Monday, 10 April 2017

Bojalien 2017

Domain des Grottes, Beaujolais, Monday 4 April 2017


Thanks to Romaine and Perrine and for ALL THE WINE

Acid-clarity wines

Babass the band

J-P and a drunk me


 All in it together


For the cuvée 

Making the new cuvée (yes, from the leftovers)




I've had worse

Big format



Thursday, 30 March 2017

We started our Dive week drunk after visiting Laurent Lebled (A la vôtre!)

Starting with the obvious: you shouldn’t turn up to a wine fair drunk. And if you do, and you’re also late, like, only have an hour before it’s all finished-late, you shouldn’t start on John Wurdeman's wines — not because they're John's of course, but because they're Georgian; and how you might actually want to be able to taste other wines after that don't happen to be Georgian. 

We learn. 

Also what should have been obvious was that 99% of winemakers in the Loire would be at La Dive during La Dive or otherwise with their friends or importers and you, being neither friend nor importer, should therefore not bother emailing to ask for a visit. Except we did and, worse, they said yes and, worst still, we had to cancel because we, ok, me, had gotten the dates wrong, ok, had used last year’s dates and had thus delivered us directly unto their junk box except for the one who said sure, anytime. And this is how we met Laurent Lebled (A la vôtre!) and we figured we’d better meet early because we had a fair to go to later and all except that when we left we left late and drunk and then started drinking Georgian wine. But let’s begin at the beginning which was 10 o’clock.

We drive to Savigny-en-Véron (western part of AC Chinon) from Saumur straining for the telltale signs of a winery rather than listening to Google. Not committing fully to whatever your navigation system requires of you is something I generally advise against, but in the past we’ve been sent up too many driveways belonging definitely not to wineries but to people definitely annoyed at having to always send people away. So nowadays we check. And, check: an otherwise unidentifiable piece of land next to a shuttered mansion with a barn stacked with red crates. Arrivé.

Laurent is as friendly looking as his etiquettes (one of them being him), and I’m struck again by how comprehensively and not at all awkwardly the French are able to communicate without you speaking the language they do. Their hand gestures, half sounds and eye twinks are so evolved that they can carry across the message no sweat even when their words are algebra to you or worse, French. But as magical as communicating sans words can be, I’m grateful that Charles was there because Charles spoke English and about wine in English (Charles helped Laurent with the 2015 vintage — hey Charles!)

And so to the wines and first, the Juicy Fruit gum exotic Sauvignon Blanc 2016 "La Sauvignonne”, left sitting in a fibre glass tank on its lees until bottling mid March. Granny Smith drips on your chin juices and a squeeze of citrus fresh without a trace of the grape’s varietal flavours (hoorah! Nope, not a fan) — banished, Laurent tells us, by the long maceration period: 8 days, whole cluster carbonic maceration: unusual, Laurent tells us, not only in the Loire but for white wine in general. 

Next up is a bone dry, stream clear 2016 Menu Pineau: de-stemmed to de-bitter, racked and pressed with a wooden paddle after 7 days a-macertain’. Laurent explains this is the first time he’s bothered to de-stem as well as the first time he’s used the paddle, and by his half sounds and full smiles you can tell that he’s pleased as pie with the result. This is true for later, too, when we try the (bottled) 2015 Menu Pineau pet nat: equally dry but now a concentrated herby nectar like those Alpine cough drops with mountain scenes on the box plus porcelain-fine bubbles. Left covered and sealed in the tank without interference and bottled without disgorgement, Laurent’s pride bubbles as the bottle explodes into our glasses and Charles tells us how what he’s learned working here goes against everything he’s been taught at the Loire Ecole du Vin. The pet nat will be released 2018.

(After this came the 16 Cab Franc "On Est Su l' Sable" but all I have is, ‘Raspberry, pepper plus stalks. Hard to get stems to mature = green taste. Too cold').

