03 March 2011
My awesome landlady and her husband had me over for an apero the other evening, at which occasion they had the opportunity to introduce to me the organic Arbois they'd been glowing about for quite some time: Domaine de La Pinte's 2005 Arbois Pupillin "Viandries." Because I know S and G's tastes run slightly more conservative than my own,* I'd expected something tasty, clear-fruited, and polite. (They'd also said they'd been drinking it nightly, so I knew it wasn't extrêmement cher, non plus.)
Upon actually tasting the wine, however, I nearly melted out of my chair, and scared the cats. The nose was a little closed at first - lightly oxidative, that's all - which gave the wine's unreasonably profound palate the element of surprise.
I read fresh butter, rich mineral, and white peach flavors, all complicated by a very pleasing roast-parsnip-like rootiness. Everything was riven with a melodious but perfectly edged acidity. I was held rapt with every sip: it's not every day one just stumbles onto a wine that, at six years' age, happens to be in scintillating peak form.
Here I might as well say that I resist dwelling on when to drink wines that are not specifically famous for their development over time. You could say the overwhelmingly majority of wines produced in the world are like pop songs: the craft and beauty in the format is best enjoyed with some immediacy, while it's still culturally relevant.
The problem is that wine as a subject is too often marketed as though it were all opera: a real event, a whole night-out, something demonstrably long-lived.
I suspect the real appeal of this idea to consumers, beyond the seductive poetic aspect of the passage of time in general, is that it allows them to excuse poor selections by gently deeming them "too young" or such nonsense, as though the problem were the fault of timing, when in fact the wine is just something they've picked up from Franprix - a beverage about as age-able as Fanta.
But then, as in the case of the 2005 "Viandries,"** sometimes one does stumble upon actual profundity in relatively simple wines built for short-term aging. To give some perspective, this is a wine that retails for around 13€, for which price the odds of receiving a real future-investment type wine are next to nil. The "Viandres" also spends a surprisingly long time in oak - 36 months - considering how fully integrated the flavors were.
I haven't yet tasted anything else from Domaine de La Pinte. The Arbois-based estate dates back to 1953, and consists of 34ha, of which 17ha are Savagnin, with the difference made up of Chardonnay, Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir. I read from their website that as of 2009 they've completed conversion to from organic viticulture to full biodynamy, which is encouraging. It is perhaps an unjustified natural-wine bias on my part, but I can't help suspecting that the "Viandries" I tasted with S and G that night, already so expressive and eloquent under organic production, will be truly mind-blowing in a similar vintage under biodynamic production.
* You could describe them as wine Liberals, actually, which would make me, by extension, a molotov-hurling wine Marxist.
** Not available at Franprix, obviously.
Twin Peaks & Chardonnay: Arbois
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G's Homemade Foie Gras, which we drank with a Tissot Arbois (not an intentional pairing!)