After making the rounds at Spring's "Une Promesse du Vin" tasting recently, I popped over to meet my friends D and C at Autour d'Un Verre's significantly more informal natural wine tasting in the 9ème.
The differences in atmosphere and philosophy between the two restaurants and their tastings could not be more pronounced. Both places prize fine winemaking and both are very enjoyable. But where Spring very astutely emphasizes the fineness - as in comprehensive luxury, right down to the Aesop soap in the toilets - the scene at Autour d'Un Verre seemed to celebrate rather the winemaking, the physical act itself, with all the attendant sweatshirts, red stains, and mud-encrusted boots.
It's also just the difference between very established vignerons - those at Spring that day, accustomed to high profile wine events in NYC, London, San Francisco, and so on - and the up-and-coming ones, like the ragtag gang of bearded farmer-savants who manned the tables at the Autour d'Un Verre tasting, many of whose delicate unsulfured wines see limited distribution even in France. Some of the wines of this latter category of vignerons are true mystical natural wonders, with a joyous naked pagan quality to them. Others just taste amateurish and unhygienic - 'look what I found in this barrel' wines.
I tasted both that day at Autour d'Un Verre, but for the sake of diplomacy I'll focus on the naked pagans.
Loïc Roure of Domaine du Possible (above) is a natural vigneron based outside of Perpignan in the eastern Pyrenees who's been making lightly-or-unsulfured wines since 2003. I first encountered his gripping 2009 Vin de Table blanc "Cours Toujours" at the AVN tasting in early November; in the chaos of that tasting the bottle had been insensibly abandoned on a table full of Loire demi-secs. So I was pleased to taste it again in better context.
It's a dry, very slightly effervescent white, 70% Macabeo, synonymous with Viura (of white Rioja fame), and 30% Grenache Gris. Tasting it you're immediately aware that you're just a hop from Spain: there's a vivacious energy to the wine's flavors of root and rocks and citrus peel that is totally atypical of French wine.
I was also pretty captivated by the wines of Edouard Lafitte, a more-than-organic Côtes du Roussillon vigneron whose wines are bottled under the label Le Bout du Monde.
Kevin of Autour d'Un Verre once very accurately proposed Lafitte's unbelievably bright Carignan - Grenache cuvée "L'Echappée Belle"* to me as an interesting substitute for cru Beaujolais. Lafitte makes a rather wide, incomprehensibly-titled gamme of wines, all variations on the Grenache - Carignan - Syrah recipe.
All were quite tasty, but I still prefer "L'Echappée Belle," which wine, along with the Carignan-based Eric Pfifferling blend I had on Thanksgiving, has really caused me to re-evaluate Carignan. In America I seemed only to encounter brooding ink-dark bruisers from said grape, whereas in France - or at least pagan France - you find real siren-song wines, high-toned, pungently fruity, and totally seductive.
*Lafitte explained that the name of this wine is an expression roughly akin to English's 'the one that got away.' I think I prefer the French, which implicitly stipulates that the object of one's regretful desire actually be beautiful.
Autour d'Un Verre
21, rue de Trévise
Metro: Grand Boulevards
Tel: 01 48 24 43 74
My possibly somewhat overwrought analysis of Autour d'Un Verre and its charms
The "Une Promesse du Vin" tasting I went to earlier that same day at Spring
The best info on Domaine du Possible I've found @ LaRemise2009, since most sites with the same name seem to be real estate sales operations.
More comprehensive coverage of same Autour d'Un Verre tasting @ WineTerroirs, in which he chooses totally different highlights.
An older post on Autour d'Un Verre @ WineTerroirs