The 2016 Gamay "Ça C'est Bon!” is a meaty Gamay. Rustic rather than fruity. Dry. Folded laundry fresh. Frothing and furious in its (also) fibreglass tank, happy-gassy (gas protects the wine) and murky (because of a storm; it had been clear last week). It battled its way through 21 days maceration in a concrete tank with chestnut slats at the bottom, in place to separate the juice from the skins but also to kick start the fermentation — laden as they are with a whole forest of family trees of yeasts. 

This, we’re told, is an old beaujolais method that Laurent learned from the book he read when starting out in 2010. As in, the 2010 seven years ago when he started from scratch and read a book because he was a wood merchant not a winemaker and was all of a sudden buying a parcel of land in the Touraine finding a chai and making wine with the help of his friend Patrick Corbineau and Sébastian Bobinet like it was all no big deal. To him. I remain impressed. Impressed I also remain with the rabbit rillet Laurent ‘round about now put on the table. Best rillet ever or maybe rillet just really comes into its own in Loire wine cellars after drinking on no breakfast. 

Next we start drinking from bottles. My notes:

— ’15 Sauvignon "La Sauvignonne": amber block with insects in golden, super cider dry, cold apple crunch, saline, slight mouse. Spit out first sip to lower pH level in mouth so next sip doesn't taste so mouse.
— ’15 Gamay "Ça C'est Bon!”: ripe: can take a bite out of it.
’15 Cabernet Franc "On Est Su l' Sable": supple, strawberries.
— ’14 Cab Franc “Les Picasses": earth, rocks! de-stemmed, no carbonic maceration cus doesn’t want the tannins. Left for two years in vat without disturbing or opening tank. Without air, yeasts left to eat dead yeasts and create more aroma, ether and alcohol = adds to complexity. Not on market.
— ’15 Menu Pineau pet nat: see above

On our way out we saluted the spider webs.


Friday, 17 March 2017

BABASS | "Groll n'Roll" rules

It’s March. This means you’ve had about one month to stick to your New Year resolution(s) adjusted for the time it takes to actually start acting with any resolution as well as the time it takes for that resolve to die, bringing us up, as I said, to March. Christians know all about this so invented lent*, and I know all about it because I know that I think I started the year with three, have forgotten two and don’t practice the third. So I’m starting again.

I hereby resolve to give wine more time.

And you’re thinking, uh huh. 

But I don’t mean it like that. I mean giving wine time before I drink it. So it opens. Coughs up the courage to sing. Fuck just singing; let’s make it DANCE hips swinging hair down low to the ground change the track half way through no fade and everyone’s going whaat and dude, what the fuck man but then they’re laughing and grooving and smiling and everything’s back to ok.

Because seriously, it’s too often that I go OH this is getting interesting 'round about the time it’s also getting finished due to the mathematical rules that apply to two people drinking one bottle of wine and by now it’s your last glass and it’s also your best glass and now it’s gone and that’s sad — I get that — but let’s just for a moment come out of the body, open our minds, and try to imagine what life would be where every glass was at its best and by this I mean just ready and you thinking about 15, ok, 10, minutes ahead of the time you know you’re absolutely going to be ravenously thirsty.

Tasting notes:

Resolution inspired by drinking Sebastian Dervieux's (so, Babass') "Groll n’Roll" on a roll (so, two): a Grolleau which, when open, smells like dew on grass and violets and reminds you of that micro bubble, fig, wet grass and laurel flavoured, dark-hue kombucha you buy every weekend at the organic-or-die market from the guy with the golden beard and his old Russian kvass cart mainly because you heard it's good for you but to your friends you say it's because you’re hooked on that deep earth / tea / smokey incense kick sensation and how taking a sip takes you back to before you lived in California and somewhere with bramble hedgerows and seasons and the smell of leaves crunching underfoot and blackberry picking blue stained fingernails and somehow, also, watermelon: big sugary bites over the grass spit out the pits and talking about pits, what about DATES or maybe prunes, dry wrinkled withered heads and sticky condensed deep-sweet. (But which, when closed, tastes like green strawberry tops). 


