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Natural Wine Makers in France – Part I – Domaine Griottes

On my recent trip to France, I dove head first into the natural wine world, meeting with some of the greatest wine makers making wine today.  Between tasting the wines of these “hero’s” of natural wine at the various natural wine bars in Paris, to visiting them at their “domains”, I got to better understand their wines and the people behind them. I would like to apologize in advance for the quality of these photos!

 

The "Wine List" at Racines, Paris

The "Wine List" at Racines natural wine bar & restaurant, Paris

Monday, November 2nd 2009

2009-11-02_120097222009-11-02_12009723After having lunch with Jean-Marc Brignot (Jura) at Racines in Paris, where we consumed a 2002 skin-macerated Riesling from Alsace produced by Gérard Schueller with a gorgeous plate of pork, we headed for the Loire Valley. Our destination was Domaine Griottes, an approximate 5 hour drive south and West of Paris.  Since their wine “P’tite Gâterie” (here’s a tasting note for this wine) had been on my wine list for the past 6 months, this was a visit I was looking forward to.

Domaine des Griottes label detail with logo

Domaine des Griottes label detail with logo

Domaine Griottes is located in the small village of Saint Lambert du Lattay. Located in the Loire Valley (within the Anjou appellation) about 26km south of Angers, 175km from the West Coast. Patrick Desplats & Sébastien Dervieux are growing and making delicious wines from an almost unheard of local variety called Pineau d’Aunis.  A grape that made wines consumed by the nobility between the 13th and 15th centuries, it has almost completely disappeared from the Loire Valley save for some brave & passionate wine makers like Patrick and Sébastien. The grape produces some of the most exciting spicy red wines with aromas of grapefruit and pencil shavings. In my opinion, Domaine Griottes make some of the best examples in the Loire Valley from this grape. (Griottes also produces whites from the Chenin Blanc grape). All work in the vineyards and harvesting is done by hand with the help of Patrick’s ageing horse, Caroline.  Grapes are subsequently fermented in fiberglass. The P’tite Gâterie is then bottled, while the rest of the red cuvée’s and the whites spend some time in oak after fermentation. Although the use of oak is moderate and these wines are great, the oak is detectable and not entirely to my palate.

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Patrick Desplats

We arrived around 2100 (9pm) and were quickly greeted by a very outgoing Patrick Desplats, a table full of things to eat

naturally fermenting apple sauce

naturally fermenting apple sauce

and of course wine by the magnum pouring.

We tasted all of the wines from previous vintages. Stunning wines all the way through the gamma, even the oak-influenced wines had stunning fruit qualities that could have only come from extremely healthy grapes that were subsequently spontaneously fermented, aged and bottled without even a milligram of sulfur! My kind of wines.

Drinking wine from a bull's horn!

Drinking wine from a bull's horn!

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Tuesday, November 3rd 2009

Homemade herbal and flower teas

After a good night’s rest at Patrick’s house, we came down for a nice breakfast where we got to sample some of his home-dried natural teas made from various flowers and herbs growing in his yard.  Very inspirational!  We then headed over to the vineyards to see where his Pinea d’Aunis and Chenin Blanc was growing. In some of  their vineyards, the two grapes were growing together, side by side.  We shared a glass of wine with Patrick as we looked over the Loire Valley and talked about the nature and how passionate he was about what he was doing and the nature around him.  He and Sébastien had actually purchased a piece of forest separating his vineyards from the vineyards on the other side of the river. He wanted to keep the conventionally farmed vineyards as far away from his as possible.

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As the sun began to set, we headed over to his winery and sampled his 2009’s directly from the fiberglass tanks. The fermentation was just finished. At this time, his 2009’s seem to be stunning. Fantastically concentrated wines with incredible amounts of structure while they were still light and fresh.  His P’tite Gâterie (which is a blend of Pinea d’Aunis, Gamay and Grouillot, the amounts, and grapes, varying from vintage to vintage) will be bottled directly from the fiberglass tank it was fermented in. His other cuvées like La Griotte, will spend some time in oak before being bottled. After tasting the current vintage and as we headed towards the door to leave, we noticed a tank of SO2 hanging from the ceiling where Patrick had placed it to express his dislike of sulfur!

