Tag Archives: Gamay

Wine for Winter (Tops for Me) 


NV Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Crémant du Jura “BBF”, Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot (Jura)

BBF = Blanc de Blanc élevé en Fût! From  Crémant du Jura, extra-brut and super fine. Élevage in barrel for a year, then second fermentation in bottle, racked for 52 months. Delicate bubbles with some weighty flavors from the Chardonnay but still funky fresh. Biodynamic.

imageParaschos ‘Ponka’ Bianco Venezia Giulia IGT, 2014 (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia, Pinot Bianco, Picolit, Verduzzo, grown in San Floriano which is on the border of Italy and Slovenia, so plots are on either side. Ferments in open top clay amphorae without controlled temperature, then transferred to Slavonian oak botte to mature on the lees for 2 years. Biodynamic.

imageI Clivi di Ferdinando Zanusso “Clivi Brazan”, Brazzano di Cormons, 2001 (Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

Friulano and 15% Malvasia from 80 year old vines. The wine is aged 140 months (more than a decade!)  in stainless steel tanks. I let it hang out in the glass and it kept opening up the longer it was out. Over a couple days, with each session’s glass getting closer to room temperature, it really has a quietly expressive, intimate character. You might say the same for its maker, Ferdinando.

IMG_1234Chateau Musar Cuvée Blanc, Bekaa Valley, 2001 (Lebanon)

!!!Obaideh & Merwah (those are grapes, heard they’re related to Chardonnay & Semillon). High altitude plots,  sunny year round, chalky soil and low yields. Fermented separately for 9 months in French oak, then blended after first year. Released after another 6 years. Not for the faint hearted. Needs a passionate mood and a big, fat burgundy glass to rest in before consumption.

  Domaine Labet “La Reine”, Côtes du Jura 2013

Gamay is still happy even when it’s not from Beaujolais. If you’re affected by Fleurie like me, you’ll like this. “The Queen” is tasty- elegant but not without corners, a little floral. I like Labet.



 Axel Prüfer “Avanti Popolo”, Le Temps des Cerises Vin de Table, 2014 (Languedoc-Roussillon)

A young & quiet East German committed to non-interference wine production makes a political statement with Carignan. I love when this grape gets to shine on its own and is handled by someone who understands its character. Avanti Popolo (Italian for Forward, People!) is an alternate way to describe the Bandiera Rossa (red flag), a song and symbol of the socialist/communist movement used during the Italian Labour Movement, first written by Carlo Tuzzi in 1908 and used while fighting against Mussolini. “The Time of Cherries”, the wine’s name, reflects not only the Carignan grape, but of the symbolism of the socialist flag. Biodynamic. Pronounced acidity.


Domaine Sebastien “L’Hurluberlu”, David Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, 2013 (Loire, France)

Referencing the 1959 French theatrical play, “L’Hurluberlu ou le Reactionnaire amoureux” by Jean Anouilh, the “Extravagant” is actually unlike its namesake, especially for a Cab Franc: it’s pretty lean, mainly due to its Beaujolais-style production (carbonic maceration), super quick élevage, and young vines. It’s unfiltered (check out that sediment!) biodynamic table wine from Bourgeuil. It is tasty in an Exploration to Mars kind of way and curiously balanced, so maybe the reference actually lies in the playwright’s review of his own production:

“Wanting to reform the world, a General realizes that he can not even keep order in his own family.”



  Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2013

Not many things are certain in life but this I can say for sure: I will always drink Nebbiolo. Even or especially if it’s some big Barolo or Barbaresco producer’s table wine that ended up on the shipment across the ocean. This one is no exception, in fact it is my current standard. It’s the balance of fruit, acidity and tannin that has such a rustic grace…I just really get down. A group of wine growers that form the cooperative Produttori del Barbaresco have blessed us with young vine Nebbiolo unfit for the life of Barbaresco and ideal for me. Hooray!


  Oddero “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, 2001

Single Cru Nebbiolo harvested from a cliff side vineyard, Rocche di Castiglione, on the edge of the Oddero estate. It’s taken me a while to get to a place where I can appreciate and/or afford something like this, so it’s not so much the light, jovial drinking party as this is a study in mastery, nuance, and progressive structural evolution in a glass. But being here is great. It’s like any other mood; in this wine I have found something to help me focus and become one with the Force.

#TheForceAwakens (but will it be good?)


 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, 2008

Amarone? That super rich, heavy, port stuff? Not even close. Blind taste this and you’re somewhere between a Barolo and a Northern Rhône. So much warm spice and cocoa nib raspberry liquorice, it reads more like coffee…so nimble and elegantly vigorous, how it’s possible I do not know. A wine with this kind of complexion isn’t an everyday, but when I feel fussy about something sweet  (I get confused why I don’t like dessert the way I did as a kid) or crave something intense to wrap around my tastebuds, now I know where to go.