Les Vignes de Babass, Groll n'Roll 2015
St Lambert du Lattay, Loire

*I know, I know, 'not'.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Baptiste Cousin "Marie Rose" 2015

Even on a root day drinking Baptiste Cousin’s wines makes me feel like it’s my birthday. They’re c o wines: fun, foot  l o o s e and fancy free, skip the Kool-Aid and Acid Test these juice b.o.m.b.s best drunk out of cups bikinied or, better: not actually in a bikini because let’s face it; push comes to shove and most people feel better not worrying about what’s wiggling but in XXL shirts and their geography teacher's hiking socks. But you get the vibe I’m going for.

Baptiste works in the Loire primarily with the native Grolleau grape which is great news as far as someone who pretty much only drinks neon strawberry wines cold from the fridge is concerned. Other good news is he works without sulphites, works with horses like his outlaw dad from whom he bought his vines, has dreads / is handsome and makes a SUPER FUN Grolleau Gris pét nat / breakfast wine called "Puppet Nat" (not this wine) that I can personally attest to being perfect to celebrate the first time you’ve skated on natural ice slash ever really skated. And so you see, bikini not always necessary.

Tasting notes: 

Pale rose petal rosé pink in your glass on your eyes but there's also something rosy in the mouth zone too. Like the herby, woody bowls of potpourri mom puts on the window sills to collect dust, or how those raw liquorice bars with pandas on them that look better for you but are still liquorice bars smell. But in a good way. Anyway, by now you’re on your third, fourth sip n' golly gone and changed your mind sir, because why no, sir, this isn’t as ABC a wine as you first thought, sir. It’s light, sure, juicy, sure, but there's nuance and layering and texture and gravity and it coats your tongue like velcro or at any rate a Bourgogne. In a good way. **

** and this was on a root day.


Baptiste Cousin, "Marie Rose" 2015
Grolleau Gris
Martigné-Briand, Loire


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Julien Meyer "Les Pierres Chaudes" 2015

We were drunk and still drinking and talking about name dropping and I said, ‘Meyer, why do people talk about Julien Meyer?’ What happened next is we knocked back his 'Les Pierres Chaudes' Pinot Noir in about 3.8 minutes and now that I’m thinking about how to describe it I keep coming back to heavy velvet wizard cloaks and Patagonia night skies. To gravity and potential and mushroom-seeking boars’ hair caught on bramble bushes fallen to the mossy forest floor. To the electricity running ‘tsk’ through those electric tennis rackets of death used to zap flies, to shadow play and the

M   i  l  k  y     W  a  y.

Tasting notes:

Small wild berries growing with midnight plums in the tangly bramble undergrowth that's taken over a magical mystical garden somewhere elsewhere and shot through with comet-bright acidity and all that in your glass because this is wine even if it doesn’t sound like it and I know it doesn’t, I get it, I let it not, but who cares ‘cus seriously HOW GREAT DOES WINE SOUND WHEN YOU'RE NOT OBVIOUSLY TALKING ABOUT WINE?? Les Pierres Chaudes is intense, pure, balanced and water on your face fresh and I think I know why people talk about Meyer.


Domaine Julien Meyer 2015 'Les Pierres Chaudes'
Pinot Noir
Nothalten, Alsace

Picture is a woah-incredible shot of the Southern Milky Way. 


