Kevin Blackwell, the Mountain-View, CA native who manages Autour d'Un Verre, organizes every year a small natural-wine tasting in his wine bar. Although this tasting is for professionals (restaurateurs and sommeliers), this is a relaxed event and the entry is free and without business-card checks. The event has the same friendly and laid-back atmosphere than the wine bar, and as the place is not big, only a dozen vignerons take part, which is the right human size for a tasting, I think : you can meet everyone, take your time...and swallow some wine, which is the only real way to gauge what wines are worth and how they make you feel when you pour them to your friends and dear ones. Kevin's wine restaurant has a nice list of wines made without any additives (many even without SO2), and this tasting was a great opportunity to meet the very people who craft these wines. Pic on right : Kevin with Olivier Camus of Le Chapeau Melon (another wine bar)
I was happy for example to taste the wines of Stéphane Morin (Domaine Léonine in the Languedoc-Roussillon).
__ Léonine Amédée 2010. Very turbid red, with so much fruit, it's like you're crunching them. Real pleasure to drink, so much life. made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The grapes were picked early here, and went through 2 weeks of carbonic maceration. Stéphane made 4,5 hectoliters of this wine.
__ Léonine Que Pasa 2010. Will be bottled next january (2011). Grenache Gris & Grenache Noir. Light red color, some turbidity. The alcohol feel is higher here. Nice aromatic concentration in the mouth.
__ Léonine Fond de Tiroir 2009. Cariognan/Grenache. A bit of reduction at first on the nose. Also relatively high in alcohol in the mouth.
__ Léonine Carbone 14, Vin de Table 2009. 100 % Grenache. Very, very classy mouthfeel, and I think that you better watch what this wine will yield in a couple of years... We have here intensity and complexity, and while it goes down the throat you're still trying to put a name on the intricate puzzle of aromas and delicious vibrations...
__ Domaine Nicolas Carmarans 100% Fer Servadou. From a carafed magnum, a great fruity Nouveau with a turbid red color and silky tannins, a very nice wine, no spitting... There a beautiful light fruit, light but intense at the same time, and this wine is alive... Costs 6,2 € wholesale and about 12 € when it'll reach the shops. This wine is not on the market yet but it should be available here at Kevin's in december, and also in the Caves Augé. Nicolas says that right now, he has put the casks outside in the cold so that the turbidity settles by itself. As I like the wine the way it is now and worry that this "settling" could change the general feel of the wine, I ask if I may order him a feww "non-settled" bottles and he says why not, just send me an email. I'm a lucky man...
__ Domaine Nicolas Carmarans Coultades. 50 % Fer Servadou, 25 % Negret de Banhars (a local variety of the Aveyron) and 25 % Cabernet (Sauvignon & Franc). 12 months in casks, bottled less than a week ago when the tasting took place. Very very nice minerality, an intense wine with a good length. Definitely another very nice wine.
__ Andrea Calek Babiole 2009. A red with a candy-like mouth, and some sugary feel. A wine with harmony and concentration. Very precise wine, refined thin tannins. Beautiful. Costs 5 e wholesale and 9 € public price. 8000 bottles made of this wine. 50 % Syrah, 35 % Grenache and the rest in Carignan. Bottled end of last june.
__ Andrea Calek Chatons de Garde 2009. Syrah. A bit more rusticity here. Both wines went through carbonic maceration.
__ Mouressipe Tracassier 2009. 100 % Grenache, 35-year old vines. Already sold out. What a freshness... The minerality here is particularly striking with a stony feel (I feel the caillou in the wine). Asked about it, Alain Allier says that this vineyard has this particularity every year, but that it was even more marked in 2009. The soil is clay, limestone and stones (caillou). Bottled end-april/may. 6 € wholesale and 12 € public price in Paris (at Autour d'Un Verre for example). Good deal !
__ Mouressipe Tracassier 2010. Not bottled yet. Very young thing, interesting to taste, it has some tobacco notes, and smoky aromas also I think.
__ Mouressipe Plan Plan 2010. Rhone Syrah. What a mouth- and throat feel when you swallow this !... That's a great wine indeed, quite stunning. Liquorice notes with a beautiful minerality that wraps everything. The wine reverberates in the mouth, like a vibration. Just swallow this and try to put words on the whole thing... Wholesale price is a mere 5 €.
I began my tasting with the wines of Angelino Maule, his son Francesco was pouring the wines.
__ Angiolino Maule Sassaia 2009 (white). Garganela e Trebbiano, like they say in Italy. Unfiltered, unfined wine. No added SO2, with still a total SO2 of 3 mg. Mineral nose, mouth hyper mineral. That's because of the volcanic nature of the soil.
__ Angelino Maule Pico, 100% Garganega. Another white. Best selection from upper slopes (200-250 meters), he says. Very mineral wine too, a bit hot in alcohol at the first mouth. They made a lot of sorting and clusters cutting-down (50 %) along the summer because it's a very productive variety.
__ Angelino Maule Cana 2008. 90 % Cabernet Sauvignon & 10 % Merlot. No added SO2. The wine still made 26 mg of SO2 by itself. 16 ° in alcohol (hot summer), 6 gr residual sugar. Nose of muted wine with plum and cooked-fruits notes. Mouth quite strong in alcohol.
I tasted a few wines from an Italian estate named Ca' de Noci, a couple of natural sparklings including a red cuvée from the vintage 2006. Made with Montericco, Sgavetta, Malbo Gentile and Grasparossa. These varieties are complanted in the vineyard and were vinified together. This red sparkling has a real vinous nose, not bad. Then I tasted Gheppio 2006, means falcon. Plum on the nose. Made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbo Gentile, aged 3 years in casks. An opulent mouth with character and a nice structure. Some tannins and astringency.
