vinosseur

…spontaneously fermenting

I just can’t get enough

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No, not the song (even though my wheels are spinning now). I just can’t get enough.. of Brignot. The wine maker who now lives in Japan but in a previous life made grapes ferment into masterpieces in the Jura (and in other places in France, although his Jura wines are the (best) shit). He’s not a dinosaur,  but his wines are legendary, rare and gigantic on an emotional level. I have a handful of favorite producers, as anybody does, and still when I taste the wines of Jean-Marc I feel immortal…sort of the way his wines taste.

I am not going to give you a lot of factual bullshit. Google the grape and the region if you want, but here is what’s important – what this wine tastes like. Once again my only regret.. it was only a damn half magnum..

Nose:  walnuts, flowers, yellow roses, limes, underlying minerals, lemon peel, pomelo, pansy

Palate: Taste is ducking good. Juicy. Character of Vin Jaune.  This 2004 Savagnin is balanced like hell. Still in place with acid, fruit and structure after 8 years and no “preservatives” like sulfur  You think that sulfur preserves a wine? bullshit. You know what preserves a wine? Good grapes preserve a wine, that’s it.

Dear Jean-Marc,

Please please please don’t stop bottling fermented grapes. Your fermented grapes are why I am what I am and do what I do.

Hugs,

Me

 

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, France, Jura, Molamboz, 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 – 2007 Le Mazel Mias

This is not the first time I write about Le Mazel. The Cuvée Raoul (2006) was one of the most interesting wines I have tasted. And I wasn’t the only one who believed this. The wine was introduced to the Norwegian market with such rave reviews that the importers could not keep up with the demand.

The Mias vin de table  is a sparkling (pétillant) wine which never made into the Norwegian market, but lucky for me my friends payed a visit to Le Mazel this summer while celebrating their honeymoon and bought back with them a few bottles. Spontaneously fermented viognier grapes, most likely bottled before fermentation was complete and without additives, this funky-labeled wine was worth a quick write-up

Date tasted: Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Appearance:  A light and cloudy wine with tiny bubbles.

Nose:  smoke, yellow apples and volatile aromas highlight this wine. Hints of lemon and other yellow fruits. Green grapes. Minerality. Overripe (fermenting) pears. Pear cider.

Palate:  a very slight sparkle. Impression of sugar but not sweet. Refreshing ripe acidity. Yellow apples, pears and almond paste. Volatility give this wine a sweet, slightly balsamic aftertaste (without the sourness). Yummy! Like a grape cider – which of course is all this really is. Yeasty notes. Very Slightly oxidized, but a healthy oxidation, like a pear that falls to the ground.  14% alcohol (also probably contributing to the impression of sweetness)

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Ardeche, France, natural wine (100% living wine), Southern Rhône

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Rough music

A French folk custom in which the community gave a noisy, discordant mock serenade , also pounding on pots and pans, at the home of newlyweds (usually for a wedding they regarded as questionable).*  They called it Charivari (“rough music”), and so did Loic Roare of Domaine du Possible in the Côtes du Roussillon (Lansac) for his Carignan.  And I can see why he would call his wine Charivari after tasting this triumphant wine.

Loic’s estate goes beyond organic and biodynamic principals.  He has only used the Bordeaux mixture (sulfur and copper) twice in the last 6 years, avoiding all treatments whenever possible, opting for herbal infusions instead.  He works with a variety of vines including the 52-105 year old Carignan vines used for making this wine.

This wine is carbonic with temperature control to keep the temperature low. No pumping, just gravity to help the process.  The fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts.  He uses little or no sulfur, depending on the vintage.  The average yield in 2009/2010 was 17/18 hl/ha, so rather low.

When I opened the bottle, it was rather reductive so I decided to decant it.

Sweet strawberries began to emerge along with some serious notes of minerals and licorice. Nice acidity with some sour raspberries as well. Tannins began to kick up quickly. Rather more serious than many other carbonic wines I have tasted. You can feel the warm fruit as it opens to reveal some dark plums and cherries.

This wine was purchased at Vivant in Paris last year and it’s a relative bargain at about €12.

 

*thank you Wikipedia & Looking at History

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

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Forward People!

