Eleven PM, Ten Bells, wondering where vigneron Thierry Puzelat was, oh, probably out there in Brooklyn getting a black eye or something, while I was drinking K, the gorgeous Marsanne from Dard et Ribo, which Guilhaume Gerard and Cory Cartwright graciously, generously, oiled me with. I didn't catch the vintage but would have to be 2008, though tasted more like the kick ass 2007, decanted. The night was just rolling, I was chatting, and Charnay-based, ever thinking vigneron Eric Texier ran over to me and urgently asked, 'What's the guys name!"
Eric last year in France. Eric, give me a clue!' I asked. 'Neauport!' "Jacques!" Eric runs away to continue a conversation elsewhere in the moshpit. I run after Eric. 'You just can't invoke that name and run away," I complained, knocking back another gulp. And that's when he started on the trouble with the modern interpretation of Chauvet and sidekick Jacques Neauport.
This is actually ground breaking news and I am hesitant to give it away for free. So, if you're a journalist or a blogger, and you want to use this information, you better give me credit or interview me, or I'll haunt you and your first born (or wife, or husband or nearest relative) down, until you check into the 5th floor of Gracie Square Hospital, or hand over your column to me, because actually, I am really over my work being used without credit by people who have paying jobs. Okay?
Now that we have an agreement, I'll go on.
Jules Chauvet is considered the big daddy of the modern vin naturel movement for his work on making wine without sulfur. He started in the Beaujolais, most notably working with Marcel Lapierre. His ideology has somehow evolved into wines made with no sulfur at all. To get there, he did use organic grapes, advocated native yeast only and achieved his wine through cold carbonic macerations, all of which have become hallmarks of today's extremely popular, insider, hip, esoteric and argumentative wine movement.
However, even though I thought Chauvet was the culprit, that is now up for grabs. Eric who has read the works of Chauvet extensively said. "Chauvet never advocated making wine without any sulfur. And he only advocated cold carbonic maceration with gamay on granite soils.
The semi-carbonic maceration was to Chauvet the best way to express granitic terroirs from the Beaujolais. From only the Beaujolais. He even wrote that applying it to grenache was heresy!!! Neauport, on the other hand, was advocating the cold carbonic maceration for all terroirs and all grapes.' We discussed the problem we find with this 'Chauvet' method of cold carbonic masceration. Many winemakers find this the way to express a terroir. He agreed with me, finding its wholesale application eradicates terroir, yet makes a gulpable vin de soif, which I often crave. These wines are often just what I want. But terroir? No, most often, it's a style. It's a beverage, but a great one.
Think of it as instead of white, red, rose and sparkling, the fifth wine, like the fifth taste. The umami of wine. So, hammering on the point, while I'm crazy over the wines of Axel Prufer, or Eric Pfifferling, (just delicious stuff) can I really taste the difference in the carginan from grenache? And while enjoyable, I can see the point Eric mentioned--the heresy-- if the method is used on great terroir, such as Clos de la Roche. And then paradoxically, there's, for example, Andrea Calek, that mad Czech guy with an assymetrical haircut and trailer domicile in the wild Ardeche. Drinking his wines are perplexing to me because while the vinification is carbonic the effect tastes more traditional. His grapes and place are identifiable. This would support Chauvet's thesis if Calek's grapes come from granite. But as it is grenache and not from northern Beaujolais, more research and drinking is obviously called for.
On the persnickety topic of sulfur, Eric, taking another glass from the carafe, continued, 'Chauvet, in his written publications explained 2 things :- the use of SO2 during microbiological transformations (Alcoholic and malolatic fermentations at least) as a powerful way to select yeast or bacteria strains that will orientate the aromatic expression. And this means, Chauvet was extremely against using any S02 during the fragile, transformative time from grape to wine, which is basic to vin naturelists. 'Yet, Chauvet never said anything about the use of SO2 as a stabilization agent when these transformation are over and further more for the bottling. By the way, there are a lot of evidence that Chauvet always bottled with sulfur.'
If I'm to remember what Eric told me (watch this spot for revisions) Neauport advocated cold carbonic on all terroir and grape and no S02, even at bottling. So oddly it seems that many who worship Chauvet really are Neauportists! The conversation ended, to be picked up on the following night over amphora wines. I slugged back some of Overnoy/Houillon Ploussard thinking about the religiousness of bottling without sulfur, and how they actually might need a different name other than vin naturel. Perhaps, vins ubernaturel? I left the evening, being stupidly prudent, thinking of the next morning and the usual beating the pavement, so I hopped the bike and ran back home, while others headed up north for more drinking and from what I understand, naked combat.