Paris, 11th arrondissement
This major wine tasting event took place recently at the Atelier Basfroi in the 11th arrondissement, this was the first of its kind with about 70 artisan vignaioli (vignerons) presenting their wines to the French public (see all the participating domaines & vintners on left). Vini di Vigniaioli has been a yearly event in Italy for 15 years with some 150 winemakers gathering near Parma in Fornovo, but this was the first time the tasting fair moved to Paris as well. The Paris event was initiated by Christine Marzani, her daughter Aniouchka Marzani and Claudia Galterio, helped by Florence Andrieu's Balpop communication agency (she's been doing a great job for the Cave des Papilles). Kudos for this first try in Paris, the attendancy was young and vibrant, lots of nice women too, Italian of course, but also French...
You can see on the left all the Italian artisan vintners who took part, and this Vini di Vignaioli event, which lasted two full days, was more than just about tasting, there were discussion, workshops about biodynamy or skin maceration, the first day (sunday) being for all public and the following monday for pros. The general public would pay 10 € for getting in which isn't much considering all the great wines you'd taste, and 5 € for the pros.
To make this event even more lasting and salivating, there were a few extensions in some of the best venues for natural wines in Paris (see document on right), places like Le Lapin Blanc, Septime or Coinstot Vino.
You can read on the main page of the event the chart and ethics of Vini di Vignaioli, I'll sum it up by : the winegrower will say what he does and will do what he says [no tricks] and work for the purpose of making a wine that reflects the nature. No chemicals in the vineyard, harvest by hand only, vinification with indigenous yeast, no use of brutal manipulation of the grapes (reverse osmosis, flash pasteurization or thermo-vinification for example), no additives except some minimal SO2, for the reds no more than 60mg/liter and for the whites no more than 70 mg/liter. No need to say that a lot of vintners here had so2 levels that were way below these ceilings.
I managed to go to this tasting but not for long enough to taste all these domaines, so I had to make choices, tasting also randomly in a few occasions, but I was thrilled by several of the wines and people I met.
My first pick was this turbid sparkling 280 slm by Costadila in Venetie, a pet'nat that hadn't been disgorged, and the result was indeed an exciting wine with a lasting mouth feel. Made with 4 varieties that are complanted in the same parcel. Professional price in Italy is 8 € from what I understand. They also had a lovely Merlot making only 10,5 % in alcohol and without any added SO2.
Some pictures like this one have been shot with my mobile phone and they're not always good.
I was happy to stumble upon Chiara Pepe who was here to pour and present the wines of her family estate Emidio Pepe. I tasted their white Pecorino 2014 that was just being released after a long élevage. Made from young vines planted on 1,5 hectare. Very classy white, creamy and aromatic with ripeness notes. Neutral vinification, no wood. A new chapter is opening with these young vines that are turning mature, expect this wine to be sought after.
When you have little time and so many choices to make you resort occasionally to insiders' tips, and with Thierry Puzelat who knows well the Italian natural wines I was eager to listen to his directions; he showed me the way to the table of Sauro Maule and his Azienda Agricola Il Cavallino , hidden behind a wall, not the best spot in the room, but once you have tasted, nothing else counts...Sauro is a family connection to no less than Angelino Maule with who he learnt the job, no other résumé is needed. Sauro works on 4,5 hectares (one of which is a rental) since 2011.
__ Bianco Granselva 2013, Pinot Gris & Sauvignon on volcanic soil. He loves the terroir, makes the best whites in the region, he sees some similarities with Loire whites. THe wine has a large resonance in the palate with peony aromas, subtle, complex flower aromas. 8 € without tax.
__ Garganega 2014, another white. Super fresh and vivid aromas, terrific wine ! Feel od truth in this wine. 3 day skin maceration. Nice white-tannin feel, intensity & delightness in the throat. Another great white indeed with a superb umami. 10,5 € without tax.
