Courgis, Chablis (Burgundy)
Here is story on a short visit we made at Alice & Olivier De Moor, this was earlier in april and Olivier was kind enough to give a bit of his time to let us get fresh news and tasting
impressions from this hilly corner of the Chablis area.
We managed to learn a lot, among other things on a new hope for esca, also on a scientist of the 19th century named Jules Guyot which I think we should, like Olivier, take time to read.
On the pic on left you can see a drawing reproduced by Olivier with the historical trellising in Chablis : the vine would grow horizontally on the ground with its branches spread (right, seen from above ground) and then at a distance (on left) the branches would grow vertically onto the trellis/posts. These are very important details we should know so as to relativize what we might think is traditional (same for the varieties we often think are immutably attached to a particular region).
Today the domaine Alice & Olivier De Moor has a total vineyard surface making a bit more than 7,5 hectares but they also buy grapes to other winegrowers to make some négoce wines under the name of Le Vendangeur Masqué (means masked picker), like for example this Chablis or this Bourgogne red named Le Rouge d'Etienne. This way, they can select interesting parcels including in other wine areas than Chablis and make wines from new terroirs. I guess the consumer will be happy to find their touch through these other wines.
The 4,5-hectare domaine Buronfosse is located in a quiet hamlet sitting along the Jura foothills south of Lons-le-Saulnier. Jura is a region which managed to
remain very authentic and true, and this is true on the human level too, I use to say that as I'm not
addicted to big cities, Arbois is a place I'd
consider settling in : nature not far away, gentle people, what else do you need ?
In the area of Rotalier, prairies, woods and vineyards are closely intertwined. The wine region is known for its iconic local grape varieties but even the cows are different as only certain Lycée Agricole breed can be used to make the local Comté cheese. Speaking of wine in the Jura there are probably less winegrowers than a century ago but the ones that remain are often good, even on the register of artisanship and natural work which many of us appreciate. The two other winegrowers established in this small hamlet of Jura are no other than Jean-François Ganevat and Julien Labet, no need to say that you could have worse colleagues next door.
Peggy and Jean-Pascal aren't from the region, Jean-Pascal is from Lyons and Peggy from Saint-Etienne and they both studied in different agriculture schools, Peggy at the Lycée Agricole de la Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel (training with horses and milk cows) and Jean-Pascal in Cibeins (agriculture mechanics).They met at the age of 20 but worked in different locations first, he worked in a training center in Jura from 1991, then from 1994 as agriculture technician, and Peggy had been working in the south of France.
In 1995 Jean-Pascal rented a small house in Rotalier, Peggy joined but it was difficult for her to find employment so she began to work in the vineyards of domaine Claude Joly, 2 years in a row, and that's when they decided to settle for good in the area, they bought this old winegrower house with stables and chai/cellars in the middle of this hamlet (it had all the amenities of a wine farm but last time it produced any was 1947). Jean-Pascal had his day job at the agriculture school in Lons-le-Saulnier but they began to look for parcels as Peggy was ready to start something, but finding parcels to rent was (and still is) difficult, local vineyard owners wouldn't trust someone from outside the region who never managed a vineyard before.
Villeneuve De Berg, Ardèche (Rhône)
The domaine les Deux Terres is a 13-hectare domaine (part in ownership, part rented) managed by two buddies, Vincent Fargier and Manu Cunin. Manu received us on a beautiful april day, Vincent was bust digging holes in the rock table in a new vineyard for the poles and wires. The domaine Les Deux Terres is in good company, with neighbors (just a handful of kilometers) like Le Mazel,
Andrea Calek, Gilles Azzoni and many others who share this same life philosophy
which is so obvious in their wines.
Manu and Vincent met each other in 1997, Manu (who is also from Ardèche but not this part of Ardèche) recounts that in 1997 he was in the south of France, not at all in the wine trade and happened to follow a training 5 kilometers from here with the intent to have vineyards but without clear perspective about which wines he'd do exactly. At the time, Vincent was managing the cellar/facility of this Centre de Formation, actually the Agriculture School of Aubenas at Mirabel (Aubenas is a mid-size town in Ardèche) which provides courses and trainings for adults. then Manu lefty for the south of France because he found a job in a domaine (Vallon dess Glauges) in the Alpilles, a sub-region of Provence.
Vincent's father was a grower selling to the local coop and he was still years away from retirement, so Vincent wanted to try his luck in another region pending his taking the reins on his father's vineyard. Manu had him hired in the domaine where he had found a job. Vincent was hired as chef de culture (vineyard manager) and Manu was on the cellar side in this winery. They learned thus to work together complementarily in this domaine, and this lasted 4 years.
