I found myself thinking of Canada and the wines that I discovered on my last trip there. So, thought it was apt to share with you some pages of The Feiring Line. Remember, I barely blog anymore, so if you want more of this, subscribe.
I found myself thinking of Canada and the wines that I discovered on my last trip there. So, thought it was apt to share with you some pages of The Feiring Line. Remember, I barely blog anymore, so if you want more of this, subscribe.
My journey through the country of Georgia, full of people I adore, the wines, the characters, the drama, the silk worms, the homeopathic remedies, the food, the adventures and a special guest appearance by Stalin's last remaining winemaker. It's true.
To all of my winemaking friends, and you know who you are, wherever you live, wherever you make wine, I would love you to consider sending your wines to the Free Wine award at Vin Italy 2016.
Organic. No adds (but there is the category for 20ppm tops addition). But, all love.
When I was asked to chair this award. I thought about it carefully.
It was a great honor. I was told I could choose the parameters for the judging as well as what kind of wine was eligible.
But then why did I have to think about it before agreeing?
Well, it's a big responsibility. What's more, awards are not usual in our specific natural wine culture. I wasn't sure how it would be received. But I said yes.
There were reasons.
For one, I love VinItaly and cut my journalist teeth there in the beginning of my wine writing.
The fact that they embraced this category is ground breaking. Frankly, it is a big deal and is bound to shake up the status quo.
But the biggest reason is that I saw this award as not merely an award. I saw it as a way to bring the conversation about what wine is--not only natural-- to a much larger audience. And that is worthy of the overused word, awesome.
I chose my judges carefully.
I wanted my team to be worthy of carrying on that discussion into the tasting room where we will look for qualities not quantities. I know they are worthy to comment on the wines and when granted, these awards will be meaningful.
So, let me drink to an award that will also open up a fabulous conversation and debate about the wines that we drink and love.
If you are a winemaker, grow your grapes at least organically and use no additions except maybe 20ppm So2, please check out the details...(forgive the legal mumbo jumbo) and send your wines!
The fine print for sending samples
on line registration at
PLEASE EMAIL Ioppi Alessandra --- Ioppi@veronafiere.it ---- for instructions
Spaceship Vin Naturel Lands in NYC
Last weekend in February. Book your hotel rooms!
Sure there's the massive Glou, but also worthy of your attention is a smaller tasting, Les Vins Libres.
David Lillie and Chambers Street Wines (with plenty of help from Pascaline Lepeltier) are sponsoring a fabulous wine tasting with plenty of superstar vignerons. This group, Les Vins Libres have been doing their own thing around Europe for years, and now they are here, downtown NYC.
Here are the details.
Vivent Les Vins Libres brings 22 oustanding natural winemakers to New York on Sunday 2/28 and Monday 2/29, sponsored by Pascal and Evelyne Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle with the participation of Restaurant Quedubon, Paris and New York's Rouge Tomate and Racines NY.
Sunday 2/28, 11:00am to 7:30pm: TASTING at Racines NY, 94 Chamber Street tickets at the door $15.
Sunday 2/28 10:00pm: PARTY! with the vignerons at June, 231 Court Street, Bklyn.
Monday 2/29: GRAND DINNER, Racines NY - meet and share with the vignerons! $125 includes dinner, wine, tax and tip. For tickets, call Racines NY 212-227-3400 or Chambers Street Wines 212-227-1434. Email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
Estates present include:
Dominique Derain, Bourgogne
Emmanuel Giboulot, Bourgogne
Calvez & Bobinet, Saumur
Danjou Banessy, Roussillon
Laurent Cazottes, Sud-Ouest
La Grange aux Belles, Anjou
Clos des Grillons, Rhône
Nicolas Grosbois, Chinon
Haut Campagnau, Gers
Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Montlouis
Matthieu & Xavier Ledogar, Languedoc
Jean-Baptiste & Charlotte Senat, Minervois
Domaine de la Tournelle, Jura/Arbois
Florent & Romain Plageoles, Gaillac
La Vignereuse, Gaillac/Côtes de Tarn
La Petite Baigneuse, Roussillon
La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills
Bloomer Creek, Finger Lakes
Dirty and Rowdy, California
La Garagista, Vermont
Uncouth Vermouth, Brooklyn.