__ Ca' Lombarda Merlot 2015 (red of course). The nose is such a good omen already... Only stainless-steel vats here. Superb merlot, light, subtle, aerial, and yet coating beautifully the palate. 13,5 % but still so smooth to swallow.
My next move was of course to go taste the wines of Angiolino Maule, his son Francesco was doing the job in Paris. The domaine makes has hectares of vineyards, 13 in ownership, 5 rented and 2 being currently purchased if I understand well.
__ Garg'n' Go 2015, a white pet'nat that hasn't been disgorged. Varieties : Garganega & Durella (I'm not familiar with Italian varieties and there may be some misspelling). Turbid wine. A substance that is quite uncommon for a pet'nat, lovely wine, I'd even say exceptional quality for a pet'nat.
__ Masieri La Biancara 2015, the basic white of the azienda. Nice wine for an entry cuvée.
__ Sassaia La Biancara , 2-day maceration on the skins for this white, 100 % Garganica. Another instance where you feel the truth in a wine, this can't lie and I doubd conventional commercial wines ever can find tricks to imitate that feel... This wine is subtle, aerial and beautifully elegant. Francesco says that for the fermentationthey let the juice go up to 18 ° C (64,4 F) maximum and 20°C (68 F) for the reds. They separate the first press from the 2nd press
__ Pico La Biancara 2015, vines 20 years old, situated on higher hills (the vineyards of the azienda are at between 150 & 250 meters elevation). My stomach loves this one and makes its familiar approval noise. 9000 bottles made of this wine. Yields from 15 to 30 hectoliters/hectare.
__ Rosso Masieri 2015, basic red cuvée, 50 % Merlot, 40 % Tocai Rosso and the rest in Cabernet Sauvignon. Tocai Rosso is akin to Grenache, Francesco says. Powerful wine with nice small dark-fruits aromas. 2 week skin maceration.
__ So San , this red is named in reference to Sossano, a small village which also sounds like Sono Sano in the local dialect (we're healthy). What a difference, this wine illuminates the palate, this wine is exciting, with an enjoyable tannic coating. 15 % in alcohol which is a bit too high when spotted on the label but it feels more like 13 %.
At this point I befriended New York's wine man Jorge Riera who was in the country for a studious visit, having been a few days before visiting the Puzelats in the Loire, as well as Christian Venier and Laurent Saillard (another wine-wise NewYorker). Jorge who goes by the name of #rhumrhino on Twitter and Instagram is the wine man behind Wildair and Contra. He insisted I join him with Francesca to have a glass of Les Hauts de Madon 2015 by Christian Venier, made with Orbois and Savagnin, a luxury indeed in the middle of a flight of Italian wines...
My next stop was of course Francesca Padovani of the azienda Fonterenza. The domaine was created in 1999 by two sisters in Tuscany, the surface is some 4 hectares and they farm organic & biodynamic.
__ Bianco Spino 2015, a wine with an orange color. Non filtrato, so2 : 6 free; 35 total. Oxidative notes, you feel that the wine is at ease with the air.
__ PettiRosso 2014, the entry red cuvée. Sangiovese, also unfiltered (non filtrato). The vintage was cold and rainy in this region. Light and easy-drinking wine but still with a tannic touch.
__ Rosso di Montalcino 2014, 100 % Sangiovese. Tannic wine, this is a nice Sangiovese with potential for the years to come.
__ Rosso di Montalcino 2013, more subtle aromas with still a powerful throat feel. Cold vintage with late flowering. Strong tannins.
__ Brunello di Montalcino 2011, from a clos surrounded with woods, 3-day maceration. Elevage for 45 months. Still tannic and powerful (14,5 %). Prune aromas.
__ Brunello di Montalcino 2010. From a vintage that was more moderate. Oh yes, I think the result is in the wine with a nice complexity. More on the Nebiollo style although it's 100 % Sangiovese.
