07 July 2011

unzipped: domaine le mazel's cuvée charbonnieres

This makes the second time I've posted about the laser-accurate wine counsel of my friend Nadine at Au Nouveau Nez in the 11ème. Granted, this is partly because with characteristic lack of tact I often urge last-minute dinner invites to vist her cave, conveniently situated right beside my apartment. So at any given time I've tasted 90% of what she has in stock. But beyond this, she's got a great palate for underdog wines, as evidenced by the bottle of Domaine le Mazel "Cuvée Charbonnières" that my friend E showed up with recently, having told Nadine she was looking for something to go with some sardines I was fixing.

This also makes the second time I've posted about Domaine le Mazel, a sans-souffre brother-sister operation based in Valvigneres, south of Ardèche. Gérald and Jocelyne Oustric took over their then-20ha (now 30ha) estate in 1983, in which era their grape production went straight to the local cooperative. I read that it was only in 1997, after a fortuitous meeting with Marcel Lapierre, that Gérald Oustric was inspired to make wines himself.

I continue to find amusing the contrast between the contemporary commercialism of their labels - which might as well hail from Sonoma or Chile - and the balls-out rusticity of their capital-N-natural wines, which in their bristly exotic hugeness fairly scream Ardèche.

Nadine informs me that when she'd previously tasted the '06 "Cuvée Charbonnières" it had been sparkling, not on purpose. This is a polarizing issue, probably somewhat too broad to brooch in a mini-post about a tasty bottle of Viognier. In brief: natural wines contain a little quizzical zip of effervescence far more often than not-particularly-natural wines. It's usually a symptom of prolonged malolactic fermentation, a process in which malolactic bacteria, not so scrupulously excluded by many natural winemaking methods, continue to convert lactic acid into malic acid and CO2 after bottling. I've also heard tell of vignerons adding CO2 as an anti-oxidative alternative to sulfur at point of bottling.

Whatever the reasons, the results are divisive. If one's wine experience is limited to Champagne and not-Champagne, I can understand how semi-perlant wines might appear neither fish nor flesh, as it were. Then there are consumers who are reminded of bad Lambrusco, recoiling at bubbles in not-sparkling wine; these are, regrettably, not yet counterbalanced by those who are reminded of good Lambrusco, given same stimuli. Non-professional drinkers usually say something to the effect of: "Whoa."

The 2006 "Cuvée Charbonières" was crown-capped, giving it the appearance of your usual sans-souffre vin de soif young wine natural sparkler, which are so closed because a crown cap will drastically slow oxygen exchange with the capped wine. (And, presumably, because good corks are expensive.) But in the case of this wine, after five years, what resulted was a slow but total loss of effervescence - and the accompanying revelation of a profound still wine beneath the bygone bubbles.

Unctious, bass-heavy, and somewhat oxidative, the "Cuvée Charbonnières" was nevertheless brightened by a wealth of delicately strange flavors, ranging from tequila to pear and scallion. Crucially, acid was still very present. It went splendid with a buttery heap of fried luxury sardines from a tin my landlady's husband had given me last Christmas.

That it surprised me to find profundity in an old bottle of previously spritzy crown-capped Rhône white* exposes a bit of bias I seem to have developed against the genre, even as I continually extoll the minor virtues of various younger specimens on this blog. I suspect I'm not the only one who thinks this way, whether right or wrong. I'll research further, but for now I'm happy to have a good caviste next door to find these gems for me.

* Whereas, for comparison, I was totally prepared for profundity in a tin of old luxury sardines.

Au Nouveau Nez
112, rue Saint Maur
75011 PARIS
Metro: Parmentier
Tel: 01 43 55 02 30

Related Links:

Another excellent recommendation from Nadine at Au Nouveau Nez, 75011
Sharing a btl of Loire Chardonnay at Au Nouveau Nez, 75011

Pre-gaming for a Twin Sister concert at Au Nouveau Nez, 75020
Pre-gaming for a Galaxie 500 concert at Au Nouveau Nez, 75020

Pairing Domaine le Mazel's 2006 "Cuvée Briand" with a Talulah Gosh track

A review of another of Domaine le Mazel's cuvées @ Vinosseur
A short profile of Domaine le Mazel @ NuncBibendum
A somewhat excitable paean to Domaine le Mazel @ LeVinEtL'Esprit

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