Two Curious Friends

It was all because of the weather. Every day seems to bring another weather type these days and we skip from high summer to autumn in a matter of days, and when shopping it is very difficult to plan: next day it can be 25°C or 15 !! So I went for a wild plan last weekend, planned a light fish and veg dish for when it was going to be warm and a chicken with chorizo and potatoes for when it was going to rain. The weather did of course exactly the opposite of what I planned and so whe ended up eating our "Spanish" chicken in the sun outside and our light fish dish inside.


We had two wines who were in more than one way opposites. A petillant naturel from a small scale bio-winefarmer in the Jura and a pinot noir from California, made by the famous film director Francis Coppola. In a very special way both wines were perfect for the occasion and though the first was a rebel and a punk it got along quite well with the "old man - establishment" of the second.

The Tant Mieux, Petillant Naturel, Philippe Bornard was a 100% Ploussard, a grape that is only used in the Jura. Philippe's winery is in Pupillin, and he is one of the talented "natural" winemakers of the area that work without sulfites and other additives to let the grape speak with its own voice. You can discuss this type of wine endlessly but eveyone I ever offered a glass of petnat has had to admit that they are lovely wines, all fun and surprise and nature. I sometimes tend to call them Real Wines, like in Real Ales (you know what I mean if you're English or often spend time at the other side of the Channel). It only had 8,5% alcohol, looked like cherry juice but with a nice and lively sparkle and smelled like red fruit that was just harvested still wet from the dew and with little flecks of black earth on it, the smell of really fresh fruit before it is rinced. It tasted good, interesting, "real", fruity and a bit earthy. A lovely glass and an excellent way to start a meal.



With the chicken (very basic: a chicken stuffed with two shortly boiled limes and the stalks of some percil, 800g potatoes cut in small pieces, 300gr chorizo, so covered that the juices can't evaporate and escape and then 1,2 hrs in the oven, courtesy Jamie Oliver) came something completely different: a bottle of Pinot Noir Silver Label Diamond Collection, Francis Coppola, conventionally made in rather big quantities. I bought the bottle in the Cora supermarket chain, out of curiosity (and because I really really like pinot noir). Full and ripe and luscious, almost sweet and perfect with the smoked taste of the chicken, a pinot noir more in the Spätburgunder tradition, and a very big positive surprise. Really liked it al lot. http://www.franciscoppolawinery.com/wine/diamond/pinot-noir

The price of the first one was 18 euro, the Coppola set me back about 16 euro, but both were excellent and well timed. It was like sitting at a table with two good friends, completely different in character but with one thing in common: they are my friends...I suddenly wondered how the conversation would be between the two makers.




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Bio Business

Since a few months I have become a fanatical customer of BioPlanet, the bio-supermarket chain linked to the Colruyt group, www.bioplanet.be, and I find myself being hooked by the intense taste of bio-products. But whenever I go, it is with a little twinge of regret and guilt because I did not go to the local bio-shop where I was a customer for years. So this brought me to a good question: when bio becomes big business, is this good or bad ?

I think most of us, when we buy and love biologically sound goods, also have a romantic idea entangled. One of the nice things about it is that you often seem to know where it comes from, and we allways think of small scale wineries, cheesemakers, bakeries etc, when we buy most of these things. It gives us the idea of not following the masses, fighting the big industrial conglomerates and when the result of this is small scale production we think this is human and fine.

But of course, where trends and fashion go, big companies follow, and now we see big retailers picking up these ideas and offering larger and larger product ranges. And because of their scale they need to work with companies that can offer them sufficient supply. So out goes the small farmer and in come the bigger groups.



A good example of this is the bottle of Wolfberger Crémant d'Alsace I am now drinking (www.wolfberger.com). I bought it at Bioplanet and I like it so much that it has become my summer-bubble for "unexpected visitors" or "too lazy too think hard about my wine" or when I am just in the mood. It is decent, it's even good with its toasted bread and flowery nose and its nice crispness and volume. But the Wolfberger cooperative has about 680 ha vineyards and is one of the biggest wine companies of the Alsace...so is this bottle "politically" correct ?

Yes, I think so because:

1: It is certified bio. Every acre of ground that is not destroyed by herbicides and pesticides is an acre won.

2: It is made by a cooperative. Coop's were originally meant to unify the small famers and make them stronger. This does not allways result in bigger quality (well it usually does not) but from a social view coop's once saved thousands of farmers and workers from poverty.

3: It is what I call an honest bottle. You know where the grapes come from and what the farming philosophy was behind it.

4: When things like this happen it also proves that the bio-ideas are becoming mainstream. This may seem less romantic, but nobody can say it is bad. As long as it is not an excuse for maintaining bad practices in the rest of the company.

Some second thoughts however:

1: Every wine should be bio, not only part of a range.

2: the sense of terroir is lost a bit here. I don't know who made it and what he meant by it.

But in general, yes I do think it is a good thing this. ** for this wine and welcome in my cellar. And now I'm going downstairs for another glass !

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Sur Lie, Muscadet, Domaine de la Pépière, 2011

It is probably typically Belgian, this love for the underdog, but I allways have been very keen on the best wines from wineregions with a bad reputation. They deliver an excellent price/quality and they make you remember where the region got its reputation. 

The Loire is one of these regions, and especially the Muscadet has a special place in my wineheart. Ever since I had my first fruits-de-mers combined with one of these dirt-cheap fresh and vibrant wines I fell in love with them, and the idea of resolutely going for the cheapest wine on the list and then finding out it was actually the best combination is great. I also frequently experienced that when going for the slightly more expensive Muscadet on a winelist I stumbled upon the very best of the region, sometimes in very unpretentious restaurants where you would not expect them.

Recently I drank a bottle by Marc Ollivier, an impressive figure and an excellent winemaker. and unfortunately an exception in the region as he works his soils and does not use weedkillers. In the nose it was mineral with a vague hint of apples, but the ones you will find on farmers markets and bio-shops, the old varieties I mean. In the mouth the same earthiness, the taste of soil and old apples powdered with dust, and in the finish, that was quite fresh, a surprising little touch of honey.

I paid 9,5 euro for this bottle at Delcoeur in Eupen, Belgium. Marc also makes an unpretentious but very good red, and some top-cuvées in white that I still have to find (and taste). If you ever drive through Eupen, this is and a good wineshop and a good restaurant : www.delcoeur.be

I wrote this message because I stumbled on a very interesting article on my favorite wineblog, Wine Terroirs. It has some nice pictures of Marc Ollivier and explains very well the circumstances in the Muscadet region, where wine-heaven and wine-hell are often neighbours. The picture of Mr Ollivier also comes from this article. http://www.wineterroirs.com/2013/05/muscadet_vineyard_man...


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