Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gaillac? Gaillac!

Well, let no one say that we've been lazy this year.  It's been NUTS.  To quote the great philosopher Mel Brooks, "Nuts!  N-V-T-S nuts!"  The first 8 months of this year have been spent doing business development, keeping our current customers happy, and juggling tastings of samples sent from Europe.

Speaking of which, now that the August slow-down is here, I have some time to talk about someone I met while in France earlier this year.  I had heard about some interesting winemaking going on in the Gaillac region of France, which is northeast of Toulouse, in the Southwest part of the country (see below).

Truth be told, I was a tad surprised.  This was a region better-known for making cheap jug and box wines from international varieties.  But, my sources insisted that no, something unique was going on here.  Some folks were shepherding the local indigenous grapes like Braucol, Duras, Loin de L'oeil, Prunelart, and making wildly good wines in the process.  Yeah, I never heard of them either, so don't feel so bad.

So after much back and forth, I ended up meeting with several producers from the AOC.  One in particular stood out: Nicolas Lebrun (that's him at the top of the page), who runs l'Enclos des Braves.  Quiet, unassuming, and rather shy, Nicolas poured me his white Gourmand Sec (a blend of Loin de l’Oeil and Sauvignon Blanc), which was perfumey, minerally and crisp and really deliciously different.  Intrigued, we kept tasting through his lineup, until by the end I was convinced I had found a winner.  His Gourmand Rouge, an assemblage of Duras, Gamay and Braucol was like liquid dark velvet, with a crystal minerality that lasted for a ridiculously long time.

After having worked at other wineries for over 12 years, in 2005 Nicolas found the plot he was looking for: L’Enclos des Braves.  This small hilly 6 ha (14.82 acres) vineyard was topped with limestone-rich soils and a thick layer of clay, perfect for drainage.  The vines were all 20 to 35 years old, and Nicolas took to them like a father to his kids.

Treating them in accordance with Biodynamic principles, he uses only indigenous yeasts, manually harvests everything, and adds barely any SO2 at bottling.  Like children, he lets the wines take their time.  To put it mildly, he is making beautifully wild and soulful wines with these local grapes.

I was blown away by the quality of his wine, but to make sure I wasn't wine-goggling them, I had our star winemaker from Azay-le-Rideau, Pascal Pibaleau, try them.  He was floored as well, so I knew I'd found a winner.  Just to make sure, I retasted some samples at our offices in NYC and our team fell over themselves in happiness.  One even said, "I want to wrap myself up in this wine."  OK, a tad hyperbolic, but you get the idea.  A few calls, emails, telegraphs and smoke signals later, and we were in business.

So, I am proud to introduce our newest winery, l'Enclos des Braves.  Biodynamic, small farmer, lost in the wilderness, and making some killer juice from old vines of stuff that would have disappeared without his support.  His wines will be available in Fall 2013, arriving early September, and heading to several different markets, I'm happy to say.  Look for the label above, and you won't be disappointed.  

Especially as it's sure to retail under $20.
PS: Come see more pics at our Facebook Fan page, www.facebook.com/Vinotas

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