Friday, November 5, 2010

Molière, Poquelin, and the Beaujolais That Isn't

Though the professor's name has long since escaped me, I still have quite concrete memories of a course in Comparative French Literature that I undertook during my years as an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland. While all writing in the course was conducted in English, students in the class were expected to be conversant in French and to read, wherever possible, in the original French. I managed to scrape through the class somehow, but I was in way over my head. It's as close as I ever came to having a relationship with the works, whether tragedy or farce, of Molière.

Now, fast forward abut 25 years, to the context of wine rather than 17th Century French literature.... If my understanding is correct, the estate owned and farmed by Isabelle and Bruno Perraud, the Domaine des Côtes de la Molière, takes its name not from any literary reference. Rather, it comes from the name of the small village of Molière, just outside of Vauxrenard, about nine kilometers west of Chénas, six north of Chiroubles, where the core of the Perraud family's vineyards are located. There's no question, though, that the literary history bound up in the name of Molière does not escape them, for the name of the wine I write about today, the Perrauds' "Côte de Poquelin," plays on the name of their town, the name of their estate, and on the more widely known history of Molière, the stage name assumed by the famou playwright and actor who was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.

Vin de France "Côte de Poquelin," Domaine des Côtes de la Molière (Isabelle et Bruno Perraud) 2009
$15. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Jeffrey Alpert Selections, New York, NY.
2009 is the first-ever release of "Côte de Poquelin." Popped and poured, it was surprisingly dark in the glass, purplish-red, fading to pale violet at the rim. Initially, its aromas were somewhat subdued, giving hints of black cherry, spice and a suggestion of stems; correspondingly, its textures were somewhat stern, albeit quite nicely structured and pleasantly energetic, carried along by a firm acid attack and fresh, ever so slightly green tannins. If I didn't know this were a varietal expression of Gamay, I would have guessed there was some Pinot Noir in the mix. With time in the glass, though, the wine found greater clarity, with black cherry lightening to raspberry and indefinite spiciness focusing to a distinct streak of white pepper. Definitely a nice food wine.

Re-extracting the cork on day two yielded a pop that had me thinking a little overnight fermentation may have occurred but a quick sniff and taste proved that not to be the case. (In retrospect, I'm sure the pop was simply the result of my enthusiasm.) In fact, that quick sniff and taste revealed an even purer expression of Gamay-Beaujolais than in evidence the day before. Cutting to the chase, sometimes you just have to sit back and say, "Okay, this is delicious wine." Pure and simple.

If you caught my references to Beaujolais above, you may be wondering why this wine, produced in the Beaujolais-Villages, is not labeled accordingly. I pondered that myself, wondering if the wine had been declassified by the INAO, or perhaps produced in some way outside of the appellation regulations. Not wanting to guess and not finding much in the way of answers available in the public domain, I went straight to the source.

Isabelle Perraud, vigneronne and co-proprietor at the Domaine des Côtes de la Molière, confirmed that the INAO had declassified one of the estate's wines in the past, their 2005 Moulin à Vent, which the Perrauds subsequently renamed and released as a Vin de Table called simply "Côte de la Molière." The decision to release "Côte de Poquelin" as a Vin de France, though, was made entirely and voluntarily by Isabelle and Bruno. The pair views the wine as their Beaujolais-Villages but, along with an increasing number of artisan vigneron(ne)s, have opted for the greater flexibility, perhaps even the more individual expression, offered under the aegis of the Vin de France designation. (If your French is up to speed, or if you're willing to muddle through a somewhat awkward Google translation, you can read about Isabelle's take on the matter via her blog.)

Speaking of individual expression in the context of wine growing, you'll find it, worn like a badge, right on the label of the domaine's wines. "Wine made from organically grown grapes, un-filtered, not chaptalized, raised and bottled at the estate without use of sulfur or any other additives." And on the side of the label (out of view in the above photo), "Raisins cueillis sur une vigne en harmonie avec la nature" ("grapes picked from a vine in harmony with nature"). Presenting such information so plainly, in so forward a manner, with more words given to the approach, one could argue, than to the wine itself, might strike some as natural-wine marketing. However, I get the sense that it's just the Perrauds' way of expressing pride in their work and their wines. Their family has been farming vines in the Beaujolais for six generations, with Bruno and Isabelle taking the lead in 1988. Ten years later they made the decision to stop using conventional farming techniques. Six of their ten hectares were certified organic in 2002 and the rest of the farm is under conversion. Their wines, like "Côte de Poquelin," farmed at minuscule yields, fermented on native yeasts, made with no nonsense and nothing added, are like their new babies. Pure and simple.

Allow me to end, if you will, by saying that I'm indebted to my friend Bill for passing this bottle along to me. Without such generosity, I most likely would have tasted this wine, at some point in time and in one vintage or another, but I'm glad to have gotten to know it now.


Sean said...

That wine seems like a very high price, high quality, and extravagant wine. What kind of occasion would you recommend it for?

bill l said...

i bought the wine, drank the wine, and gave mcduff the bottle he is writing about.

it was not very high priced, it was not high quality (although i liked it) and it was far from extravagant.

i would drink this wine for any occasion. with burgers or pizza to celebrating thanksgiving or christmas. or maybe even with breakfast. it would be nice with sausage, bacon , toast, runny eggs....

David McDuff said...

Thanks again for the bottle. Definitely good TG burger wine.

Maria Mcclain said...

Hello David, I like that wine also you have a very good blog that the main thing a lot of interesting and beautiful. I really like it & shared with my friends! hope u submit it for free in this website to increase visitor.

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