26 October 2010

jean-luc poinsot (la badiane) tasting: le garde robe, 75001

Z, P, et M. Poinsot
On the night we attended last week's Jean-Luc Poinsot tasting at Le Garde Robe, my New Zealander friend Z informed me she had an "unusual surprise" for me. I assumed the surprise was simply that her excellent, occasionally somewhat reclusive husband P was actually going to join us for once. (P designs for Lanvin and is accordingly perpetually swamped with work.)

Although P did indeed end up joining us, it turns out she had been referring instead to a small green guava-like fruit called a feijoa, which she had been delighted to find at a market here in France, and which she placed in my hand and told me to eat later.

According to Z, everyone in New Zealand has a tree just bursting with feijoa in their back yards. I've yet to eat the thing - it seemed unripe so it's still sitting on my desk - but I really appreciated the gesture, since, as perhaps Z noticed, the guiding philosophy of what I drink and how I eat and this blog as a whole is essentially just a reverence for the native peculiarities of any given region. I'd never even heard of a feijoa.*

Anyway, all this is long preamble to why I dig Jean-Luc Poinsot's wines (thus, why me and Z and P were out that night in the first place). His strong, distinctive range could come from nowhere else on earth but  Provence - the first proof being the winemaker's exclusive use of local varietals, like the strange, scented candle-y Tibouren rosé I covered in a previous post.

Poinsot, however, is a négociant vigneron, which is to say that he does not grow the grapes he uses himself. Since a large part of the identity of the contemporary natural wine scene in general was formed in opposition to the dastardly overproductive dilute winemaking of various rapacious industrialist négociants of the mid-to-late 20th century, négociant status is often viewed with no little suspicion - enough that Poinsot takes care to rebut his critics on his website. His argument, in summary, is that each stage of the winemaking process takes particular talents, and his own happen to be in the élévage and eventual marketing of the wine. Furthermore he explains that his range of Provençal wines would be nowhere near so comprehensive, were he limited to growing in just one appellation.

I don't know. This seems partly a beard and partly not. I'm not going to grab any pitchforks over the issue. Judging by his natural winemaking philosophy, his embrace of peculiar local varietals, and the generally high quality of his wines, I'm inclined to believe that - as would be proper - the appellations that make up his range just happen to be where he met growers he believed in. It's not like he sat down one day and scratched the back of his head and thought, "Now where can I find me some cheap Bourbelanc...?"

As ever, the wines themselves are the primary criterion for judgement. Since I was already familiar with (and very fond of) his current vintage whites and rosé, I was most intrigued by an oddity in the tasting, the first vintage of his Cassis "Les Deux Soeurs," dating from 2000. A blend of Clairette, Ugni Blanc, and Marsanne**, the wine was at a strange stage of development, predictably lacking in acidity, probably too old, but containing enough béchamel and truffley aromas to keep me intrigued. It was like a good Tom Waits ballad: somewhat maudlin, at once over-rich and hollowed-out: 

I'll admit also to being less impressed with the reds on offer, which, while totally enjoyable and well-balanced, with nice rare-steak notes, nevertheless struck me as a bit too modern and crowd-pleasing. From Poinsot I've come to expect something a little more local, more place specific: something that screams Bandol like Z's feijoa - to her at least - screams New Zealand. 

*Although Wikipedia cites them as being of South American origin, I can't help but feel like the sonics of the words itself seem vaguely Kiwi. 

**Incidentally this is the only vintage of this wine to contain Marsanne; he says that after this he decided the Marsanne added far too much weight to the blend. The current vintage, 2008, is split between Clairette and Bourbelanc. 

Most of these wines are available at: 

Le Garde Robe
41, rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli or Chatelet
Tel: 01 49 26 90 60

Related links:

Digging Poinsot's Tibouren rosé at Le Garde Robe
Leathery old Bordeaux at Le Garde Robe
Some fiery 2005 cru Beaujolais at Le Garde Robe

D. Lebovitz on Le Garde Robe
Jean-Luc Poinsot's La Badiane

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