07 September 2010

musk-rat sex: le baron rouge, 75012

An indulgent rave about a totally obscure little wine that has enchanted me all summer: a 2009 Muscat Sec, by Domaine Piquemal, currently available for a mere 8,2eu / bottle à emporter, or 2,9eu / glass at Le Baron Rouge. 

I was introduced to dry Muscat a few years ago. It was on the opening wine list of the first restaurant I ever wound up wine-directing, a little pizza place called Mozza, in LA. The general manager had put it on the list in what I assume was a righteous and awesome fit of idiosyncrasy, since the wine, a Moscato from the Lazio coast called "Oppidum," by Cantine Sant'Andrea, was a resoundingly beautiful whap-in-the-face-with-a-bouquet type thing - off-dry, delightful, and way over the heads of most LA pizza-eaters. I later proceeded to pour it by the glass, first at Mozza, then at another restaurant. 

Why do something so perverse? Whoever chooses the vin at Le Baron Rouge knows why. Muscat sec is the ideal aperitif, palate-tickling and super-perfumed. Before you tuck into serious drinking it's nice to remain standing and just swirl a bit and sniff. A good Muscat Sec will have a great deal to say even before you take a sip. It's like meeting someone with whom your rapport is such that you immediately delve into expressive conversation, before even learning his or her name. 

A conversation with a glass of Muscat Sec. 

It's worth cautioning that neither of the two wines I mention above derive from Alsace, where most Muscat Sec can be found. In my experience you have to be rather more skeptical when the word Sec is used in Alsace. Even the Muscat Sec from some of my favorite Alsatian vignerons has often proved to be a bit heavier and more syrupy than I'd expected. (Looking at you, Christian Binner.) A good rule of thumb is perhaps to buy the cheapest cuvée of a great vigneron; oftentimes it's less-extracted, more dilute, and all the more drinkable for it.

Domaine Piquemal's version is - and I mean this affectionately - Not A Great Wine. It's an affable, pleasant, summery plaything of a wine, all peach and white flowers. Who says all wine has to be Great in order to be great?  

An irresistible aside: Domaine Piquemal must be one of the most unfortunately named estates I can think of. "Piquemal" in French translates roughly to "itches badly." Domaine Horrible Rash, anyone? 

Available at: 

Le Baron Rouge
1, rue Théophile Roussel
75012 PARIS

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