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, (read about our visit to Pheasant's Tears winery in Signagi) 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.


Tuesday 14 March 2017

'Baliverne' 2015, Deboutbertin

There must be countless good stories that start 'on our way to Dive' and this one does too (and doesn't start with our turning up to Dive drunk, like this one does the time we visited Laurent Lebled). It was on our way to the Dive that we stopped at Les Becs à Vin in Orléans around 8 and drank a bottle of Deboutbertin. I remember the time because I remember thinking 'How civilised' to manage to drive to France and be round abouts were you need to be round abouts drinking time, and I remember the wine because it needed time to open and we still needed time to drive so we corked it and took it with us and it rolled around under our feet in the car all week. So we did what any civilised person would do in as civilised a country as France and took it with us when we stopped back at Les Becs à Vin for lunch 5 days later and asked if we could finish it where we started it. 

The guy at the bar said sure, if I can try it too and it had opened and it was delicious and this after a week of wine. It was a Pineau d'Aunis called L'Aunis Étoilé so when I saw the Grolleau this summer I thought it a good way to go.

Grolleau isn't accepted by the AOC as a red wine but who cares about a AOC recognition on a Sunday morning when your mamma's cooking blueberry pancakes in her robe and you wake to the smell of them brown-sticking to the pan and scoot your ass downstairs 'cus you like the the doughy ones that come out first? Or not literally but that's what this wine tastes like.

Tasting notes:

Looks like Welch's Concord grape jam. Smells like Cassis syrup on warm blueberry pancakes with a dollop of vanilla cream. Flavours on the palate echo the nose, starting as poppy blueberry juice with a fermenting fruit fizziness (no actual fizz but the feeling of fizz, or is it fuzz?) to open to supple meaty blueberry leather that I also find in Georgian red wines. Clean, very mineral (schist), smooth medium body


'Baliverne' 2015
Grolleau Noir
Faye d'Anjou, Loire


Thursday 2 March 2017

'Groll n'Roll' 2015 by Babass 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 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 too thirsty to live.

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). 


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

*I know, I know, 'not'.

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