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Andrea Calek "Blanc" 2013

For those who think it’s the journey that counts, here’s what my white wine drinking journey up until roughly last week looked like:

Stole wine lighter fluid off the cart left in corridor at school for parents event, drank wine lighter fluid, got drunk, repeated, associated all white wine with either lighter fluid or paint stripper (variety!), swore I'd never drink it again, graduated, decided Riesling was the only way forward if the way forward had to be white which it seemed to be because girls seemed to only drink white, graduated, Riesling got sweet, no more Riesling, made friends that drank beer i.e. boys i.e. only drank beer, graduated, moved to Amsterdam, they drink a lot of beer here, learned to love oysters, made an exception and would drink tiny glasses of white wine only if ice cold and only if eating oysters >>> 2014: learned the difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but wasn't interested in either but Chardonnay was worse >> 2015: went to the Jura, had Savagnin, thought wow, this with OYSTERS, tried Jura Chardonnay, thought DIAMONDS, returned, got told, 'your wine's natural', didn’t pay much attention and just drank the wine, started paying attention, started associating wild, cloudy, juicy white wines with natural wines, started drinking white wines if they were wild and cloudy and juicy or Savagnin or Axel Prüfer, talked a lot about Prüfer, happened to drink La Stoppa's Ageno while I happened to be in Milan, got back from Milan, it got warmer, drank a lot of Sylvain Saux on the balcony in the sun, heard for the first time about skin contact, thought about Ageno, drank a lot of Nestarec and Meinklang and had a wonderful summer, made my first wine list, put Prüfer and Saux and Nestarec and La Stoppa on it, went to Friuli, picked grapes, came back sick of skin contact, drank a 2010 Sebastian Riffault Auksinis, returned from the dead thirsty, fast >>>>>>>>>> forward >>>>>>>>> 2017, February, La Dive, Robinot >> last week, Federico: ‘Let’s open the Andrea Calek "Blanc" 2013', me: ‘I don’t really like white wine…’

Tasting notes: 

Lush, creamed honey and tangy beeswax that keeps your mouth coated like those tight leather lady driving gloves. Sun-washed warm and something tropical, like a sudden whiff of white flowers in the dark on a hot summer night that makes you go wow, aren't flowers amazing but not in a sickly death-sweet, intoxicating way. Layered and structured like scaffolding. Ever evolving. 


Andrea Calek, Blanc 2013
70 % Viognier, 30% Chardonnay
IGP Ardeche


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Dirty Bird NYC has a secret natural wine bar called Verre de Terre and it's cheap

I’m going to tell you what Eban told me: Go to Dirty Bird. Who’s Eban? Eban works at Chambers Street Wines. Eban does the wine at Dirty Bird. Eban calls this Verre de Terre. Eban — actually I couldn’t tell you any more about Eban. I maybe kinda definitely sorta stopped listening after the words ‘cheap wine and chicken’.

Yes. Cheap natural (organic and biodynamic) wine and chicken. Like, in New York. New York, like where every glass you take is going to set you back 16,17,18 dollars no tip. Trust me, I have a tonne of receipts I exchanged for tonnes of money. We'd spent our day balanced on barstools, our backs and bank accounts at breaking point. Cheap wine and chicken sounded like a great idea.

And for many, ok most of if not everyone there that night, the straight up finger lickin’ mop it all up with a tonne of napkins, free range, free of antibiotics, veggie-fed, rotisserie organic chicken is what this place is all about. The neighbourhood go-to with a to-go. But when glasses start at $8 and bottles at $20, might I also suggest a million side orders of perfectly chilled strawberry juice 2015 "La Gravotte" Clos Tue du Boeuf (spring rain on soil, smashed in half pomegranate and cooling herbs) followed by at least one bottle of Nicolas Carmarans’ 2015 "Mauvais Temps" (heavily perfumed, herbal, animal musk, spice, smoke and cherries rotting on the forest floor) for, y'know, the road?

Oh, and ask for the spicy mayo.


What: La Gravotte 2015
Where: Clos Tue du Boeuf, Cheverny, Loire
Grape: Pinot Noir

What: Mauvais Temps 2015
Where: Nico Carmarans, Aveyron, SW France
Grapes: Fer Servadou, Cabernet Franc, Côt 

From: Verre de Terre @ Dirty Bird @ 204 W. 14 Street 


Friday, 6 January 2017

We went to 5 natural wine bars in New York and drank 13 wines. Here are my notes


December 27, 21.30, New York. 