Exploring Wines of Southern France

The first night was on a tiny quiet street near Cafe de Turin in Nice. Tired after a 7 hour flight + 7 hour train ride from Paris, we had just enough energy to crush a tower of shellfish which thankfully was open till late and still completely packed. Somehow we managed to get a table between the throngs of people crowding the drenched sidewalk, sometime after 10pm. We squeezed in under a large column with a shaky table next to a huge tank of live lobster and a drippy green hose. The column was supporting the alleyway along which the restaurant staged all of its catch, under bright fluorescent lights that showed no mercy. The archway, although painted white, reminded me a lot of the arcades of Bologna. Finishing the last drops of house Muscadet, we melted into the night.

This cantine of wine was hooked directly to a mainline behind the cafe/bio shop at O’Quotidien in the Nouvelle Porte/Bonaparte quarter where, along with over a dozen others, they pour by the glass or bottle on site. Every wine is rotated and imported monthly. Carlo and Laura opened this place a couple years ago in an effort to offer local products from Italy (Piemonte & Liguria) and Provence to the average guy who wants a place to hang, eat and drink.

In the states this would be overrun with trendseekers but here we met a theatre actor, farmer, doctor, producer, and ambiguous Spanish joker who pulled us in for several rounds of wine from the cantines. They’re only concern was that we were game to be human. We drank 2013 Dolcetto from Cooperativo Valli Unite (the best dolcetto to date btw) and a 2010 Barbera Riserva from Azienda Agricola Mario Torelli Bubbio. The wines were all unbelievably fresh, earthy, alive- and all Italian. I was didn’t realize how much the Côte d’Azur leans on Italian influence. We came back for lunch the next day and had lasagna with seasonal vegetables.
Carlo brought an aged Trebbiano to accompany the meal which quickly disappeared and led to dessert, a chocolate cake soaked in some kind of sweet wine (pictured above) that was unbelievably good. Also these guys have incredible espresso.

We talked to Carlo about his market and the biodynamic movement in Italy for a while. He operates from a place of extreme calm, a rarity these days. He doesn’t bother with marketing his place- he doesn’t even want to run it for long. “I look to the next time I can ride my bike to the woods and forage mushrooms, pick grapes in the vineyard, and be away from the chaos of the city.” I hope next time I visit, he’s gone on a foraging trip.

We drove along the coast to Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, the medieval hill town Eze, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. We climbed down a cliff to the sea, and jumped in the water. We forgot to eat before we left, so after several hours of hiking around the Cap, we hunted down a place to eat. Given that it was 3 in the afternoon in the south of France, there was nothing open. But we managed to find a little market where the guy took pity on us and made some sandwiches. He really hooked it up: bresaola, brebis and tomates confites with butter on a baguette. He also recommended we go next door to the patisserie where to our great joy we found millefueille!

Bistro du Fromager

One of my favorite places in Nice is Bistro du Fromager in Vieux Port, a hidden cave à manger where the entire menu is based on cheese. The Carte des Vins was like the rest of it, delicious, bio, direct, no fuss. The menu handed to you doesn’t have any wine, but at the bottom a little note read “the drinks based in fermented grape juice are located in the large wine menu”. Immediately that made me want them to pick the wine for us; I felt like I could trust them. He brought us a red from Simon Busser in the small village of Prayssac (Cahors in the Midi-Pyrenees). 100% goddamn Merlot! It was deep, inky purple and tasted like smoked blackberry confiture with hints of myrtle and spice, and opened up beautifully the longer we stayed.

Looking around, people had equally local, natural wines, many of which I didn’t recognize but I have the impression most were from lesser-known regions like South West. We had a splash of a wine that was open on the counter on our way out: Domaine de L’Ausseil “P’tit Piaf Blanc” 2014 also from the South West in Latour (Roussillon). A blend of Muscat and Macabeo, it was rather sweet but due to the way it was made (fermented via carbonic maceration), the freshness and tarty twinge carried well.
One of the dishes was two fresh sacks of burrata, each bigger than my fist, with olive oil, pepper and a few haricots verts (green beans). The pasta was delicious too, also having lots of cheese. It was almost like someone was playing a joke on us- “do they really expect us to eat all this?” until I saw another table had the same amount of burrata and that somehow gave me the green light. “Even if I’m sick tomorrow, it will be worth it”.

Chez Palmyre

It’s important to say that not every meal was a wine-centric event. We went to a hole in the wall, a one room restaurant no bigger than 20 x 20 feet. Small prix fixe menu at shared long tables covered in checkered table cloth. Noisy, tight, boards with scribbled in menu items and a bar with no seats, just trinkets and mechanisms from bygone generations lining the walls and keeping score. Without question, we had a carafe of house wine and Durex tumblers. Classic.