An East German making wine in the Languedoc, Axel Prüfer is right at home among the new generation of natural wine makers in France. His winery, Le Temps des Cerises, is located in the Orb Valley, just 16 km North and slightly West of Nimes.  Axel grows typically Southern Rhône varieties without the use of chemicals or herbicides.  His wines are fermented spontaneously and most are made without the addition of sulfur.
The 2009 Avanti Popolo is a pure Carignan grown on granitic quartz.
Date tasted: May 4th, 19:15
Appearance – light, slightly turbid raspberry red.
Nose – very ripe raspberries, a slight volatility helps lift the wine, making it very aromatic. Pomegranate, purple flowers, light mineral after taste. Cassis. Ripe watermelon.  I vividly remember an other time smelling watermelon on a wine – Gabrio Bini’s Carignan (which he no longer makes unfortunately because I loved that wine and although I tasted it only once, I still remember it!)
Palate – much more expressive than on the nose. Tannins emerge quickly. Carbonic maceration? At least partial. Initially I found the wine a bit short, but balanced, fresh, juicy and Glog Glog – drinkable! Hints of bricks or stones.
20:00
gooseberries, nettles and hints of mint begin to appear on the nose
Palate has become more serious and much longer with more gripping tannins. And, once again, I wished this wasn’t a half magnum!!

Category: 1 WINE, France, Haute vallée de l'Orb, Languedoc, natural wine (100% living wine)

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No cat piss, please

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is quite easy to detect on the nose, very often showing aromas of green gooseberries, blackcurrant leaves and hints of what we call “cat piss”.  In other words, to some (including myself) the wines made with this popular grape can often be quite stinky and smell “green ” and under ripe (not all of course, but many).

But, what happens when you take a  Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in Sancerre that is farmed naturally (without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers), where the  juice is made into wine without a single additive, including SO2?  The result is a  Sebastién Riffault Sancerre Auksinis, a very different Sancerre.

 

Sebastién is a 30 year-old who is passionate about the work he and his horse do in the vineyards, paying careful attention to the needs of the vines without introducing them to any additives including fertilizers.

His approach is organic with some biodynamic principals.  He plows with his horse, but only every third year or so because he considers the upheaval of the topsoil to be to some extent harmful for the vineyard and its harmonious life.*  He harvests late and with very low yields and allows his wines to ferment naturally with ambient yeasts in large old barrels with a full malolactic conversion.

The 40 year old Auksinis vineyard is located in Verdigny in the Sancerre appellation of the Loire Valley, about 5 km NW from the town of Sancerre.

(Terroir France – French Wine Guide)

The 1 HA vineyard is facing South East  & South with an average slope of about 35%.  The soil is mostly clay and limestone (Caillottes).  The vineyard produces 15 hl/ha, or about 2000 bottles of this wine.  Fermented in 8-15 year-old large wooden barrels for about 3 months, then left on the fine lees for about two years. Racking and bottling is done by gravity without fining or filtration.  The whole process from start to end is done without any additions, including SO2. Vintage 2009

 

Date tasted:  Monday April 23rd, 20:00

Appearance:  Ripe yellow plum color. Very slight brown reflexes, like old gold.  Slightly turbid.
Nose:  Initially very ripe yellow fruit and minerals. Surprising to also find some ripe gooseberries, but ripe and not green. A bit of smoke. Yellow apples. Hints of brown honey. Hints of pear. Hints of cooked balsamic, interesting.   Marzipan.
As it warmed up, dry grass and hay with white pepper begin to appear and the initial attack of very ripe fruit settled a bit.
Palate: Very open showing ripe yellow fruit with honey notes and a slight bitterness like a bitter almond. Looooong mineral finish. Food wine par none.  Bone dry with great acidity. Salty. Oily texture that I usually find on my favorite wines. Fennel hints. No hollow spots,  very very structured. Medium bodied wine. Marzipan
After an hour being open, the wine became extremely fresh and light, especially when the wine had reached room temperature. The wine became very drinkable, and as usual, I wished I’d had a magnum!

