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Journal

Roast Chicken and Savagnin

Roast Chicken and Savagnin

Fall has returned. Perhaps too early for coq au vin, rindsgoulash and the like, but the ideal moment for roast chicken and alpine whites of some opulence and maturity.

2016 Domaine des Marnes Blanches Les Molates Savagnin - offers more stone fruits brightened with citrus and well integrated oak, finishing savory. Tensioned and mineral with poise and depth throughout.

2012 Dominique Lucas Vin de Allobroges Savagnin - hazier and more tawny in hue, with gamey aromas. Think wool sweater and duck fat, with honey and tangerine oil on the palate. A heady and powerful expression of Savagnin that feels at home with this hearty preparation for a Fall night dinner.

About that dinner: I take a spatchcocked chicken, salt it overnight in the fridge allowing time for the salt to penetrate and for the skin to crisp up, then saute chopped bacon, garlic, waxy potatoes, and caraway seeds with a pile of savoy cabbage until wilted, all in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan, placing the salted chicken on top, then roast until the breast is done, and the potatoes and cabbage are all braised in chicken and bacon drippings. Finish with some vinegar to balance the fat. Wash down with Savagnin.

- Saman Hosseini (aka Baguette Hunter)

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“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of.”

“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of.”

The other week, my friend opened a culty sans soufre Chenin that wasn’t showing very well. He swore he’d opened the same bottle a few weeks prior and that it was stunning. But around the table we agreed this bottle was ratchet.

Yes, that can be part of the deal with drinking wines that are not industrial and manipulated. The stakes are a bit lower when it comes to modest glou glou. But we shouldn’t be surprised when #hypebeast natural wines, with prices looking like classified growth Bordeaux, are at times fragile. And, if we’re being honest, are not always more compelling than the glou glou.

In the 90s, Robert Parker rose to unprecedented influence in the American wine market. Wineries all over the world started manipulating their wines to conform to his palette, so they all started tasting the same (as Alice Feiring and many others have written about). The “natural wine movement” has been the inevitable, opposing pendulum swing; a necessary market correction, which by now has probably reached its grunge in late 92 VOGUE moment.

Much of the press on this movement has fixated on the lack of defined terms and standards but that line of interrogation is flawed. Making concessions to the technocrats obsessed with empirical measurements and certifications empowers them to decree the “acceptable” interventions in farming and the cellar. That leads to formulaic, ideological winemaking, leaving no room for interpretation or adaptation to regional climate and varietal character. Is evaluating a wine based on the parts per million of added S02 any less ludicrous than Robert Parker’s 100 point rating system? What happens if wines, made from vastly different grapes and regions, start to taste “wild” and “funky” in all the same ways and that becomes the defining characteristic of these wines? Does 0/0 = 100 points?

There was no social media in Parker’s day but today’s wine journalists may prove just as influential, incentivizing natural winemakers to stylize their wines to conform. A healthy skepticism of influence and uniformity is always in order.
(*I put together some visual aids on this phenomenon, see here)


- Saman Housseini

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To France (As A Young Woman)

To France (As A Young Woman)

For the Domestique vacation, I made my inaugural visit to the Loire Valley to learn more about the producers and region that are the heartbeat of the shop. I spent six whirlwind days meeting new people, grasping at the French being spoken around me, and drinking wine. And I went solo. Traveling alone is often extremely rewarding. It's also, many times, challenging, especially as a young woman. I'm constantly explaining how I got there and why I belong. But then there are experiences like mine with Ariane Lesne.

Spending a day with Ariane was the highlight of my trip. She's new to the Selection Massale portfolio and also breaks the mold by focusing on Pineau d’Aunis. In the spring of 2015, she took over Domaine de Montrieux, in the Côteaux du Vendômois, from Emile Heredia. And I fucking love her. She is bold, smart, and unapologetic. Her Pineau d'Aunis is beautifully aromatic with acid structure and tannins that radiate.

During a week spent by myself in rural France, Ariane made me feel brave and want to be bolder. She's one of the few female producers in the Côteaux du Vendômois and she does all the vineyard (and cellar) work by herself. I was amazed and inspired by her.


- Rebekah Pineda

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The importance of Belluard

The importance of Belluard

Dominique Belluard's wines are probably the most important wines in the world to me. That's not to say they're my favorite wines. I think they're probably too distinctive for that. But no wines have had a larger impact on my life.

In early 2011, Guilhaume brought a bottle of Belluard Les Alpes to Heart, my wine bar and retail shop in San Francisco. I don't think I'd ever heard of Gringet before he mentioned it was the varietal. Working in wine, new experiences are incredibly rare after a while. They're ether. But Les Alpes was objectively unlike anything that I'd ever had before. It was lush and creamy yet tasted like brackish water and stones. It smelled like jasmine and orange blossom and white button mushrooms. Drinking it was like hearing Sgt. Pepper's or Pet Sounds for the first time. It made me question my reference points. 

I immediately ordered as much of every Belluard wine as Selection Massale would sell me. They were a fledgling distributor. My wine bar wasn't much older. Looking at it now, I don't think it's hyperbole to say that these wines are largely responsible for Domestique. 

There are 20 hectares of Gringet in the world. Dominique Belluard grows 10 of them in Ayse, nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc. He took over his family's domaine in 1988 and slowly expanded its Gringet vines through massale selection plantings.  The vines are in a mixture of limestone, iron, and marl soils and sit between 300 and 450 meters, high enough to make these mountain wines but low enough to achieve full ripeness. 

Dom is a meticulous grower and vigneron. All his farming is biodynamic. Everything is fermented with native yeasts and sees very small quantities of sulfur (volcanic only). Elevage is done in concrete eggs, keeping the wines very fresh but providing enough oxygen exchange that they always develop a sense of layered density. 

I make it a ritual to drink one bottle of each current release of Belluard every year. I want to remind myself why it matters. Hopefully with this offer some of you can too. 

- Jeff Segal

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Starting with Labet.

Starting with Labet.

We began talking about this newsletter last year. At the time, we were still hatching plans for Domestique. But we knew that we wanted our very first producer-specific mailer to be about Julien Labet.
 
In our minds, these are some of the most exciting natural wines in the world right now. They’re expressive of Jura terroir. They are “classic” wines. But they also have a combination of transparency and expressive, abundant fruit that feels like a burgeoning trademark. A signature in the making.
 
Julien has a little less than 15 hectares in the Sud Revermont, the Jura’s southernmost area, a stone’s throw away from Ganevat and Domaine des Marnes Blanches. He farms organically and has a light hand in the cellar. No fining, no chaptalization, no acidification, super minimal sulfur. Julien's father, Alain Labet, was one of the first vignerons in the Jura to make ouillé style whites. Nearly half of the domaine's vines are more than 60 years old (some of the Poulsard was planted in 1895!) and the vast majority of them come from massale selections. The vines are harvested by hand with yields of just around 10 hl/ha.
 
The wines below come from different parcels and represent a range of soil types (clay, limestone, schist, sandy loam) scattered with these old plantings. They are all beautiful expressions of the Sud Revermont terroir. And we’re proud to offer them to you.
 
Also, on that note, we’re now shipping to a number of states around the country. Check our website for more information. Happy new year.
 
- Jeff Segal

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