From what I know there's no other natural-sparkling fair around, which makes the event unique. The festive and healthy bubbly has gained popularity these last years although it usually can't brag any prestigious appellation, and certainly not the one of Champagne anyway (these vintners would make a weird face if you compare their sparkling with Champagne...), and natural sparkling is probably closer from the Blanquette de Limoux, which is actually the oldest French sparkling chronologically, much older than Champagne.
This was the 2nd year of Bulles au Centre, and the Pet'nat fair was taking place like last year in the charming city of Montrichard, a mid-size town sitting along the Cher river, between Saint-Aignan and Tours.
The tasting took place mid-july in the middle of the small town, in a string of connected cellars, some of them with ancient vaulted ceilings making you feel like in a church. More than 50 vignerons were taking part, presenting in person their natural sparkling(s) along at least another still wine. Entry was free of charge, you only had to pay 5 € for the specially-issued glass, which you could keep afterwards. Pours were generous, you could pause outside and have some food, and with the good vibes of the assembly this was a great event (not to miss for next year).
Developped informally among the natural-wine vintners (read this page by Jacqueline Friedrich), Pet'nat wines, or natural sparklings are "natural" in different ways, first, unlike Champagne and similar bubblies, natural sparklings didn't get any added sugar to produce the second fermentation in the bottle (the one behind the bubbles), the fermenting wine is just bottled in crown-capped bottles before all the original sugar is eaten, and of course without lab yeast. Plus, natural sparkling doesn't get any other corrective additive, and it gets either no sulfites at all or very small doses of it. And to begin with, the grapes used for this type of wine are organicly farmed, like for other natural wines. And lastly, there's no dosage in natural sparkling, meaning no sugary addition to replace the disgorged lees, the bottle being just completed with some of the same wine. And more because we're dealing here with small-volume cuvées than to make the beverage even more natural, the disgorgement is almost always made by hand, which makes this type of wine even more artisanal. From what I know, some of these wines aren't even disgorged and they might get cloudy when you open them, adding to the magic. Don't expect flashy bottles with shiny wrappings, foil and muselet (wire cage), the bottles are often sealed with simple crown caps, but the public who buys this wine usually cares more for what's inside the bottle.
Here are the 50 + artisan vintners who were taking part :
__Touraine : Bruno Allion, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, Mikaël Bouges, Quentin Bourse, Les Capriades, Anne & Grégory Leclerc, Olivier Lemasson, Corinne & Paul Gillet, Jérémy Quastana, Marie Thibault, Brendan Tracey, Christian Venier, Joël Courtault
__Cheverny :Thierry & Jean-Marie Puzelat, Cyrille Sevin, Philippe Tessier, Hervé Villemade.
__Vouvray : Sébastien Brunet, Michel Autran, Vincent Carême, Florent Cosme, Anne-Cécile Jadaud & Tanguy Perraud,
__Montlouis : Coralie & Damien Delecheneau, Julien Prevel, Frantz Saumon
__Anjou : Agnès & René Mosse, Philippe Delmée, Benoît Courault, Damien Bureau
__Saumur : Emeline & Sébastien Calvez-Bobinet
__Muscadet : Marion Pescheux & Manuel Landron
__Alsace : Christian Binner,
__Banyuls : Bruno Duchêne
__Beaujolais : Rémi Dufaître
__Bourgogne : Julien Altaber
__Cerdon : Pierre Villeneuve
__Côtes du Rhône : Domaine Gramenon
__Gaillac : Domaine de Cantalauze, Causse Marines, Florent Plageoles
__Roussillon : Domaine Jolly Ferriol
__Foreign : Mas Bertran (Spain) - Iago Bitarishvili (Georgia) - Casa Coste Piane (Italy) - Bodega Cueva (Spain) - Marco Rizzardi (Italy)
__Others : Cyril Zangs (Cider Normandy) - Brasserie de Chartreuse (beer - Isère) - Brasserie de la Pigeonnelle (beer - Touraine) - Brasserie de la Senne (beer - Belgique) - Shinkame - sparkling sake (Japan)
From what I know the main initiator of this unique tasting event is the domaine des Capriades, a natural-wine producer in the area managed by Pascal Potaire and Moses Gadouche, but they were helped by other good-willing volunteers like Agnès Mosse or Kevin (pictured here) who works at Olivier Lemasson.
My first stop was a familiar face, Hervé Villemade, his natural sparkling is named Bulle, and this one is Blanche because it's a white (he makes the pet'nat cuvée also in rosé and red). Variety here in the Bulle Blanche : Chenin (half), Menu Pineau & Chardonnay. Hervé makes the cuvée since 2006 and the total volume is 4000 to 5000. Makes 11,6 % in alcohol, the wine is lightly sweet with ripe fruit notes (ripe grapes, or even raisin), he says his goal is to make dry bubblies (less than 2 grams residual sugar but from bottle to bottle it varies, the yeast ending the fermentation here and not there. He bottles the fermenting juice when it still has 15 to 17 grams of residual sugar, puts the bottles lying in the cellar (sur lattes) for 18 months and he disgorged by hand, doing it progressively when he gets some demand, but he says he tends to "slow" forcibly the demand to release the bottles in time otherwise everything would be gone too quickly. The important dates of the pet'nat are indicated on the label, here the bottling is november 26 2013 (it's a 2013) and the disgorgement june 22 2015, so that you know what you get precisely. On the same cuvée he may have one-year differences in the disgorgement dates because this stage is done along the releases which are stretched along several months, that's also why the info is important. This bottle costs 12 € tax included at the domaine.
