The tasting was set up june 11 in a restaurant named Youpi et Voila (managed by a former staff of Le Verre Volé). Causse Marines' Virginie was there too and it was nice to speak to her a minute (I visited her last winter).
Great line of wines, with the sparklings, the still whites and the reds. I couldn't taste everything by lack of time that day but I was happy to discover the wines of Domaine de Brin. Damien Bonnet is taking the wheel of his family estate and he follows a nature philosophy in the vineyards as well as in the cellar, which I think you definitely feel in the liveness of his wines. The Domaine is located in the village of Castanet in the deep country of Gaillac north-west of Albi.
His dry white Domaine de Brin Pierres Blanches 2010 had a nose with ripe aromas, the mouth had notes of ripe grapes with a pleasant acidity and a light, welcome bitterness. The red Domaine de Brin Anthocianes 2010 had an appealingly-fruity nose. The wine filled beautifully the mouth with a vibrant life feel when swallowed. Excellent wine. It's a blend of Braucol (an ancient local variety) and Syrah.
The other red, Domaine de Brin Vendemia 2009 is more square somehow, will have to wait in the bottle I think before opening itself. Made from a local variety named Duras.
Speaking of the sparklings of Gaillac, I recommend that you try the Mauzac Nature of Plageoles, we had several of them during the last months with B. (I don't remember if it was 2010 or 2011) and it was each time excellent.
The bottle was closed with a crown cap and when I opened it there was a little noise and almost like a vapor. This turned to be a little gem of a wine, a Chardonnay with a light oxydative nose and a purity in spite of the obvious residual sugar. Pierre had picked these chardonnay grapes in 2005 and left them dry in their clusters in an attic, out of the reach of rodents and other animals, like it's done for the Vin de Paille (this vinification type being only known in Jura and Hermitage). After a few months, the almost-dry grapes with their concentrated juice were pressed and the juice was entonné (poured into a barrel), after which it was kleft by its own, fermenting on-and-off over the course of 2 years until it found its place at last. It's devoid of any SO2, and Pierre Beauger had chosen this crown cap in case it decided to ferment again, as there was quite a good rate of residual sugar, but there was no bubbles at all in the wine, it was not even perly. The aromas were about dry figs or apricots, there was almost a sandy texture, like a sunny sort of tannin style which was very pleasant, and it kept telling you stories even after it was swallowed. A magic wine indeed, what you often get whith patience, time, and trust into what great grapes can turn into.
The wine was at 11 € if I remember and I bought a bottle to drink it the same weekend with friends. This light-colored and turbid wine was as usual a treat, a savoury mouth with silky fruit and such an easy swallowing that I almost regretted to share it (I'm kidding).
This shop sells lots of different stuff like rare tea, honey, creams and a string of Japanese whiskies.
The Vignerons de la Grand' Maison (the coop's name) have a small range of cuvées, all made in the Orléans AOC. Let's hopê this tiny appellation is going through a revival and help Pinot Meunier get its desserved place in the region.
It seems that Ukraine is determined to fight moonshine, or Samogon, like it's named in Russia & Ukraine. Here is another press invitation by the police of Zhitomir, to show the good work and all the hell tools they seized in their surprise raids. Heavy fines have been imposed to the owners of these illegal micro distilleries which were confiscated in farms and housing complexes. The comments under the story are quite skeptical and ironic, one commenter saying that the constitutional property rights of the peasants are violated here. Among the possible reasons behind this photo-op, there's the will of Ukraine to show the E.U. that it does its best to get in line with European norms on this issue. The issue of the extremely bad quality of much of this moonshine is also central, many crimes resulting from the trafic and consumption of this cheap booze.
Here is a picture of one of these artisanal micro-distilleries, with the boiler on the left (apparently on a wood stove), the horizontal cooler in the middle and the dropping moonshine filling a bottle on the right.
Link to the original article (lots more pictures, I'm sure you guys will find tips for ingeniously improvise your own moonshine lab...)