Have been drinking all day except at lunch when we were eating — Katz’s — but first we did Brooklyn and very first: Diner. Perched at counter, coats off, global warming shock warm remember this is December. Chicken soup for our souls and a white Burgundy I’m promised don’t taste classic but does. Fresh, clean, whatever. Free re-fill of $16 glass like it’s coffee for that diner feelin’ or flirting. Both good. Next is litre bottle orange “Vino Bianco” 2015 by Cantina Giardino (Coda di Volpe + Greco fermented on the skins for 10 days then aged in chestnut casks) which is sage and honeysuckle and apricot. Very easy, a little toasty and 100% juicy. Did I mention litre bottle?

Next up: next door. This is the first of two pairs of bars we visited serving only natural wines next to each other. This is civilisation. Step into Marlow & Sons or step into upstate New York rustic cabin wine bar with all natural list (does this exist???), pine boughs hanging, smelling, gloom-lit and candlelight and the difference is the same. This is how it feels here, ‘here’ being New York not upstate. This is civilisation. Taste-sips down the list and we think ‘how cool’ they have their own ‘Marlow’ wine. This is every year from someone different and this year an unfiltered, fragrant, slightly oxidised 2015 Romorantin by Hervé Vilimade all canary yellow wax topped 1.5l of it with label drawn by Andrew Tarlow, cookbook writer Dinner at the Long Table and owner. Order a dozen Bird Island oysters that taste like Rhode Island big gulp of the Atlantic and drink juicy, slightly spicy Grolleau (“Grappe Full” 2015 by Adrien Baloche from the Auvergne). Small, tart wild-picked cherries. Smashable

Lunch break.

It’s 16.30 not yet 17.00 so it’s the Ten Bells via Chambers Street Wines and we’re kids in a candy store when kids still liked candy more than their iPhones. We are three and we buy a 2012 “Saulétas" Sancerre (bright, sweet and deep, thank you always Sèbastian Riffault); “Calico” 2015 by Vignenvie Collective (earthy, citrusy but lacking anything bright), a 50 strong collective preserving vines in Charnay, Beaujolais; Mariam Losebidze's 2015 "Tavkeri" (a girl!!) from Georgia (notes) and "Torre Nova" 2015 by Del Prete (notes). Guy helping us is called Eban. Eben tells us to go to a place called Dirty Bird. Eben prints out wine list for Dirty Bird. 

Time for Ten Bells and for sitting. Wrap around bar wrapped round Sev Perru is full at 18.00 so we sit in the corner where the empty magnums are kept. Could be worse. Place is dark with corners and candlelight. I taste the “Ploussard de l’ami ami Karl” 2015 (Domaine de la Pinte) and decide instead (sorry Karl) on “Cardamine" 2014 by Les Herbes Folles (Grenache) which is flamboyant: jammy (cherry), luscious and Grenache intense-spicy. A black eye bruiser for sure. To my right sips an aromatic, flinty 2015 Georgian qvevri orange, “Kisi” from Do Ré Mi, and on my left Domaine Binner's 2014 Gewurztraiminer Pinot Gris which tastes like roses. Then lastly a glass of something American  for the road (“Jambalaia” 2015 by La Clarine Farm: 59 % Mourvedre, 21 % Marsanne, 15% Grenache + Syrah) that was zippy, zesty, crisp and juicy and remarkable for the way it honest to god smelled like Florida red grapefruit  and tasted 'French' despite being from California. And then we go to Contra.

Contra. Contra is next to Wildair making this the second pair of couples. Wildair looks like to drink you must also eat so we sit at the hallway bar of Contra and are greeted by a fierce cocktail shaking lady that talks a soft ‘y’all’. Colour scheme is grey or shades of silver and concept clean, minimal, cool, cocktails. Mostly cocktails actually and why not when a Negroni costs the same ($16) as my (stemless) glass of resinous green twist nervy “Gamay Aunis” 2015 (Jean-Christophe Garnier, Gamay). Friend to my left is drinking “La Pierre aux Chiens" 2015, a tobacco leaf sweet leather raspberry Pinot Noir by Christian Venier, and on my right “Matassa Blanc” 2014, Domaine Matassa (Grenache Gris, Maccabeu): Sicilian lemons plus skin + pith.