__ Vigna Matta 2015 (Matta means crazy), a confidential cuvée, made only for friends (54 liters total). This red is made from old vines in a complanted parcel. Foot stomped. Very complex wine with a lasting throat feel, that was the wine I liked the most here (bottle on the picture above).
I then jumped two tables from there, that's where Stefano Bellotti and his aide Charlotte were pouring the wines of the iconic Cascina degli Ulivi. Sometimes the fame isn't up to the reality but here these wines wer s good... I also spotted Christophe Foucher whom I visited not long ago, he was tasting the wines of Stefano with a friend (but I didn't taste with him, I shot this picture on left
while I was passing by). Charlotte was also a nice person to speak with, she is French and has
been working at the farm for a few months. She explained me the Triple A chart with the focus on artisan and natural work. The members are not only from Italy but from other European countries including France.
__ Semplicemente Vino 2014, the entry red. And this is an entry red.... just terrific wine with a brilliant acidity, everything I love here. 9 €.
__ Dolcetto 2012, made with Nibiô variety, low yields Dolcetto which are being uprooted usually. Wow, impressive range of aromas, another terrific wine, you feel like you just opened a door and face another level of aromas. Sells for 16 or 18 € tax included at the azienda. No spitting, terrific value for the price !
__ Nibiô 2009, same cuvée but older vintage. Such a delicate wine, with a splendid throat feel, freshness, silky coating, lots of complexity, the wine keeps reverberating along the throat...
__ Nibiô 2008, again same cuvée. They lost lots of grapes that year because of the Flavescence Dorée. So beautiful again, with this outstanding natural acidity that camme all the way from 2008. No SO2 at all, no fining and no filtration ! Every sommelier or clueless wine pro who babbles about the impossibility to make a good wine without SO2 should drink this before uttering further nonsense. And biodynamy can't be neutral in the uniqueness of these wines either.
__ Mounbé 2009, Barbera. Here I feel more acidity and vividness, but not in a welcome way, that may be because of the contrast with the previous wines, I don't know.
__ Etoile de Raisin 2007. Fermented along 4 years in one 500-liter barrel. That's something ! That's with this type of wine that you understand that long fermentations mean wines with complexity, it blows away the scheme of commercial wineries where lab yeast gets the job done in a week... A bit of volatile here maybe but again this beautiful freshness, no spitting, exceptionnal juice with silk-thin tannins.
Then I tasted a couple of wine from Quarticello, with enologist Roberto Maestri pouring the wines. The azienda is located in Emilie Romagna.
__ Neromaestri 2015, a red frizzante with crown-cap closure. Old-school Lambrusco.
__ Bordone 2013, a still red with a nice balance with the tannins. 13 % but quite light in the feel.
Tasted also a couple of wines from Mari di Luna in Ombrie. This aeienda makes a few cuvées as well as olive oil.
__ Sangiovese Umbria 2015, closed with crown cap. 10-day skin maceration in cement vat. Some extraction with tannin. 14,5 %.
__ La Cupa, Sangiovese Umbria 2013.Destemmed, 20-day skin contact in cement, then 10 months in casks. Bottled october 2016. Not bad.
Another azienda of which I loved the wines, La Ginestra, I can't put a name on the young woman with him, I guess either she's her partner or from the family wine farm. This azienda is working organic since 1989, it is located in Tuscany, has a vineyard surface of 5 hectares and makes around 20 000 bottles a year. The domaine is making natural wine since 2012.
__ Habemus, red still winesenza solfiti (without added SO2), blend of several varieties from what I understand, Cabernet, Canaiolo, Lollorino (bad spelling I think), Sangiovese. Unfiltered red. Super good, easy drinking, 14 % but feels like 12 %. Sells for 14 or 15 € at the azienda. 2000 bottles.
__ Habemus 2013, same blend but there was a bit of volatile in the Cabernet and the Canaiolo.A bit more alcohol feel here, more powerful.
