11 April, 2022
We meet for pizza first, on Hasenheide, and then quickly walk to mine. There is work to do! In the previous days I had bought eleven bottles of wine, from Drunk by Nature (which is where Sylvain works), Return of the Living Wine, Rocket Wine and Viniculture. Six of them came from the Loire. I wanted to thank Sylvain, for having been a great help and mentor since I had discovered the world of natural wine, and also, well, wanted to reprise what I had experienced with Thomas at the Loire: drinking plenty of wines, in tiny amounts only, talking about them, trying to guess the cépage and the maker, blind. At noon I had paid a visit to Rocket Wine, to their new shop on Sophienstraße. When I left, half an hour later, they told me that I had been their very first customer (in the new shop)! I then took the S-Bahn from Hackescher Markt to Savignplaytz and walked into Viniculture which I had last visited in late 2020, if I’m not mistaken. They were the second natural wine shop I ever visited (the first having been Jaja) and the first to turn down the first vintage (by Thomas Puéchavy) that I ever presented to an importer/shop. And this was when I stopped visiting them. But life’s too short to hold grudges. Also, they were selling wines by Anders Frederik Steen whose book »Poetry Is Growing…« I was reading. In the shop I recognized Paul Knittel whose social media work for Viniculture is entertaining. He’s tall and hard to miss. I found three of Steen’s wines on the shelf but wanted to know which varietals were used for »I can see You from the other side of the Valley« – he knew the cépages by heart. I then mentioned to him that I was reading Steen’s book, in fact I had read it on the S-Bahn only minutes ago. He was happy to hear that, asked me how far I had gotten, and then quickly recommended a wine that sat next to Steen’s on the shelf: »That winemaker, Gerard Oustrich, is mentioned in Steen’s book quite often!«
A few of the wines we were tasting I had already opened on Sunday. I had sampled a glas from each, at the most, so these were wines where I let Sylvain guess and just keep shtum. I used wool stockings to hide the bottles and their labels.
Sylvain: »Chenin Blanc, a warm year, barrique, exuberant, tamed volatility. Dried pear, which, mind you, is a speciality from Vouvray.«
Sylvain: »Although the grapes seem to have been quite ripe it’s still dry, and not sweet. It’s just perfect. Like Thomas’s ›Les Doyennes‹. I also get a menthol sensation. It’s very refreshing!«
Me: »Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Calming almost!«
> Michel Autran »Ciel Rouge« (Chenin Blanc), 2018. From Rocket Wine, something like 25€ (owner Jeff fetched the last bottle from their old shop on Linienstraße, especially for me, »Could you wait for five minutes?«)
Sylvain: »This looks like an old wine, aged.«
Me: »No, it’s a maceration!«
Sylvain: »Ah! Moss, fern…«
Me: »I can’t help it. This has been open since yesterday and the only thing I can smell and taste is nail polish. Nail polish, nail polish, nail polish. Horrible!«
Sylvain: »Is it François Saint-Lô?«
Me: »Sadly. yes. Such a shame, the maceration from 2019 was outstanding!«
> François Saint-Lô »Les Pouches Macération« (Chenin Blanc), 2020. From Return of the Living Wine, 29,50€
Sylvain: »This is a young wine. Green, vegetable. This is not a Chenin.«
Me: »Another bottle I opened yesterday. I find the smell of Brussels sprouts slightly overwhelming. Not nice!«
Sylvain: »Now that I have tasted it – it is a Chenin, definitely. Quite reductive. Is this from a used barrique?«
Sylvain: »I knew it. Stupid me. I should’ve sticked to what I had thought initially. It’s from a stainless steel container.«
Me: »It is. There is a fennel nose now!«
Sylvain: »It has opened up. It did need air. Great!«
Me: »It’s very salty. I have a new theory: The more west (you go), the saltier the Chenin. Wow, it’s very good!«
> Marie-Lise et Thomas Batardière »L’esprit libre« (Chenin Blanc), 2020. From Return of the Living Wine, 29€
Me: »Nail polish! Oh how I hate it.«
Sylvain: »Is this still the Loire? I taste peppermint. It’s quite sweet! Is this an assemblage of Chenin and Grolleau Gris?«
Me: »We’re in the south. In Valvignères. It’s a wine by Anne Bruun Blauert and Anders Fredrik Steen – I told you about that book I’m reading, by Steen.«
Sylvain: »Right. Let me look up the varietals used. Ah! 60% Grenache Blanc, 40% Viognier.«
Me: »This cost 26,90€. I find it overpriced! It’s quite simple, almost like a fruit juice, no? At the moment I prefer his writing!«
> Anders Fredrik Steen & Anne Bruun Blauert »I can see You from the other side of the Valley« (Grenache Blanc, Viognier), 2019. From Viniculture, 26,90€
5. and 6.