Sulfur tank hanging from the ceiling!

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Domaine Griottes - Loire Valley, France, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Makers in France

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A tasting note: 2006 Domaine Griottes P'tite Gâteri

2009-06-02_620091684Date tasted:  June 2nd, 3rd & 5th, 2009

Located in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley in France, the Domaine Griottes is a natural wine maker making very interesting wines.

This wine is a Vin de Table, or Table wine,  made with 40% Pineau d’Aunis, 30% Grouillot and 30% Gamay.  The Pineau d’Aunis grape was more widely planted in the Loire in the past but has been largely ripped out to make more room for commercial grapes.  Dating back to medieval times,  this individual variety bears small black grapes.

The grapes for this wine are picked entirely by hand.  The maceration period is between 60-70 days in fiberglass.  No treatments, no sulfur, no filtration nor fining.  Only indigenous yeast – spontaneous fermentation.  This wine was bottled around August of 2007 and is totally without any additives.  It’s totally natural.

2009-06-02_620091685First tasting (June 2, 2009 15:00):

Appearance: Light Color. Dark pink rose pedal, light red. See through like a Pinot Noir. In a blind tasting, the Pinot Noir would be the first grape I would think of.

Nose: Incense, white pepper, black tea, musk, cherry and raspberries. With some air, hints of blackberries also emerged.  Very complex for a light & fresh wine with only 11% alcohol. Hints of saddle or baseball mitt and hints of licorice also emerging.

Palate: Light and fresh with medium plus acidity.  Medium fruit tannins with precise, focused fruit shining through. Red plums and plum pits.  Long, fruity finish with persistent well-integrated tannins.  The alcohol is extremely well integrated.

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Second tasting (June 3, 2009 23:56):

Appearance: Only slightly darker, but not much color change noticeable.

Nose: Less of the exotic spices, more dark plums and hints of blackberry. Seems a bit more closed tonight then it did yesterday afternoon..With more glass swirling, more of the pepper and licorice emerged again.

Palate: Tannins are firmer than yesterday, but still only at a medium minus to medium level.. Some roasted meat aromas and rosemary. Dark plums.  Acidity still medium to medium plus.   Some hints of pepper, smoke and minerals in the background.

Compared to yesterday, less aromatic and spicy on the nose.  Not as exotic.  A bit more focused and serious.  Good concentration while still remaining light and fresh with a 30 second finish.  The alcohol is a bit more noticeable than yesterday.. Will retaste tomorrow.

Third tasting (June 5, 2009 00:49):

Nose: Again, less exotic and less “spicy”.  More perfumed and floral.  Dark plums and morel cherries.  Hints of red fruit and anise.  A bit nutty.

Palate: Superb concentration with hints of hazelnuts.  A bit darker fruit, plums and some blackberries, with supporting red fruit like raspberries.  Mild plus tannins. Medium acidity.  Quite elegant and long with a smoky aftertaste.  Surprisingly structured and still drinking well.  A bit more serious than yesterday with very well integrated alcohol.  Drinking very well today.

Open for almost 3 days and stored in the cellar at around 16°C, and still beautiful, in fact perhaps better than when I opened.  Who says you need to add sulfur to wine to keep it once opened.  In my opinion, natural wine is alive and with a little air and some days exposed to oxygen, the wine fully comes alive and expresses itself.  In contrast, conventional wines made from grapes with pesticides and then manipulated in the winery, are dead and once opened and exposed to oxygen, only decline…

I will continue to focus on wines made naturally and I will hopefully also eventually have the will power to keep a bottle open for a longer period.  Please stay tuned.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Anjou, France, Loire, natural wine (100% living wine)

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A (very quick) tasting note: 2005 Jérôme Saurigny S – A Chenin Surmûris

I remember when I first met Jérôme Saurigny  back in 2009 when I was visiting Patrick Desplats (Griottes). Patrick took us to meet his friend Jérôme and taste his wines. I still remember being blown away by his (dry) Sauvignon Blanc.  A Sauvignon like none I can remember tasting before. Just ripe, juicy fruit without the “off” aromas we are familiar with in a Sauvignon. You don’t need to guess that Jérôme’s wines are made with no additives, including the industrial yeasts so often added to Sauvignon Blanc’s giving them their “characteristic” aromas. Of course he was a friend of Patrick’s, so no surprise there.