__ Sant'Ellero 2015, 100 % Sangiovese. Strong tannic feel
__ Chianti Riserva (not sure of the last word), 100 % Sangiovese, 3-month maceration. Nice complexity, aromas of ripe flowers albeit with noticeable tannins.
__ Sangio Panza 2013 also 100 % Sangiovese but different parcel, 3-month maceration. This is the bottom of the bottle and the wine has this nice milky turbidity, which I know many people dislike but I often find a great wine behind this weird appearance. Indeed that was great, silky tannins and [can't decipher further my own writing here but I assume I loved the wine by a special sign I added on my notes].
Then I tasted from the Azienda Agricola Foradori which is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in the north of Italy. From what I understand Myrtha is the daughter of Elisabetta Foradori who runs the azienda. The domaine's website being uneasy to navigate and find information, check this page by Raw Wine for an overlook. The azienda has been working for 20 years, farming organic & biodynamic on 26 hectares and listening to what Nature had to tell.
__ Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2015. Turbid white. Great energy in the mouth, with a truth feel (mmm, that's biodynamy for sure...). 12 % alcohol only. Nice wine, I warmly recommend.
__ Nosiola Fontanasanta 2015, another white, indigenous variety from Trentino.
__ Pinot Grigio (didn't note the vintage). Amphora skin maceration, 8 months. Tastes like a southern white but with this vivid energy within.
__ Teroldego 2014, an indigenous local variety from Trentino, this is the cuvée domaine from what I understand.
__ Granato Teroldego 2013, same variety but from old vines. Silk tannins and dust feel, delicious wine.
I managed to taste a couple of wines from the Azienda Bera, of course when Thierry Puzelat had finished his show at the table (while Jorge was checking his emails)... Bera is certainly with Occhipinti the best known natural wine from Italy, possibly also because of the energetic women who manage these domaines.
__ Barbera d'Asti Ronco Malo 2012 (red). 2,5 years on lees in a cement tank. Extraction but very elegant and smooth, with wwell-behaved tannins, nice wine. The color shows almost some time evolution. Dust feel and silky tannins.
__ Barbera d'Asti Ronco Malo 2013, more rough, arsh, less elegant.
__ Moscato D'Asti 2015, a white, very clear and clean; glides beautifully on the palate, nice fruit. Nice wine, recommended.
I also tasted a couple of wine from Occhipinti
__ SP68, Nero d'Avola 2015, a red. After the Moscato, not easy to drink this wine.
__ Il Frappatto 2014, some bitterness.
__ Siccagno Nero d'Avola 2014. Not bad, my mouth begins to recover from the Moscato 2 wines ago. But not love at first sight though.
Denis Montanar makes wine in the Friuli, his family has been in the farm for many generations and his vineyards have never got any herbicides.
__ Borc Dodon Uis Blancis 2012, a white.6-day skin maceration. 2 years in large-capacity barrel. Beautiful.
__ Rosé (didn't write the vintage). Almost the same color, very onion-peel style. Direct press, 2 years in large barrel, made with Refosco (variety). 40 mg so2.
__ Merlot 2013. Alcohol peaks a little bit here.
__ Refosco 2012. Some astringency. 35-day maceration in open tank.
__ Merlot (90 %) / Cabernet Franc (10 %) 2012. 3 years in large capacity oak barrel. Some nail polish it seems to me.
Forgive the bad quality of the picture, Sony phones are definetely not suited for photography. Rocco di Carpeneto is an azienda that makes 4 or 5 cuvées in the region of Alto Monferrato inland from Genoa, they grow 5 hectares of vines (see the profile in English at Raw Wine).
__ Dolcetto 2014, from the youngest vines (20 years). Vinified in stainless-steel tanks and élevage for 15 months in old casks. What a nose ! Similar to the nose in empty glasses that you get with great wines... In the mouth, some astringency and a good freshness, like says Emmanuel Zanni of Le Rouge et le Blanc (a skilled connoisseur of Italian wines) who is also tasting at this table.
