One for the Road
Phew! After the longest shortest month of all time we’re officially at the cusp of spring and not a goddamn day too soon. The cloudy skies are parting at least once a week, and there’s at least one tree on every street that’s bloomed (probably prematurely) and warmer weather afoot (an April frost will be great for your garden). But no matter! Drink some wine! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Here, selected for your pleasure, a few wines to help with our delusional quest to block out the literal nightmare taking place all around us. Strap in! It’s spring wine, baby!
Here we go. A gorgeous sparkling chenin from Alexandre Giquel, who ages this wine on the lees for 3 years: a practice near-unheard of for pet nat. What does it mean, Nathalie? It means it’s delicious, dear reader. Time is a precious thing. A little yeasty (stay with me here) and rounded, textural and plush, with acid that cuts through the weight. And for a guy who started out as an accountant and has since turned vigneron, we’re delighted with his trajectory: originally negoce, he’s since purchased some exceptional vines in Vouvray and is turning out remarkably good wine one after the other. Plus, one less accountant in the world!
Jacques Fevrier is one of those producers that people with a laughable unwillingness to embrace the beauty and magic of wine will write off for producing “faulty” bottles after tasting them once at a trade event 5 minutes after they landed in the UK. Oh well, more for us. A de facto Muscadet Sur Lie, Le Moulin shows so much character and vibrancy, especially given the state of its insipid AOC counterpart. Nourishing, salty, wickedly citrused and positively delicious. As we can’t get any more of these, the last few are either going in this mix pack or down my gullet. Oh - and that Sur Lie thing: that means on the lees. See? We’re learning here.
I’ll admit that putting Domaine de l’Octavin Sly Vin in this mixed packs feels like the wine equivalent of that Devil Wears Prada quote-turned-meme Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking. But I don’t care. It feels right. It is floral, and leaps from the glass with orchard fruit charm and gets punctuated by a taught little tannin. If the shoe fits. And if you want to read something more consequential about this wine, go to literally any other part of this website and you’ll find me gagging over Alice within a few clicks, I guarantee it.
Where were we? Anyone still here?
Jean-Marc Dreyer makes astonishingly good wine, possibly because he found god (or whomst-ever’s the zero-zero wine equivalent) on the Camino de Santiago. Regardless, he does maceration unlike many others I could name, wines of serious complexity and nuance. Broad but nimble, aromatic but restrained, there’s always some paradox to cut into with the Dreyer’s wines and the gewurztraminer’s a fine example of that. Tea-like, and herbal, with a dried floral quality similar to tisane. Densely packed and structured, with a perfectly suited tannin. The orange wine most OrAnGe WiNe people actually should drink, but probably won’t.
Wijngaard Lijsternest grows vines in Belgium, which is about as suited for viticulture as Britain is. That is to say: it’s not. That being the case, he planted hybrid varieties, notably European vitis vinifera crossed with the Asian species vitis amurensis, rather than the more common crossing of vinifera and the American species labrusca or riparia. Despite being an absolute mouthful it's an important distinction to make, as the vinifera x amurensis produce, in my humble opinion, far more interesting wines. Coming from a science-based background and school of thought, winemaker Servaas prioritises soil health, and strives to achieve a soil ecosystem akin to that which exists organically in true nature. It’s funny, that I’m compelled to use a redundancy like “organically in true nature” - because I get the sense that if I said simply “organically,” that might imply the deeply un-natural bureaucratic standard associated with the word. He’s got plenty to say on the topic. Read more, if you want, about it soon. I’m publishing an article somewhere (not here) about it. Follow me or whatever.
Mag Da is, like all his wines, a field blend, incorporating both red and white varieties. It would be enough to describe the wine’s flavour profile, which is, in fact, delicious - juicy red and purple fruit, a little herbal crunch, enough structure on the mid-palate you’d almost forget it was hybrid. But perhaps more important than its flavour is the symbolism of his work. It’s possible that to work with hybrids is to understand the future of winemaking. And it’s possible that there may be no other future for natural wine outside of it. At Wijngaard Lijsternest, both are true. Again, more on that elsewhere.
Christophe Foucher! What would one of these mixed packs be without a bottle of Foucher. You’ll miss me when I’m gone, I swear. Ormeaux: gamay from Touraine-ish. If I’ve done anything during my time here it’s probably all been in an effort to covet and protect at all costs the wines of Christophe. And for many reasons, yet none I can really be bothered to substantiate, you kind of either get it or you don’t. And that’s ok - that’s life, right?
For anyone who’s still with me, you may have noticed my tone has been perhaps a bit lubricated as we’ve moved through the motions of this darling mixed pack, thanks to a bottle of 2017 Bruyere-Houillon Poulsard. It’s delicious. It also helped me get to a sense of relief in writing this, my literary "one for the road", which I’ve been putting off since putting in my notice. I thought perhaps I’d write something heartfelt to announce my departure from Noble but halfway through this, I’ve realised that this silly little format was always how I got out what I was really feeling, and this occasion should be no different. Thanks for joining me, if you have. I hope to see you on the other side, wherever that may be.