Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Les Caves de Pyrène: Real Wine 19th April 2010

Last PLace on Earth, Bramley Street London W11

Eric Narioo and his Les Caves team continue to bravely and fearlessly explore West London's 'badlands'. Last year it was Porchester Hall. For 2010 they moved a little further west down the tubeline to Latimer Road.

Eric Narioo, one of the wine trade's leading lights 

As usual Les Caves' invitation nailed their colours and beliefs to the mast – no room for ambiguity here! Real wines – natural wines and a lack of 'imaginary' bottles... Last week's demonstration of natural wines by Dynamic Vines was in this sector of London – perhaps it has a particular affinity with this style of wine. 

Althugh there were many enticing things to taste from across the world, I unfortunately only had time for those from the Loire and a few others. Incidentally a different type of reality – flight restrictions due to volcanic ash – had hit this "real wine" tasting preventing around 35 out of the 60 growers from making it to London. 

Tasting 'real or natural' wine is always interesting and an intellectual challenge. At what point along the drinkability continium do the faults or 'natural' characters outweigh its virtues and render it so bizarre or off the wall that it is no longer a pleasant drink? With one exception all were well on the right side of the drinkability continium.Little sign of jihadism in this selection of Loire producers!

The notion of a complete non-interventionist approach to wine-making is probably a caricature. Carried to its exteme you would wiat until the grapes fell from the vine. Good winemakers realise that you have to intervene – deciding when to pick, how long to macerate etc. I always think it is rather like cooking. Yes often using simple ingredients simply cooked is the best. But this doesn't mean you don't have to pay close attention to detail. Simply grilled fish is delcious if you get it right but there is a very narrow window when it is just right – a few seconds either way will give you either underdone or overdone fish. Often just less than a minute too much is enough to ruin that wonderful moist texture perfect fish has.

Good cooking tends to demand that you are at the stove not trying to do two things at the same time – off elsewhere catching up on emails or digging the garden leading all too often to burnt offerings. 

Thierry Germain: Domaine des Roches Neuves

I'm convinced that it is close attention to detail – lots of small things that makes a greater whole – is one thing that marks a real good producer. This is as true at this tasting of 'Real Wine' as it is elsewhere. Take Thierry Germain (Domaine des Roches Neuves) in Saumur. Since he arrived in 1991 Thierry has changed his wine styles considerably – always questioning. At one point he was making rich, full reds and whites with quite high alcohol. Now Thierry is looking for purity, minerality and precision. One could perhaps criticise him for moving from one extreme to another but to change the style involves intervention and it is evident that he pays close attention to detail.   

Some quick comments on wines tasted:

Domaine Pellé – Anne Pellé (Menetou-Salon)
Always very consistent. The 2008 whites showing good concentration and ripeness.

Domaine des Roches Neuves – Thierry Germain (Saumur and Saumur-Champigny)
2008 Isolite precise and quite austere. 2008 reds have sweet initial fruit but flirt with greeness in the finish.

Domaine Catherine and Pierre Breton – Pierre Breton (Bourgueil, Chinon and Vouvray)
The Vouvrays continue to be better than the reds.

Domaine de la Chevalerie (Bourgueil)
Good range of medium weight reds.

Domaine Jean Maupertuis (Côtes d'Auvergne)
Having seen this domaine mentioed favourably on a number of occasions wasn't convinced by the two Gamays from 2009.

Frantz Saumon 

Domaine Frantz Saumon (Montlouis plus négoce activity under Un Saumon dans La Loire)

This was the most exciting range of wines I tasted having lovely purity and vibrancy, particularly from the 2008s and the 2009s. Interestting to see Frantz starting a small negociant activity. I liked the Menu Pineau (sourced from Saint-Aignan) and the Romorantin (from Philippe Tessier in Cour-Cheverny).

Un Saumon dans La Loire: 2009 Romorantin

Domaine Sébastien Riffault
– Sébastien Riffault (Sancerre)
I'll happily admit that I haven't got to grips with Sébastien's wines. I have only ever tasted them not drunk a glass with food. I find their oxidative nature masks both their grape variety and the terroir. They may well be drinkable but they are not Sancerre.

For Jamie Goode's take on this tasting click here to go to the Wine Anorak.


Michael Boniface said...

After tasting Sebastien Riffault's wines last year I was intrigued enough to buy some of each of his whites;like you say, to see what they actually drink like. The Skeveldra in particular has impressed me; once you get past the distinctive odixidative aromas there's much more to it, real er.. minerality and depth of flavour. They also seem to have developed some added richness over the year. Saying that, I was struck by how similar the 08's tasted compared to the 07's and did wonder whether it's a case of the style masking everything else. Maybe tasting doesn't show the real character of the wines. Or maybe he's a bit of a one trick pony? Definately worth looking at a bit more though, and drinking a few bottles.

Jim Budd said...

Michael. Many thanks. Further exploration is required!

Anonymous said...

I will gladly explore! Send me some bottles.