As we left his place he handed me a small 50cl bottle of his sweet wine and told me to enjoy it. Well, I finally did – 3 years later. On one hand I don’t know why the hell i waited 3 years to drink that wine, on the other hand I’m glad I did. It was worth the wait.

The “S” is made from Chenin Blanc grapes and is one of only a small handful of sweet wines that I know of that is made without any additions, including SO2. No easy feat for a sweet wine which is allowed to have up to 400 mg/liter (ppm) in the EU. This wine most likely clocks in at less than 25 mg/l. What the hell does this mean? Well it makes for  a much purer, cleaner wine.

Date tasted:  October 15th, 2012

Ooohhh fuck was my first impression on the nose. Slightly volatile (compounds, which I love) with hints of yeast. Quince apples.  Slight “flor” hints. “Fresh walnuts”

Oh Jesus on the palate. Extremely fresh. Not sticky. Acid is medium-low, but refreshing.

A very drinkable dessert wines, not for sipping. Enjoy quickly since there is only 50cl

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Coteaux du Layon, France, Loire, natural wine (100% living wine)

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A tasting note: 2009 Gaëlle Berriau "Flon Flon"!

Finally! I have been tasting, drinking and enjoying this wine for a year now ever since Patrick Desplats (Domaine Griottes) and his girlfriend Gaëlle came up to Jacob’s Bar & Kjøkken for a visit. I must have helped consume 30 bottles, not to mention that it was the welcome drink for guests at my wedding.  Flon Flon and I are close friends by now

One of the most enjoyable sparklers I have ever tasted, and everyone else who has tasted it agrees.

A wine from the Anjou area of the Loire Valley made with organic Chenin Blanc grapes, spontaneously fermented without any additions. The wine was bottled (again without additions) before fermentation could finish it’s process of eliminating the grape sugar.  As fermentation continued in the bottle, sugar was slowly digested producing carbon dioxide (bubbles!) and perhaps a half a degree more of alcohol. This is the natural way to produce bubbles in a bottle. The resulting sediment was not removed. The wine was left as it was. I am happy about that 🙂

Over the last year the wine has improved. My first experiences with the wine suggested that there was still some residual sugar which today has diminished a bit. Mother nature at work. The wine today is one of the most expressive examples of Chenin Blanc  I have ever tasted. Proof that healthy ripe grapes, a lot of know how (thanks to Patrick’s help I’m sure), a lot of patience and hard work can pay off.

One thing I have to mention here is the label. Now, I personally love the labels found on the bottles of natural wine. They sort of represent the anti-label. Often poking  fun at conventional assumptions of what a wine label should look like.  Gaëlle uses the same label for all of her wines, and I love it! I also love Patrick’s Domaine Griottes labels (see label detail on the right). Now to the discerning eye, there is something else about the label(s) that I love.  There is no mention anywhere that the wine(s) contain sulfites, and you won’t find this on the back labels either because there are no back labels. This is because according to EU labeling laws, you don’t need to write that a wine contains sulfites on the label if the wine has less than 10 mg of sulfur at time of bottling. Something that is no easy feat. It takes years of hard work, dedication and sleepless night for sure.

Ok, say no more, time for my tasting notes on the Flon Flon. i don’t know how many bottles were produced of this wine, but I am sure they number less than 1,000

Date Tasted:  January 11th, 2012 19:30 (and many many times before this night)

Appearance:  Lot’s of sediment floating in the glass. Dark colored sediment. Yellowish. Click on the photo and see for yourself

Nose:  Sweet lemons and citrus aromas with some hints, and only hints, of mild caramel (like those milky caramels we used to chew on as a kid ). But without being overly sweet on the nose. Mineral undertones.