I walked further in the vaulted cellar, the place is really an ideal venue for this type of event, it is cool but not cold and wide enough so that you can navigate from table to table. The next "barrel" I stopped at was Joel Courtault's, he also from not far in the region, also a neighboor of Pascal Potaire (Villemade is just a few km
to the north). Joel is a long-time follower of the natural wine movement, and he has a wide range of cuvées.
__ Rose des Sables 2009, this is the pet'nat name here, a table-wine rosé made with cabernet franc (majority), cabernet sauvignon (20 %) and gamay 10 %). The wine is bottled in neutral glass so that you can enjoy the true color. Nice smoky feel in the mouthy with a light bitterness too. Makes 14 %, doesn't feel like. Joel makes a pet'nat every year, sometimes two (a white and a rosé). Costs 11 € at the domaine. I forgot to say that you could buy wine in this tasting event, and at the domaine's rate, which was very interesting. Although I came there by motorcycle from my weekend base near Saint Aignan I managed to buy a few bottles (comparing so many natural sparklings in a narrow time slot helps you find what you prefer).
__ Rose des Sables 2010, I love this job, seems I'm on my way to a verticale, same wine, same varieties, just the previous vintage, the proportions may just vary because of the respective yields not always in line from year to year. The bubbly looks lighter in color maybe. Less "marked" than the 2009 (which had this smokyness and bitterness), nice thin bubbles, he says that as there's no addition whatsoever, the only way to have some leverage on the type of bubbles is to work with the bottling date, if you do it with more sugar you'll get more pressure and bubbles and the more you wait the less bubbles you'll get. The "thinness" of the bubbles has to do with the pressure but has also to do with the time the bottles stayed sur lattes, in the cellar.
__ Rose des Sables 2011, same red varieties. Color looks darker to me, here, but pressed the same way and vinified in the same neutral vats, he says, could be the maturity of the grapes. I like the nose of this one, Joel says that in its youth the bubbly was high on small red fruit aromas. outh : quite round with a light redidual sugar, it's interesting to taste different expressions across different years. Asked why he has these different vintages side by side, he says that when it's gone, it's gone, but he likes to have several vintages at the same time. He makes typically a volume of 2000 bottles per pet'nat.
My next stop was for Jeremy Quastana who works on a small surface of vineyards in the vicinity of Claude Courtois and Olivier Lemasson (and quite a few other prominents vintners). Coicidently my lead picture when I wrote a story on him was a portrait with in the background his bubblies hanging on a riddling table in one of his outbuildings.
Jeremy makes a single natural sparkling, always made with young vines of gamay (not so young actually : 25 years), the name of the pet'nat is Buena Onda, which I guess you can translate with good vibes. The colorof his pink sparkling is strikingly attractive, bright and vivid, especially when you know that all these pet'nats haven't had any color manipulation (color doktoring is a very widespread thing in conventional rosé wines). 2/3 of the grapes are direct-pressed and 1/3 macerated with skins for about 2 days. The wine is deliciously candy-like, with some residual sugar, and at only 8,5 % alcohol it goes down pretty easily. Costs 10 € at the domaine. Total volume : 2000 bottles.
Jeremy didn't enlarge his vineyard surface since I visited him a few years ago, but he's busy as he opened a wine bar in Blois with associates, les 400 Coups (I was invited for the opening a couple weeks ago but wasn't available then). If you're around Blois don't miss the place, you'll be" sure to get great, true wines and may stumble on thirsty winemakers like Puzelat (a partner in the venture, along with Philippe Tessier) or Brendan Tracey (who used to live and work in Blois a few years ago). Jeremy manages the place and works in his vineyard on the side. Puzelat also helped create Les Becs à Vin in Orléans, another natural-wine bar, adding in the way other mid-size cities in the natural-wine scene.
Here is a stroll through the cellars, you can skip the 2:40 minutes street scene and go straight to the cellar tasting. There were three cellar galleries and to reach two of them you had to go out in the street shortly. The place was certainly very historic and inspiring but first of all these vintners were relaxed and easygoing which contributed a lot to the good vibes of the day.
The Domaine Perrault-Jadaud of Vouvray makes a pet'nat cuvée named Haut les Choeurs (vintage 2013), the wine is stronly bubbly, it feels dry in the mouth with aromas of orange, lemon, ananas. It is made with Chenin (normal in Vouvray), it is bottled end of december and stayed 18 months at least sur lattes. Volume : 3000 bottles for this cuvée. The sparkling costs 11 €. Alcohol : 12,5 %.
The domaine makes occasionally another natural sparkling named Chenin de Traverse (a play of words with the expression "chemin de traverse" meaning side road), the last such cuvée was a 2010, but it's sold out now. This year (2014) they'll make several pet'nats, 3 of them, for a total volume of around 15 000 bottles.
It's all made with their own grapes, they don't do négoce wines. They'll issue another "Chenin de Traverse" from the 2014 because they found the right vineyard for that cuvée, but they plan a 24-month long élevage sur lattes because the soil being silex-thick, they need that time if it's dry otherwise it's a bit austere in its youth. They'll look to have like in the 2010 cuvée, a vinous sparkling with discreet bubbles so that you can eat with it.
There were a few foreign artisan wineries taking part to the fair, including Mas Bertran, they're located 45 kilometers south of Barcelona, in the D.O. Penedès. This is their first natural-sparkling cuvée, and they don't have the labels yet. The wine is made with Xarel·lo, a local white variety in the Penedes region. It gives a good structure to the wine, I'm told.
