Mascot from this year’s Dive Bouteille. Care to guess the meaning? Are tastings about to go the way of dinosaurs?
I started to write this letter to you on the train from Angers to Paris. I settled into my seat and tried to gather up all of the details of the intense four days of tasting which included five different salons. What was this fragment of tasting season in the Loire like? Kind of you to ask.
Imagine this: On your feet from 9:00AM onward with little break. Activities include schmoozing, tasting, walking, strategizing. Just when you think you cannot put one more drop in your mouth, that your ability to analyze is done for, well, there’s another twenty bottles in front of you and you just get to it. Then at night there’s drinking and always scribbling and you’ve stopped being self-conscious about your stained teeth, black as licorice.
Food is invariably mediocre for those of us who don’t eat rillettes. Eventually there’s bed, sometimes you’re hungry. An early night would be 2:00AM. On one of the days, someone slips you an invitation to an after-tasting, off-tasting, such as a soirée at Sébastien Dervieux’s (Vignes de Babass) cave, where there’s a dozen or so winemakers pouring. There might be Julie Balagny beating herself up for bringing the wrong bottles, or someone like Didier Grappe who surprises (and touches) you by actually remembering when you first tasted with him seven years ago, or was it more? It’s more than possible that there’s a self-made ‘natural wine star’ in a cap, bopping his head to the spinning of discs and bringing a club energy that makes you want to sit down and sketch it. Maybe he thought it was Cannes instead of tasting season in the Loire. Okay, whatever. And maybe when you get dropped off at your shitty hotel, you decide what the hell, run to the bar à vin 100 meters away to meet a friend from California for some bubbles, and there you fall in love with a dog named Riesling.
More than six hundred wines later, you may wonder how you survived with any energy left over.
I have a confession: I’ve been burned out. But this is the first time in two years that I actually enjoyed tasting. I mean, wanted to taste. I felt good about the pounding of swish and spit and the note taking. I felt on. My palate felt on. I was energized. Girl was back in her game.
A more in-depth account is coming including what I learned from the 2018s and the 2019s. In the meantime there are two surprises and flashes of brilliance that are still in my taste memory. Cascina degli Ulivi white wines. Fabulous. If you have any 2010s, ‘11s or ‘12s, pull out those corks and see for yourself. For those of you who wanted to love Colombaia from Tuscany, but couldn’t, now is the moment. Helena and Dante, mazel tov!
Ramaz Nikoladze showing his beautiful 2018s at this year’s La Dive Bouteille.
To tide you over, here are a few wines. I wrote up a lovely new wine bar here in New York City. And, remember the Chisa Bize dinner. It’s coming up on March 9th at Vinegar Hill House. Pricing coming soon! It won’t be cheap, but it won’t be eviscerating, and I promise it will be fun.
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.