On the palate, there is some residual sugar, but it is much less sweet and/or seemingly sweet than it was the first time I tasted the wine a  year ago. Great, ripe acidity. Most would place the acid at only a mid level, but if you pay close attention, the acidity is noticeably high and refreshing,  never harsh or abrasive. Absolutely refreshing. The bubbles are firm enought to appease the sparkling wine drinker, but at the same time integrated and not overbearing. A nice long finish. Very balanced, very drinkable.

The only drawback I can think of about the Flon Flon is that I only have one bottle left.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Anjou, France, Loire, natural wine (100% living wine)

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Red, white and something in between. Rayure

Jean-Marc Brignot is not a new name to me. I have met him on  a couple occasions and I have tasted his wines numerous times. I have also mentioned him here a few times.  If I was asked to name one of my favorite wine makers, I wouldn’t hesitate.  The wine that I am writing about here even landed on my top 9 list after only tasting it twice.  And now, thanks to Thomas and Synnøve, I had the chance to taste one of my all-time favorites. The Rayure… a legendary wine in the natural wine world.

We enjoyed this wine with Patrick Desplats (Griottes) and his girlfriend Gaëlle Berriau who happened to be visiting me at Jacob’s for the weekend. I don’t know much about the wine, but here is what I do know.  It’s from the Jura, a blend of Savagnin (white) and Poulsard (red) with no treatments in the vineyards, spontaneously fermented of course, carbonic maceration (at least semi), long maceration, no temperature control, no enzymes, no treatments, no clarification, no filtration or sulfur. 2008 vintage and 12.5.5 % alcohol

One thing we all agreed on (since the 6 of us had tasted this wine more than once, in fact, I was the “virgin” in the group having only tasted it two times before), was that this was a “good” bottle and drinking beautifully.

Date tasted:  Saturday March 5th, 2011 around 22:30
Appearance: wow… what can i say? Red, white and something in between.

 

arbutus fruit

Nose: What can I say?!  The sort of aromas that not only jump out of the glass, but never fail to make me jump out of my seat with excitement!  Aromas that can only come from the very best spontaneously fermented grapes.. It’s a smell that a group of friends and I have always called that “sponty smell”.  This wine had it, and I love it..Very high intensity, even though slightly reductive at first. Pink grapefruit, sweet tomato juice (clear), slightly spicy, arbutus fruit (see photo), blood orange (and peel), brie de meux.

Palate: A slight tingle on the tongue on entry. Very mineral, with fresh blood orange-like fruit. Also blood orange peel bitterness on the finish, but very slight and very pleasant. Texture like oil (same sort of texture in Robinot’s Concerto d’Oniss). High acidity, but mature, juicy and very (too) drinkable. Medium, feminine tannins. Very long finish.  A stunner

Now to get my hands on another bottle…hmmmm..

Wanna read more about the Jura, Molamboz and Jean-Marc Brignot?

And if my words aren’t enough, here is a short video I shot of Patrick Desplats as he tastes the wine! The video is in English and in French. Even if you don’t understand French, his expressions say it all!

Patrick Desplats of Domaine Griottes from vinosseur on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Arbois Pupillin, France, Jura, natural wine (100% living wine)

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“I’m Not Drinking Any Fucking" Pinot Noir!

Have you’ve seen the movie Sideways? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. This is a movie about wine, and at the same time, not about wine. If you have seen it, you should remember this part of the movie.  It helped boost sales of Pinot Noir in The States and of course decrease Merlot sales. I witnessed this phenomenon first hand. I vividly remember drinking a glass of wine at Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar in Palo Alto when this movie hit the screens. I also remember that the movie was showing right next door to Lavanda and after the movie let out, people often wandered in and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir.

It’s been 6 years since the release of this movie and everyone still talks about Pinot Noir. In fact, to most wine connoisseurs, there is no more seductive grape than the Pinot Noir.  We knew this before the movie, and we still know it today. I too am a sucker for the great Burgundian Pinot Noir.  It’s a grape that can truly seduce with aromas of raspberries, cherries, forest floor and even flowers.  The Pinot Noir’s high acidity gives the wine freshness and longevity.  When you drink a truly great Pinot Noir, it can make you smile.