In the mouth, this sparkling Xarel·lo has candy aromas, honey notes too, it looks like it has some residual sugar but with the natural bitterness of the variety it makes a good balance. They bottled with 35 grams and the fermentation stopped through cold temperature with 15 grams. The retail price at the domaine is 7,5 € tax included, good deal. Total volume for this cuvée : 4000 bottles.
Bruno Allion is part of the core group of natural winemakers along the Cher river in the Loire. He makes a single pet'nat, a rosé/red from 2012, made from 12-year-old Cöt in the Touraine, young vines on well-exposed parcels with clay/limestone soil. Bruno Allion doesn't make a
natural sparkling every year, he makes one if he harvests enough grapes, otherwise the priority is for the still wines. In 2013 he could have made some but he was not entirely satisfied with the quality of the grapes. He also sells part of his grapes to other organic vintners.
Color : onion peel, lightly turbid or is it the condensation or the glass ? Dry sparkling, very nice structure in the mouth, very nice pet'nat in this regard. It was disgorged in the winter of 2014/2015 after 3 years lying sur lattes in deep tunnel cellars. Alcohol : 11,5 % Costs 9 € at the domaine.
I ask him if it's not difficult to take grapes for a sparkling when he could use them for a still wine, he says that you need to have enough grapes overall, that's right. He's not a specialist in pet'nat, he made some in 2009, then 2011 (was more sweet), and 2012 is very dry. Total volume 900 bottles, it was a try for him.
I ask for tasting a still wine of Côt as each of the vignerons also brought along still wines : Bruno N'Côt 2013, a "regular", still côt. Beautiful, exciting nose, fruity with cherry notes, acidic cherries. Mouth : just the right tannin grip, very enjoyable. Bruno Allion says that the vintage was not that great (weather), he destemmed by hand, with carbonic maceration (sort of, flooding the vat with CO2 sourced from neighboring vats) in open fiber vats, he doesn't do pumping over, just a bit of cap punching. Costs 8 € tax included at the domaine, like his other still wines, very good deal. Hurry up, Bruno retires in 2 years from now.
Here we are at Damien Bureau who makes wine in Anjou near Babass (Sébastien Dervieux) with whom he has a CUMA (vineyard-tools common ownership). His natural sparkling is named Saperlipopet, it's a chenin 2013 and it makes only 11 % in alcohol. This 2013 is sold but he shows it here because the 2014 is still "working" in the cellar
and is not ready (we're dealing with indigenous yeast in all these wines, this is not Champagne and its predictable lab yeast). This pet'nat is very vinous in style with discreet bubbles, a good length and aromas or raisin. Dalien says that there's a bit of residual sugar here. Public price is about 13 € and volume is 4000 bottles maybe.
Since 2013, Damien, who was before then working for other vignerons on the side, works full-time on his own 3-hectare domaine. Most of his production is exported, for example to Japan, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy. 2014 was a good vintage in terms of volume but the fermentation is sluggish in spite of his cellar not being cold.
We're still be offered to taste the 2014 here although it's not "finished", the sparkling is on yeast aromas, apple and so on but I like that.
I taste also a still wine, his Grolleau 2014, cuvée Emile, a table wine (Damien makes only table wine). This is his first vintage for this Grolleau, he discovered this 30-are parcel of 40-year-old grolleau when he worked at the Domaine de L'Ecu. Delicious wine, I'm happy to taste also still wines in this event, but I did it rarely because I wanted to be able to taste (and drink a bit) as many bubblies as I could. The wine is very fruity with a light sugary side, a simple authentic wine, made without added sulfites like all his wines, and unfiltered. Costs 13 € public price.
Here I am at Pascal Potaire's barrel, his Domaine des Capriades is kind of a spécialiste for pet'nats, he makes 5 different cuvées and also works without added sulfites or any additives, from organicly-farmed grapes. He is a great help and resource for other natural-wine vignerons who want to make their own sparkling and I made a story a few years ago where you could see him help Noella Morantin disgorge here own batch of sparkling. Pascal Potaire and his associate Moses are also the initiators of this pet'nat wine fair, a great idea.
When I arrived at the stand there was only the young woman, Pascal was tasting elsewhere or was having lunch outside. I tasted only 3 sparkling among the 3.
__ Pet Sec, a sparkling white 2014 made from chenin, a dry type of wine with acidulous notes and fruit aromas. Table wine (Vin de France)
__ BCF, a red Vin de France 2014 made with gamay teinturier, a type of gamay used in the past to add color in the reds. This is almost red in the glass, lots of aromas, real candy, refined bubbles, delicious onctuous wine. Makes 11 % in alcohol. Costs 10 €.
__ Piège à Filles 2014, the iconic pet'nat cuvée of the domaine, in my mind. Color : rosé, like onion peel. Bubbles are more prominent, some residual sugar but less than the previous one. Maybe more structure with a nice bitterness. 11 % in alcohol also. I was coming for this cuvée but actually I prefer the BCF, the red sparkling.
The next table I stopped at was the one of an importer of natural wines from abroad, if I understood well, the guy had brought a selection of sparklings coming from very different places.
__ Prosecco Coste Plane, Frizzante...Naturalmente.
Mouth : some bitterness edge, quite mineral it seems to me. The guy opens another bottle as my pour came from an almost-empty bottle. Very saline type of wine. No length but still very interesting in that regard.
