15 April 2011

blogger beaujolais: isabelle perraud at the "buvez, bloguez" tasting: l'hedoniste, 75002

Soon after I began this blog, I posted an admiring, slightly eccentric review of a bottle of St. Véran I'd purchased at 11ème caviste Au Nouveau Nez. In researching the bottle's background I discovered that the vigneron who made the wine, Isabelle Perraud of Domaine des Côtes de la Molière, maintained a very engaging blog of her own, about her experiences winemaking in the Mâcon and northern Beaujolais. So it was that in the course of the same day I became online acquaintances with Isabelle, and also her friend / fellow blogger Iris Rutz-Rudel, of Domaine Lisson in the Languedoc.

In my market-minded American naivété, I initially assumed there must be loads of readable French winemaker blogs, since it's a low-cost / high-impact way to build an audience and attract attention to one's product. Later, in the course of my other job, I came to realise that a significant proportion of Parisians over 30 possess no familiarity with computers whatsoever - and this is to say nothing of provincial winemakers in remote regions, or the challenges posed by html and the various blog platforms, which, as this site's layout will attest, I myself have yet to master.*

Also, to blog well requires that one be relatively articulate and expressive to begin with, regardless of the subject matter. That these qualities might be found in a wine is no indicator of whether the wine's maker has anything more to say about its production than, 'C'était dur, mais c'est bon.'

With these points in mind, it was just amusing, and not especially surprising, to see that a recent tasting themed around the wines of vigneron-bloggers at 2ème natural wine bistro l'Hedoniste was slated to include the wines of both Isabelle and Iris. It's still a very small world out there on the world wide web.

That's what made the tasting so cosy, in the end. Organized by Antonin Iommi-Amunategui** of the blog / metacritical aggregator site Vindicateur and Eva Robineau of the Loire wine blog Oenos, it amounted to a jumbled tableful of outlier wines, gallantly manned by Antonin, around whom were gathered a genial côterie of friends and afficionados. All the wines had in common, finally, was a provenance from non-marquee regions, and their naturalness.

I was particularly pleased to meet Isabelle in person, finally, and taste through her other wines. Négociants-viticulteurs, she and her husband Bruno make Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Moulin-à-Vent from their own 8.5ha around the village of Vauxrenaud Vauxrenard, while also producing the St. Véran I adore, a Pouilly-Fuissé, tiny amounts of Morgon, and (new this year ) a Fleurie from purchased organic grapes they themselves help harvest. Since the 2008 vintage, they've bottled their wines without the addition of sulfur.

After tasting through more of the Côtes de la Moliere range, I can admit this seems to have mixed results. Paradoxically, it's their whites from purchased grapes that showed significantly better - though not necessarily cleaner - than their sulfite-free reds. Conventional wisdom would dictate the opposite; reds tend to have enough built-in fruit and tannins to distract from the funny flavors that can result from sulfite-free winemaking. The reds I tasted - a 2010 Fleurie, a 2009 Moulin-à-Vent, and a 2009 Morgon - all tasted gritty and true, but they shared an opacity and a slight mushroominess that, my friend J2 and I agreed, was curiously reminiscent of Saumur. Not in a bad way, but odd when one expects something a little more glimmery and redfruited from the region.

By contrast, a freshly bottled 2010 Pouilly-Fuissé we tasted was like a lightning bolt of pure awesome.

Wild, crackling acidity, and taut, sinuous fruit - mineral, white flower, and honeycomb wound tighter than the syntax in the chorus of a Dexy's Midnight Runner's track.

The rest of the tasting had its ups and downs. I liked the racy Bergeracs of Château Lestignac. I wanted desperately to like the Domaine Lisson wines, since Iris herself is so engaged and interesting, and since the concept - Pinot Noir from Languedoc?! - is so novel. In the end I couldn't get past the impenetrable wall of oak around the wines. They were impressive in the way that gazing upon intricate ancient fortifications is impressive: so much expensive effort to keep whatever's inside in, and whoever's outside out... Even a 2002 was only just beginning to let down its guard.

My own tastes notwithstanding, I appreciate that Iris is up to something pretty special and ambitious with her winemaking. So I remain curious to one day taste samples that justify the laudable care and determination that goes into the project.

