Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pascal Doquet Sans Soufre

First of all, let me emphasize that I am not a no-sulfur junkie. I have no less of a passion for natural wine than anybody else, but I am not a member of the religious order of Natural Wine, and I have a healthy distaste for anything resembling dogma, fanaticism or inflexibility of belief (unless it relates to football). I am not of the opinion that sulfur is intrinsically evil or that wine is automatically inferior when sulfur is used in its production. And just to throw a little elbow in that direction, I have tasted enough brown and oxidized wines (distinctly different from oxidative wines, mind you) that might have actually been improved if their makers hadn't been so dogmatic about this whole no-sulfur thing.

So now that that's out of the way, I can get on with telling you about this champagne that I'm drinking. It was actually opened two days ago, when I was down in Vertus with Pascal Doquet: he poured a pair of wines blind, and told me that they were in fact the same wine except for one detail. I guessed it on the second try—my first guess was that the oak was different, as it was so much more raw in one of the wines, but after that I did guess that one of them was made without sulfur. It's a 2007 from Le Mont Aimé, same grapes, same press, all vinified in barrel. The only difference is that part of it was sulfured and part wasn't.

The two wines are indeed remarkably different, even from the moment that the bottles were opened. The Avec Soufre version is tighter, crisper, yet it feels a bit unfriendly. It's like a sulking kid that just sits against the wall and pouts all through recess. Even now, two days later, it feels like it's fighting its wood, refusing to really integrate and become harmonious. The Sans Soufre is richer and fuller in aroma, and balances its oak much better at this stage. As with most good unsulfured wines, there's a certain voluptuousness about it, something sensual and visceral: in French, you might say it's gourmand. Pascal warned me that the unsulfured wine declines much more quickly after opening and that it ought to be drunk up soon, but even now, two days after it was opened, it feels generous and expressive, without any signs of fading. It's more oxidative than the sulfured wine, to be sure, but it's in no way oxidized. Right now, it tastes really good.

These won't be released until maybe around 2012, so they still have a long way to go in their development. How they will appear three years from now, I have no idea. Will the sulfured wine integrate better with its wood? Will it appear much fresher than the unsulfured version? Will we regret not drinking the unsulfured wine back in 2009 when it was still vibrant and delicious? Only time will tell.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Prime Real Estate

On the topic of enviable locations for an apartment: I'm currently staying with friends in London, and this is their front door. Yep, that's right. That blue one in the middle. A two-story flat directly above one of the world's greatest sources of artisanal cheese. Not to mention that it lies practically inside the fabulous Borough Market....

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roman Holiday

Back from a much-needed week of vacation in Rome. Not a ton of wine, as that wasn't the point, but I did have a fair amount of champagne, ironically, thanks to my friend Giulio. Go figure. No matter where I am, there seems to always be champagne. Anyway, I hardly felt that I was missing anything, being surrounded by funghi porcini freschi, tartufi of the sea, gelato artigianale and all the amaro I could possibly drink. Not to mention the limoncello made by my friend Giacomo's mother....

Now to clear the holiday fog from the brain and get back to work.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wine Is For Drinking

I'm writing a short article on Jérôme Prévost tonight, and ran across this quote in my notebook that I like very much. Back in March, we were drinking a number of older vintages of Les Béguines together, some of which represented the last bottles remaining in his cellar. He wasn't too hung up about the fact that he didn't have any more left. "Wine is for drinking," he said. "Too many people buy wine and just look at it. It's a fetish." I certainly did my part in attempting to drink as much Les Béguines as I possibly could that evening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bottling and the Moon

I was thinking this morning about something that Anselme Selosse told me a couple of weeks ago, when I asked him about the lunar cycle and its influence on his work. We were talking about the optimum time for bottling, and he noted that the phases of the moon have an influence on the yeasts, with yeasts becoming more active as the moon waxes, and less active as it wanes. Therefore, he said, the best time to bottle champagne is just before the full moon, as the yeasts are at their most active—with champagne you want the yeasts to be active because of their role in the fermentation in bottle. With still wine, on the other hand, bottling takes place just after the full moon. Presumably there are no yeasts going into your bottle when you're making still wines, but apparently the principle is that you want activity of all forces to be on the decline, allowing the wine to settle down.

Or at least that's how I understood it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diebolt-Vallois Rosé!

In about a week, Diebolt-Vallois will release a rosé champagne, the first that Diebolt has made since 1985. As you can see in this photo, they're just waiting for labels....

It would have been easy to just drop a little red wine into the non-vintage blanc de blancs, but that's not Diebolt's style. This is actually a whole new cuvée made largely from red grapes, and blended with a little red wine purchased from the Tornay estate in Bouzy. Fruity and fresh, it's designed for early drinking: "Rosé isn't meant to age very long," says Jacques Diebolt.

I've added a tasting note for this rosé on, and I've updated the notes on the rest of Diebolt's range as well, including the new release of Cuvée Prestige and the brand-new 2004 Fleur de Passion.