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Like Vin Expo, the Grands Jours de Bourgogne comes around every other year. Unlike VE, this roving tasting---a celebration of the newly released vintages- which ambles through the winemaking towns of glorious Burgundy, tastes of the real. But I didn't know that. I have sworn off of most conventional cluster f* tastings for years. On top of that, I travel on my own to Burgundy several times a year. This might be why it took me so long to see how the BIVB handled their big event. Then they invited me. I went. That was March 2014.
If you decide to book your flight and reserve for the coming festivities this March, and if you're in the biz of Burg, you should, let me tell you what not to expect.
No bikini -clad models with trays of crémant.
No traffic jams.
No marketers showing wines.
There won't be a ton of those alternative wine tastings as there are at conventional tastings such as Vin Expo, Millésime Bio and the Loire Salon. In 2014, there was one "off," Les Affranchis. I hear that's on hold this year, in a move towards solidarity with the BIVB. (Let's see if that sticks.)
What you will get is the experience of tasting within view of the weeping (it is the season after all) vines. You'll find which wines are worthy for your store. You might pick up some new Burgundy producer.
For press, there's the new and the gossip, the snapshot of the vintage, in this case 2014 and the news on the 2015. And as I did, I stood in awe of the Asian buyer who was starting to tire of Bordeaux: Korean, Chinese, Japanese. Yes, they were out in force.
There are events for new talent, young talent, female talent and organic talent. There are the focused tastings spotlighting the villages. This is the event's spine.
The tasting starts up in the white town of Chablis, squirrels down to the Côte d'Or and then stretches to the Macon and Chalonnaise. Then it zooms back up to do Beaune; focus on Pommard and Corton--two appellations that do need a little help.
While the trade hall, Palais du Congrés is pressed into service, the key tastings, the ones that give you that moment of deep breathing are the ones situated in buildings hidden amongst the vines.
Some are held in grand venues, like the Vosne tasting at the Clos Vougeot. Some are more of the people, like the Marsannay Mairie. The Vosne tasting was packed with people who believe its Vosne or nothing. There was a pile up at the Mugneret sisters. On the other hand, more my speed Jean-Yves Bizot, had time for a coffee. My luck. Time for a good catch-up.
I have some advice for you; hunt the lower rents. Go and give the little appellations a little love. As happy and surprised as I was to find Jean Yves at the tasting, my time, for my reader, was better spent tasting the action over in Marsannay. It was there I discovered a fierce new energy as well as the soul-patched Giles Ballorin. That was the kind of thing I came for.
I also came looking for leads and gossip.
I found that piece off-site, on my last night, after the organic Burgundy tasting where I also discovered the groovy wines of Jane et Sylvain.
Still having never gone to Bar du Square (it's always next time) I took refuge at La Dilettante and as it happened, I bumped into quite a few people I knew, Marko and Niko. We sat and drank and drank and sat.
"Did you hear about the Marsannay dinner?" I asked.
After that village's tasting, there was a celebratory dinner. The organizers had snagged a guest of honor, the auteur, Jonathan Nossiter who was to show his then new film, Natural Resistance. A bold move. There's a lot of progress in Marsannay, the village still has a great deal of super-traditional growers and I couldn't imagine them taking kindly to the message of the film. The film was championing natural and natural is still a word not many people are comfortable with--even if they might work that way.
Turns out my friends had been there. "I heard it was a disaster," I told them.
They looked at me as if waiting for more of an explanation. "People were impatient. Wanting to eat. Had to sit through that drivel. People walked out."
My friends looked at me as if I was speaking Georgian. "Not at all! It was fantastic," Niko said, laughing. "People crowded Nossiter asking him to autograph their menu. It was an inspiration."
Things are changing. Truly. If you want to see that change, in the wine styles or in the people, or just understand what the hell the (wonderful) 2014 vintage is about, what you're going to buy and who is your customer, this is a great excuse to come to Burgundy.
The next edition of Les Grands Jours is March 21 to the 25. The vines will be weeping with life when you arrive and the air tinged with warmth of the coming season. In Beaune, there are few wonderful wine bars to visit, late nights and parties as well as low key times. Perhaps I isolated myself from an industry crush, but I found this event--yes--for the trade only--to be a make it what you want it, kind of affair. But there is wine, a chance to meander through the villages, and get a real grip on what a village's wine can be.