Still, there are dozens of websites like this one or this other one (they're Russian but everyone speaks Russian in this part of the world) where moonshine (or samogon making) is explained from A to Z. Like always, the police is targetting the bad guys who make unhealthy spirits, but Samogon can be great if well made from good products.
Link to the related article (Dnyaproickaya Pravda).
We're in Russia again, sort of... Actually we were visiting Natasha and her husband last august in their country house in Burgundy and the place was full of Russians, there was Serguey, a film director who is also an actor at the Bulgakov theater (Moscow) and a few other persons including Galina (pictured above), who had prepared along with Natasha exquisite Russian zakuskis with prime-sourced salo (gastronomic pork-fat) and a bottle of Dobraya vodka to make it go down. And after that, Galina brought a cake of her creation. Galina is also tending a beautiful vegetable garden in the back of the house, you have everything Russian over there like ogurets (cucumbers), ukrop (dill), tomatoes and other things I don't remember. I was almost looking for the dried mushrooms and smoked river fish...
This all reminds me how I was right to say that Russia is inherently focused on organic, it's in their genes and without the bobo or fashionable side of it.
This wine happened to be just delicious : a deep fruit with a silky texture and an onctuous touch in the palate and swallowing. Very nice, another bottle that goes down without noticing. this is 100 % Cab Franc from vines aged 40 to 80. 18-month élevage in old casks in the cold cellars of the chateau. Here is the cuvées page of the domaine.
The wine can be found in Paris at La Contre Etiquette in the 10th for 22 €.
Digging into my mess in the Loire I found also two bottles of Fouassier, both being from what I know a Chard-Sauvignon blend with a majority of Sauvignon (not bottled by myself). The first, a 2006, was a very nice surprise, here also this rich, generous feel with a hint of oxidative notes. the mouth was balanced and the alcohol was kept in check by the minerality/acidity couple. The other was even older, it was a Valencay 2004 from the same domaine, this one was good but maybe more heavy compared with the 2006. I told André Fouassier about these uncovered bottles and he told me he was a fan of his 2004 which he thought better than his 2006. I've got to dig a little more about these forgotten terroirs of Chabris. I leafed digitally through the google books pages of André Julien's book named Topographie de Tous les Vignobles Connus, it's a mine of information that gives you a quasi-photographic profile of the vineyards and wines of that time (around 1816), not only in France but in many parts of the world...
This type of violent behaviour against people drinking, smoking or eating in France during Ramadan has multiplied over the last few years without too much scrutiny from the part of the administration, but they are the norm south of the Mediteranean where this "crime" lands you in jail. Adding up to a long list of violence including countless attacks on jews all over France, this makes quite a lot of hate for a supposedly-peaceful religion. I'm afraid we can expect more similar niceties in the future here, possibly also regarding wine shops or convenient stores selling booze. Relatedly, in self-destructing Tunisia, the last working bar of the town of Sidi Bouzid was ransacked by islamist bigots.
Link to the article about Marseilles
A recent post by Antonin on his blog pointed to a recent study where you learn that regular wine drinkers in France get an overdose of sulfites on a daily basis. The study (Pdf) made by the Agence de Sécurité Sanitaire looked into the food safety regarding in particular a list of additives used in the food and beverage industry. The researchers there found that 3% of adults get a dose of sulfites which is above the maximum daily dose (dose journalière autorisée), and these 3% of adults are precisely the part of the population who drink wine and other fermented beverages every day. Looking at the page 10 of the Pdf document, I note that the corrective action considered by the agency is "réduire la consommation de vin et de certaines boissons alcoolisées" or reduce the consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages. It is astounding that a scientific study ignores the issue of heavily-loaded versus sulfur-free wines; it would make more sense to consider orienting the wine consumers toward wines with low-or-no added sulfites.
