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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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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