__ Sans Soufre_Rurale Dela Blanc 2014 estra dry, a funny Jap-French name for a cuvée for this Japanese sparkling by the Hitomi Winery. The cuvée is one of the growing number of natural wines made in Japan, and this sparkling is written about in blog posts there. The wine is made with Delaware, an hybrid quite common in Japan (it can uphold the difficult weather conditions I guess). As the name suggests, it's made without sulfites. Aromas of wheat and honey, turbid color, the wine is onctuous with almost non-existent bubbles (but this was the end of the bottle°, very nice bubbly and it comes from such an unexpected place here in Montrichard... Remi on the picture seems also very interested by this Japanese natural bubbly...
__ Testalonga El Bandito King of Grapes 2014, a very surprising red South-African wine, you must taste that. Still wine made from pink-skinned Grenache, short maceration (8 days), racked by gravity, very little so2. Very aromatic with flower notes (peony, rose), very enjoyable mouth indeed, excellent wine, I'd not have expected to taste a wine from SA this far away, and such a good one. Wholebunch fermented as they say there. Costs 30 € here. Worth the try. Here is a page with more info on the wine.
I stopped at Sébastien Bobinet's table, not that I had forgotten about how the wines tasted, but at last I could take a picture of Sébastien with Emeline (pouring glasses here). Like said in my recent story they make a single sparkling, Du Rififi à Beaulieu. The bubbles are thin although it's a 2014 and the time sur lattes was very short. 1200 bottles, made with chardonnay and chenin at a friend's place.
Sébastien says that he does now the commercial part of the job, touring the restaurants in Paris (they sell to no less than 200 venues there). He jokes that his model is René Mosse who also decided to do the PR job and leave the vineyard tasks to Agnès [and maybe also the staff], looks like women are really in charge in nature wine farms today...
Unlike Foillard or Descombes, he doesn't drive his truck to ship the wines, they set up a wine depot in a warehouse near Paris with a few other vignerons so that the restaurants, bars and cavistes can get the wine they want on demand.
Someone from outside the Loire for a change : Julien Altaber, about whom I reported when he was still working in the facility of Dominique Derain (he since has his own wine farm and cellar in the same village of Saint Aubin). I began with a white :
__ Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014, a cuvée he makes since 2008. He makes this wine with the same parcels but otherwise he
purchases grapes in addition to his 0,75 hectare in ownership and the parcels he rents. He recently replanted 55 ares and plans to plant 20 ares more elsewhere. It takes time but in the long term it's great, he chooses the right rootstock and massal selections, and plants on the right terroir.
__ L'Ecume, Pinot Noir (1/3) / Aligoté (2/3) 2010, "Vin Mousseux extra brut", Julien's first sparkling, he made 1500 bottles of it and the wine makes 11 % in alcohol. The wine is almost white, the pinot noir is pressed directly, the bubbles are discreet, the wine is vivid with vinous aromas (wheat). Sells for 11 € retail. He plans to repeat the try. The parcel of Aligoté is remotely located above Pommard with woods in the vicinity. The pinot noir is near Saint Aubin, these grapes which he used beforehand in his still red wine are very acidic and while it could be problematic for the still winesit's doing a very good job here.
__ La Fleur au Verre, vin de France, a still wine, a spring pinot noir sourced in the Côte Chalonaise , this is anearly release wine. A light-color pinot with short maceration (7-8 days), no pipeage no pumping over, almost macerated like a white wine and pressed. Very nicely ebjoyable wine.
__ Monthelie 1er Cru 2014, élevage in barrels after fermenting in open-top wooded fermenters. This was racked 6 weeks ago and it is about to be bottled (is bottled when this story is published). The grapes come from Eric de Suremain, a long-time organic domaine in Burgundy. This is his first vintage on this appellation and he should do the cuvée every year now.
Here I am in Spain again, at the domaine Cueva which is located north of Valencia (100 km if I'm right). The domaine is fully artisanal and into natural wine. Expect no additive uses here, and only organic grapes.
__ Top Secret - Confidential 2012, that's the sparkling cuvée's name. The man doesn't speak much French and is not very talkative, I'll not have much info on the wine or winemaking, except that it's made with a local variety named Tardana (also known under the name of Planta Nova). Mouth : vivid and acidulous, aromas of berlingot, this old style candy. Nice sparkling. Remained 24 months lying before disgorgement, if my Spanish understanding is good. 500 bottles in total.
__ Tardana 2013, another sparkling from the same local variety, aged 18 months. 10 % alcohol. Nose : very floery like the first sparkling. Nice acidulous mouth. 1000 bottles made of that. Costs 10 € a bottle. Zero added sulfites, for all these wines from what I understand.
__ Tardato, a white sparkling also made with Tardana and making only 5 % in alcohol. Very nice one with pear aromas and lovely sweetness, goes down so easily... You need to try that. He says it's possible to do that because the grapes have low sugar content, with potential of 6 or 7. Another sulfur-free delicacy, very surprising, you certainly can drink a lot of that in the Spanish summer...
__ Tardatto Sin (no alcohol), same wine but 0 % alc. Discreet bubbles, a great grape-juice mouth, delicious ! Aromas of pear too, excellent.
__ JenGiBre, 40 cl bottle or someting like that, a sweet, still wine made with ginger, making 15 % in alc. Smells really like ginger of course, very exciting. There's ginger in here but it's still mostly Tardana too. Very nice wine, with me the small bottle wouldn't last long.
Here is the wine range at Cueva.
Here is someone from Cheverny in neighboring Sologne south-east of Blois : Cyrille Sevin. yrille brought a few cuvées including a couple of sparklings.