Why? Because Burgundy matters.
This is where the notion of terroir was born and where it flourished. It is about labels, about high prices but that's not all. There are real people who make real wines. Burgundy has been held captive by the collector for too long. My suggestion? Go and liberate it.
And where to eat and drink?
I was told that Pluto has finally moved on from my astrological chart, and I was safe. But the wine in my glass was pernicious. Was it Pluto's last gasp? Hah, and I thought that the widow Clicquot was as bad as it got. I was wrong. There was worse.
I am here to share a scary experience I had last night. Oh, given the devastation that can really happen right now, the tragedy of last night was a stupid minor one. Laughable, really. So keep that in mind when you read this trivial moment.
You know there are times when I show up and am not in control over what ends up in my glass. This happens even though I come laden with bottles that I do want to drink. Last night, three stood erect in the fridge,while all too quickly, one that I wanted to avoid was already in my glass. I was observed. A friend was waiting for my approbation. I turned my back, best not to be scrutinized.
I could not sip without tasting the scorched earth viticulture that still exists in Champagne.
This shit was all sulfur and sugar and bubble. It was cynical. It was false. It was a traitor.
Called a Brut it was sickeningly sweet, it must have had the maximum allowed 12 dosage. I now am positive, it is possible to make something called Champagne and for it to be grape free.
I discretely walked to the bathroom to slip the impostor down the drain.
Sham champagne. It was like veneer sold as solid. Like pancake syrup instead of maple. Okay, if you can't tell the difference between a sham champagne like the above and the real deal, does it matter? It does. Because the public is being taken advantage of.
If one needs to drink real champagne on New Years, and I do believe they do, there were bargains to be had for the first time in quite a while. Pierre Moncuit rosé was $31. The serviceable Brigandant was $27. Hell, and was a fluke, right after Thanksgiving I picked up the Vouette et Sorbée Fidèle for $44. One good bottle is a far better expenditure than three bottles of plonk.
When I reemerged the friend flashed a smile and said across the room, 1999!
I slipped, "That can't possibly be a vintage champagne," I protested.
He said, "Not vintage, the price at Trader Joe's."
Trader Joe's? Where's the Better Biz people?
Bottles like Charles de Marques are the ones that make me reconsider my conviction to stop writing about wine by 2017. Not because I so desperately want you to drink well. Well, I do. And I want there to be better wines and for people to care more for their vines in a responsible way.
But more to the point, it hurts me that people are snookered into buying crapola like this. Just because their palate's might not be discerning, does it mean that they should be deceived? Selling bottles like these feels like fraud. And if I stop jumping up and down on the apple crate saying, "J'accuse!" Who will? I'm waiting. Will someone please step up so I can go back to stories that made me a writer in the first place?
While I wait, I'm going to contemplate these events and the past and the future and celebrate the shooflying away of Pluto from my whatever. To help it along, I'll pop a bottle of Clémence LeLarge's, because sometimes we need to reinforce the real and the optimism in life.
Happy New Year to you all.
The EU has already dumbed down the organic wine market, making the way for organic additives. Now, they are headed for the natural. I offer you the next big wine thing.
Sulfite substitutions aimed at either reducing or eliminating the 'need' for the demonized element.
Since 2004 there's been EU bucks behind this research and the celebratory studies, products and eager additive salespeople are hitting the market.
Originally aimed at the rare customer with bona fide sulfite allergy, now there's another customer: the misguided who believes these products give them the path to make a natural wine.
In 2012 the French book, Les Grands Vin Sans Sulfites was published. Inside? Techniques for industrial non-sulfite wine. One of the products being flogged was a combination of 'beneficial' yeasts called Primaflora. Here's what a kid I know who worked on the research had to tell me about it a few years back.
Primaflora is the non sacharomices yeast/selected lactic bacteria/high on gluthanion yeast wall cells mix Mr Imelée advocates in his book Grand Vins Sans Sulfites. You prepare it like an LSA and you add it at the bin in the harvested grapes as soon as possible, then you encuve your grapes or press them and then you ferment. In theory the Primaflora (136€/500 grs) act as a biological fight on the grapes blocking brett and acetobacters. The thing works.
