16 June 2011

monk time: julien guillot at quedubon, 75019

Much of the natural wine I rave about on this blog is arguably the result of vignerons' efforts to recall  - under whatever banner, organic or natural or biodynamic - preindustrial viticultural traditions: practices whose logic was necessarily dictated less by market demand for a consistent recognizable product, than by local tastes, and the particularities of the regional environment. 

That wines made with these ideals in mind often show so exciting and fresh and new - that they occasion strange scaremongering newspaper articles in nations so close, at least geographically, as England - is testament not to their actual newness, but to how drastically the product we call wine has changed since it encountered the global marketplace. 

At 19ème natural wine bistro Quedubon's recent "Vivent les Vins" tasting, I was pretty enthralled by the bracing Mâcon wines of Julien Guillot of Domaine des Vignes du Maynes, whose oddity "Cuvée 910" bottling in particular seems to demonstrate the potential - both for quality, and for surprise - of the old ways. 

Founded by Pierre Guillot in 1954, now run biodynamically by his sons Alain and Julien, Domaine Guillot's 7ha comprise the oldest certified organic vineyards in Burgundy. This is perhaps of secondary importance to the estate's overall history: it was planted between 800AD and 1000AD by monks of Cluny Abbey. It is their methods that Julien seeks to reenact with his "Cuvée 910," the name being a reference to the year 910AD, the date of the foundation of the abbey.

The wine saw 8 months in oak barrels, none new, if I remember correctly. More interestingly, it's a field blend of roughly 70% Gamay, 15% Pinot Noir, and 15% Chardonnay. Chardonnay! Making it ideal for anyone who finds all those Bourgogne Passe-Tous-Grains and Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire a bit too deep or foreboding... Precious few people, in fact, would today consider the inclusion of a white grape in a red blend a selling point. For comparison, look to Chianti, where a traditional lightening percentage of Trebbiano di Toscana in the Sangiovese blend has been all but outlawed, in efforts to make ever richer, more extracted, more market-friendly wines.

This begs some questions that have beguiled me lately: what should a white grape bring to a red blend? Should said red blends be easy and graceful in and of themselves, without the addition of white fruit? Or are we missing something in the tacit presumption that red and white grapes ought to be vinified separately?

Anyway, it's to the Guillots' credit that the "Cuvée 910" is not in any way wispy or inconsequential. It's as elegant and balanced a Mâcon-Cruzilles rouge as I've ever tasted. The Chardonnay amounts to a mesmerizing melon-fruit component that hovers amid the more conventional red-fruit, fresh leather, and currant flavors.  Amusingly, the Guillot's have gone so far as to mention on the bottle's label that it's a wine "très peu coloré" - as if to warn consumers that, back then, things were done differently.  

22 Rue Plateau
75019 Paris
Metro: Buttes Chaumont
Tel: 01 42 38 18 65

Related Links:

A brief profile of Domaine Guillot @ Jenny&FrançoisSelections
A maniacally overwrought 2009-2010 promotional video about the cuvée "910," in which Julien Guillot can be seen addressing the camera sideways, dressed as a monk @ UniversDitVin
A video review of the Guillots' 2008 "Cuvée Aragonite" Mâcon-Cruzilles blanc @ BuSurLeWeb, in which Aurelie Filion congratulates herself for successfully removing the foil cap of the bottle

Running into Antoine Arena and Eric Narioo of Caves de Pyrene on the same night at Quedubon
A mag of excellent Jousset Montlouis with LA indie-afro-pop band Fool's Gold at Quedubon
Riesling and cod ceviche at Quedubon

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