__ Des Bulles en Goguette, méthode ancestrale [the regular official term for pet'nat}, Vin de France 2010. Made with 2/3 gamay and 1/3 pinot noir, was disgorged this winter,
which makes indeed a very long élevage sur lattes. Cyrille says that at his domaine they makes lots of sparkling and always with a long élevage in the cellar. He does that because he considers that bubblies are getting interesting when the wine gets this vinous side with interesting, refined aromas, and you get that only through a long time in the cellar. This cuvée is a small volume batch but he still has some to sell. In the mouth : acidulous, vivid wine with an interesting bitterness, it's very different from the usual sparkling. Nice wine indeed, and good length too. Sells for 8,5 € at the domaine, retail price. Alcohol : 12,5 %.
__ La Quadrature du Rouge, Chevery 2014, red (still wine), 55 % pinot noir, 45 % gamay. Very delicate mouth, very nice, enjoyable wine. Costs 8 € (and 7,5 € if you buy 6 bottles), a great deal.
__ Pétillant de Sureau, made with elderflowers, the label lists the ingredients for this unusual fermented beverage : water, sugar, lemon, elderflowers and white vinegar, all (including the sugar) organic products. The nose is flowery indeed even though I'd not have guessed elder flowers. Alcohol : 1 %? A nice alternative for people who don't want alcohol. Costs 6 € a bottle. Another very surprising low alcohol thing, and feels like more than 1 %, frankly.
Both Patrice Lescarret and Virginie Maignien were there that day to present the wines of Causse Marines, I spoke to Virginie while she was in the cellar and tasting another vigneron but Patrice was alone at the stand when I stopped there. This is a long way to Montrichard from the south-west wine region and that was nice to see them take part.
__ Presqu'Ambulles 2014, vin de France pétillant, a sparkling cuvée which is usually (in the previous vintages) named Préambulles but as bubbles were hard to come our they altered the name with this Presque which means "almost" in French (Préambule meaning "preamble"). Variety : Mauzac, the local variety of the Gaillac region and possibly of the oldest sparkling on earth if we look at the Limoux sparkling wine.The bottle label says "Ne contient pas de sulfites" which you certainly understand. Patrice says that in 2000 they had a sparkling wine that wouldn't ferment and they named it 'Pressambulles", the pressure was only 600 grams and it was barely perly. I like these slightly-changing names to reflect the vintage character which can vary a lot with the indigenous yeast. The wine has indeed very discreet and shy bubbles, there's obviously residual sugar. 9 % alcohol. Costs 12 € retail. Total volume for their two spaklings together : 10 000 bottles. The demand is high on sparklings but they want to keep doing the still wines. Costs 12 € retail.
__ Raides Bulles 2014, a demi-sec sporting 9,5 % in alcohol, the label says : "pas de sulfites ajoutés". Varieties here : Jurançon, Prunelard, Duras and Braucol (also known as Fer Servadou), all priceless local varieties that make this sparkling unique for sure. This little-known wine region of Gaillac is possibly the oldest wine region in France, and the thing is documented but still rarely discussed. Their vines are not young, Patrice says that he does ditrect press for the Jurançon and saignée for the 3 other varieties, which brings some color. It ferments during a long time at low temperature (temperature control). In the mouth it's very aromatic with a candy style.The bubbles are tight and strong here. Here I'm told by Virginie who arrived a few minutes later that there's 35 grams of residual sugar, which is not obvious actually in the mouth, I thought it was almost dry. Costs 13 € retail.
Both Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat were present that day but Thierry was at the stand featuring the wines og Georgia, which alas I didn't visit in spite of my initial intention. Jean-Marie was at the wheel behind the tasting barrel. No sparkling, I don't remember if it's because they're sold out or else.
__ Le Petit Blanc du Tue Boeuf, the cuvée de base 2014 made with purchased grapes of sauvignon. Julien and Julie who are settling in the region are tasting the wines too.
__ Brin de Chêvre, menu pineau 2014. Julien asks about finding menu-pineau wood if he wants to graft massal selection of the variety. Jean-Marie says that recently the wine administration seems to enforce even more strictly the rules about plantings and vineyards, although the regulation in place was already strict and restrictive, it looks like they want to prove that they exist through more repression and control.
Newt, Coralie of Domaine de la Grange Tiphaine was pouring a few of her wines, the domaine is located in the Touraine-Amboise area, not very far from here.
__ Rosa Rosé Rosam 2014, a sparkling Vin de France (table wine) named along the Latin declensions learnt at school. Made with 80-year-old vines of Grolleau (majority), Côt, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pineau d'Aunis, Chenin, because eveything is mixed in the parcels (complantation). She says this wine is to be had in its youth. They've been making this cuvée for 10 years and the volume is 3000 bottles. The wine tastes like a joyful candy with residual sugar (5 or 6 grams she says).
__ Clef de Sol Rouge Touraine-Amboise AOC, a still red wine made with cabernet franc and côt. Aromas of blueberries, some astringency in the mouth. I didn't note the year. See the linked page for the labels, I forgot to shoot pictures here.
I stopped at the stand/barrel of Philippe Delmée, whom you may remember having followed in a story where he and Kenji Hodgson were touring a few Paris bars and restaurant to present their respective wines. Philippe makes wine in the Anjou region further west in the Loire, a hotbed for natural wine.
__ Turbulence, vin de France 2014, a pet'nat made from Chenin. Bubbles are quite compact, aromas of brioche, bread. Total volume 4000 bottles, but he had much less volume the previous years because of the weather conditions. Costs 13 €.
