19 May 2011

sightseeing at la bodeguita du IVème, 75004

A perennial problem I have, leading friends about Paris, is we invariably wind up, after three days or so, in a kind of hungover fog through which it is impossible to see the city's landmarks. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, all might as well be a million miles away, for how unattainable they become after three or four nights' cumulative drinking.

So upon leaving dinner at a friend's office space, I'd intended to just let my sis and her boyfriend meander around nighttime Paris for a bit, with the idea that it might make up, in some small way, for how little of daytime Paris they'd been able to see thus far. 

Instead we decided to pop into La Bodeguita du IVème for a wee nightcap. To our delight and misfortune, however, co-owner Olivier Aubert was behind the bar that night, which meant that a wee nightcap was out of the question, that instead we'd be going on a virtual sightseeing tour of winemaking France, bottle by bottle, glass by glass.

Actually, come to think of it, we only hit the Loire and Burgundy. And not even in their typical forms. The sightseeing equivalent would be, say, going to Philadelphia, and only seeing the Mütter Museum. Or visiting Paris merely to see La Tour Montparnasse.

Upon walking in I noticed Gregory Leclerc's / Chahut et Prodiges' "La Mule" in stock in magnum - a bottling I recognized from the 2010 "Buvons Nature" tasting I'd attended, at which event the winemaker had explained to me that he'd decided to bottle the wine's free-run juice separately, in magnum.

Gregory Leclerc at the "Buvons Nature" tasting, Paris 2010

This wine, ordinarily, is a sturdy Loire vin de table Gamay, crisp, lightly tannic, darkly red-fruited; in its free-run version it's a different beast entirely, less "mule," more unicorn - liquory, pungent, almost absurdly floral. Olivier, as he poured, informed us he'd bought all that was left.*

We were still willing to call it a night after the one glass, but then Olivier insisted on showing us some 2008 Marsennay Rosé, by Olivier Guyot, and we all got a second wind.

Wines like this are the hallmark of an engaged wine director, someone actively sniffing out interesting selections. Guyot, a Marsennay vigneron biodynamic since 1998, produces tiny quantities of this rosé each year, so I have no idea where Olivier turned up some from 2008. As of spring 2011, it's still drinking well, no overt oxidation, with a nice dark cherry tart effect in the mid palate. Finding a good older rosé is like remembering that certain completely superficial turn-of-the-centry pop bands are still, against all odds, turning out decent tracks. You scratch your head in pleasant surprise and think: why on earth are you still relevant? 

No sooner had we finished off the rosé than another bottle was opened, poured, and presented to us, in what was to be a humiliating blind test.

I am usually humiliated on blind tests. It's just one of those things. I'll get things on the second or third guess, at best. Part of this is my own mediocre nasal hardware; the other part, I suspect, is that people only ever seem to blind me on vicious unguessable curveballs like the wine Olivier presented that night, Sebastian Riffault's 2008 Sancerre "Akmèniné."

I'm not a strict traditionalist in any sense; nevertheless I cannot for the life of me see how this wine got past the AOC tasters. The "Akmèniné" is about as Sancerre as a banana shake. Before sipping I blinded it as something southwestern, which in my defense could well have been Sauvignon... The wine just has a certain heavy exotic funk to it that I associate more with southwestern whites. It's also oxidative as all get-out, round, rich, with an otherworldly minerality to it. We were pretty entranced.

The night continued from there. We made friends with a really nice Japanese-American judo expert who Olivier knew somehow. I tried to get Olivier to try some of J4's leftover Lebanese salad. We opened some far-too-young Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Rouge (my fault).

Needless to say, my sister and J4 wound up putting off their sightseeing yet another day. I hope they weren't too inconvenienced. One way to look at it is that it's often worth tailoring one's tourism to the capacities of one's guide. If I were in Moscow with an expert in Russian theatre, for instance, you can bet I'd see a lot of plays. In Paris with a wine writer, you can bet - etc.

* Side note for further inquiry: Olivier was selling these heavenly magnums of "La Mule" for 24€ retail. Whereas I'd originally bought a bottle direct from Leclerc for 30€. I'm curious as to what occasioned the precipitous price drop.

La Bodeguita du IVème
58, rue Quincampoix
75004 PARIS
Metro: Rambuteau
Tel: 06 19 36 70 06

Related Links: 

A 2008 tasting of Guyot's wines @ WineTerroirs
A profile of Olivier Guyot @ MichaelSkurnik

A review of the 2008 "Akmèniné" @ Decanter
A great 2007 tasting with Sebastien Riffault @ WineTerroirs

1 comment:

  1. "I cannot for the life of me see how this wine got past the AOC tasters." That's puzzled me, too. I'm no Sancerre expert but even I can't see how Riffault's wines bear any resemblance to Sauvignon blanc, let alone Sancerre.