As each year at about the same time, about 1000 independent vintners ( 982 this year ) gathered in Paris at (subway) Porte de Versailles ( Parc des Expositions ) for the Salon des Vignerons Indépendants, to present their wines (not just their new wines ) to the public ( This is 25-29 Nov 2004 ). I don't remember who gave me a ticket the first time I visited such a fair several years ago. This is usually how you are introduced in this ritual . Ticket price is only 6 Euro , but people who go regularly and buy a few bottles each time, get free invitations in the mail before the fair . So , whatever , I try to go each time , and this is happening twice a year , in november and in april . Each visitor gets a glass at the door . The independent wineries that have a stand there offer free tasting of all their wines (about 10 each , sometimes more ) , so you have to be selective in your approach . They also have bottles ans cases available if you want to buy some wine right away , and you pay the producer's price , sometimes even with a rebate . The particularity of this salon , wich gathers producers from all the french regions , is that the stands have been deliberately mixed , so that Champagnes , Bordeaux , Loire , Burgundy , Languedoc-Roussillon , etc.. are mixed , and after tasting, say, a Provence wine , you can by curiosity stop at the next stand , say , a Jura wine . The people who serve the wine and explain are usually the vintners themselves , often the owner and his wife as many of these wineries are small size . Chance is how I dicovered several good wines . I usually visit both the wineries of wich I already appreciated the wine , and also stop at random to discover something new . When so many vineyards come to the french capital , you can't miss it . Beware : If you visit this salon , go preferably on weekdays , like thursday or friday (morning is good), because the weekend is really crowded there . Here are some of the wineries I tasted :
Chateau la Decelle ( Cotes du Rhone )
Two years ago, I discovered by chance Chateau la Decelle ( a Cotes du Rhone ) in this wine fair . I was divinely surprised by their Valreas 2001 and their Valreas "Cuvee Saint Paul" 2001 . I bought several bottles at the time ( 7 or 8 Euro ) . The owner told me this time they did not have any 2001 bottles any more , and that "La Revue des Vins de France" had awarded 4 * to this wine , wich may explain also it is sold out . Feels good that this prestigious magazine felt the same way as I did ... I tasted the 2003 wines , but was not entirely convinced . Of course , waiting a year or two would give a different evolution . Anyway , I'll be visiting them at each salon .
Chateau Bournonville , Cabardes
I had noticed on the salon website that there was only one winery from the tiny Cabardes Appellation (new appellation in Languedoc Roussillon , in 1999) , so I decided to visit . By pure chance , it was the stand next to Chateau la Decelle's . I tasted their Cabardes 2001 , 40% Syrah and 60% Mourvedre plus Cabernet Sauvignon , at 5 Euro . Will change in the next year and ready to drink between 3 to 4 years . Then the Cabardes 2000 , wich has reached maturity . Last , cuvee Philippe 2002 , aged in (non new) casks . They have tried something here wich is very promising . It got a silver medal . 9,9 Euro .
Catherine et Pierre Breton (Chinon , Bourgueuil)
I won't miss a chance to taste Catherine et Pierre Breton wine . They were in the salon , so I visited them . I tasted several of their wines , beginning with "Les Galichets" 2003 , at 8 Euro . A "work wine" (vin de travail) , as Pierre Breton , says , wich means an everyday wine , light wine that you can drink at work (in the past , it was common to drink a light wine at work ) . He tells what he heard when he was a child about this sort of wine : "si le vin de travail te semble penible , supprime le travail !" [ If the work wine seems heavy to you , get rid of the work ! ] . Among the 7 wines I tasted there , I preferred the last ones : Chinon "Les Picasses" 2001 . Very nice wine , on a nice terroir . Very long in the mouth . A pleasure . Very long laying down wine too . 15,5 Euro . Then : Bourgueuil " Les Perrieres" 2001 . Equally very beautiful wine . I'll choose between those two . 15,5 Euro . Last was Bourgueuil Cuvee du Clos Senechal 1989 . 18 Euro . Impressive wine . It has a potential for another 5-10 years in a cool cellar . I bought several "les Perrieres" 2001 .
Chateau de Chamilly (Mercurey , Cote Chalonnaise)
Last year , I discovered this Domaine at this very wine fair . I was nicely impressed by their Cote Chalonnaise 1998 . We had one of the bottles I bought for dinner , one day , and this was just great . So I noted on a paper in the cellar , like I usually do : " look absolutely for this wine".