__ Ca Faye Treize, Vin de France 2014, a cabernet franc bottled in neutral-glass bottle. Makes 13 % in alcohol, unfiltered and virtually no added sulfites. Actually he just adds 2 gr/hectoliter on the pied de cuve, the bottom of a vat where the indigenous yeast begin the fermentation, considering that this pied de cuve makes 60 liters and the total batch makes 35 hectoliters, we can almost say this wine is free from added sulfites. But he prefers to say he added a bit, even though on the lab tests nothing is detected, it's not a sale argument for him. Very enjoyable wine with a gentle astringency, I like that. It costs 12 €. This is the first time he makes this cuvée, it's made from the domaine's grapes (he doesn't do any négoce). It's a 15-day carbonic maceration with the stems.
Julien Prevel is a young vigneron working in the Montlouis area, he set up his domaine 2 years ago, starting with one hectare and now he has two. He keeps working for another vigneron on the side, Frantz Saumon. Julien had three sparkling to present.
__ Jack Ouzi, a pet'nat vin de France 2013 made with gamay. The 2013 wine remained one year in barrels and then Julien added a few buckets of grape juice from 2014 (which was of course full of sugar), then he bottled the whole and it refermented in the bottles and stayed one year lying in the cellar. The color is light red. Thin bubbles. It was vinified like a red except that he sort of added this rosé juice of 2014. The 2013 initial wine was too acidic in his feeling and this was a good way to make something new out of it. I like the acidity here, not excessive. Vinous type of bubbly. He made a barrel of this, 300 bottles. Costs 8 € a bottle. He didn't repeat the experiment in 2014 but may do it again next year. Julien Pineau who happens to taste his wine while I'm there says that Julien [Prevel] also worked at Jean-Christophe Comr's Les Terres Promises, for the harvest, certainly a good omen (my opinion).
__ Perlant Free 2014. Vin de France gamay, 13 % alc. Color : pink. More residual sugar here it seems, the wine is more aerial and also more powerfull, curiously, very enjoyable. Costs 8 €.
__ Le Jus Brifiant 2014 Pétillant Naturel. Gamay probably too. Refined bottles, candy-style aromas with light sugary side. Costs 12 €. The grapes were picked a week before the ones of the previous wine, the sugary edge comes from the fact that there's less acidity here.
Here is Brendan Tracey, the American-French natural wine maker based near Vendôme.
__ Romo Verde, vin de France, 11,5 %, a cuvée he makes since 2013, it's a cuvée he makes with the spirit of Vino Verde. The aromas are very surprising on the nose, very fresh with notes of acacia flowers, orgeat syrup too (almond). This is more a vinous wine than a sparkling. He doesn't work with this parcel in Cour-Cheverny anymore but he has hopes to find another.
__ Pink Bulles, vin de France 2013, a very light-colored rosé with onion peel shadesr, 11 % in alcohol. About 1000 bottles, like the previous cuvée. Cabernet Franc with a bit of Côt.
You may remember that Brendan is also a musician, and I had the luck to witness an improvisation of his as he was carrying a case of wine to his truck, watch the performance here.
Next, Christian Binner who with his wife Audrey does a very good job in Alsace. I arrived there when Hervé Villemade was himself having a taste of Christian's wines. There's a lot of exchanges during these artisan vintners fairs, and there was also this dîner de vignerons in the evening the same day where all of them took part as well as the people wise enough to reserve a seat, and you can see all these people discuss lots of
things, be it about winemaking or more mondane issues. No need to say that the wine is included and you see all kind of cuvées. I'd have been happy to be there too but I'd have needed to have a place to sleep in town because between the day spent tasting (and drinking a bit each time) and the endless dinner, I'd not have been able to ride my motorbike to where I stay 30 km away...
There were 4 bubblies from Binner :
__ Mus'Ka Bulles 2012, a sparkling made with 100 % Muscat. Aromas typical of muscat with ripe grape notes. Nice moth with good substance, there are 8 grams of residual sugar; total volume : 12 hectoliters or 1500 bottles. Costs 15 €. I read later that this is a négoce cuvée made with grapes from domaine Bannwarth. Real pleasure, nice balance with the freshness, the sugar, the fruit, the grape juice aromas and the refined bottles in the background. Another thing is the color, very exciting and beautiful.
__ Espoir de Bulles 2013, a Gewürztraminer which, Christian says should be "sparkling" but doesn't much sparkle actually. Aromas : more ripe, majestic feel with indeed discreet bubbles. Color : honey/wheat, turbidity. Feels light in alcohol. Made at his friend's domaine Bannwarth, like the 1st one, the vines are also biodynamicly farmed threre and he just follows Christian's orders about the vinification. It's not really a négoce in that sense. Zero SO2 like the previous wine.
Excellent wine, exquisite. Costs 15 € too.
__ Pinot Gris, Hinterberg, with unplanned refermentation in the bottle. No filtration. Nose : white flowers, fresh.
For some reason I haven't tasted other sparklings here...
Vincent Utard is a natural-wine caviste in Paris (11th arrondissement) and he runs cooking lessons with several chefs as well as wine courses in the large back room of his wine shop, which is named Tours de Cuisine.
Vincent presented a few bubblies and I tasted a bubbly sake from Shinkame, a brewery I happen to have visited last year north of Tokyo and where all the sake cuvées are made the old way, without correction or alcohol adding. Few people know that there are similar issues between wine and sake, the latter being also often doktored and corrected with various additives for a more efficient commercial production.
