Road Tripping in France
One of the great things about running a small independent wine store is bringing you, our customers, fresh flavours to excite and intrigue your tastebuds. So, Ben and Alex went to meet new producers and hunt down delicious wines that you may not have experienced before.
What follows is an attempt to describe a "road trip with wine" as "hard work".
Every year, for four days, a cold, wet region in western France becomes the focus of the natural wine world: during the first weekend of February, the Loire area hosts different “no or low-intervention” wine fairs between Anger and Saumur.
What is really special about these gatherings is that most wine you get to taste there is not poured and served by an agent, but actually by the person who made it. Both the wine and its story are coming straight from the source. The world of natural wine is one where makers and growers support each other, rather than elbow out the competition; one where making actual human connection is still important; and one where people care deeply about this very difficult but highly rewarding pursuit.
Our task, as we sample the work of some of the world’s best winemakers, is to remember that much of what’s tasted at this event are tank and barrel samples—we have to try to imagine how those wines will develop with time; how they will have changed and, hopefully, improved by the time we present them to you.
Where traditional tastings or wine festivals can be austere and competitive, often located in soulless conference centres worlds away from actual vines, the salons de Loire - as the annual marathon tastings in the Loire Valley are called - better resemble a friendly party, where like-minded souls come to drink and visit.
Business is done, but celebration, laughing and friendship come first.
There aren't very many suits.
La Dive Bouteille
The most well-known and the most romantic in terms of setting, is La Dive Bouteille— also called "The Burning Man of Wine" — which takes place in the dramatically low-lit Ackerman Caves of Saumur, originally built in the 19th century to age sparkling wine. It started in 1999 when 22 French vignerons got together, everyone invited a winemaker from a different region, and everyone poured.
La Dive is a public tasting for anyone who wants to come—and anyone who can withstand being chilly, tired, and on your feet for hours on end. It’s worth it; having expanded beyond the Loire to the wines of greater France some years ago, today La Dive features winemakers from around Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, as well as small-batch spirits and even a vinegar producer.
Under the tireless vision of organiser Sylvie Augereau, there’s so much to appreciate and learn during these two days, especially if you have some French under your belt to ask questions.
Our personal highlights:
Vins d'Alsace Rietsch
La Roche Buissiere
Les Anonymes takes place at the Abbaye du Ronceray in Angers. and has been set up by Babass (alias Sébastien Dervieux) and Jean-Christophe Garnier (both from Anjou, Loire) with the goal to provide professional tasters the opportunity to meet (and taste the wines from) a small group of mostly-unknown vintners, or anonymous vintners if you prefer, that's why the name of the event.
All these winemakers/growers share the love for real products made from organic grapes and vinified with indigenous yeast and little or no sulfites.
Our personal highlights:
Les Chants Jumeaux
...and some exciting new discoveries you'll find out about soon!
Vive la France!
Al & Ben