Pierre Sanchez, an enologist who consults with a lot of those working naturally, such as Patrick Meyer, had a different take on it. To him it's not so much snake oil as it is venom.
Primaflora is a mix of friendly microorganisms supposed to colonize the wicked micro organisms.
Ill let you feel the deep anthropocentric bullshit.
Maybe it works on grapes stunned and sterilized with napalm-like treatments, but in organic farming and healthy grapes? It is a complex bio protection monkey natural and effective complex ecosystem.
In other words, works? Perhaps. Expensive like the other options, yes. But ideologically, why add a mix of yeasts when the ethos of natural wine is native fermentation?
Because the natural world has been grossly confused with no-sulfite added. Towards the supposedly better, sulfur-free world, there's a tannin product derived from grape pips.
Another company is making a soup of enzymes staring lysozyme (a fairly toxic enzyme derived from egg whites.)
One California winery presenting their wines at the natural California winemaker tasting last November called Califermentation, has a 'natural' line extension of their more mainstream wine. Even though they make no mention of organic farming or no-additive winemaking they are happy to say they are the first to use a Swiss developed technology that's based on black radish--a heavy antioxidant (wait, isn't the grape a big antioxidant on its own?)
Then he went to the other heavily researched product that goes by the name of Sulphree, made by the Swiss company, Biomas.
Obviously the Protos is an extract of black radish!" Wrote Pierre to me. "With anti-oxidant power! It seems strange to me that this is even permitted by the oenological codex. This kind of products are often very often oenological treatments very expensive compared to the use of sulfur.Vendors of this type of soup sell an alternative product, (their message is) "You can not make wine without SO2 without replacing it with something.
But you can. There are plenty who do it and do it well. You can work well in the vineyard, clean in the winery, leave it out or reduce it to its bare minimum. You can leave the Campden tabs alone and investigate volcanic sulfur and use that gently.But was this the result of all of this emphasis on what is a natural wine?
Lower the sulfur or eliminate it, but make more conscious wine.
That should be the real #2016 wine trend.
If you care about drinking real natural, then you will want to subscribe to The Feiring Line. Just do it. #winetrend2016
Near the final scene of the new doc, Noma: My Perfect Storm, Chef René Redzepi--the seal fucker who won't let us forget it-- is surrounded by his staff. It was at the 2014 World’s Best Restaurant Awards and he's trying to stifle the emotion as if he desperately didn't want anyone to see. That is, how he truly desired that thing, that prize.
Angst-ridden Redzepi, thrice winner of best restaurant in the world, lost the the title in 2013.
There had been a bad situation, it was deemed a norovirus. Mussels were involved. The restaurant that pointed out new foragable corners in sea and woods, the restaurant that made Nordic Cuisine a thing, suffered. Even though the award was meaningless the first one wasn’t that meaningless, it changed everything. As he said “We went from zeroes to heroes… like that.” He wanted to be back on top, badly.
Graceful, ants perched on a cloud of cream.
Director Pierre Dechamps first feature length film captures the pain, the sorrow, the drive and the insecurity. He showed that Redzepi was not going to let a norovirus rumor sink him. Instead of total reliance on talking heads, he swaps it out for action and narrative.
This one: Boy gets big award. Boy loses big award. Boy recaptures big award.
It’s tried and true and works. Because who cannot relate to paradise regained? This longing fulfilled is primal.
For four years Dechamps trailed Redzepi, the chef, humbly born of a Macedonian immigrant and a Danish mother. Chef remembered racism. He remembered hardship. He viewed himself as an outcast in a society where it’s difficult not to be 100% Danish. Yet, Chef emerged as the creative force behind modern Scandinavian cuisine, whether moss, sap, ant and seal.
The film flags the paradoxes: the struggle between the t-shirt and chef whites. The imbalance between food for the people but served to the few. He shows a chef who sometimes cracks a charming smile. Dechamps balanced the tension, and pretension, royal and peasant. The moment where Chef is cooking for his son, breaks a yolk and says, “I’ll eat that one,” it lands with subtlety.
The director seems to throw more than one painterly and musical reference to the works of Peter Greenaway (from dramatic angle to use of Mozart and chorale).There’s some artifice, the slow and fast motion, but forgivable in the context of kitchen choreography. Yet, where was the drinking?