As I said we skipped Wildair because we had Dirty Bird which is to say a whole free range organic rotisserie chicken with hot sauce and hotter mayonnaise, three sides, a wonderful waitress and two awesome bottles of wine ("Mauvais Temps" by Nicolas Carmarans and "La Gravotte", Clos du Tue Boeuf) each at $60 which is to say CHEAP which is the whole concept: chicken and cheap natural wine. Talk about civilisation (but read about it, and the wines, here).


In short:

Vino Bianco 2015, Cantina Giardino, Campania — sage, honeysuckle, apricot
Romorantin 2015, Hervé Vilimade, Cour-Cheverny — unfiltered, fragrant, slightly oxidised
Grappe Full 2015, Adrien Baloche, Auvergne — tart wild-picked cherries
Saulétas Sancerre 2012, Sébastian Riffault, Loire — bright, sweet, deep
Calico 2015, Vignenvie Collective, Charnay — earthy, citrusy, lacking something bright 
Tavkeri 2015, Mariam Losebidze, Georgia — teeth-suck tart, herbs
Torre Nova 2015, Del Prete, Salento — Haribo cherries
Ploussard de l’ami ami Karl 2015, Domaine de la Pinte, Jura — blood orange, rhubarb, pepper
Cardamine 2014, Les Herbes Folles, Languedoc — jammy (cherry), luscious, Grenache intense-spicy
Kisi 2015, Do Ré Mi, Samegrelo, Georgia — aromatic, flinty, apricots
Jambalaia 2015, La Clarine Farm, Sierra foothills, USA — zip, zest, ruby red grapefruit
Gamay Aunis 2015, Jean-Christophe Garnier, Anjou — resinous, green twist, nervy
La Pierre aux Chiens 2015, Christian Venier, Touraine — tobacco leaf, sweet leather, raspberry
Matassa Blanc 2014, Domaine Matassa, Roussillon — Sicilian lemons, skin, pith
Mauvais Temps 2015, Nicolas Carmarans, Aveyron — smoke, spice, animal musk
La Gravotte 2015, Clos du Tue Boeuf, Loire — spring rain on soil, smashed pomegranate, cooling herbs  


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Del Prete "Torre Nova" 2015

You know those sour Haribo cherries with the sugar on? 

You know how when you’re out picking blackberries and all of a sudden you eat a sour one?

Can you imagine what a triangle tastes like?

Now smell some sage.


Natalino Del Prete, "Torre Nova" 2015
IGT Salento


Monday, 2 January 2017

Georgian girl power = Georgian power wines | Mariam Iosebidze "Tavkeri" 2015

We were in New York and asked the guys at Chambers Street Wines for something volatile, read: a little weird. This being New York and this being Chambers Street Wines, the guys gave us a qveri buried Tavkeri from Georgia ("Tavkeri" 2015 from Mariam Iosebidze i.e., a girl, i.e., only maybe the third girl in Georgia making wines), read: insanely volatile. Read: tart as hell. Tart like the sides of your mouth go TING tequila lemon tart or teeth-ache cranberries not yet cooked, tart. Not, mind you, altogether unpleasant.

Tasting notes:

eBarn on the nose, Ploussard punch pink on the eye, bruised laurel in your mortar and your vitamin C fix of cranberries and red currents in the mouth plus chewing gum chewy tannins besides. Read: an austere little thing and for me, New England winter inside sitting and not outside hot Georgian summer let’s say grilling, a little thin, but intriguing enough to be surprised how quickly the bottle emptied, i.e., quickly.


Mariam Iosebidze, "Tavkeri" 2015
Kartli, Georgia

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