Monday, 15 December 2014

Paris roundup (warning; Natural Wine!).

not a Bordeaux or Burgundy label
A day in Paris offered the opportunity to catch up on the Natural Wine scene there. It seems to be flourishing but remains apart from the mainstream. Indeed, everything about it is distinctive from the traditional wine trade. Labels are different, shops where you can buy Natural Wine are different, pricing is different, marketing (much is sold in wine bars and other places where you can buy and eat food too), the clientele and not least the wine itself is very different. A majority of Cavistes simply don't do Natural Wine and vice versa.

We think this is a pity and look forward to seeing more places where all kinds of wine can be found side-by-side.

The atmosphere of the first specialist Natural Wine shops used to resemble that of 2nd hand bookstores. These days the shopfitting looks more like that of a wine bar or any trendy shop. The two places we visited which were new to us were exactly so.

The first was "En Vrac" at 2, Rue de l'Olive, Paris 18ieme.

En Vrac is On Tap basically. Unlike most Vino Sfuso shops in Italy they have sophisticated equipment for storing the bulk wine.

The bottle problem is also well taken care of.

The draft wines were mostly named by the Domaine from where they came or an appellation such as 'Gaillac'. Only one grape variety was mentioned: Bourgogne Pinot Noir. We tried a couple of these wines. One was better than the other but neither was 'extra'.

The shelves contained another story. Excellent and really well-chosen natural wines.

We found three or four bottles including this beautiful Pineau d'Aunis, Cot and Gamay blend by our new star Brendan Tracey. This wine is red despite its colour. Every bottle tells a story. Google Brendan Tracey and you will see.

Memory begins to get a bit clouded as to what else we bought at 'En Vrac' and what came from elsewhere but we think this delicious Gamay de Beaujolais by France Gonzalvez was also from there.

Across town is 'Au nouveau nez'. Clever name. Nice shop and people! 104 Rue Saint-Maur, Paris 11ieme.

The lady beyond the ladder was a class act, serving the chap just visible beyond the pile of magazines in the lower picture and Slotovino concurrently. She is the only person who ever chased after us and gave us a little card with the request that we let her know what we thought of our purchases.

L'Insolent by Francois Ecot is a blend of 6 varieties:

Pinot Noir
Pinot Beurrot
Pineau d'Aunis

Amazing that Pineau d'Aunis is to be found in Burgundy. Again, do Google this winemaker. He is one of several about whom a feature film could easily be made.

Poisson Rouge is an oddity; an Alicante Bouschet vinificato in bianco. But since Alicante is a teiturier with red flesh, this white wine is red.

 La Guinguette is a Pineau d'Aunis/Gamay blend from the world centre of Pineau d'Aunis; the Loir (a river in the Loire).

A Savoyard Chasselas seemed a good idea at the time but it didn't exactly bowl us over, tasting of what can we say, vin naturel...

And what about the label at the top of this post? It's a Grolleau. Enough said.

We also had time to drop in to Chapitre 20 and the Marche aux Enfants Rouges in the Marais. We adore Chapitre 20 (see our post devoted to this wine and book shop) but this time they didn't have some of the nice things we had found there previously and a replacement Gros Plant turned out to be corked as well as the original bottle. Is it supposed to be like that?

We did buy something very exotic from Chapite 20 though, a Chardonnay Ouille from the Jura.

Chardonnay Ouille? It's a Chardonnay that hasn't been oxydised in the way Jura whites were traditionally made. In other words, a Chardonnay made normally. Why should we prefer this to the traditional method? Because Chardonnay from the Jura is sufficiently unique without oxydisation as to make it interesting. So much so that we prefer it to any other Chardonnay. The rather ancient oxydised method applied mostly to Jura Savignin is something we have yet to come to terms with, and Mrs Slotovino isn't about to try...

Back at the Marche des enfants rouges, we found this Natural Romorantin also by Brendan Tracey. We couldn't resist and we were right not to.


Seen at Dresden Hauptbahnhof of all places, Helios is a hybrid from Seyve-Villard, Merzling and Mueller-Thurgau. We have tasted it in a Dutch wine which included Johanniter in the blend. On the strength of that quite pleasant bottle, we planted a few vines of each at our garden in the Thames Valley. We didn't buy this bottle of Helios in purezza but if we ever decide to do so we'll know where to get it.

We've had this bottle of a grape called Barbarossa under the stairs for quite a time so when the opportunity finally came to check it out we were worried it might not be in good condition. At 14.5% we needn't have worried. It's a brute, a beast of a wine which no amount of stairs could spoil. Rustic and rather crude we thought. Not admitted to the Slotovino Hall of Fame. Recantina and Susumaniello are similar if our palate memory serves. Still, it would be a pity for these varieties to become extinct. Someone might like them.

This was lovely. Not something one can say about every bottle of Croatina. Astor Wines of New York was the source.

Here was another lovely example of one of our favourite Italian grapes: Grignolino, bought if we remember correctly in Lucca last summer. Like many less commonly found Italian varieties, Grignolino is not always good; it has to be well made in the right style (not too heavy). This one was very fine.

Staying with Italy, this Gropello was also outstanding despite having languished at the back of the stair cupboard for far too long. Gropello seems to have staying power and doesn't seem as tricky to get right as Croatina and Grignolino.

More lingerers which stood the test of time included this Gamaret/Garanoir blend from Switzerland bought at Geneva Airport Shop. Quite marvelous considering.

Also from an airport Duty Free, (Tel-Aviv), this Mourvedre/Syrah blend from a winery new on us called rather cheesily 'Red Poetry' also surpassed expectations by quite a long way.

Soif d'ailleurs is a relatively new shop in Paris specializing in wines from abroad (shock horror!). Examples of non-French wine will seem ordinary to anyone from the UK - except for this beauty from Croatia, a 100% Zelenac from the wonderfully-named Krauthaker winery in Kutjevo. A rarity indeed and very good too.

Staying in Eastern Europe, we enjoyed this dry Hungarian Furmint at a hotel restaurant in West Wales of all places. Furmint seems hard to get wrong although some seem unnecessarily high in alcohol.

Also really wonderful was our first Abouriou. Both this and the Zelenac can enter the hallowed portals of the Slotovino Hall of Fame. Abouriou has bags of personality and is a real charmer. Where has it been all our lives?

French but from California, this Rousanne from Broc, one of our favourite producers there. Recommended.

This wouldn't be a Slotovino miscellany without a Colares Ramisco. This one thanks to a kind person returning from Lisbon. Antonio Bernardino Paulo da Silva seems still to be producing lovely bottles of Ramisco 'Colares Chitas'. Long may he do so.

Moving up the coast to Ribeira Sacra, this Mencia was atypically light and charming. Our friend Darby Higgs has just written a long lament on the subject of what happens to a fine variety like Mencia when it is suddenly discovered and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Nothing good he argues. This bottle was sold to us by the Galician Butcher in Nueva Andalucia who opened a bottle for us to taste, such was his confidence in this beautiful bottle. Soft is the watchword.

And finally something new and really wonderful. Marks and Spencer has not only given a scholarship to a student at Plumpton College, the UK's leading wine school but have commissioned her actually to make a wine for them and also commissioned another student to design the label. Apparently this is already the second year in which these awards have been given. The story is told on the label (top).

Amazingly enough there seems to have been minimum publicity about this remarkable scheme. It only needs to be related that the wine is very good indeed. An excellent example of Dornfelder which we find making better and better wine in Germany and seems set to do the same in the UK.

Congratulations to M & S and all concerned. What a great idea!