So , here we are . And this time , they still had this very 1998 Cote Chalonnaise . So , I took another few bottles ( about 7 Euro ). The owner is a woman : Veronique Desfontaines . Cote Chalonnaise can yield very nice surprises, as this is an area very close to prestigious appellations , like Mercurey ; usually a very similar terroir and vineyard , and as it is not as sought-after as Mercurey and other famous Burgundy regions, the prices are very reasonable . The problem is mostly to find the bottles as they are not much exported . A good place to taste these Cote Chalonnaise wines is of course the "Maison des Vins" in Chalon sur Saone , in Burgundy .
Champagne Emmanuel Tassin
At one point , I was with two japanese friends and they wanted to taste some Champagne , so we stopped at this stand , as it was the nearest Champagne stand . We got a very nice surprise ! Of the large selection of Champagnes this vineyard offered ( 7 of them ) , we tasted only two and each was an excellent Champagne . The first was "Cuvee de Reserve Brut" , wich had a gold medal in Paris in 2004 . Pinot and Chardonnnay . 11,75 Euro . The second was "Cuvee Perlee Brut" , a Blanc de Blancs . More dry . Only 13,25 euro . I came twice to the salon and the second day , I brought some other people there who were also surprised by the quality and affordability of this Champagne .
Domaine du Deffends (coteaux varois)
Domaine du Deffends , a Coteaux Varois wine , is a vineyard we discovered in a Maison des Vins ( tasting house ) in Provence . So we stopped for a try of their wines . We began with whites, among wich "Champ du Sesterce" . The vineyard plot is on an old roman road and a roman sesterce coin was found on it . Rolle and Viognier , with more Rolle . The viognier is matured in new 1/2 muids casks . Nice wine , flavored in the mouth . 7,2 Euro . Then , among the reds we tasted there , I noticed "Clos de la Truffiere" 2001. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah . The wine is more supple , due to a stay in casks . Nose is beautiful . Round . Nice length in the mouth . Silky , I would say . 9 Euro .
Mas de Daumas Gassac (Fanny)
Mas de Daumas Gassac is a now famous vineyard from Languedoc . At the same time , organic viticulture , and traditional old time way of making wines : Low yields , hand harvest with 20 kg baskets , old varieties ( before the clones ) ... Aime Guibert , the owner (who was not present ) , is even more famous now that he was seen in Mondovino ( the movie about wine-civilizations clash) , lamenting about the end of wine , and telling his (hostile) views about the Mondavi move to Languedoc . I have seen the movie less than a week ago and there would be a lot to say . Whatever , this Domaine was at the salon , and we stopped for tasting . Fanny was serving the wines and explained about them . We first had Mas Daumas de Gassac "Millesime 2002" , a red . 80% Cabernet Sauvignon , 20% : 10 other varieties . 35-45 hectoliter/hectare yield . Hand weed control . Very nice wine . 35 Euro . Then : Mas Daumas de Gassac "Millesime 2003" . From the cask , not bottled tet . Still tannic . Will be a great millesime . Potential .
Domaine Barmes Buecher ( Alsace )
Someone I met as I was about to leave told me to go taste Barmes wines , an alsatian vineyard . The family winery is located in Wettolsheim , in Alsace . They work in biodynamy . Just the owner , Francois Barmes , his wife genevieve, and three employees , with two retirees to help too . On 16 hectares, spread on 90 vineyard plots ( and 5 villages ) . All their wines were outstanding . Whites , of course : First was Pinot Blanc Rosenberg 2001 . Nice nose . 10,8 Euro . Then , Pinot Gris Rosenberg 2001 "Calcorius" 13,9 Euro . Very ripe grapes . 3rd october week harvest . You feel some beginning of botritis , but that is'nt . Nice to drink it without anything to eat . Third : Gewurtzstraminer Rosenberg 2002 . 13,4 Euro . Also very ripe grapes , sorted out on tables . Fourth : Riesling Hengst 2002 . 23,1 Euro . I did'nt note anything ( but beautiful , for sure !) .
Hauling the best wines of the day ...
Many people brought carts to haul the wines they bought . You spend a lot of time in there , and at the end you have a certain quantity of bottles to bring back home . Also, when you come there , you may spend the entire day ( typically 11 am to 5 pm ), so you have to think about food . You can either buy some good sandwiches there ( even with foie-gras ) to pause during the wine tasting , or bring your own sandwiches . Many people do that .