I love this job. It isn't easy, there's lots of travel, I am constantly trying to show wholesalers why they should be picking up my wines, and I have to taste lots, and I do mean LOTS, of crappy wine. But the thing I love the most about this job is when I find something interesting, something that pops, something that makes me sit up and take notice.
Enter Pascal Pibaleau.
I had been looking for some Loire wines at the Angers Trade Show in February, and had been invited to a tasting of sparkling wines from the area. As someone who loves anything sparkly, I couldn't resist. However, I was pretty disappointed in most of the offerings: too much sugar, too much alcohol, or just completely out of balance for the most part. Except one.
A sparkling rosé called La Perlette, this wine had character, was alive, and truly tasted unique. The fact that it was from a biodynamic Loire Valley producer in Azay-le-Rideau only piqued my curiosity even more. As a wine geek, I thought it superbly cool that it was made from a red grape that has been derided by some of the biggest names in the business (Robert Parker, for one): Grolleau. There's very little of this left out there, so now I was practically salivating. And the price point was right where I needed it to be.
I caught up with Pascal at his stand and we began talking and tasting through his line-up of wines. He and his wife manage 15 hectares (37.06 acres) of vineyards in the Azay-le-Rideau appelation. These are planted on clay and limestone soils, where he practices biodynamic viticulture, so no man-made chemicals are used, everything's harvested by hand, and there's lots of care for the balance of life in his vineyards.
His whites, from the Chenin Blanc grape, are delicious, with white flowery notes backed up by hints of honey and wool. As is the custom in the area, he makes dry, off-dry, and sweet versions of them. His reds were very good as well, and of course there was his Perlette, made from Grolleau.
As I said earlier, La Perlette really caught my attention. This is manually harvested like everything else, and the wine made traditionally: the alcoholic fermentation is stopped before bottling. The wine is disgorged but no liqueur de dosage is added (the slightly sweet still wine that some Champenois add before bottling). The end result is an ever-so-slightly sparkling wine ("perlant" in French means very lightly bubbly, like tiny pearls on your tongue) with dry dark red fruit notes that are backed up by an earthy elegance and a long finish. It tastes like summer all year-round.
So I ask you to welcome Pascal to the Vinotas Selections family, where hopefully a wholesaler will see the potential in his wines and start selling them at a store or restaurant near you.