[pic on right : La Tour Cassée, a restaurant with a good wine list in Valvignères, a village nearby]
Montcuq (Cahors -- South-West)
Imagine a dream country made of small, winding roads going through an untouched landscape of medieval villages atop of hills, castles and fortified farms, this is the area of Cahors. Actually when driving from the Bordeaux region, you begin to enter this unspoiled territory from the Montbazillac area (maybe a little before) and going through the Cahors area this magic backcountry will last all the way to the Gaillac region after which
the country looks less enjoyable. It seems to me that the side roads between these two areas (and north of them) are
the most picturesque you can imagine. If you look for a great travel experience in almost-empty roads, lovely villages and well-preserved architecture, that's the place to go. Famous wine regions are not always the most beautiful or authentic ones, just think to the bland villages of the Champagne region where you see that in spite of the festive wine they make, the local villages don't reflect (through the architecture for example) the expected refinement and civilization you find so obvious in the Loire valley and in this corner of the south west (particularly the sub-regions of Périgord, Quercy and Rouergue). Montcuq itself is a very nice village, and very quiet (at least in april), and during the couple of hours we stayed at the terrace of the Café de France (pic on left) the previous evening, we saw only maybe 3 or 3 cars passing by. It is also a stopover on the pilgrimage road to Saint Jacques de Compostela. It seems from the people sitting at the terrace that evening that some Brits with good taste setlled in the area permanently.
The Cahors area is Malbec country, this grape variety yields a dark tannic wine sometimes difficult to drink when young (we'll see it's not the case here). Gilles Bley's Clos Siguier sits in the middle of the wine appellation, south of the beautifully-winding Lot river, and his wines really stand out, not only for its civilized tannins but for its low alcohol. You understand better why when visiting the vineyard and the family domaine, the wine is the result of a simple, very traditional cellar philosophy and of a gifted terroir.
The wine farm is pretty isolated and has been the family base for several generations, Gilles parents still live in the main farm building which was built in 1779.
Libourne (Saint Emilion - Bordeaux)
The domaine (Vignobles) Pueyo makes a bit more than 7 hectares in surface, the vineyards (10 parcels) are spread over roughly 4 different locations around Libourne,
and with the suburban sprawl that keeps gaining against
agricultural land in the region of Bordeaux, several parcels are now alas surrounded by new (and often bland) constructions. Bordeaux, like Avignon for example seems to have been badly overbuilt along the lasr decades and driving through the area puts a big distance between the romantic image of the region and the reality.
The furthest parcel is located near Chateau Figeac near Saint Emilion. The history of the domaine began with Christophe's grand-grand-father with a continuous ownership of the family. When his father Jacques and uncle Jean-Paul took over the domaine it had only 3 hectares, after which it grew progressively through opportunistic purchases to neighbors when a parcel was available.
All the parcels are in the AOC Saint-Emilion and they have also a small production in generic Bordeaux.
Saint Yzans de Medoc, Bordeaux
Didier Michaud is an artisan vigneron in the Medoc, working on a small vineyard surface of less than two hectares (1,7 hectare to be more accurate) and happy with it. We visited him on a sunny and warm day of april, it was really like summer down here in the Bordeaux region, with the outside temperature peaking at 31 ° C (88 °F) in the afternoon for a couple of days.
Saint-Yzans is a quiet village
located on the left bank of the Gironde, a handful of kilometers north of Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac. The village outlook is far from the fastuous Bordeaux imagery we all have in mind when thinking to this aristocratic wine region.
The best way to reach it when coming from the north is to take the ferry at Royan, the only alternative to this 20 minute ride is to drive 2 hours around further south through Bordeaux, a less pleasant experience because the highways through its endless overbuilt suburbs are often congested.
Like often when we deal of vignerons working thoughtfully in the vineyard and in an uninterventionist way in the cellar, Didier Michaud is an outsider in the region, he was born in Paris and began to work in the vineyard in the area in 1977 (for other growers) and set up this small domaine in 1981. Until 1997, he sold his grapes to the coop, he was just a grower and didn't make wine himself. His first vintage here was 1998. His small domaine is totally organic since 1998 and he took a certicication starting in 2002, actually, from the time he began to make wine here, it was totally organic.
Montreuil (next to Paris)
It's been barely a year that two young craft brewers opened shop at the door of Paris in former industrial workshops that have been renovated for startup companies, and their beers are already selling fine in Paris. Craft beer is slowing taking off in France, if of course still far
behind hot markets like the one in the United States.
To rewind back to when it all started,
Thomas Deck who is originally from Alsace was studying at Sciences-Po in Strasbourg and he had at that time an opportunity to do a student exchange with an American university. He thus spent a year in Washington D.C. and one of his roommates there in Georgetown (or rather from the next room) was Mike Donohue and the two became friends. Mike at the time had already made beer at home and they both dug into the beer field, doing tastings and so on. This was in 2002-2003 and the craft-beer scene was aready active including in D.C.
After a year they began to think that they could do something together in beer, and in 2005 Mike took a brewer job in San Francisco at 21st Amendment, an artisanal brewery named in reference to the 21st amendment of the U.S. constitution which in 1933 repealed the prohibition. Mike who had enlisted in foreign languages (Spanish & Japanese) and also in environmental studies had taken thus another direction and he learned more on beermaking in San Francisco for a year, doing the basic job at the brewery. Thomas who had come back to France then, visited him occasionally and he himself became a trainee in a small artisanal brewery in Alsace, Uberach, which began to operate in 1999 using the pure water of the northern Vosges mountains for unfiltered and unpasteurized beers.