These two wines I had bought from Sylvain himself on Saturday. It took him quite a while to realize that these were ›his‹ wines and to then decide on which was what. I had a great time teasing him. Both wines, already opened yesterday, are fantastic.
> Gvantsa’s Wine »Otskhanuri Rose« (Otskhanuri). From Drunk by Nature, 21,95€
> Frank Cornelissen »Susucaru« (various varietals), 2020. From Drunk by Nature, 23,95€
Me: »A Gamay from the Beaujolais? I adore it. Incredible!«
Me: »Is this a southern Grenache? I love the tannins.«
Sylvain: »It could be from the south. A Grenache, carbonic maceration? Or is it a classic Gamay from the Loire? Or a Cabernet Franc? I’m thinking of a ›paprika salad‹ which, for me, always means Cabernet Franc. Wow, it’s quite multi-layered!«
Me: »It’s a Gamay from Noizay, Touraine. The area I know best. It was him I first picked grapes for! For a few hours, on 11 September 2020, together with Thomas.
> Alexandre Giquel »Maluseaux« (Gamay), 2020. From Rocket Wine, approx. 23€
Me: »Help! Nail polish alert!«
Me: »I’m very sorry to say but I find it terrible.«
Sylvain: »Back in the days, in the wine bar in Lyon that I worked in, I hid his bottles so I could have them to myself. I’m quite disappointed now.«
> François Saint-Lô »Unis« (Pineau d’Aunis), 2019. From Return of the Living Wine, 29,50€
Sylvain: »Young tannins.«
Me: »Pineau d’Aunis!«
Sylvain: »Cabernet Franc? An assemblage? Cabernet Franc, Pineau d’Aunis and Gamay? Or Côt and Cabernet Franc? Gooseberry, green tomatoes, paprika. I find it slightly too young.«
Me: »I like its grip. I can also taste cinnamon and cloves now! One of my favourites!«
> Mariette & Albéric »La Mirligrolle« (Grolleau, Chenin Blanc). From Rocket Wine, approx. 23€
Sylvain: »Welcome to the cowshed.«
Me: »Farty. Cabbage!«
Sylvain: »My throat is burning.«
Me: »Mine, too. From a bad grappa.«
Sylvain: »Oh, there’s a mouse.«
Me: »I was ready to like it, Gamay from the Moselle, vinified on the other side, in Germany. Rocket Wine had told me that it might be a bit troubled but thought that ›at the moment it’s going through a good phase‹. Well, this certainly doesn’t go for this bottle, I’m sorry to say.«
> Panda & Swan »Foo Foo« (Gamay). From Rocket Wine, approx. 20€
Me: »Pickle, brine!«
Sylvain: »Black olives, the south, Grenache, well-integrated tannins. Creamy strawberry sweets!«
Me: »But it’s peppery, too! I’m sorry to say but I do find a hint of nail polish, again…«
Sylvain: »This is one of my favourites!«
> Le Mazel »Briand« (Grenache), 2019. From Viniculture, 15,11€
Sylvain: »The barkeeper at Bar Brutal in Barcelona recommended it to me the other week. And then I realized that Suff sells it!«
Me: »It’s oxidative, walnutty, elegant, light… I like it! Not too far away from vin jaune.«
Sylvain: »It’ll be great with the Comté that I brought. Let’s have it now!«
> Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia »Fino seco«. From Weinhandlung Suff, around 7€
In a second round we taste our highlights again.
1. Michel Autran: There is a pronounced taste of canned pineapple. It’s still as dynamic and deep as before.
2. Marie-Lise et Thomas Batardière: Flintstone! Like a lighter. It’s gone through quite a change in the past hour or two. Wow. Incredibly driving!
3. Mariette & Albéric: This assemblage is really something. We would’ve never guessed that Chenin had been used for it. There is some sweetness – is this coming from the Chenin?
4. Alexandre Giquel: still great!
5. Le Mazel: The only wine we don’t agree on. What I detect as nail polish, Sylvain describes as »herbs from the south, thyme, oregano, rosemary.«