* Or bother with, I should say. In starting this blog I promised myself I would not spend too much time designing it, or fussing over good photography; the former because it would disrupt my sleep schedule, the latter because it would disrupt other peoples' dinners.

** I forgot to ask him whether he's related to Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. How awesome would that be.

14 Rue Léopold Bellan
75002 PARIS
Metro: Sentier
Tel: 01 40 26 87 33

Related Links:

Twin Peaks & Chardonnay: Isabelle & Bruno Perraud's St. Véran
Sharing a bottle of Ludovic Bonnelle's bruiser of a Buzet at l'Hedoniste, 75002

Oenos - Eva Robineau's site
Vindicateur - Antonin Iommi-Amunategui's site

A nice in-depth profile of Domaine Lisson @ TheVineRoute

A review of L'Hedoniste @ LeFigaro
Barbra Austin's thoughts on L'Hedoniste @ Girl'sGuideToParis
A characteristically dotty rave review of L'Hedoniste @ JohnTalbott


  1. Hi Aaron, very pleased to read, that even if we are just on-line followers of our mutual blogs up till know, you finally had the curiosity, to meet our/my wines - and that you noted the affinity between Isabelle and me, which equally started on the Web, where I discovered and mentioned her blog, which was probably the fruit (at least a little bit), of her reading mine...before meeting in person at a blogging winemakers off, 2 years ago, which confirmed our virtual attraction and similarities:-).

    There are big differences in our wines, normal, with regards to the different regions, soils, grape varieties, climates, quantities of production, style of our winemaking, (just low sulphur for me), everything, you would sub-summarize under "terroir" in its large sense for me... But this doesn't hinder us from appreciating each others engagement and it's results. I love her wines and was particularly thrown back (or raised up?) into a proustian dream, when tasting her Côtes de Poquelin red last February at Millésime Bio in Montpellier, even in the middle of the noisy and crowded restaurant of the trade-faire...and I don't think, its just because we are friends (she and her discrete but as attaching husband Bruno), that I felt carried away in memories of young girls in a fully flowered rose-garden on an late summer evening, when freshness comes back, but you are still surrounded by the scent of all the fading beauties of a hot day...

    This is what I'm looking for in wines: food for dreams and imagination, more silent and deep then noisy and talkative when you meet them first. And if you have challenged one of my "fortresses" that evening (in occasion one of my 100% Mourvèdre, of a low alcohol vintage (2002) as on the picture, which is just starting to open slightly and still needs a lot of patience, after raising the cork), or the last bottled 2008 Pinot Noir (which was, that special year in fact, an assemblage with Cabernets and petit Verdot), I fully understand, that you felt in front of an unmountable wall, which has nothing to do with any Burgundy reminiscences. I just opened a 2001 Clos du Curé (100% Pinot that year) the other day, which starts to express it's grape aromas in harmony with still mighty tannins, no sign of weakness in colour or freshness yet to be stated, like his Mourvèdre brother, which surprised me by his everlasting freshness and flowery background, especially in the last drops, when you retake your emptied glass and sniff the reminiscences of what it held on it's bottom... Rather ambitious, as you noticed, in an fast living, fast eating, fast drinking world. Perhaps more adapted for silent winter evenings at your fire-place, when they could take you back to golden autumn days at Lisson, while reading you favourite poet - not exactly a Twin Peaks company... et encore, you never know;-).

    So looking forward, to meet you one day in real life, why not at Lisson, in the shade of our Virginia creeper or in the cool freshness of our cellar - and thanks once again for attending and appreciating Evas and Antonins engagement for lesser known wines from very distant places, which have in common, that their creators can communicate about them thanks to modern techniques, while still working in a very ancient near to nature tradition:-). One of the true great progresses of our time!

  2. Eh, not related to Tony Iommi sorry (but my Iommi was actualy an Italian anarchist who flewd Italy to Argentina in the XIXth century... after being inculped of the murder of an important churchman... So quite a story too ;-)

  3. Hi Aaron,
    The beaujolais city is Vauxrenard, not Vauxrenaud ;-)

    Have a nice week end