This title sums it up so well, "Beaujolais Nouveau day is Thanksgiving for wine lovers", and for a further comparison with this story I'd say that Thanksgiving is so much better with an artisan, free-range turkey. The vinous equivalent being all these primeur wines which were advertised on the shop window as being unfiltered, unfined and without SO2 (pic on left).
The weather was particularly unwelcoming on this primeur day 2013 in Paris. Not that you expect a september weather in late november, but still, it was really bad, cold, humid and rainy, the type of Paris weather that even my Russian friends consider unpleasantly cold and which makes you wonder why you don't just set sail for fairer latitudes.
I had planned to attend the primeur tasting at Caves Augé on Bd Haussmann but when I saw the drizzle when I left my workplace in Saint-Mandé I wasn't looking very positively at the prospect of riding my motorbike through two thirds of Paris under these conditions. But the thing is, I had told Liz (just a former workmate, don't worry) to join me there and, well, on the other hand I assume that on Beaujolais-Nouveau day you have to be able to go beyond your comfort zone to enjoy the liquid treat.
I wouldn't say the ride was a happy one, Paris is quite a nightmare even for two-wheelers and the rain, dark and cold don't help, it was maybe 5 ° C out there and you feel that the Paris administration has been adding new red lights every other day. But I guess that Bacchus wanted his flock to suffer a bit that evening before reaching the many wine places where the primeur wine would flow without restraint.
I frankly think that people in Paris are spoiled and don't realize the chance they have in terms of access to free tastings and wine events which are either free or almost free. When I arrived at the spot near Saint-Augustin, I could see that there was a small crowd, but not as big as I expected for the guest vignerons who were there to pour their wines for free..
Pascal who was an experienced sommelier when he began to work at Le Baratin says that he had a hard time understand all these wines he was tasting on a daily basis, his training having formatted him on very conventional if respectable wines, pinot noir was supposed to be dark and strong and here he was puzzled with light-colored pinots that were elegantly etheral, another world from the wines served in prestigious restaurants. During the first three months of his job there, with all these unknown bottles opened every day by Philippe Pinoteau he discovered a new world of wines that would ultimately upset his established references...
Liz arrived shortly after me and I we warmed up with a first glass.
Just think about the vignerons who poured their wines that day (from a full barrel they had brought in their vans straight from the domaine) : Jean Foillard (Beaujolais), Eric Pfifferling (Southern Rhone), Jean-Christophe Comor (Provence) and Jean-François Nick (Languedoc). You could also have along the wines oysters by Normand'Huitres and charcuteries by Gilles Verot (not free I guess, but this part of the treat was over when I arrived).
If the barrels were already bottled there was happily still wine around as bottles were opened including some that were brought by visiting vignerons/friends who come to Paris for this vinous day and know that this place is not to be missed the 3rd thursday of november...
The wine was just great to sip, beginning with the bright, translucent color with its turbidity cloud (picture on the left), a joyous wine with lots of fruit and freshness. The bottle sells at Caves Augé for 9,1 if you buy 6 bottles and 10,45 if you take one or two.. I had bought a few bottles of this cuvée in the middle of the summer 2012 when I visited the small facility and believe me, it was still very vivid and exciting although bottled without SO2 (I had paid 8 € a bottle at the winery if I remember).
What I like in these Caves Augé tastings, particularly at these primeurs tastings, it's that the pours are quite generous, the vignerons really share their wine, rather than just pouring a few drops for "tasting". I by the way indulged into coming back for more of this wine after tasting the other wines...
Jean-Christophe Comor had come with a few young people, Marie who worked the harvest there, Julie who picked and also worked in the cellar, and also a young guy from the Loir-et-Cher who helped vinify the wines there this year (I'll try to find out his name).
Actually they made the wine using must that was frozen and later spent 18 months sur lattes (lying in the cellar, like a Champagne), and without dosage at disgorgement (the sedimented lees are just replaced with wine). I've not fully understood what the frozen part plays exactly in the winemaking but in these situations you drink first and ask later. The bubbly is an easy drink with reminiscence of the vividness and fruit expression of a Bugey Cerdon, and the color and turbidity is also appealing (pic on right).
Jean-Christophr Comor makes wines from organic grapes, his yields are low and the wines are additives-free. Speaking of SO2 his wines are often made without any, but I don't know about this sparkling.
Right after Comor's Nouveau (A ma Guise), I think that we had also had a pour of l'Antidote, from an opened bottle that had been left along the shop window. In these situations, don't ask or wonder what this bottle was doing here, just help yourself... the wine was wholly different, more powerful and tannic, not exactly the mood for this particular evening, you had to try to warm up the glass to open the wine.
These free tastings usually start at 11 am and last till 6 pm or 7 pm, I missed several of them this season because I was not in town but I usually try to come. Many other cavistes in Paris now hold free tastings now and then with the winemaker being there to explain the wine and his work, and I know I should shop around, but It's pretty difficult to leave a chartered territory where you know you'll have both the good wine from several top winemakers, the enjoyment to speak with them, and the fun.
Thank you also to the efficient and discreet staff of the wine shop (including Kuki, pictured o the right), who keep lots of available clean glasses all the time on the barrels/tables and manage to sell wine to the customers at the same time...
After a bit of good time here they'll go to other places and bars in town where maybe they also pour their own wine, there's no shortage for such venues, the question being only how many of them you really can do in a single evening. The 3rd thursday of november in Paris is really a key day to drink great Nouveau wines by hopping from place to place. With a bit of groundwork the previous days you can list easily a dozen venues (wine shops and wine bars) where you'll go through memorable moments, and often with free wine like here.
When Pierre Breton is around there's a good chance he'll pull out cigars after having had the good wine, he is a repeated offender in this regard at Caves Augé and he's smoking here with Bernard Pontonnier. When I say cigar, these are really big cigars, of the type I made a try with, years ago and became so sick by inhaling the smoke that I vomited my guts, swearing never to touch one anymore...
We couldn't have some Nouveau from Jean Foillard because the barrel was also already bottled and the few bottles left for further tasting were already finished (you have to take a day off for the Beaujolais Nouveau in Paris...). I saw him that evening but for some reason I haven't any picture of him that day (don't see a revenge here).
We had an excellent primeur (glass pictured on left) by Jean-François Nicq of Les Foulards Rouges, who was there also in person that day. Also an easy-drink and fruity wine, high on the torchabilité scale (French slang for drinkability). Too bad his winery is s far.
I was very lucky to also find an opened bottle of Eric Pfifferling's Terre d'Ombre 2013. Eric also has been bottling by hand his wine on the sidewalk since 11am like the 3 other vintners and I'm sorry to have missed that. The wine is made with the closest cousin of the Gamay in the Rhone : grenache. The mouth is very different from the other Nouveau wines, there's a light bitterness and beyond the thin glass-paper feel of the tannins, you guess a well structured wine with a long lasting after you swallow. Not the immediate fruit or candy, more like an awakening grownup.