 


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

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A tasting note: 2009 Jean-Pierre Robinot Concerto d’Oniss

 

Of the many many many wines I have tasted over the years, Jean-Pierre produces some of the most vinous wines I have ever had the satisfaction of tasting.  So, to summarize even before I begin this tasting note, this wine is super-vinous. What do I mean by that? When you pour the wine, there are two things you notice right away: the beautiful light pomegranate color and the way the wine pours from the bottle. It pours like you are pouring a light oil. Even when you swirl the glass, it seems as though you have a glass of pomegranate-colored oil. It appears thicker than other wines.  And nothing has been added to this wine to make it this way. It’s just great quality grapes that have been squeezed just right.  So, why this oily appearance and texture? That my friend is what we call structure and concentration that you can not only see, but that you can taste.

The labels? Well, Jean-Paul has either taken the photo or painted the picture himself to create his labels. All of his labels are unique and each wine and vintage has a different label. They are as unique as his wines.The Concerto d’Oniss is his base wine and is made from 100% Pinea d’Aunis grown in the Loire Valley (mostly around Tours, Anjou & Saumur) as naturally as possible, avoiding ALL treatments to the vines.  A grape dating back to the Medieval Times, not many producers grow this grape thanks to the ever-increasing demand for more well-known varieties. Thankfully, there are a small handful of producers who still work with this grape. I have tasted the wines from 4 or 5 different producers working with this grape and have noticed certain common characteristics: lightish red color, lowish alcohol, aromas and scents of grapefruit, light pepper & incense, & small red berries.

After manually harvesting these small, dark grapes, whole clusters were dropped into fiberglass tanks without any additions whatsoever, at any point.  No temperature control means partial carbonic maceration for the first few days.  Maceration went on for about 3 months then the wine was bottled without fining or filtering.

After tasting this wine many times and in various vintages, I’m finally writing about it.

Date tasted:  Sunday February 26th, 2012 18:30

Appearance:  viscous viscous viscous! See photo for color

Nose:  grapefruit, incense, pepper, little red berries, forrest floor with some faint reductive hints.  Hints of wild strawberries. Hints of cough syrup, the oily kind that leaves a slightly bitter smell and taste. Even looks like cough syrup

Palate:  grapefruit, smooth tannins, but more grippy than I remember. Great acidity, but smooth and absolutely drinkable. Red cranberries. Very rustic and again the oily exture like all of his wines. Slighty metallic, which I have not found on any previous bottles. Wild strawberries, but without the sugar. Pomegranate.

There is a certain weight to this wine that I find on all of Robinot’s wine’s. They seem particularly viscous, oily and heavy, but light on their feet at the same time (strange but true). The concentration and structure of this wine, of his wines, are among the best I have tasted in the natural wine world.   Texture is a bit like a dessert wine minus the sugar

Monday February 27th, 18:30

Yes, yes I did leave some in the bottle for tonight. Crazy, but I am super happy I did

Appearance:  Not much change that I could see, but perhaps a tad darker

Nose:  More aromas of incense and pepper.  Deeper fruit (still red).

Palate:  right when the wine hits the mouth, it’s that oily texture again. Impressive. A salty impact I didn’t get yesterday. Also a depth I didn’t get yesterday.  A certain sweet aftertaste I can only compare to sour fruit that ends on a sweet note giving them that perfect balance.  medium length and still as refreshing as yesterday. Softer tannins today.

I am reminded of why this has always been one of my favorite wines. it is unique, the texture is magnificent, it’s fresh, and it’s drinkable.  I just noticed that nowhere in this tasting note have I mentioned the alcohol, and that is because it so not noticeable that it isn’t even an issue. At 12% you wouldn’t expect it to be, but i have tasted many wines where even low alcohol can put a wine out of balance

Some final words to summarize the wine: structure, concentration, balance, drinkablity.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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A tasting note: 2001 Domaine Valette Mâcon-Chaintré V.V. Magnum

Hailing from the southern reaches of the Burgundy wine region in France, one can often expect low-acid ripe Chardonnay’s, plenty of oak, and doses of sulfur to make the eyes and nose sting.  This wine seemed to have escaped these cliché’s nicely. For one, the wine was not lacking acidity, and at 10 years of age, this is not an everyday feat. Secondly, although there was some oak use, it was used judicially and had integrated quite nicely in this wine. Thirdly, no stinging of the eyes and nose, a great indication that sulfur was used in very low doses.

