02 May 2012

hark! : aux anges, 75011

I agree to attend blind tastings for various reasons, none involving having any aptitude at blind tasting. I'm actually sort of the Mr. Magoo of blind tastings, doddering along making vague assumptions despite several major educational potholes in my path. Bordeaux, older Burgundy, most serious Rhône stuff... Whether or not I manage to identify the wines under discussion, the discussion itself is always illuminating, because it offers an opportunity to compare one another's tasting habits. 

The very informal tastings my friend A has been organising lately also present fine occasions to sit around talking shop with fellow wine dudes, a pastime that I find has become more enjoyable since I stopped working in wine. The first of these tastings was held at a cave that was new to me then, but which has fast become a favorite: Aux Anges, by Faidherbe-Chaligny on the 11ème / 12ème divide. 

Like any good wine shop, Aux Anges is something more than one. There's a broad, well-chosen selection, invitingly priced, balanced between capital-N natural winemakers and those who practice some degree of lutte raisonée. Plates of charcuterie and cheese are available at apéro hours. And the tables inside are complemented by three small ones outside on rue Faidherbe, making Aux Anges a wonderful terrace hideaway for early spring evenings.  

At the time of that first blind tasting session it was still winter, however. Aux Anges owner Vincent Lequin welcomed everyone around a few of the table at the back. I proceeded to confuse an '07 Fichet Meursault for Mâcon, and a 2009 Ganevat "Cuvée Juliens" Pinot Noir for being from the Rhône. I was unable to specify anything further than "Bordeaux" for the two wines our friend B1 brought, which would have been passable, except for the fact that he's a Bordeaux sales agent and we all knew what he'd bring before our glasses were poured.

Academically, the highlight was when Lequin's young employee B, who'd gone to school for oenology, successfully named not only the wine type but the producer and the vintage of a bottle of 2007 Domaine Les Bruyères "Entre Ciel et Terre."

I'm in the habit of hurling all sorts of reactionary remarks at the administration of wine education, but B had evidently gotten something out of his. The rest of us at the table were fairly floored.

My own highlight was stumping everyone gathered with a bottle of magnificently atypical biodynamic Aligoté called "Love and Pif" by my friend Yann Durieux in the Haute Côtes de Nuits. I'd met the young dreadlocked winemaker recently on a tasting trip with my friend J (not present at Aux Anges that night), and have since helped him introduce his wines to a few buyers in Paris, but at that time it wasn't available, and it's still fair to say most people have yet to taste an Aligoté quite like it. The wine's charging length and pure, crystalline white fruit prompted most of my friends at Aux Anges to guess Chenin.

By way of celebrating the occasion - gathering wine biz friends together in a non bizness setting ! - our friend A had brought a bottle of Anselme Selosse's Ambonnay "Le Bout du Clos" Grand Cru, which we popped afterwards, and subsequently all agreed was showing a little dissappointingly.

Wan, low-pressure, a bit blurry... A fine example of the downsides of gathering wine biz people together. A critical atmosphere where not even critic-proof bottles are safe.

Non-competitive drinkers can nonetheless rejoice, since the atmosphere at Aux Anges around apéro hour is decidedly more laid-back.

I returned the other Friday with my friend D, who'd proposed an apéro as means of avoiding some kind of girly crafts and yoga marathon his wife was conducting with friends back at his apartment.

Outside on the calm streetcorner we knocked back a bottle of Rully estate Domaine Jacqueson's absurdly refined 2010 Bouzeron, which I might describe as being sort of the Prefab Sprout of Aligoté: lightweight, but intricately constructed and profound, with a clear sense of history and tradition (the vines are 68 years old). 

30, rue Faidherbe
75011 PARIS
Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny or Charonne
Tel: 01 43 56 38 53

Related Links: 

N.D.P. in Burgundy: Yann Durieux / Recru des Sens, Villers-La-Faye

La Retro'Bottega, my friend Pietro's marvelous Italian cave-à-manger around the corner
Bistrot Paul Bert, around the other corner
Ecaillier du Bistrot, around same corner

A 2010 article on Aux Anges @ LeFigaro

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