It's that time of the year again, when most of the major wine shows in France take place. Happily, many of them are in the South of France. As you can imagine, being in the warm south of France in the months of January and February, when the air in NYC is bitingly cold and the wind cuts through layers of clothes to whip your bones, does not suck. In fact, I can't emphasize how little it sucks.
But, it is still work. As I mentioned in my report from ViniSud two years ago, it's hectic hectic hectic and by the end of the day you'd kill for a gin and tonic. Or a nap.
So I found myself in Montpellier for a week, attending the Millesime Bio 2010 show, which focuses on Biodynamic wines. What does that mean, you ask? Well, take the theory of organic/natural wines and take it a few steps further. You end up with wines that are made without any man-made chemicals (though this is similar to "sustainable agriculture" and organic/natural), with very little added sulfur to ensure the stability of the wine, and, here's where it gets a bit odd, with a lot of attention paid to the days of the year and the lunar cycle. In fact, there's even a Biodynamic calendar that lists what days are Root Days, Fruit Days and Leaf Days.
In any case, many of the wines are fantastic (look for producers like Puzelat, Foillard, Jean-Marc Senat to get an idea of the quality out there), though far, far too many of them are either bleh or downright awful/flawed. And, let's not forget expensive. THAT was probably the most frustrating part of the trip. Despite a world-wide recession, a still-strong Euro, and massive competition from everywhere folks can plant a vine, these wines were sometimes just stupidly priced. I mean, I know you've got expenses and need to cover them and make a living, but who's going to buy a $30 white from the Savoie? You're lucky if anyone even knows where the Savoie is!
So I ran around from table to table, catching up with folks I knew in the business, and best of all catching up with the winemakers. The Spanish Basque winery I represent, Bodegas Aroa, was showing their wines, and the winemaker, Txus Macias, was beaming like a proud schoolboy as he'd won two, count 'em, TWO, gold medals for his wines.
I also met up with my two favorite women winemakers, Claude Jourdan from Felines Jourdan, and Christine Deleuze, from Clos Bagatelle.
But my work wasn't done yet, oh no, so I headed up to Angers, in the Loire Valley, for the Salon des Vins de Loire (Loire Valley Wine Show). Which, by the way, means going to Paris, changing train stations, then heading down to Angers, even though it would have been faster if there were direct trains there. But, all roads lead to Rome, or, in this case, Paris, so there you go.
The first event I attended, a small-producer Biodynamic wine tasting, was in an old, gorgeous monastery with amazing woodwork in the ceiling. Yet again, while many of the wines were delicious, too many had flaws, the biggest of which was the price. But I won't belabor the issue, I promise. Angers, by the way, is gorgeous, and a city I will have to explore some day.
Next I hit the main show, meeting up with my Muscadet producer, Jean-Pascal Aubron. His 2009s, even though they're not finished, show real potential. I know you were wondering.
I hit many, many stands, saw some new and old faces, tasted LOTS of bad wine, but may, just may, have found 1-2 well-priced, interesting and well-made things. We'll see, there's much more work to be done.
Oh, and I will have an announcement in the next few days. Stay tuned... I know you're just dying of anticipation...