I don’t know much about this producer, nor could I find much out utilizing my usual information-gathering tactics.  Philippe Valette is well-known for working naturally, and that’s about all I could gather. You could read a bit more here.

Date tasted: January 11th, 2012 at 21:15

I don’t mind waxed bottle tops, in fact I rather love them. They signal to me that something interesting awaits me under that cork. Often used on the tops of natural wines, my palate immediately starts to salivate. Not unlike Pavlov’s dog hearing that bell jingling. And, let’s face it, perhaps it helps keep unwanted oxygen out of the bottle. No? However, this wax was not soft and easy to remove. It had hardened into something like cement which I had to chip away into little pieces to reveal the cork. But once I got to the cork and removed it, this is what I found:

Appearance:  Golden-yellow color, age not immediately evident on this 10 year old

Nose:  Jura-like nose, first thoughts were: What, Tissot? But, a little more delicate. Mineral. I wasn’t immediately sure whether this wine was oxidizized (either from age or wine-making) or if those yeasty-like, “flor-like” notes were from wood. Some Burgundy wines, especially the whites, seemed to go through some growing pains in the late 80′s and early 90′s, with some wines showing some premature oxidation.  Let’s give this magnum some time…

Palate:  Dry with  refreshing acidity. Balanced and long. Interesting at first sips, the wine quickly started to head in the wrong direction. It seemed to start closing and masking the fruit. Even showing some signs of oxidation on the palate.  Have we waited too long to drink this wine? Did we open it too soon? Burgundy is always challenging.

It sooned fooled me into thinking that the wine had hit its prime a few years earlier. Is this possible? Slipping so quickly? A magnum!

 

But…as more time passed, the wine started to change. Those funky oxidized aromas that this wine hid behind, began to lift. Fruit began to shine and the Chardonnay character really started to come thru. The wine became more focused, the acid more lively. Good thing this was a magnum….it gave us enough wine to allow these changes to come around before the wine was completely drunk up.

One thing to note is that very often the Chardonnay’s from the Mâcon can be quite oily, fat and rich. The only thing this magnum had in common with those charcteristics was the oiliness. It had great texture, mouth feel, concentration and structure.. what else? It wasn’t a fat wine, nor was it rich, and I am grateful for this actually.

And yet again,  Burgundy has challenged us, fooled us, played with us. When we reached the end of the bottle, it left us  wanting more just so that we could continue to see the evolution that unfolded in our glasses. A wine I would gladly drink again

 

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Burgundy, France, Mâcon-Chaintré, natural wine (just about)

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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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A (quick) tasting note: 2008 Jean-François Ganevat Chardonnay Cuvée Florine

The Jura. One of my favorite areas of wine production in France. Just head West towards Switzerland from Northern Burgundy and you’ll get there.  Exciting reds made from the Poulsard grape and zingy whites made from the Savagnin, and you’ll also find the classics – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the grape tasted here. Except, this is not the same “Chardonnay” you find in Burgundy. Rather, a Jura-type Chardonnay which gives smaller yields.  You can read more about Biodynamic producer Ganevat from this very informative post.

Date Tasted:  November 18, 2011 22:00

Appearance: Rich golden yellow, click on photo

Nose: “Orangina” (orange soda – very strange), minerals. Not a very open and giving wine right away – especially following the Pierre Frick Cremant.  More the silent, elegant type. Restrained.

Palate: Extremely vinous, as vinous as a wine can get without adding something to get it that way. It spent 24 months in 500 liter barrels with the lees. Could lend to the vinousity. A very well integrated 12,5% alcohol – barely felt it. Not a very complex wine and not a very long finish. The best this wine offers is it’s concentration and texture.

A little too “buttery” and rich for my palate, but the structure, concentration and vinousity of this wine are major pluses. I think that many would enjoy this wine because of the mouth feel.  A great wine, but not a wine I would search out for myself. However, it might be interesting to taste an older vintage. Anyone?

 

 

 

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, biodynamic wine, France, Jura, Rotalier

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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.

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


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