Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

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

entrance of the cave

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.

Ackerman cave

Ackerman cave

Ackerman cave

Ackerman cave

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.

ceiling detail Ackerman cave

ceiling detail Ackerman cave

spider's web of foil caps

spider’s web of foil caps

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.

fountain of bottles

fountain of bottles

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.

Dierdre Heekin, La Gargista winemaker

Dierdre Heekin, La Gargista winemaker

La Garagista

La Garagista

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. CybeleLa 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 husband have only been making wine since 2011 but what they’ve made so far is showing every indication that they will indeed be putting Vermont wines on the map of discerning wine drinkers.

It was a nice surprise to run into Hardy Wallace of Dirty and Rowdy Wines. The last time I had seen Hardy was in Napa Valley back in 2008 before he had started making wine. It was great to finally try his wines. As it was late in the day, he only had one left, his mouvedre from Santa Barbara. Hardy told me that they only source their fruit from organic vineyards and since starting have convinced 6 additional growers to convert to organic, giving them a total of 12 vineyards to work with in Santa Barbara. His mouvedre was silky and rich but not overripe, a pleasure to drink.

Hardy Wallace of Dirty & Rowdy wines

Hardy Wallace of Dirty & Rowdy wines

Dirty & Rowdy Mouvedre

Dirty & Rowdy Mouvedre

One of the biggest surprises for me was Australian producer Lucy Margaux Vineyards. The winery is located in Adelaide Hills and they are biodynamic producers.  This was probably one of the most natural wines I could have tasted – Anton von Klopper, the winemaker, neither adds or takes out anything to his wines. At first I was not even going to try them based on their very cloudy appearance, they looked to me like the worst examples of natural wine. However, my friend reminded me about having an ‘open mind’ so I dutifully stuck my glass out for a drop of Anton’s wine. What a surprise! Here was wine that tasted like wine. I tried the Sauvignon blanc, the riesling and his red field blend. Although they were cloudy as hell, they were all well made and delicious. I guess you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, or in this case, a wine by it’s cloudiness.

Anton von Klopper, Lucy Margaux winemaker

Anton von Klopper, Lucy Margaux winemaker

Lucy Margaux Vineyards, Sauvignon blanc

Lucy Margaux Vineyards, Sauvignon blanc

cloudy red field blend from Lucy Margaux vinyeyards

cloudy red field blend from Lucy Margaux vinyeyards

There were plenty of other great examples of biodynamic wines, especially from the Loire Valley but these were the 3 that stuck out the most. It was an interesting tasting and although I didn’t like all the wines I tried, I at least made the effort to get out of my comfort zone.  Though the jury is still out on natural wines for me.

The Dive Bouteille tastings take place every year around this time for 2 days and are open to the public. Visit their website for location and ticket prices.

tasting table, er barrel

tasting table, er barrel

 

 

 

 

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