There is no wine or mention of its first wine director Pontus Elofsson or its second, Mads Kleppe.
I’ve gotten drunk with Mads Kleppe only once, but it seems like several times. I look forward to the next.While not an ingredient, wine and their controversial coffee program is an essential part of their restaurant experience, but how did they go missing in the film, even with a passing visual or mention?
The only drink on screen was a non-alcoholic one sipped from a hollowed out kohlrabi. Redzepi berates his chef who created it for its sugary simplicity. “Not just water with sugar," he scolds. In frustration he tries to explain the taste, “It’s just lemonade, man, it’s sugar and water …it’s beautiful, it’s pretty, but it’s hopeless.”
Chef casts a glance down. Then, as the kohlrabi is spirited away in shame, he does a double take as he says, almost as an aside, motioning to it, “But I’d like another glass of it," almost as he said to his child about the broken yolk, "I'll take that one."
Another glass? Yes, those are the kinds of wines he has on the list. The lists and the service is controversial (another piece for another time), but there are plenty of serious and vin de soif bottles. Those are wines were you think, I want another glass and another. Where were the people behind those bottles? They have stories, they have agriculture, they have wisdom. I wanted at least one of them.
Perhaps the connection between chef and wine is too obscure. But there were other connections to earth and sea. Foragers and suppliers were the piece of the film that provided pure emotion. Søren Wiuff stuffed his mouth with his flowery coriander. “René,” he remembered saying, “when are you going to use Danish coriander?”
Redzepi answered, it’s not native.
Wiuff responded, “It grows well here, it flourishes. His poetry was like so many that have sucked me into writing about wine, the connection to the soil and to the symbology of it all. Here, as with wine there was a man who grew and hunted greens soulfully. In his desire to bring coriander to Noma was another message. Redzepi was no different than transplanted coriander, who bloomed in the land of Denmark.
The man on the stage finally screamed out the best restaurant 2014, Noma!”
Redzepi walked to the stage, he pulled out a sheet and started to read. “Guys, we did it. Do you remember the opening they gave us funny names, we all remember the seal fuckers.”
The audience tittered with discomfort. They were not used to a chef using language like that out of a kitchen. “ Look where we are now," he said. "Wood sorrel conquered caviar. The seal fuckers were on top. My dear Seal Fuckers, let’s keep failing together.”
The film comes out on December 18th, in theaters Amazon Video and iTunes.
DISHES FEATURED IN THIS FILM IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
Grilled romaine heart and summer greens
Apple on ice
Tartar of Beef and wood sorrel, tarragon and juniper
Bone marrow and spice flowers
Brown cheese and sloe berries
Duck, pear and autumn leaves
Pickled summer squash
Squid, fennel and broccoli
Beef short rib
Bouquet of greens and black ants dipping
Pumpkin and caviar
Fermented gooseberries and elderflowers
Pumpkin, barley and kelp
Potatoes, kelp and barley
Kohlrabi in Kohlrabi
Crispy reindeer moss, spice and crime fraiche
Onion and pear stew
Flat bread and grilled roses
Glazed pike head
Raw shrimp and ransoms
Crispy winter cabbage and samphire
Wild blueberry and ants
Sweet water pike grilled with summer cabbage
Cauliflower slowly caramelised and whipped cream
Sourdough bread, virgin butter, pork fat
Yeast caramel with skyr
Smoked quail eggs
Potato and plums
Friday night, as John and his wife and two children were enroute to their home in Sighnaghi, Georgia, their centuries old house or peace and love where I have spent many a night and ate many a meal, was going up in flames.
John, the co-owner of Pheasant's Tears is a dear and close friend.
An artist, twenty years of his work ignited, along with all of his and his families possessions. I've been plagued by nightmares for the past two nights. No matter how zen you get about only possessions, to lose so many connections and memories is to lose pieces of self. But the good news, is that no one was hurt. Given the severity of the fire, it was a blessing.
Insurance is not as common in Georgia as it is in the United States and the expenses for rebuilding will be considerable. If you would like to make a donation, no matter how small or symbolic, it will help to know that his wines and efforts for Georgia have been felt. He and his family are remarkably generous humans, and if he or his wines have touched you....here's the link.