Not Drinking Poison While Visiting Paris

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 07-23-2014

Aaron Ayscough at Aux Anges.

Aaron Ayscough at Aux Anges.

Earlier this month, I spent 10 days eating and drinking my way through France.

On July 4th, my trip began with a tour of Paris’ natural wine bars and retailers led by Aaron Ayscough of Not Drinking Poison in Paris. For wine geeks, I can’t imagine a better way to start a trip to France.

Our first stop was at Septime Cave, the wine bar from the team behind Septime and Clamato, two of Paris’ hottest dining spots. While there, we enjoyed two wines: Domaine Belluard’s 2010 Vin de Savoie “Mont Blanc” and Kenji & Mai Hodgson’s 2012 “Heart & Beat” rosé of Cabernet Franc.

Both were absolutely captivating. The sparkler came from Gringet, an obscure grape that’s native to the Savoie region — and barely exists. Aaron described the rosé — which saw 12 months in neutral oak — as “almost comically intellectual.”

Our second stop took us to Aux Anges, a small wine shop run by a young winemaker named Benoit Joussot. The shop’s selection was more conventional than expected — I recognized most of the labels — but we opened a fascinatingly interesting rosé-colored white wine.

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Septime Cave.

The Domaine Le Roc des Anges’ 2013 “Les Vignes Métissées” incorporated 15 local grape varieties (red, gray, and white) — all picked at once and co-fermented as a white wine. The acidity was electric, and if it weren’t for a hint of tart red fruit, it could have passed for a Sauvignon Blanc. It was delicious.

Next, we visited Cru et Découvertes, a gem-filled shop with overflowing shelves. There, we explored sulfur with two wines from La Ferme des 7 Lunes, a small, biodynamic winery in Saint Joseph. We compared the winery’s basic Saint Joseph bottling to its “Chemin Faisant,” which sees no addition of sulfur at bottling.

The differences were striking — and the opposite of what I expected. While the “normal” Saint Joseph showed tart, fresh fruits and focused aromas of meat, pepper, and black olive, the “Chemin Faisant” was darker and murkier, but somehow more compelling.

As Aaron put it, “the sulfured Saint Joseph is like seeing a painting on the clean white wall of a gallery – it’s curated and you know what qualities to look for – while the unsulfured version is like encountering the same painting in the home of collector, where it’s complemented by furniture, a piano, a bowl of fruit, etc.”

Finally, we visited Le Siffleur de Ballons, a popular wine bar and shop from Thierry Brumeau, the sommelier-restaurateur behind L’Ebauchoir, a neighborhood bistro. (Interestingly, Brumeau once worked for Michel Richard in Washington, DC.)

While there, we opened a 2011 Domaine Lise et Bertrand Jousset “Singulière,” a Chenin Blanc made from a small parcel of 100+-year-old in vines in Montlouis. The wine (and cheese we ate there) was awesome.

For those who aren’t familiar with Aaron’s blog, be sure to add it to your list of regular reads. It’s a great resource for discovering natural wines and keeping up with the Paris wine scene. And if you’re visiting Paris anytime soon, be sure to sign up for one of his tours!

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