At one point Mike moved to Japan where he lived for a while and back in the U.S. he worked for 5 years at Flying Fish near Philadelphia PA. (from where he's originally), another award-winning craft brewery. Thomas on his side was keeping brewing at home in Paris, and it's been 1 year 1/2 or 2 years now that they decided to work full time on a common project to set up an artisanal brewery together here in Paris.
Mr Atsuhide Kat (CEO of Born brewery) pouring to Kei Miyagawa
This took place a few weeks ago in Paris, the Unesco had an event organized around sake which is a central part of the Japanese culture and also around the traditional Japanese cups used to drink sake : the guinomi.
There were three heroes of the evening, first the Japanese departing Ambassador at the Unesco, Mr Kenjiro Monji
(pictured on left with special sommelière from Daishichi), who was to be appointed soon as the Japan Ambassador to Canada, in this context this
restricted-access event was meant to be festive as well as cultural, like some sort of farewell party to Paris, diplomatic colleagues and friends.
The other hero was the Japanese artist Mrs Junko Kiritani, a Tokyo-based ceramist who had designed a few dozens guinomis just for this event. In Japan there's a deep-rooted relation with food/drink, tableware and other traditional vessels, we are now familiar in the West with the delicate and fragile-lookig cups and ceramics that keep been created in Japan in a tight connection between modernity and tradition.
The third hero was the group of sake exhibitors to this event, several having come specially from Japan :
Born (Katoukichibee Shoten, Born CEO pictured above), Daishichi, Kenbishi, Dassai (Asahi shuzo), Kamoshibito Kuheiji, Chiyomusubi Bihappo, Dewazakura Aiyama, Azumaichi, Kinoene Kyuko, Yamahida (Kawashiri shuzo), Kinmon Akita, Kokuryu, Miyasaka, Nakao, Ninki, Nishida, Sohomare, Sudohonke, Tatenokawa, Yucho shuzo.
The event took place at the Unesco bar in an upper story of the Unesco building in the 7th arrondissement.
Köln / Cologne (Germany)
The first-ever natural-wine fair in Germany took place in Kôln recently, as a sign that the movement which is still nascent in this country is slowing taking pace. The naturbelassene Weine like these wines are also called here (which we could translate as wines made naturally) are going out of the dark and have their national event, to which even German producers take part.
A handful of importers have been bringing these unconventional wines from abroad (mostly from France) to the German public for a few years and they have now a sizeable following here if yet quite small compared to other similar European markets like Scandinavia for
This wine fair was named Wein Salon Natürel which looks like a nice blend between German & French, everybody being able I guess to understand the meaning although for the Germans the usual nom-de-rigueur is Naturwein.
While this all is certainly the result of a team work (kudos to all the staff who helped all through the weekend including for the dinner), the person behind this whole adventure is still foremost an indefatigable woman who has made a lot to bring the natural wines above the radar in Germany : Surk-ki Schrade . Surk-ki is a wine importer based in Cologne and she also runs a shop named La Vincaillerie, you can stumble on her on prominent wine fairs and tastings in France, I mean the ones featuring real wines made the old way. Even her two sons were there that weekend to help among the staff.
Here is how the wines offered at this Wein Samon Natürel were presented in German on the wine-event's website :
Sie alle machen diese natural wines, vins naturels, naturbelassene Weine – oder wie auch immer man diese ungelabelten reinen vergorenen Traubensäfte auch nennen mag.
Alle arbeiten "biologisch" oder "biodynamisch" auf dem Weinberg. Alle Weine sind handgelesen, spontanvergoren, ungeschönt, ungeklärt, meist ungeschwefelt und wenn ist die Menge kaum erwähnenswert, die Winzer sprechen dennoch darüber. I'm sure your school Deutsch is already back after reading these few words and you don't need any translation.
Here is a story featuring food but also somehow tightly connected to the winemaking process and I found interesting that three winemakers were taking part to an age-old food preparation using a natural fermentation process. I witnessed a few years ago (story) how Russians in
the deep country keep preparing canned vegetables
using the same simple and healthy method, the lacto-fermentation, which allows them to keep vegetables with their vitamins and other properties through the long winter without preservatives or fridges. In Russia millions of people (and not only farmers) keep preparing their winter food through this simple process, and oddly, the soviet-era food shortages helped maintain this heathy tradition while in our western countries the modernism and prosperity led people away from these practices and pushed them in the supermarkets.
But lacto-fermentation is a good way for consumers who have patience and a piece of land to vote with their feet from mass-produced products.
I stumbled into this thing as I called Laurent before a weekend I was to spend in Touraine, when I heard that he was in the middle of a lacto-fermentation of vegetables with two other winemakers in the old farm house at Pouillé, I thought this might be interesting, you don't come across winemakers doing canned food everyday.
Yes, all right, I must admit that I suspected there would be at some point one or two very enjoyable wines popping up along the way, and that was already a strong motive to go there and see what was going on...