This being said folks, it’s time to move on and say “I’m not drinking any fucking Pinot Noir!” It’s time to give other (red) grapes a chance. Other grapes that I often look to to seduce me and make me smile!  Even getting me to jump out of my chair!  So what grapes am I talking about? Which grapes am I drinking most often these days?? Read ON!! Read the rest of this entry »

Category: "I'm not drinking any fucking Pinot Noir!", 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, natural wine (100% living wine)

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A tasting note: 2006 Olivier Cousin Cabernet Franc Vieilles Vignes

Domaine Cousin-Leduc
7 Rue du Colonel Panaget
49540 Martigné-Briand
France

By now, you know the story. Biodynamic, plowing with horses, hand harvesting, spontaneous fermentation, long maceration and no SO2. A good friend of Patrick Desplats & Sébastien Dervieux at Domaine Griottes, Olivier follows basically the same methods (or lack of).  Domaine Cousin-Leduc is in Martigné-Briand which lies in the Anjou appellation of The Loire Valley (see map). Although The Loire Valley’s white wines reach a broader audience (think Sancerre), the reds are my favorite.


Date tasted: May 23, 2010 decanted at 1800  (I chose to decant this wine because the last time I tasted it about 6 months ago, initial aromas were dominated by oak and they took a few hours to burn off)

Appearance: Dark cherry red. Not much development showing if any at all.  Clear

Nose: Sponty, floral (light rose pedals), dark plums, blueberry juice with hint of raspberry and other red fruits. Not much development (I have not tasted a younger version of this wine, so there may be some development from that point of view)

Palate: Quite salty (& mineral) on the initial impression followed by under ripe cherries.  Very structured wine withdark fruit and hints of red fruit. Very light and fresh. Hints of leather and oak (just hints) and a slight bitterness on the finish.  Slight green notes (but not under ripe). Medium, ripe and juicy acidity and medium tannins.  Not much development on the palate either.

As we consumed the bottle, the salty, mineral notes stayed with the wine which I considered a positive characteristic of the wine and enjoyed it very much.

I last tasted this wine in November of 2009 and remembered the oak being a bit more dominant (although judicial by most standards). Today I found the oak to be quite well integrated and overall I found the wine to be very refreshing and drinkable.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Anjou, France, Loire, natural wine (100% living wine)

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My Top 9 List – February 2010

I thought that publishing my top 9 list would be fun for people to see and also for me to look at in the future to see if my favorites remain my favorites and also to watch my moods change!  Why is it a top 9 list instead of a top 10 list?  Why not?   For now, the wine style I can’t seem to get enough of is that lightish red colored, fresh and slightly CO2’d wine sitting at between 11 and 12% alcohol. Wine number 2 is a good example of what I am talking about (although the last bottle I drank noted an alcohol of 12.5.5% – there’s no mistake in my post, this is exactly the way it was printed on the label)!  (I have left out vintages because I didn’t feel that they were necessary here.. )

  1. 1.  Frank Cornelissen Munjabel Bianco
  2. 2.  Jean-Marc Brignot Rayure
  3. 3.  Camillo Donati Rosso della Bandita
  4. 4.  Laureano Serres Montagut Vinyes Arrencades Blanc 2008 *
  5. 5.  Maison Pierre Overnoy Arbois Pupillin
  6. 6.  Domaine Le Mazel Cuvée Raoul
  7. 7.  Camillo Donati Malvasia Secco
  8. 8.  Domaine Griottes P’tite Gâterie
  9. 9.  Jean-Pierre Robinot Concerto d’Oniss

* (I noted the 2008 vintage here because this is the first and only vintage of this wine I have ever tasted.)

Of course I have many more favorites and could have made this list quite long… but these are my favorite 9 for now!

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, My Top 9 List, natural wine (100% living wine)

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Natural Wine Makers in France – Part II – Jean-Pierre Robinot

 

(I am sorry for the quality of the photo’s in this post. Since I am not a photographer, I should really apologize at the beginning of every post, but the photos in this post are especially low quality – blamed on the settings being incorrect on my “wonderful” camera phone. Oh, and although this post seems long, it’s mostly full of pictures to entertain you) Read the rest of this entry »

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, Jean-Pierre Robinot - Loire Valley, France, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Makers in France

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About

About
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

Get in touch

Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com