I also tasted the wines of the Alsacian Marc Tempé, including the ones of his Languedoc-Roussillon estate in Minervois, the Domaine de Courbissac. His wines are moderate in alcohol and in spite of my tasting them right after his Alsace whites, they stood quite well, in particular his Minervois 2006 (Carignan 70 %, the rest in Cinsault & Syrah), a pleasant wine with 13,5 ° in alcohol. Costs 8,4 € public price, quite cheaper than many of his Alsace wines and vinified (and farmed) on the same philosophy.
Liked also his Pandora 2004, a 3-or-4-month long carbonic maceration of Grenache plus Syrah & Mourvèdre, with an élevage of 2 years in casks. Nice mouth with compoted fruits aromas. 14 °.
Also stopped at Michel Augé's table (domaine Les Maisons Brulées), where I liked his le Herdeleau 2008 (printed 08 in fine print, as a lot number), a nice red without SO2 made out Gamay & Pineau d'Aunis. Beautiful nose, complex and with heartening vivid aromas of red fruits. The mouth was on the acidulous side, very pleasant.
His Suavignon 2007, bottled in june 2009 was a Sauvignon with a nice nose of Williams pear.
Also tasted there : a couple of nice natural sparklings, the "Maisons Bullées" 2010, not disgorged, a bit turbid, a fresh thirst wine that costs 9 e at Le Vin en Tête. Second Pet' Nat' was Les Maisons Bullées in rosé 2010. From Gamay, also not disgorged. Hyper light rosé sparkling, onctuous wine with a light sugary feel.
I discovered the Domaine de la 36ème Ouvrée of David Juillard, who makes wine from purchased grapes in Burgundy. The cuvée I like there was his Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Au Thorey 2005, a dense-red Pinot Noir with good structure, an elegant wine with good length. But costs about 65 € in the shop.
Mathieu Barret's Domaine du Coulet is located in Cornas, he is a neighbor of Thierry Allemand and he farms his 10-hectare-strong vineyard in biodynamy since 2001. What I liked at his stand is that he poured me the wines of the vignerons sharing his table with the same good spirits than his own...
__ Domaine du Coulet, Bedos white. Roussanne & Marsanne. Flowery aromas on the nose, light oxydative notes in the mouth. 12,5 °.
__ Domaine Stephan, Condrieu 2008. My notes : extremely mineral, and fresh too. Nothing else to say, this white is very beautiful to drink.
__ Domaine de Villeneuve, Côtes du Rhône 2009 (not his). That's a fresh mouth but also with lots of character. On pebble-stones soil, vineyards near the Chateauneuf du Pape and Beaucastel.
__ Domaine de Villeneuve, Chateauneuf du Pape 2007. Very nice nose, elegant, intense and refined. The mouth is powerful. Good wine.
__ Domaine du Coulet (back to his wines), Côtes du Rhône Carignache 2009. Unfiltered, Some SO2 at bottling, 2 gr only. Character, some tannins.
__ Domaine du Coulet, Cornas Brise Cailloux 2008. Syrah of course. 100 % without herbicides on his estate. Very very mineral (underlined on my notes) ! Refined tannins. Beautiful wine, it costs about 25 € at the estate and 30 € in the wine shop.
__ Domaine du Coulet Cornas, Billes Noires 2007. What a nice nose ! Powerful and well-balanced wine. 6000 bottles of this. Costs 60 € in the shop.
Another very nice wine that I enjoyed on a saturday morning in this great wine shop in the 14th arrondissement : La Vigne du Perron Les Etapes 2009 from Domaine du Perron, a small estate in the Bugey/Savoie with vineyards in a very similar setting than the one of Frank Peillot. The people over there are associates seem to work on a very small surface, less than 2 hectares including one hectare in property and the rest in purchased grapes, and they follow a very traditional vinification. I had also tasted the wine at the AVN tasting, but the winemaker wasn't present then, and I could meet him here at Les Papilles.
This is a very nice thirst wine. Its color is a very light, translucid red with some turbidity. Aromas of white pepper among other things. Mouth very enjoyable with quite a good length. François Grinand says it's a Pinot Noir (from 0,4 hectare) and they made about 1000 bottles of this. He made a maceration during several days (5 or 6) with whole clusters and a bit of gentle punching of the cap at the end. His vinification is not fixed, he decides always according to what the juice/wine says; if he smells some ethyl acetate, then he will do some light punching. 13,5 °. He added 25 mg of SO2 at bottling, like for all his wines. The bottle costs about 13 € tax included at the winery.
Also present at les Papilles was Jean-Yves Perron (unrelated to the Domaine du Perron) whom I had met ealier this year.
__ Jean-Yves Perron Champ Levat Mondeuse 2008. No added sulfites. 11,5 ° in alcohol only. Very fresh wine with a typical Mondeuse tannicity. Jean-Yves says that the Mondeuse variety doesn't make high alcohol levels. His own usually make between 10,2 and 11,8 °. The wine has a small astringency on the side of the mouth, this is a long-keep vintage. In this 2008 vintage, he had very low yields, the summer was not a normal, hot summer and there was very little juice inside the grapes, he was very worried about the resulting wines, but his low yields actually saved the vintage. Costs 18 € at les Papilles.
__ Jean-Yves Perron, Vin de pays d'Allobrogie, Côte Pelée, Mondeuse 2008. A selection of vineyard plots, vines trained in goblets on echalas (like in Côte Rôtie) on several terraces. Very nice concentration with still this tannic side, and there is also a bright freshness. 12,5 °. A wine with character. End of the mouth with liquorice notes.
He also poured a cider that he makes, the Cidre des Cîmes, Brut Zero 2009. No SO2 added. I don't drink cider very often, but this one has a nice vinous style, classy and with refined bubbles. 5 °.