And then there was Carbo Culte. Night at the apartment during one of the rainiest, most deathly regional storms in recent history. The thunder and lightning cascaded across the sky and struck the nearby mountains and the sea, while rain came down heavy, thick and loud. We opened a window and looked out onto the piazza below. It was empty, desolate. The trees flashed white as another bolt struck down on the water. We pulled shut the window and opened the Carbo Culte. Another bodilicious babe, the name is a riff on a Serge Gainsbourg song, “Cargo Culte”, which is cute because it’s referring to its “cult charge” aka carb maceration. A small operation in the Roussillon region, Sylvain Respaut is on the wave with vigor and precision. He has a few wines, including Gorgolou and Zumo, using grapes like Carignan, Grenache Gris and Muscat d’Alexandrie. Carbo Culte is a blend of Grenache and Carignan. There’s practically no info on him and I only asked briefly about it with the very friendly guy at La Petit Syrah. From what I understand, he makes a lot of honey and just recently started making wine. Anyway, it was very delicious.

BANDOL: a Timeless Classic

The diversity of wine in the South West makes up for the lack of production around Nice and the rest of eastern Provence. Where Nice has become somewhat of a Souther French gastronomic destination, the western area of the Cote d’Azur remains a rustic spattering often with time travel potholes. While Languedoc-Roussillon seems to be the next big chapter in the natural wine movement (after Loire & Rhône), Provence remains seemingly aloof, concentrating on the perfection of Mourvèdre and the timelessness of the afternoon rosé.

Chateau Pibarnon

 On our trip to Bandol, we visited Chateau Pibarnon which may be considered home to some of the oldest and most prominent Bandol AOC wine available. We tasted through and decided to take home a bottle of Les Restanques 2011, which comes from slightly younger vines on a hillside primarily of clay and limestone. The blend (70% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache) undergoes extended fermentation of 25 days, then is split between large, new French oak casks and smaller barrels.

Part of being included as an AOC is that as a producer, you have to meet certain requirements. In Bandol, one of those is the red wine must be at least 50% Mourvèdre and aged 18 months in oak at minimum. This is already an explanation for the huge disparity between taste profiles of natural and controlled wine. The former often has no contact with oak and is generally drunk very young. Is one better than the other? No- dumb premise. The better question is, how can I learn to appreciate what each have to offer?

In this case I’ll remember sharing that bottle of Pibarnon with newly encountered family, eating grilled lamb and merguez sausages with rosemary and garlic, in our house just down the hill from the vineyard and 10 minutes drive to the Mediterranean.

PARIS – Epicenter of Vin de Soif aka the Glougou

Au Passage was a perfect example of the success that the natural wine movement has had on the city. It’s more of a lifestyle; informal, conscientious, a sensitive collective of earthy people. Earnest enthusiasm aside, how long will it take for this to turn disingenuous?

100% Gamay from 60 year old vines in Beaujolais. At with small, lighter dishes, including radishes, sweet greens, liver pâté.


Rhône Valley blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre. Maceration over 30 days, matures 24 months in concrete tanks. Ate with roast chicken and mustard. Delicious, rich, elegant but totally natural- cosmic, according to Viret. Old school guys who brought amphora to France.

The trip was confirmation of my observations on the changing landscape of wine, culture, fashion, taste…and how it doesn’t change. Some things- most things – are cyclical in the end. The true evolution is yet to be seen, I think.

Marie & Vincent Tricot “Les Marcottes”, 2013


If you can get your hands on this, you should. These are the grapes from their oldest vineyard, which were planted in 1964. Even their high-end cuvée goes through carbonic maceration, for a period lasting between 10 days and 3 weeks. Then the grapes are pressed, letting fermentation complete in large wooden vats called foudre, with wild indigenous yeasts already present on the grape skins. Then the wine is racked (transferred from one vessel to another, leaving behind the lees/sediment), and encourages malolactic fermentation to begin in old oak barrels. This really smoothes out the Gamay, which is less bright and acidic than others from Beaujolais, but rather round with a slightly oily film. But it’s deceptively poignant with a lot of aromatics, tight layers, even spice. I like.

What to Drink Now: Winter Hideout

Testalonga Rossese di DolceAqua

Antonio Perrino is arguably the top producer of this tiny appellation. All winemakers in Dolceacqua have tiny production as a result of the small parcels of steeply terraced vineyards. On top of this, Antonio has all old vines in albarello that produce very low yields, but great grapes. Antonio’s Rossese is all in the Arcagna vineyard, considered one of the best sites in the appellation. He also has Vermentino which he makes with extended skin contact.


Terres Dorées Fleurie, Jean Paul Brun

Gamay from one of his oldest cru parcels on poor, sandy, decomposed granite soils over hard granite rock. This bottling is from the younger of 2 parcels, vines being around 40 years old and slightly shorter elevage. Essentially Burgundian, maceration is 3-4 weeks in concrete (the shortest of all his cuvees) followed by ageing 6-8 months in concrete.


Coenobium, Monastero Suore Cistercensi

Made by a convent of 70 cistercian monks on volcanic soil in Lazio, a relatively unknown/underappreciated region that generally produces lots of highly controlled white table wine for Romans. Giampero Bea (of Paolo Bea in Umbria) started advising in the early 2000s and this helped catapult their international recognition. He did little to adjust the ancient techniques of this cuvee, “the nun wine” which is basically zero intervention, or as little as possible. Pumpovers during spontaneous fermentation, 12 months on the lees, sulfur at bottling.