My friends R, R2, and A celebrated the last night of their recent visit to Paris with a meal at their favorite restaurant here, the rightly famous Verre Volé. I think we all agree that there are few other restaurants in Paris where fine cuisine and wines are paired with the lurking possibility of sheer anarchy ensuing when two previously unintroduced afficionados begin an arms' race of manic rock-out generosity, purchasing various magnums and sending glasses back and forth over the entire restaurant until the place closes.
Anyway, that's what happened. My friend R started it with a magnum of Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet's 2004 "Saint Epine," impeccably chosen by our friend / server-sommelier Thomas. When the glasses started flying we were anwsered in kind by a cheery Serbian fellow across the dining room. I'd just joined my friends sometime around the cheese course, thinking to share a bottle of wine and call it an early night.
A mag of Foillard followed, along with a few bottles of Champagne, some Calvados...
The wine I'll remember, however,* was that "Saint Epine," a heavenly marvel of a declassified Saint-Joseph, sourced from Syrah vines over 100-years-old in the cru of same name, which, I read, shares soil characteristics with the Hermitage cru "Les Bressards." Roughly 1500 bottles of the wine are produced each year; no clue how many in magnum. The winemaker is Hervé Souhaut, who by now must have surely outgrown the young-gun status usually accorded him in wine articles: his wines have become legends, benchmarks for the region.
Certain wines linger in the mind far longer than they ever could on the palate, becoming, in retrospect, pivotal gateways into whole new ways of thinking about grapes, winemakers, entire appellations. In this case, I had never had a Syrah so moving and luminescent - it was like witnessing someone levitating.
It was more than graceful, achieving something like the profundity of good Beaune in the more naturally voluptuous register of Syrah. Flavors of ripe cherry, plum, bark, black pepper, and clove all arrived with the transformative delicacy of light filling a room.
Another notable feature of the wine's production - beyond the ancient vines, esteemed terroir, etc. - is that Souhaut employes whole-cluster pressing with this cuvée, choosing not to de-stem the fruit before it undergoes a long cold maceration. It's not that uncommon in the region - Alain Graillot and Auguste Clape are two famous proponents - and is apparently most adviseable when the stems are nicely lignified (woody, rather than stemmy, due to lignin deposits). Nevertheless I wonder whether the savoury poise I so admired in this wine derived partially from a (divine) form of stemminess.
Suffice to say there was no discussion of this in the moment, at the restaurant. Too busy giving and receiving.
* This is one of those times wherein my tacit preference for mentioning no more than one wine per post dovetails nicely with my limited ability, after getting totally obliterated, to remember more than one wine per evening.
Le Verre Volé
67, rue Lancry
Metro: Jacques Bonsergeant
Tel: 01 48 03 17 34
Tasting through Pierre Beauger's wines over dinner with R, R2, and A at Vivant, 75010
Really digging the water at Le Verre Volé, 75010
Nighthawks at the Diner: notes on last year's renovations at Le Verre Volé, 75010
Some notes on the 2009 "Saint Epine" @ VinoFreakism
Some notes on the 2009 Hervé Souhaut Gamay "La Souteronne" @ VinoFreakism
An account of a 2006 tasting Hervé Souhaut hosted in Oslo @ VinDuet