Sunday, January 27, 2008

From Cousin to Radikon - natural wines for the complete wine geek

I've enjoyed some very tasty natural wines in the past few days, most of them courtesy of Jenny and Francois - a couple specializing in importing natural wines from France. There have been a couple of, uh, challenging wines along the way, which serves as a reminder that natural wine does not always equal delicious, tasty wine. Nevertheless, I would maintain that your odds of getting a natural wine that is tasty, reasonably priced, lively and full of individual character are still favorable. Certainly better than getting an interesting bottle of wine from Napa. Or Sonoma. Or Pauillac. Or winning your March madness pool at work.

Sebastien Riffault Sancerre 'Akmenine' 2006

Produced from SB grown in primarily limestone based soils, this wine goes through full
malo and does not convince me that this is the way to go in Sancerre. Where's the fruit? 'Akmenine' is Lithuanian for pieces of rock - Sebastien's wife is Lithuanian. My family on my father's side is also Lithuanian so I really want to like these Sancerres more than I do.

Sebastien Riffault Sancerre 'Skevendra' 2004

Though this wine shows better than the '06, it is still lacking in brightness and fruit. Does the oak rob this wine of liveliness, or the malolactic, or both?

Audrey et Christian Binner Gewurztraminer Kaesserkopf2004

I'm usually not into Gewurz as a varietal wine. Too alcoholic and spicy. Though I do like the lighter German and Alto Adige renditions. This had very ripe red grapefruit flavors as well as the rosey, turkish delight thing going on. Not bad for Alsace gewurz.

Olivier Cousin Gamay 2005

Very rich gamay, this was more than merely bright red fruits and earth; it finished with a savory nutty note. Maybe a bit bretty, but I can deal with that.

Olivier Cousin Anjou Pur Breton 2004

Fun wine. I do not know exactly what the grape compostion is though. Cab franc maybe? I don't know. It was similar to the above but with a fresher, more vivid fruit character. A bit darker fruit. Livelier acidity. A wine that's easy to gulp down, but whose mid-term ageability and flavor intensity might make you think twice about doing so.

Oliver Cousin 'Le Cousin Rouge' Grolleau 2005

Produced from old vine Grolleau in Anjou, this is a serious wine that demands an hour decant. It is intense, dark fruited, and seriously structured. Though it also manages to have good acidity and pure, natural flavors as well. More brooding than the Pur Breton, but very possibly longer lived as well.

2002 Radikon Ribolla (500ml)

Saving the best for last here. This is produced from 100% Ribolla, with a very extended period of skin contact. So the wine is a beautiful pomegranate hue, a bit lighter in color though. Very complex, fascinating nose - my friend mentioned musky rose varietals (as opposed to more conventional pink roses). There are mixed dried fruits, smoke, baking spices, roasted chestnuts, wet stones. On the palate this wine is immediately intense, with juicy red currants, cherry, and yellow stone fruit skins. At times it reminded me of Kriek lambic with that intense, spicy cherry quality. Acidity was very high, nervy, but completely in balance. So fucking good!!! Pardon my language, I just learned that I really enjoy Radikon and this was my first Radikon experience, so apologies for the self-indulgence. Whereas my first Gravner (a neighbor and similarly minded Friulian vintner) experience was equally enlightening, the wine just wasn't as much fun to drink. I'd be curious to try it again now that two years have passed. If anyone out there wants to put together a horizontal of Gravner, Radikon and assorted disciples' wines, I would definitely be game.


Brian said...

Sounds fantastic!

Love your blog. Discovered it while googling for "Terroir Wine Bar" in San Francisco. This spot is my new Mecca! :)

It sounds like you are interested in many of the same things I am obsessed with in wine!

Joe M. said...

Brian -

Thanks for reading. I agree - Terroir is without a doubt the spot in San Francisco right now. I almost don't want to explore other wine bars because, relative to Terroir, I think I'll be disappointed.

Brooklynguy said...

wow - i just wrote about some jenny & francois wines too. sounds like you tasted some interesting stuff. i loved what I tried too - looking for more.

Lyle Fass said...

To be pedantic, Jenny and Francois used to be a couple but are no longer but still do the wine thing together.

David McDuff said...

I'm not familiar with Cousin's wines but, to be doubly pedantic, "Pur Breton" would suggest a varietal Cabernet Franc. Breton is a name, often used locally in the Anjou-Touraine, for Cab Franc while pur simply means pure.

I just picked up a bottle of the Radikon Ribolla Gialla myself. Can't wait to try it.

Joe M. said...

Neil -

It was all interesting, though the Sancerres were not fun. To me the clear standouts were Cousin's wines.

Lyle -

I'm not as up on the New York based importer stuff - duly noted on J&F's status. I'm glad that their business partnership has weathered their personal breakup.

David -

I'll happily deal with double pedanticalness as it's coming from such experienced and respectable colleagues as yourself and Lyle.