We also learn that the OMS advises not to have daily intakes of sulfites over 0,7 mg per kilogram of body weight, meaning that if your weight is 70 kg you must not consume over 50 mg of sulfites per day in your food or drinks. And the state statistics agency Insee found that more than one million Frenchmen receive higher doses, these are 2,5 % who drink the most wine... And you don't need to be alcoholic to reach this sulfites overdose : 20 to 25 cl of a wine which has been heavily-loaded with SO2 is enough to get you daily allowance blasted.
Sulfites have many negative health consequences including heart rhythm disorders. I notice sometimes visitors connecting to Wineterroirs with google search words like "merlot heart beating fast" or something like that. Someone obviously has noticed (like in this story) that his heart begins to race after a single glass of his favorite wine, and he thinks a particular variety is the cause, because some other wines, happening to be from a different variety don't bring the same consequences on his heart rhythm. I've got several visits on this theme, proving that the unsuspecting consumers think wrongly that a particular type of wine is the cause, when in fact a hidden additive may well be behind his health problem. The real reason of these disorders seems to be the high sulfites doses in the wines, as sulfites' allergic side effects include heart-rhythm disorders, but doctors usually ignore the huge gap between the different sulfites doses in wines and advise people with these symptoms to stop drinking wine or alcohol right away. This eHow page on heart palpitation & wine doesn't seem to list sulfites as the prime responsible for these disorders. On the other hand, this page from Huffpost on wine intolerance addresses the issue of sulfites (and not wine by itself alone) being the cause of certain intolerance and heart disorders.
And don't think that organic wine will save you from this daily SO2 overdose, as in France a bottle is labelled "organic" (bio) only for the vineyard part, most vins bio found on the supermarket shelves being otherwise vinified in the cellar with as many additives as a conventional wine. If you want to lower your SO2 input, there's I'm afraid only one way : choose your wine among the natural wines, they're the ones with the least sulfites added, and finetune your picks on those vintners known for adding no sulfites at all on most of their cuvées. There's one backlash though, you might get addicted to this type of wines....
This poster was hanging in Jeremy Quastana's cellar. Here is a poster that had been printed widely in the early 1900s', one among a series known under the name panneaux mureaux Armand Colin, these were thick cardboard posters which you could see hanging in the French primary schools. They were very efficient at the time, impressing the young minds with clear images and a scientific approach of many issues, this one featuring the health consequences of alcoholism including in the face and unkept demeanor of of the doomed individual, and setting a clear line between the "Good" booze(wine or beer) and the "Bad" (industrial alcohol made from beet or potatoes).
This poster, which was designed by Dr Galtier-Boissière [conservateur des Collections Scientifiques Musée Pédagogique de l'Etat], deals about the dangers of alcohol, but our modern puritan-censors would be enraged, as the poster makes a distinction between the "good natural beverages" (boissons naturelles bonnes) like wine, cider, poiré and beer, and the "bad industrial alcohol" (alcools industriels mauvais). The debate then was not already something like natural wines versus additives-corrected industrial wines, the industrial alcohol finger-pointed here being the hard spirits made with potatoes, beet and wheat or other grains. Look at the hilarious experience on a guinea pig : after drinking wine, the animal lies on the side "feeling intoxicated" [ressent un accès d'ébriété would better translate as "feels high"]. Under the 3rd image you can read "the intoxication effect soon vanishes without consequences" (L'accès est bientôt dissipé et ne laisse aucune trace).
On the opposite, here is the experience with "industrial alcohol" on the guinea pig :
The animal is struck by an epileptic seizure. The last image read : the guinea pic dies shortly after.
Well, that's what I call a dramatic ending, this booze back then must have been worse than the contraband samogon found in the Russian deep country... But I appreciate the common sense of the state minders who were then in charge of educating the public : wine could intoxicate for sure but it was viewed as a healthy beverage, and that's the way I view the type of wines I like the most today...
These old school posters are an informal way to visualize how all these things and issues were perceived then; alcoholism was a wider phenomenon compared with today and many men fell prey to this social scourge.