Thursday, October 10, 2013

Two natural wines from Fattoria La Vialla

It's been interesting to watch the progression in winemaking at Fattoria La Vialla, an organic Tuscan estate I visited four years ago.

I went to cover the olive oil harvest but found they produced a wide range of products including pasta, pasta sauces and wine which even then was produced from biodynamically-run vineyards.

They've kept in touch and recently sent me two of their wines from the 2012 vintage which are very much in the natural wine mould. An intriguing unfiltered white called Barriccato Bianco - quite strong at 14% - which tastes of apples, pears and quince (AMBER) and a dark sparkling rosé called La Brumosa made from pinot nero which looks sweet but although fruity (it tastes rather deliciously of strawberries) is surprisingly dry. (GREEN) The white is more challenging - though I like it - but I'm sure most people would enjoy the rosé which would make an excellent party fizz or aperitif.

I like the Fattoria La Vialla set-up which is family-run. They don't sell through any intermediaries and produce hard-to-resist handwritten catalogues full of artisanal products. It's well worth getting on their mailing list to order the new season's olive oil as soon as it's released - and their delicious fresh vino novo if they're selling it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Olivier Cousin must wait till March to learn his fate

Photo by Jim Budd
Those who follow this blog probably already know this news but the decision on Olivier Cousin's high profile case has been put back until March 5th next year.

If you remember Cousin was taken to court by the authorities for using the letters AOC - Anjou Olivier Cousin - on his labels, a gesture against the AOC (Appelation d'Origine Controlée) system.

It's amazing how anyone has the time and energy to pursue this matter - and the lack of judgement. As a figurehead for small artisanal winemakers Olivier has attracted a lot of support both inside and outside France.

To see in more detail what's been happening read Jim Budd's Jim's Loire - always doggedly on the case, Betrand Celce's excellent post on Wine Terroirs which has great pictures of the picnic which took place outside the courtroom and this reflective post from American natural wine importers Jenny & François.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our last bottle of Stephane Cossais Le Volagré

Trevor pays tribute to one of his favourite winemakers.

"We said goodbye to an old friend last night. We drank our last bottle of the stellar chenin "Le Volagré" 2006. We had friends over  for supper including Chris Wicks, late of Bell's Diner in Bristol (in my opinion the finest chef in Britain never to be awarded a Michelin star) and his wife Marti.

We started with a very good organic chenin (from Johan Reyneke) then went on to the Volagré, which I didn't introduce or big up in any way. It was just  "another chenin, from the Loire this time".  Chris, who as well as being a fine chef is one of the few who really gets wine, sipped and raised his eyebrows quizzically as if saying "my God what is this?"

I told them all what it was, and how poor Stéphane died of a heart attack in july 2009. A heart attack that many believe was brought on by the stress of relentless and unending persecution by the authorities throughout his oh-so-brief five vintages. He made "natural" wines you see!! Shock, horror . . .

Chris said simply that he found the wine in his glass to be the equal of the finest burgundies of Puligny or Chassagne and that at the first sip he was convinced he was drinking something from Annie Leflaive.

Apart from this being chenin and not chardonnay, he was also amazed to hear that this wine wasn't aged in a barrique, but only vinified in Stephane's beloved 400 litre foudres.

It's always satisfying when someone whose taste you respect and who has sampled so much good wine in their day agrees with your own long-held opinions. I first drank Le Volagré in 2006, and have ever since held it to be one of the very finest wines I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.

I defy all the natural wine-haters and the carping mean-spirited and closed-minded antis of this world to drink that wine blind and find it anything but exquisite.

Thank you Stephane. Thank you very, very much for your brief but utterly meteoric blaze across the natural wine sphere."

PS If any of you know where we can buy some more Le Volagré, I'm sure Trevor would be ecstatic! FB. And an update. We have now managed to get our hands on a case of the 2008!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bordeaux top for pesticide use in Que Choisir survey

Photo © lightpoet -
In case you missed it there was an interesting - and rather alarming - report last week from the French consumer group Que Choisir. It tested 92 bottles of wine and found traces of pesticides in every one, including the organic wines though levels were lower in the latter.

It didn't seem to make any difference how much the wines, which ranged from 1.63€ to €15 in price, cost. The highest pesticide count was found in a 2010 Bordeaux costing 10.44€, in which 14 different chemicals were detected, followed by a 3.75€ 2012 Bordeaux which contained traces of 13 products, according to the report.

It also claims that wine producers in France account for 3.7 percent of farmland but 20 percent of the country’s pesticide use (T reckons the figure is higher than that). France is the highest user of pesticides in the EU according to Que Choisir using 62,700 tonnes in 2011. Some of the chemicals identified were illegal, according to this extended report from Wine Spectator though none were present in dangerous concentrations.

For more detail on the report see Bloomberg's report here and, for French speakers, a report in Le Figaro here.