Wherein this author reveals he is not hardcore enough about this whole wine schtick to wait around for Anselme Selosse to show up. Yes, the Selosse, he of the otherworldly Champagnes from Avize. He arrived late to the tasting my friend Josh at Spring organized in honor of wine writer George Bardawil's book "Une Promesse du Vin," and I'd already moseyed on to the day's next tasting.
I'd like to say I left because after tasting through the stellar line-up Josh had assembled that day - the wines of vignerons who were on time, including masters like Claude Papin, André Ostertag, and Christine Campadieu of Domaine La Tour Vieille - I'd had my fill of heavenly wines for the day.
But really it was just me being in a hurry. To hell with it, I thought, I'll just have to get rich and purchase some Selosse for my own private consumption one day. I was planning to do that anyway.
I will also reveal that I haven't read "Une Promesse du Vin." I ought to, since it's in French and I need the practice. As any winemaker I've accosted at a tasting knows, my grasp of la langue du vin in French is comparatively limited. In English I can sling metaphors with the best of them, but when admiring a wine in French I've become accustomed to receiving as response, from the vigneron across from me, no more than a bemused nod, as though I've just gone through mental contortions to tell him his wine is very very red. (Often enough that is sort of the case.)
But, the book was €20, which price, while deeply discounted for the occasion and totally reasonable, was still more than my permitted budget of zero when it comes to wine books that are mostly photos.* It's just a temporary thing, until the time arrives when I drink Selosse Champagne on a nightly basis like it's nothing. ("Flossin' with Selosse," is what that is called.)
I contented myself with the wines that day. It was about noon, which is to say that I had barely woken up when I began tasting - and this is my excuse for not realizing at first whose Chenins I was sipping when I began at Claude Papin's table. I'd forgotten that his wines were made under the domaine name Château Pierre-Bise. I sat there thinking, "These are FANTASTIC Chenins," until midway through the second sip of the second wine I realized they were indeed very legendary Chenins.
On display that day was Papin's 2008 Savennieres "Roche Aux Moins," his 2007 Côteaux du Layons "Beaulieu," and his 2004 Quarts de Chaume.
All the wines shared a kind of angelic purity; the one that provoked immediate furious tasting-note scribbling on my part was the Quarts de Chaume. It was almost wincingly intense, a monsoon of rushing sweetness that hit so profoundly and with such force you forgot it was even sweet to begin with. The taste signifiers - caramelized peach, white chocolate, hazelnut - were all vividly etched, and seemed to rotate patiently on the palate in a kind of dream sequence of flavor.
Famed Alsatian vigneron André Ostertag was also in attendance, wearing awesome red pants.
M. Ostertag had brought two wines, the latter of which, a 2008 Riesling Grand Cru"Muenchburg,"was a fine reminder of the sheer breadth of personality available in Alsace. I usually tend to pick up feather-light biodynamic base-bottling Rieslings on-the-go to pair with Chinese food, and as such I sometimes forget mammoth, densely structured biodynamic monster Rieslings like Ostertag's 2008 "Muenchberg" exist. Inch-thick mineral, savoury herbs, and grapefruit skin: the wine was decanted, and every now and then M. Ostertag would pick it up, give it a vigorous swirl, and sigh that it always shows better on the second day open. I thought it was fine, though admittedly it could have used a decade or two's age.
There were two other whites in the tasting struck me as remarkable, for other reasons.
One was Domaine La Tour Vieille's 2009 Collioure Blanc "Les Canadells." A blend of Rolle, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Roussanne, it struck me as distinctly Sardinian tasting - it had that simultaneous savagery, fatness, and agility. Something herbal-scrubby too. I ventured to say as much to Christine Campadieu and to my surprise she seemed to understand and agree with me about the Sardinian thing. (Usually it's conversational suicide whenever I compare a French vigneron's wines to anything Italian. The looks I get are either blank or outright hostile.)
The other surprising white was a 2007 Irouleguy called "Hegoxuri" by Domaine Arretxea, a biodynamic Basque-country estate run by Therese and Michel Riouspeyrous. A blend of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, and a touch of Courbu, the wine was surprising because it smelled kind of thrillingly kinky. Like, among the honey and brine notes there was a weirdly identifiable panties-like musk. I didn't get the same effect at all from the 2008 of the same wine, which struck me as considerably more lumpen and simple.
As you might guess, I did not attempt to relay either of these impressions in the moment they were occurring to me.
Instead I just nodded, checked the time on my iPhone, and gave up on M. Selosse for the time being.
*Josh and I had the following paraphrased interaction about the book:
Me: Is it good?
Josh: It's great. Get a copy.
Me: Lot of photos.
Josh: Great photos.
Me: I prefer text.
Josh: You don't like anything accessible, do you?
Spring / Spring Buvette
6, rue de Bailleul
Tel: 01 45 96 05 72
Fall Wine Preview Tasting at Spring Boutique
Admiring the glass pours at Spring Buvette, including the Domaine de La Tour Vielle Banyuls Reserve
Some more G-rated coverage of Domaine Arretxea @ OneBrilliantBottle
More Domaine Arretxea @ Dr.Vino
A mouthwatering André Ostertag dining tour of Strasbourg @ FoodAndWine
A pretty brief profile of André Ostertag @ WineAnorak, worthwhile mainly because Ostertag voices some interesting opinions on the "sans soufre" movement in France
A fairly wonky discussion of soil cultivation with Claude Papin @ Jim'sLoire
A brief profile of Claude Papin followed by some tasting notes @ RichardKelley
A profile of Claude Papin followed by astonishingly comprehensive tasting notes @ TheWineDoctor