In our VINO restaurant tonight we did a winetasting featuring the wines from FOUR French winemaking “mavericks” . Having visited several top restaurants in New York recently, I was clearly reminded of this new generation of French winemakers as their wines are being featured on the city’s most progressive wine programs. Fortunately we had gotten their wines before the meteoric, global hoop-la these producers & some of their contemporaries have created. Some say, they are radical, changing regional & winemaking traditions. I believe instead, the very best advocate & practice a very “back to basics” philosophy both in the vineyard & the winery…..organic/biodynamic farming, minimal sulfur use, if any, wild yeast fermentation, minimal use, if any, new oak, bottling unfiltered & unfined, all in pursuit of true purity & clarity of terroir. It wasn’t that long ago, when a scant 25 or so cases of some of these wines made them way into the U.S.. While the allocations have thankfully risen… at the same time, judging what I saw in New York, I am so surprised some still somehow makes its way to Hawaii.
To me, Foillard is the superstar of Beaujolais. He typically produces TWO Morgon, one from granitic soils & this one from 80 year old vines grown in sandstone. Don’t think of this wine as a Beaujolais. It really is a world class, soulful, remarkably light & absolutely delicious red.
2010 Maxime Magnon “La Demarrante”
Magnon is a disciple of Foillard & adheres to the same kind of au natural practices. Because he couldn’t afford vineyard land in Burgundy, he settled in southern France specifically in Corbieres. La Demarrante is a blend of 50 to 60 year old vine Carignane & Cinsault, intriguing, wildly rustic yet also light colored, VERY delicious & totally gulpable.
One of the most radical of them all. The 2002 was the last time we were able to get some. Jadis to Hawaii. Some say bizarre….I say genius!!!!!! In any case, these are extremely grown & made wines. The 2009 Jadis is 50% Carignane, 30% Syrah & 20% Grenache grown in schist dominated soils. While Carignane may not result in showy, flambuoyant wines, this grape variety when done well, certainly adds delicious-ness to red wines..
2009 Domaine Gramenon “Sierra du Sud”
Sierra du Sud is Syrah grown in gravel/sandy/limestone soils in the northern part of France’s southern Rhone Valley. It is one of the many bottlings from this truly standout winery & winemaker , as they are one of the leaders of this whole new approach to grape growing & winemaking. I can’t recall having a Syrah like this before. It is minerally, remarkably light on its feet, masculine, intricate & quite transparent at the same time with a signature rustic, gunflint edge to its aromas.
At the same time, we also had the opportunity to try two more classical, rustic red wines the night before.
1994 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”
It really took me a long time to understand & fully appreciate the red wines of Domaine Tempier. I really wish I could have grasped their special-ness at a younger age, so I could have somehow stashed some away from way earlier vintages, especially after having tasted this 1994. For me this wine is earnest, authentic, salt of the earth & soulful rather than being about grandeur & nobility. The 1994’s core is still youthful & full of vigor. It also was an ideal pairing with VINO Chef Keith Endo’s Veal Cheek Raviolis he made for the night.
Another superb, truly amazing, rustic red wine, which had such a gorgeous harmony to it on this night. I could smell the compelling baked stones, the roasted herbs, white pepper, baked fruit….in addition to all of the other nuances which kept eke-ing out as the wine opened up in the glass over the 1 1/2 hours it was opened. VERY impressive to say the least!