03 March 2011

dear landlord: domaine de la pinte's '05 arbois pupillin

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. 

Related Links:

Twin Peaks & Chardonnay: Arbois
Twin Peaks & Chardonnay: Côtes du Jura
G's Homemade Foie Gras, which we drank with a Tissot Arbois (not an intentional pairing!) 


  1. Loved the analogy between types of wines and songs/music. I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have become a regular, will definitely visit some of these places next time I'm in Paris.

  2. Aaron, I have been enjoying your blog since Paris By Mouth started to syndicate it, and your passion is obvious. (Also, you write well and are very engaging.) However, it's kind of silly to ascribe ageworthiness to price.

    You should have stopped at Marc Ollivier's while you were in the Loire and had some early '80s Muscadets.

    I say this as someone who has popped Domaine de la Pinte's 1996 Marnes Bleues three times in the past year. It is very pretty.

    And as someone who would rather have (and age) a bottle of Puzelat's Brin de Chèvre (11€) than any Corton-Charlemagne.

  3. @césar: thanks! the wine/music schtick derived from a series of conversations with ryan adams' manager in la; he used to frequent the restaurant where i worked and every time i served him wine we'd try to work out which pop song it might pair well with.

    @sharon: i'm afraid i may have been a bit clumsy or unnuanced in the views i state in the post above. you're right to call me out on it. i don't believe ageability to be a function of price at all. i meant only to say that, on an inexpensive everyday drinking basis, the actual concept of aging wine - of wine attaining perceptible complexity over the passage of time - is largely irrelevant, and responsible for more confusion than enjoyment. show me someone aging a lot of under 10€ bottles and i'll show you a better use of real estate. not because of the low prices per se, but because these are - not coincidentally - wines intended for short-term everyday consumption. there are of course scattered exceptions, as you point out.

    in my mind, the 2005 domaine de la pinte "viandres," at six years' age, is still within the short term range, which is why i was so surprised as its relative complexity. nevertheless one or two more years and i suspect it would be mostly expired. the acidity had that ghostly vital deathbed feel already - a last enjoyable gasp.

    re: the muscadets you mention, i'd be curious to taste them one day. for now i still seem to only appreciate aged muscadet in the abstract, like most ambient electronic music. (it's interesting, sometimes compelling, but 9 nights out of 10 i'd prefer something livelier, such as fresh muscadet.)(or Flying Lotus.)

  4. Ha ha, I agree, but the problem is more that the stuffing in the bulk of the industrial wines that cost in that particular price range is, well, nil. However, as I'm sure you know, stuff that for whatever reason (who in the "grand public" drinks Pineau d'Aunis? Fer Servadou?), gets disparaged.

    I was serious about the contrast between Puz's Brin de Chèvre and just about any 100€+ Bonneau de Martray I have had.

    I'm not a Muscadet stalwart; more a sceptic who has had the chance to spend the day at Domaine de la Pépière several times and taste back, back, back. And have friends in New York who trot out 1976 to "show" me. However...

    As Shirley Temple said, "Lay it on too thick, that's how I like it."

    Your blog's awesome, but despite my own ayatollahish natural wine snobbery, I hope you'll relax up. Seriously. It's more dangerous.

    (Just as I type this, my iTunes randoms to The Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make?" ...I must be looking very old tonight.)