17 May 2011

more fun that way: delobre's unsulfured st. joseph at le dirigeable, 75015

Update: 23/10/2013: I've just heard Le Dirigeable has closed. Bummer. 

Well, I was gently hassling my friend Guy about having served us a different vintage of Burgundy than the one we'd ordered from his list at 15ème restaurant Le Dirigeable. It hadn't been done intentionally; he'd evidently just jumped the gun on updating the vintage on the list and then unknowingly served us the 2008 instead of the 2009.

"It's a big deal!" I teased. (It sort of is, though. 2008 was nothing like 2009; the wines are drinking in wildly different states. That wine from 2009 would have shown a lot livelier, less savoury.)

In revenge, he insisted on choosing the next wine. He produced a Saint Joseph by a small natural Rhône producer called La Ferme de Sept Lunes. I recognized the wine's label and promptly began voicing various protests: how I'd had the wines before, they were a bit polished, how generally I'm not much into Rhône wines, whites or reds,* how I needed something lighter for my steak tartare... I was being an ass, in short.

It turns out what Guy was serving us was the winemaker Jean Delobre's unsulfured cuvée, "Le Chemin,"** which, on the contrary, I was keen to taste. I'm not a hardline no-sulfur flag-waver, but if the one thing I have against a given wine is a slight lack of personality, then bien sûr I'd like to encounter it again in an unsulfured version. It's like catching up with an acquaintance who has in the meantime stopped taking medication and taken up drinking again. There are certain risks - but some people are just more fun that way.

Delobre's 2007 Saint Joseph "Le Chemin" was a manic weekend-long gin-soaked hotel-room bacchanal involving several pairs of expensive twins and extensive property damage. My goodness, it was fun.

And, like the album Harry Nilsson recorded with John Lennon in a ragged state of drunken disarray in 1973 - Pussy Cats, shamefully under-represented on YouTube these days - it was nevertheless heart-tuggingly profound. A ballad of black fruit, currants, ash, and pepper, sung at a barbecue with pork on the grill. I kept stealing bites of my friend J4's marvelous duck, because the duck itself was giving and tender, and because the match was better.

La Ferme de Sept Lunes, the estate, was founded by Delobre's grandfather in 1984, and from what I understand it was originally an actual farm. They grew apricots and grains. Their grapes were sold to local cooperative until the junior Delobre began vinifying his own wines in 2001. He's since converted to biodynamic vineyard management, and is on record as not seeking excessive extraction in his wines, which goes some way towards explaining why I like them so much. (This one, at least. I'll probably revisit all the others, on the strength of this one.) 

Guy, of course, got the requisite apology / applause from all those gathered. My sister and her boyfriend had been in town for two nights and this marked what was probably the first profound wine of their visit.  

* I mean no disrespect to the many many many great producers of the Rhône valley. It's just a personal preference thing. I make no secret of liking bright high-acid reds and whites, two styles you just don't find as often in certain regions. It's part of why I tend to write off the New World as well.

** This cuvée now appears to be called "Le Chemin Faisant." Not sure what occasioned the name change; I noticed this the other day when I saw the 2009 vintage for sale at Le Garde Robe, 75001.

Le Dirigeable
27, rue d'Alleray
75015 PARIS
Metro: Vaugirard
Tel: 01 45 32 01 54

Related Links:

Some Other, Better Paris: Le Dirigeable, 75015
Domaine du Mazel's "Cuvée Briand" at Le Dirigable, 75015

A short profile of Jean Delobre @ LesVinsd'Auteurs
A short profile of La Ferme de Sept Lunes @ DomaineSelect
A short profile of La Ferme de Sept Lunes @ LeVert&LeVin
A TV interview with Jean Delobre @ TV-Ardêche (!)


  1. I had the aforementioned 2009 (purchased you know where and you know when) a few weeks ago. It is indeed called "Chemin Faisant" now. And it was very appealing. A lot of natural wines from that general region are, to me, more natural than they are whatever appellation or grape they claim. This one was most definitely St-Joseph.

  2. so glad you liked it! i can't wait to check out the 2009 one of these days. still curious about the name change.

  3. is this restaurant still open? on their facebook it says they are closed

  4. oh no ! you're right ! bummer. changed ownership and name apparently.