__ The sake here is the nigori-sake 2014 of the brewery, the turbid sake which tastes so different from the usual "finished" ones. This cuvée is even more different at Shinkame because it's the only one that is available shortly after the brewing process, the other cuvées here being released only after 3 years, or even 5 or 7 years of élevage. A 30 cl bottle costs 24 € here in France. Alcohol content here : 17,5 %, does not feel that high.
Although she's not rooted in the wine trade, Marie Thibault has developped skills, knowledge and motivation that can make for missing family connections. She founded her domaine in 2011 after a few years working for other vignerons, settling in Touraine (near Azay-le-Rideau) for good after trying other Loire areas. Today her vineyard surface is 3 hectares and she does everything by herself [except the harvest I guess], the tractor, plowing, pruning, spraying and so on. Of course she farms organic and vinifies naturally. SThe vineyard is in one block and she has potential to increase the surface in the future.
__ La Roue Qui Tourne, Vin de France (white) sparkling 2014. Made with chenin. Marie makes between 1500 and 2000 bottles per cuvée. Aromas of wheat, quite intense feel in the mouth, interesting. All her sparklings cost 13 €, they can't get an AOC for the pet'nats in her area.
__ La Roue Qui Tourne, Vin de France (rosé) 2013, made from gamay. A very light rosé with tight bubbles. For her sparklings she does the bottling (tirage) in her cellar and then the bottles are stored at her service provider who will take care of the disgorgement.
__ La Roue Qui Tourne, Vin de France (red) 2014, made from Grolleau, vines aged from 55 and 60 like her other parcels. The wine is more vinous, with a light astringency and bitterness.
Philippe Tessier is a reference when we think to the wines of Cheverny and it's iconic white variety, the Romorantin.
__ Phil en Bulle, vin de France 2013, 90 % Romorantin and a bit of Menu Pineau. The wine is vivid, the bubbles add a bit more vividness, the wine is bone dry, very sharp and focused. 11 % in alcohol according to the label. Sells for 10,5 € retail. Very unusual pet'nat, Romorantin rocks ! Total volume 6000 bottles.
Except for the one of Brendan Tracey (and Brendan may not make some next year), there's no other Romorantin natural sparkling around. I guess the variety being fit for long élevage, austere mineral wines, vintners don't think about the intertest of making a bubbly with it.
I stopped a long time at Jolly Ferriol tasting and drinking their white pet'nat:
__Pet'Nat, a sparkling made with Muscat : Color : clear, honeyish, wheat gold. Nose : very acidulous with menthol and lemon notes, very interesting.
I spent time chatting with Isabelle, and then with Jean-Luc who arrived later. Isabelle Legeron, the most famous French woman in London regarding natural wine was at the stand then and I was happy to spak to her too... Jolly Ferriol is certainly one of the most interesting domaines in the area and it's too bad they're so far from where I go usually, but you never know, so I keep them in the back of my mind. They're part of the group of vignerons Vins S.A.I.N.S. who don't use any additive in their wines, including any SO2 under any form (and they all grow organic of course), proving that you can make delicious wines without ever, ever using any so2.
__ Vin des Gueux, vin de France, Rue de la Soif (a négoce they set up to vinify from purchased grapes), a red still wine I taste before their 2nd sparkling, the rosé which I apparently didn't taste (or my notes are mixed up). 13 % alcohol, made with carignan (70 %), grenache (30 %). Some carbonic maceration and a 6-month élevage? Great wine for a casual drink, gets down easily. They sell that from may to end of august at 9 € retail, they make 2000 bottles of that. In the mouth : light, appealing, with a nice acidity that coats the palate, great wine indeed, and good deal at this price. Jean-Luc says that Carignan gets credit for this quality : when picked lightly before maturity it has this bright acidity with still these spicy notes which make the wine very enjoyable to drink.
Now here is Paul Gillet who is based really close from here, I had stumbled upon Michel Augé who also attended this tasting fair (Michel Augé is the former owner of les Maisons Brûlées and a reference in the region in the biodynamic farming):
__ les Maison Bullées Blanc (white) 2014, made with sauvignon. &&,( % alcohol content; Mouth : really feels like grape juice, an easy-drinking sparkling. Paul says that the fermentation stopped during winter, made some sediments, he bottled the wine in spring and started to referment but he considers it didn't reach yet the balance he's looking for, so he sells it as is for now, undisgorged, it's barely turbid for an undisgorged sparkling. Sells for 11 €, total volume 2000 bottles and 200 magnums.
__ Altérité, les Maison Bullées red/rosé 2013, sparkling made with cabernet sauvignon (direct press), 11 % alcohol. Sells for 14 €. Very fruity, bubbles quite refined, easy to drink. The color of the wine (in the glass on the picture) is almost red.
This is Babass of les Vignes de Babass, which he founded after co-managing Les Griottes with Pat Desplats, he is also the initiator of Les Vins Anonymes, a precious
artisan wine fair in Angers. He works on a tiny vineyard surface, 2,4 hectares and he just planted an additional 35 ares.
At his stand I met Emily, a Californian who lives in Paris and is the author behind the blog Paris Paysanne. Follow her and she'll help you discover tasty side streets or enjoy a weekend in the Loire...
