10 November 2010

viré-clessé anarchy: catherine vergé @ avn dégustation, 75019

The Association des Vins Naturels held its Grand Dégustation on Monday at the Pavillion in the Parc du Buttes Chaumont. I'd actually never been to a more anarchic tasting. Tables were seemingly themed according to general aura ("vin sérieux," etc.) rather than by region or vigneron, and everywhere you looked there was a crushed melee of raincoats, umbrellas, and wet scarves, on account of a vicious unrelenting rainshower outside. By noon when I arrived with my friend D, all bottles had traveled very far from their vignerons, and whatever information you wanted on the wines, you had to kind of fight for.

Nevertheless, a highlight for me was meeting Catherine Vergé, the vigneron behind a bizarre oxidative Vin de Table I raved about recently, best known for her and her husband's acclaimed range of Viré-Clessés. When I spotted her she was sporting her AVN tag on her forehead, looking pretty bemused by the whole situation. (I wish I'd taken a picture then.)

I mentioned how much I'd enjoyed her "Elevée En Grand Air" bottling, not present at this tasting, but couldn't really get into details, due to the surrounding hubbub and also my inability to express the French for flor, the natural yeast that develops above open-topped casks in Jerez and in the Jura, enabling these regions to produce really smackingly great oxidative wines. I'd wanted to find out how exactly Catherine and her husband produced such a profound impression of this exotic winemaking style in southern Burgundy.

I settled for just affirming general admiration for her wines, and tasting through the sumptuous Viré-Clessés she'd brought.

The 2007 Viré-Clessé "Le Haut de Boulaise" showed brightly on the nose, very honey-nut-crunch, but went a bit mealy and tight on the palate.  Her 2006 Viré-Clessé Vielles Vignes was considerably more expressive, a depth charge of key-lime, apple, and wet stone. All across the Vergé range, the wines share a kind of gravitational pull, an expressive richness that compels me where most other whites of that density put me off. Those open at the AVN were, for all their idiosyncracy, actually the most acceptably traditional of Gilles et Catherine's range; the Vergés are by now notorious for their differences with their local apellation control board, and many of their wines wind up as Vin de Tables after being denied the Viré-Clessé denomination on grounds of atypicity, which in these cases, happily, is synonymous with originality.

In a feat of self-defeating administrative and organizational genius, many other natural wine outfits all held tastings in Paris on this very same Monday, thereby ensuring that each individual vigneron was paid as little attention as possible in the ensuing crosstown hustle. In addition to the AVN's Grand Dégustation, there was a Biodyvin Salon at Port Dauphine, a Sylvie Chameroy portfolio tasting at Les Cotelettes near Bastille, and a remarkably thorough Vin de Savoie tasting at La Cave de l'Insolite. And these were just the ones I knew about in advance; I think there were more...

I made it to all but the Biodyvin Salon. The great success of the day was not crashing my Velib on the trips to and from.

Related Links:

Digging the Vergés "Elevée En Grand Air" bottling

A pretty comprehensive Vergé tasting @ WineTerroirs


  1. I missed both natural tastings. Co-ordinate? I had to quote you:

  2. bummed i missed the rhone and champagne tastings... sounds like we both had long days. impossible to keep track of it all.

    thanks for reading! and for the quote too, your blog looks great.

  3. You Can also find more information about this event at the following address: http://www.onboitquoicesoir.fr/actualites/resume-de-la-1ere-presentation-internationale-de-l’association-des-vins-naturels even if it is in french !

  4. thanks jhb! the site you reference also contains perfect examples of the hilarious fanciful wine themes by which the event was organized.