Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lovers of Wine ~ la deuxieme part

Our favorite super-bio Bordeaux vintner wasn't at the salon, but they sent an email saying they would, however, be at an all-bio salon the following weekend.  I noted the dates, printed the invitation, and when the open day arrived, Jude and I headed off to le carreau du temple.  Only to find that they were still setting up.  My mistake was to assume (yes, I'm an ass, and you can fill in the rest of that statement) that Friday was when it started.  No.  It was Saturday through Monday.  We got busy over the weekend and I came down with a cold, so we didn't return to le carreau.  Oh well.

Paris ~ Endroit au Coin de la Rue

When we lived in the States Jude found a vintner who picked and crushed his biodynamically grown grapes and let nature take it's course.  That is, the vintner added nothing, no yeast and no sulfites to his wines.  Jude and I purchased cases of the stinkin plonk over the years.  It always tasted as if it had an aliveness that other wines simply didn't.  When we moved here one of the first things we tried to do was to replicate that experience.  We tried to find a place that sold organic wines with no sulfites added.

We thought we found a place here in the city that's located over in the 14eme.  Yet when we visited them they had one, maybe two wines indicated "no sulfites added".  Further, none of the wines on offer were labeled "bio".  Jude tried a few things and bought a few bottles and gave up on them when she found bio sans sulfites ajout├ęs over at our local Monoprix.

In the past three years of visiting the huge salon des vignerons independent with our Teacher of All Things Wine I've developed an understanding of how the French talk about their regions, their cepages (grape varieties), their soils, their production methods, and modes and methods of distribution.  I'm beginning to hear all the words in a conversation, know what they mean, and am starting to ask semi-intelligent pre-cro magnon man level questions.  This is how Jude and I were able to be more successful in selecting wines at this years salon.  A grunt here.  A scratch there.  Et voila!

Paris ~ Search for Wine

A couple of days after behaving like the Old Man that I am by confusing dates for the All Dancing All Bio salon we read something interesting over on the Local.  It turns out the article might just have given us the last and most valuable piece of the Understanding Wines in France puzzle.

Apparently winegrowers in this part of the world can be just as crazy, or as the article calls it - extreme - as their American Klickitat Canyon counterparts.  Here is an immigrant, here is a man from Japan no less (they love beer in Japan), here is a steep steep hillside that's been cleared and planted, here are the bare feet that crush the grapes, here is the airborne yeast that starts the fermentation, here is the lanyard that holds the Japanese man upright should he pass out from too much CO2 off-gassing from the crush, and here is the finished product.

I have to say, most syrah cepages we've drunk have been rather odd.  They can be cloyingly cough-syrup-py.  They can be slightly sweet.  They have often been rather unbalanced.  They can have what I'll call a strange nose.  Most are best suited for wine-ing rats into oblivion.

Independent of what we've felt about syrah, these rats (my wife and I) were piqued by the article.  We had to try some Domaine des Grandes Collines.  But where to procure something as obscure as le canon rouge?  *tippity-tap-tap-tap* went the clavier and... hmmm... in the city of Paris... yes... I see... yes... there is one and only one store that could, that might, that remotely possibly cross your fingers and hope to die offer le canon.  You guessed it.  Might they have a bottle or two at la cave des Papilles?

Well.  Alrighty, then.  Off I go...

... and home I returned.  With a bottle.  They had one in stock for the attractive price of only 11Euro.

Paris ~ Endroit au Coin de la Rue

*pop* and out came the cork on le canon.  Into a glass with just a little bit... and... well... the color is beautiful, actually... plenty of leg... *sniff*  Oh my... are we sure this is a syrah?...  ummm... this is beautiful, too...  *sip* ... oh... *sip*  ... my... *sip*  ... gawd!...  *sublime*  This can't be, can it?

Et voila! we've discovered the very thing we started looking for over four and a half years ago when we first moved here: An all natural no yeast no sulfite-added made by a madman wine worth drinking nearly every night of the year.

Two trips later we have purchased what's likely 50% of la cave's allotment (caution: I exaggerate, it's true).

For those of you who know French wines like nobodies business, please correct me where I'm wrong.  But if it's too painful to read (I drink beer, remember?), feel free to cover your eyes, block your ears, and scream into a pillow while I'm not looking.  For the rest of you, here's what I've learned about finding a great organic wine just about anywhere in France.

1) What you're after is something with less than 20 parts per million of sulfur dioxide (SO2, aka - sulfites).  The UC Davis chemically engineered approach to winemaking typically uses far more SO2 than 30ppm.

2) Bio is "organic" in France.  But that's not enough and they use the words slightly differently than you do in the States.  If you attend un salon des vignerons just look for an indication that a vintner's wine is "bio" or "biodynamic."  These words have caught on here in France and are more than just a marketing exercise.  The much dreaded by the English EU bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg carefully legislate anything that might cross country borders.

Paris ~ Search for Wine

3) Mais, et il y a toujours un mais, you may be overlooking or as in my case simply didn't know about a huge lake of fabulous wines that haven't been put through the EU's bio food certification process, and yet are more "extreme" in the care and attention given to the EU bio labeled plonk.

Here is all you need to ask for - vin nature.  These are fermented with airborne naturally occurring yeasts only.

If you're neurotic or want to make the guy or gal behind the counter smile and giggle feel free to ask which pesticides were sprayed on the grapes.  I've yet to find one that has had anything more than an SO2 bomb lit off in the fields on cold cold nights (to keep the molds from spreading too quickly).

If you're sensitive to SO2 like Jude (headaches, flushing red in the face, etc.) simply ask about what the vintner measured.  I've yet to find a vin nature with more than 20ppm SO2.  Many, or dare I say most, that we've tasted have less than 15ppm SO2.  In either event, such dosages are well under anything Jude reacts to.

*sublime*

Paris ~ Search for Wine

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