__ Sébastien has a single natural sparkling : Brutal !!! 2013, a vin de France making 11,5 % in alcohol. The name of the cuvée was initiated by Antony Tortul and Patrick Bouju and it is used by several artisan vintners including Puzelat, it's an interesting concept of sharing a cuvée label which I didn't know. Usually his sparkling is named Nuée Bulleuse but in 2013 he thought it appropriate to name it Brutal. The reason is that the sparkling didn't "want" to finish its malolactic and its sugar and because of this it has a very high malolactic acidity with apple aromas, the whole thing being softened with the residual sugar. Babass says that the wine found by itself this miraculous balance, he wouldn't have been able to calculate that by outside intervention. When he spotted the unusual character of the wine he asked Tortul and Bouju if he could use the "Brutal" label concept, and they said OK. Nose : very ripe. Color : turbid. Aromas of ripe grapes in the mouth, goes down well, the bubbles are discreet indeed. Total volume 2500 bottles, costs around 9 € professional price.
__ le Groll' n Roll, a red still wine, the Grolleau 2014, bottled 6 weeks before. Recduction when you open the bottle, Babass says, a bit like a Poulsard. He has 63 ares of Grolleau and makes about 2000 bottles of it every year. Costs 6,5 € professional price, a very good deal indeed. Makes 11 % or 11,5 % he says. He got trouble with the suzukii drosophilia last year and his volume of red was smaller than usual.
The name of the domaine which was created 10 years agois Chahut et Prodiges, it is managed by Anne Paillet and Gregory Leclerc, it is located in Touraine near Amboise. Total surface : 4 hectares (Gregory says he reduced from 7 hectares and reached the right size), they do all the work by themselves. They make mostly reds, gamay, côt, grolleau plus some sauvignon and chenin.
__ Niz de Guêpes 2014, vin de France Pet'nat, a blend of sauvignon (60 %) and chenin (40 %), they make this cuvée since 2007. The wine feels dry, Greogory says that he doesn't like sugar. Vivid wine with wheat field aromas, very nice. Disgorged 48 hours before. He says for a pet'nat either you drink it just after the disgorgement like here or you wait a couple of months, because in-between it may be hard to taste. Sells for 6,5 € professional price.
__ Les Têtes Noires, Vin de France 2013, a still red wine made from côt. The color is very light for a côt, he doesn't work the extraction, he says. Unfiltered wine, very enjoyable wine, after all these wine I went through I'm still able to feel when I come across something I really like. Vinified in cement vats with short maceration (1 week), the vintage 2013 was also a bit artpical, not very sunny. After the cement stage the wine went into fiber vats. Total volume : 2000 bottle for the cuvée. Costs 6 € professional price.
Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme has been working along the Puzelat brothers for years, he is now fully in charge of the négoce, starting also to work on owned vineyard at the same time. Pieere-Olivier brought 3 sparklings, all colors with a similar label.
__ Pétillant Naturel, blanc 2011, Chenin. Was disgorged 2 weeks before. Nose : ripe aromas, some oxidative notes. There was almost no sulfites added here, only 1 gram at the disgorgement. Refined bubbles indeed and good length, the thing is vervinous in style. 3000 bottles, costs 6,5 € pro price.
__ Pétillant Naturel Rosé 2011, made with Gamay, vineyards located in Thésée. Neutral-color glass for all these cuvées. This is a try he made in 2011.
__ Pétillant Naturel Rosé 2013, made from Cabernet Franc. More residual sugar here. This is only the 2nd time he made this cuvée. Bottled with 35 grams of residual sugar, feels rather dry in spite of the sugary feel. Sharp, focused wine with an acidulous edge, lovely bubbly. 11,5 % alcohol. On the retail side it costs 10 € tax included.
I was at this stage almost on my knees, with in addition the prospect to keep enough energy and concentration to ride the motorbike another 25 km east, but I spotted Remi Dufaitre on whom I had stumbled a couple of times as he tasted here and there, he was at his barrel now and I had to stop for another couple of glasses...
__ L et R Dufaitre, Pet Nat. A bit of bitterness, dry sparkling, gets down very well although Remi warned be it was too warm and bubbles were gone. When you feel a bubbly is good in spite of its warm temperature, that's a good omen, I'd drink that every day.
__ Brouilly 2014. Now, that is a wine ! I end this day with such a beautiful wine...
Marion Pescheux and Emmanuel Landron from the Muscadet region have three sparklings to taste in Montrichard, I had met Marion at the Rue89 wine tasting event in Paris and their work for such a young domaine seemed to me already impressing.
__ Potion Mama 2014, gamay. Rented vineyard. Residual sugar with fruit aromas, 11,5 % alcohol. They didn't make analysis and don't know how much residual sugar there is. 2500 bottles for each sparkling cuvée. Costs 9 € retail.
__ Potion Mama 2014, white made with 80 % Melon de Bourgogne and 20 % Folle Blanche. It is very rare to come across a sparkling made with Melon de Bourgogne in the Muscadet region. The usual narrative is that Melon develops bitter notes in sparklings but Marion and Emmanuel didn't follow this dogma. Disgorged but unfiltered sparkling. Their idea would be to keep these for next winter, and so they put 800 bottles on the side for that. Costs 14 € retail. The oly other vintner who makes sparkling with Melon is Marc Pesnot, and anyway there is only another guy who makes natural sparkling in the region : Jérôme Bretodeau, and he does it with gamay. You do find Champagne-method sparkling in Muscadet but it's done with Folle Blanche (majority), Chardonnay and also Pinot Noir.
__ Potion Mama 2013, 100 % Melon, the reason being they just had this hectare of Melon then to do this sparkling. The bottle is not vey cold but the wine still tastes well. It stayed 18 months sur lattes, Marion says. The terroir here yields more tannicity from the Melon.