Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fucking natural wine

This post is part of 31 days of natural wine put together by Cory Cartwright. Sharon and I are posting together today in support of that occasion.

The funny thing is that people always put me in the Alice Feiring, Joe Dressner, Marc Angeli camp. While a number of wines that I love happen to be natural, I don’t love them because they are natural wines. I’m no fucking communist. More of a libertarian, really.

As my example, and a wine I had last night, take the 2003 Baudry Chinon Grezeaux. 2003 was a formidable challenge for many in the central Loire and producing balanced wines was a challenge. Mathieu and his father Bernard succeeded, as they often do, in producing excellent wines. This is a nice vintage to own now, because it is early maturing. Another remarkable thing about this wine is that it retains its Grezeaux-ness in the face of this erratic and very hot vintage. The vines are old and the roots deep. This terroir isn’t the best that the Baudry’s own and Matthieu seems to be bored by it (he’s much more interested in the potential of the Clos Guillot and his new vineyard). So by what means do the Baudry’s make great wines? They slide into natural by the definition outlined by Cory for this project, but Dard wouldn’t consider them to be (or even drink them, he refuses to drink wines that aren’t made like his, evidently. In addition, his wines do a lousy job of expressing terroir. What a douche-bag.)

So should it matter?

When the subject of natural wine comes up (or when I’m arguing with Guilhaume, Dagan or Luc)), I often think of a discussion I had with Eric Texier when he used Clos St. Hune as an example great terroir overcoming industrial winemaking. I think that the more closely you work with nature, the better that expression will be but the smartest people I know refuse to be dogmatic about it. In fact, if you are dogmatic it probably mea ns you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

The key to being a good vigneron is flexibility. Being dogmatic is more of a marketing ploy and being natural for its own sake is no better than hiring Rolland and making Rollandicated shit. The vignerons I respect most Baudry, Fourrier, Mugnier, Barthod, Mendez, Texier (don’t tell him though) are flexible in their approach and intellectual about the process. None subscribe to an approach that limits options, yet all stick as close to natural as possible and make wines of incredible clarity and often aching beauty.

So, should you give a shit about whether a wine is “natural” Only if you’re an idiot. I making natural wine a better way to express terroir, almost assuredly.

I also want to take the opportunity to confirm that Sharon and I are having an affair. It was her idea. I call her winegrrrlll in the sack.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Other folks don't know shit

Dinner at the Vin Rouge bar with a couple of friends.

1996 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile
While not shimmering like a recent bottle of the1995, this was certainly a very good bottle. It has started to take on some secondary notes and isn’t the limestone brick to the mouth that it used to be. No signs of the imaginary premature oxidation. Really, when will this thing go away? I’m sure it’s true for some wines (I did buy Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagnes, yikes), I’ve experienced it myself, but anytime anyone has a disappointing and most likely heat-damaged white wine, the cry of “pre-mox” (that’s what they call it) comes out. Calm down. Wine gets horribly mistreated all the time from the second it leaves the winery cellar (sometimes, even on the loading dock at the winery itself). No sense in making something more mysterious than it needs to be. Not sure this is ready to fully dive into yet, but worth trying if you have multiple bottles.

1996 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses
Really kind of boring and on the wrong side of its aging curve. It lacks any remaining structure and the flavor profile really isn’t all that interesting. Compared to other 1996s I’ve had over the past few years, this is not in the first or second tier. Probably should have been consumed years ago, but instead I listened to people who said it was way too young and kept this bottle as an experiment. They don’t know shit. When it comes to cabernet franc, I’m the man.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More quiet wine

Roast chicken Sunday social with my friend Will, who is re-entering the wine business after a hiatus. He roasted the chickens on his Big Green Egg. I really need to get one of those. Saw the Easy All Stars later and they were pretty boring as a live act. I really like the cover albums, Dub Side of the Moon and Radiodread, but it doesn’t translate into an interesting show.

1993 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain
I’ve been praising quiet excellence lately and this wine fits perfectly in that idiom. I paid no more that $25 for this bottle on release and it has been resting comfortably ever since. Lots of eucalyptus and dark pitted fruit flavor. The wine has a kind of vegetal quality that is at the edge of dark, damp earth. There is just enough structure left to compliment the fattiness of the chicken and a smoky nuance at the back end. Not a great wine, but a wine of lovely balance and quiet assurance. I can’t express with enough vehemence how important wines like this are to the enjoyment of life. It was quiet in that we both enjoyed it immensely without having to be distracted by it. It was there to be a component while we enjoyed our meal and talked of other things. A wine which is a compliment to the evening and a life well lived.