__ Aur-Oura 2015, also 100 % Dolcetto, a version of the cuvée they made for wine bars. 2015 was very sunny, the wine is more powerful. Bottled 3 months before, maceration for 3 to 4 weeks, vinified in stainless steel, same vinification, with 10 months in cement tank. No SO2. Lovely wine indeed, I wanted them to hold the bottle for the picture but after filling my glass but they dumped the empty bottle (their last sample) in the special recycling container of the event (this was the last hour) without possibility to retrieve it... Grab this cuvée if you find it, and it's certainly affordable, it's a thirst wine.
__ Rapp 2013, Barbera. 30 year-old vines, traditional vinification in stainless stell, then élevage for 21 months in old foudres. Quite high in alcohol (in the feel at least), less seducing for my criteria.
__ Rataraura 2013 (means bat), this is the 2nd version of Barbera. 22 months in amphora. Somme tannicity with a good acidity, not love at first sight though.
__ Reitemp (didn't note the vintage), named from a local 19th-century idiom. 3rd version of Barbera, from the oldest Barbera vines : 60 years. Vinification in stainless steel with 1-month maceration and 25 months in a foudre (large-capacity barrel). My notes are not all readable here but I can decipher that it's pretty difficult for me because of high alcohol feel and harsh tannins.
Yet another terrible picture made with this Sony phone, forgive the poor contrast and colors, but otherwise the table of Le Coste was one of the most exciting of this event, with Clémentinec and Gian Marco Antonuzi pouring their wines. The event was closing its doors when I showed up at the table, I had managed to come after work and lacked time to properly taste more of their cuvées. In this azienda (located between Pisa & Rome) they bottle everything as table wine (vini di tavola), very surprising ;-) like in France that seems to be a prerequisite for exciting and living wines. They grow 10 hectares, both reds & whites and make (take a seat) 22 cuvées (here are some of their cuvées with prices in France). Read this profile in English from an Australian website.
__ Litrozzo LLR15, made with Sangiovese, Merlot & Montepulciano. Terrific thirst wine, bottle in one-liter bottles like in the past. Maceration for 1 week with 3/4 destemmed grapes. Costs 8 e at the azienda, a great bargain.
__ Alea Jacta Est 2011, made with Aleatico, an aromatic type of variety. Exciting color, clear and turbid. Very intense, some sugar feel but there's no sugar left. A great wine, also unique in its kind.
Now this was unexpected, I was on my way out of the event and all the winemakers and staff were packing, and as I was saying hello to Florence and Christine Marzani (pictured here on left with her daughter & Thierry Puzelat) at the door,
they told me and another person that the Cantina Marco Merli was selling the rest of their bottles for only 5 € each in order to travel light back to Italy.
I hadn't had time to taste the azienda and rushed on this bargain opportunity, taking a picture of Marco with his friend or wife as visual reminder. I had come to the event by bicycle and went back home with the bottles in by back pack; now the bottles rested and settled properly and I tasted the wine at last :
__ Tristo Vino Bianco (Trebbiano Toscano) L.Tricol14 (2014 I guess). info on label : so2 total : 11 mg/liter ; zuccheri rid (residual) < 1,0 gram/liter; acidita total : 5.9+7 g/liter; acidita vol: 1.15 g/liter; ph. : 3.58 Non filtrato.
excellent, unusual wine, obviously with some skin contact. Fresh moth with enjoyable subtance, some oxidation feel, you want to pour some more and explore the experience again. Bottled in heavy bottle with wax cap (like seen on this picture), obviously with in mind a longer élevage in your cellar, and it will certainly stand it if given the chance.
This event is a terrific opportunity for Parisians to discover natural wines from Italy in a single day or weekend. At first glance this was a success and Florence told me there was a chance that the event may be repeated next spring.
I also attended a conference by Stefano Bellotti (picture on right), the small room was packed with maybe 40 people and listening to him was very heartening (although it took some time away from further tasting the other producers...).