bottle of cheap swill.  I don't care what US-based wine marketing propaganda wants me to believe (which say all this is "bunk").  For me, too, wine must be sulfite-free (or as nearly as possible).

In our wanderings, Jacki and I stumbled upon one of the vintners I'd noted as bio-dynamic.  These folks were from a small town just oustide Colmar and aren't too far from the Binner vineyard we liked so much last year (when we were flush with money and flush with wine).  We started with Francois Baur's normal Gewurztraminer and moved on to their tardive Gewurztraminers.  Oh.  My.  Gawd! those wines were tasty.

I was able to trot out my Story of Shame about where I believed the Alsace region was.  When I was a Young Man I tried a number of wines with labels written in German.  They were from the Alsace.  So I naturally thought all Alsatian wines came from Germany.  I am happy to report that my System of Belief and Understanding has been properly updated.  Proper Alsatian wines come from France.  So there!

The Day's Haul included biodynamic Rieslings, Gewurztraminers (incredible late harvest/tardive), amazing bio Monbazillac (semillon), and cremants d'Alsace.  Le diable stayed home this day, but Jude had the good insight to suggest I take our much smaller than le diable M. Caddy (our normal every day French-style shopping cart).  M. Caddy was filled to be brim with bottles of wine as I bid Jacki a bonne journee.

Vigneron Independant ~ Paris ~ 2015

Day Three - Sext (the sixth hour)

Anyone remember those late night/early morning adverts on TV in California?  Sunday!  Sunday!  Sunday!  Yes that was us.  We had to return to the Vignerons Independent on SSSunday!!  Two more free wine glasses never hurt, right?

The cremant d'Alsace I'd brought home had been chilled, poured, enjoyed, and consumed.  It was deemed Champagne Diet Worthy as the taste and price were perfect.  Back to the Francois Baur bio-dynamic Colmar vintner's counter we went.  Trois cartons de cremant, s'il vous plait.

What's this?  Jude wants to taste some of their other wines, too?  Well, OK then.  Reds.  Whites.  Dry.  Sweet.  We tried them all.  She found she loves not only the wines I'd already purchased, but a few more these folks had on offer as well.  It gave me a chance to talk a little with the fine folks about this and that and nothing in general before loading up le diable.

Later, at one of the wine stands we tried they listed their Bordeaux as bio-dynamically grown.  But only the expensive bottles were labeled as such, so I asked about the two wines we were considering trying.  We were told non, those are regular wines, sulfites and all.  It seemed like they were being a bit misleading by proudly displaying their AB signs all over and not pointing out their non-organic products.  Fortunately they were the only people we found who did this.  Everyone else was quite clear about what was in or not in their products.

A little miffed from the mis-leading labeling experience we headed off back up the aisle to a bio-labeled Rhone valley offering I spied moments earlier.  Their cheap stuff (at 6.50Euro a bottle) turned out to be perfect as a table wine.  It's 100percent Syrah and it's eminently quaff-able.  OK.  How many do we want?

By this point le diable had become heavily laden.  Such are the spoils of Hunting and Gathering on a Sunday morning in Paris.  It took me a minute to sort out how to strap the teetering stack of cartons to Super Caddy.  Once secured we were on our way back to the apartment.

Conclusion - Vespers (le couche du soleil)

Next year I think we'll use the delivery service.  Yes, it'll likely cost us something, but it might save my back.  Cartons of wine can be rather heavy and I'm getting a little too old for this kind of heavy lifting.  Besides, we might be able to buy even more wine if someone else is going to do the hauling, right?

By Jude's calculations we now have around two hundred and ten days of Pure Drinking Enjoyment stored in our cave.  There are more varieties of wine than we ever hoped to find, all resting quietly while waiting for us to pull or pop their corks.

Yes.  The Near Religious Experience has been achieved.  Nirvana has been attained.  Life is good.  There's no need to hold the Middle Finger high.  We have better things to do.  The Middle Finger Of Fate is needed to help hold un verre de vin.

Vigneron Independant ~ Paris ~ 2015

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