Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Posted by in All

I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Feb 05, 15 Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Posted by in All

What is ‘natural’ wine, exactly? Is it wine that is made without intervention – and what exactly does that mean? Is it wine that only has sulfur added at bottling? Or wine that has no added sulfur whatsoever? Or is it wine that is organically/biodynamically grown? After spending the weekend in the Loire at two of the biggest organic, biodynamic, natural wine tastings in France, I still don’t know what makes a wine ‘natural’ but it was interesting to taste through those wines. There were lots of hits but also some misses. Personally, I don’t like so called ‘natural’ wines and that term is a massive turn off for me. Wine is by definition a man made product. Grapes don’t usually pick, crush, ferment and bottle themselves, so I’m a bit suspicious of those ‘natural’ wine people. When I first was introduced to natural wines, many years ago, I was intrigued but since then I’ve had way too many faulty ‘natural’ wines to automatically think ‘natural’ means better or quality wines.  I admit I wasn’t going into these tastings with a very open mind but as I was there and had paid to get in, I should at least give them a try. The first tasting I attended was the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean in Angers, France. The tasting is made of a group of mainly French winemakers with a smattering of other European countries included all of who are at the very least are organic and have to tend their vines in a biodynamic way. Some of the producers there called themselves natural wine makers, some didn’t.  Things are a bit murky when it comes to being certified biodynamic and some producers don’t want the certification because if they have to deviate one year from biodynamic principles they lose their certification and have to start the process all over again. I’ve always been drawn to producers who grow and make their wine biodynamically. When I taste these wines, I usually find...

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A Visit to Champagne Charlot Tanneux, a Biodynamic Champagne Producer

Feb 19, 14 A Visit to Champagne Charlot Tanneux, a Biodynamic Champagne Producer

Posted by in Champagne

Every time I go to Champagne, I discover yet another interesting producer. This time while visiting my friend Caro (who lives in Hautvillers), she suggested we visit small biodynamic producer, Champagne Charlot-Tanneux. The winemaker of Charlot, Vincent, is marked as one of the up and coming winemakers of Champagne so I was anticipating our visit to the vineyard and cellars. It was a rainy and windy afternoon as we drove up to the house and Vincent suggested we visit the vineyards in Epernay which are protected from the wind.  We drove out to have a look at his biodynamic vineyards, full of wild garlic, violets and covered in grass. Vincent converted entirely to biodynamic practices 5 years ago and is wines are now certified by Demeter. All of his wines are biodynamic but he only labels half as such and the other half he sells as organic. After checking out the vines we headed back to the cellar to taste a few 2013 vin clairs from the barrel. At the time we visited, the wines were almost done with their fermentation, a few having finished already. Vincent showed us wines from various terroirs amongst his vineyards. We tried two different barrels, same vineyard but two different terroirs. There was indeed a noticeable difference, the vines on chalk and clay showing a lot more minerality. We also tasted a blend in barrel that was a co-fermentation of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. It was already showing much complexity and I almost thought that it could be drunk on its now, it was so tasty. Vincent likes to do this his way and makes only wines that will please him. He won’t change his winemaking style to suit the buyers. His opinion is that if they don’t like his wine, there are others who will. After the barrel tasting, we went upstairs to taste a couple of roses. Vincent likes to make his rose saignee which means they are left to macerate for up to...

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Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Mar 09, 12 Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Posted by in Biodynamic wine, France

If you are one of the 5 First Growths of Bordeaux (Ch. Margaux, Ch. Lafite Rothschild, Ch. Latour, Ch. Haut-Brion and lastly, Ch. Mouton Rothschild), you might think you could rest on your laurels, not give a fig for any new fangled advancements and just continue to produce wine the way it’s always been done. I mean, the first classification was done in 1855 and only one chateau has been added since then (Mouton Rothschild), and that was back in the 1970’s. You could do that but if you’re Chateau Margaux you won’t or rather, you don’t. That’s not to say the others are not also innovating but Ch. Margaux is the first to go public with their experimental findings.  Paul Pontallier, Managing Director and winemaker of Ch. Margaux was in town recently to give us a sneak peek into the inner workings of Ch. Margaux and how they are striving to maintain their reputation as one of the best wines of Bordeaux. He wants the world to know that Margaux is a forward thinking chateau and that they are looking to the wine business of the future, and the younger generation that will not only carry on the traditions but also build upon and improve what has gone before them. According to Paul, there is a plenty of experimentation and research going on in Bordeaux. He stressed however, that they themselves are not making anything new but rather in an organized way, they started these experiments because he does envisage change at some point in the future and his goal is to make the best possible wine and remain the best possible wine now and for future generations. So what are they up to? Pulling back the curtain of the great and mighty Oz (as in Wizard, not Clarke) we find, biodynamic wine! Let me explain first that the wines we tasted are not the ones that go into the first growth but are distinct plots that they are using on the estate...

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Les Papilles – eating and drinking in Paris

Bistroy…Les Papilles – Restaurant Paris Les Papilles translates to “tastebuds” and this bistro is certainly focused on your tastebuds whether it’s for food or wine, they put as much care into one as the other. The philosophy of the venue is to “thrill your tastebuds” and besides being a bistro, they also double as a wine shop and delicatessen. At first glance, I thought it was a food shop but walking in, we encountered a full, bustling narrow dining area, on one side a long bar, on the other a wall of wine and in the middle a long row of tables for diners. They have an ala carte menu with classic French dishes, including foie gras and escargots as well as selections of ham to start and cheese to finish. The lunch menu is reasonably priced with most entrees €13 – €16. They also have a “retour du marche” menu which is the Chef’s seasonal menu. As I was with friends who speak French ( and I don’t), I didn’t know what was going on, but turns out we opted for the set menu (€33) of four courses, which was a lot of food! They do however, speak English and will cheerfully help you with both the food and wine lists. The fun thing about going to this bistro/winebar is that you can pick you bottle off the rows of wine lining the walls. They charge a modest corkage fee of €7 euros for a bottle off the wall with prices starting at €25. They do have house wines as well which start at €4.10 for a gls  and €13.50 for 50 cls.  The wines they offer are chosen to reflect their terroir and what they believe is the true character of the wines, so cue plenty of small producers alongside the more well known ones.  There is a wine list but we preferred checking out the bottles from the wall. After much browsing, we settled on a white Bourgogne to start and...

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