There are a few terms within the natural wine marketing world that I don't really get. The idea of "nothing added, nothing taken away" is one -- a cute, romantic idea but, no, the wine doesn't make itself. Zero zero (aka how to strip away taste and preference and replace them with a Parker-esque number) is another. The one that baffles me the most is low intervention, or whatever variance on non-interventionism is à la mode right now.
The last time we saw Adrien Baloche of La Ferme du Plateau (more on him below) was at Anonymes, the zero sulfur salon held during the annual natural wine fairs in the Loire, in the waning days of normalcy before COVID took over the world. Adrien was set up next to a very prominent female winemaker. The biggest wine buyers from Copenhagen and Tokyo reached (and talked) over each other to get a tiny taste of her zero sulfur concoctions. Adrien stood a table away, running his hands through his hair, stressed as fuck about who was going to buy the upcoming vintages of his wine. He had also brought grape juice so everyone could refresh their palates after hours of ripping acid and a bit too much mouse. It was one of the best things that I tasted at Anonymes; thoughtful and practical.
The rest of the trip, I kept pestering Jeff about Adrien and how much of his wine we could take. The trip went on, we came home, the world shut down, but I couldn't forget about Adrien. In May, we decided to commit to a significant amount of Adrien's wine, with the support of Eric and the ever-growing Domestique Wine Club (spoiler alert: September wine club is going to be lit). And I decided to help Adrien re-label our favorite cuvee, Fouzy Tout. Thanks to Google Translate, a printer in Tours who spoke a little English, and friend in the Loire, it got done just in time.
Drawing the label, I wanted something simple and optimistic. It was month two of COVID. At Adrien's farm, there's a rustic picnic bench that we once sat on together with his wife Anne, his best friend (whose name always escapes me), and a woman working with them that summer. I arrived after being terribly lost and taking the world's most expensive taxi ride there. We sat on the bench drinking coffee with lots of awkward silence. Looking back at that moment, it was a "fouzy tout." A muddle of people who didn't make sense together, but once we started tasting and talking wine, it clicked.
I wanted the label to reflect the messy and imperfect nature of many of our lives. It's a simple drawing. A doodle of a couple leaning on each other during a time when people were scared to leave their apartments and hadn't hugged loved ones in months. When I close my eyes and imagine visiting La Ferme du Plateau, I remember sitting on a bench feeling comforted by a group of complete strangers after a disastrous day of travel.
Fouzy Tout is a conferment of (primarily) Grolleau with Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The word is French slang for a blend. According to Adrien, "in cooking, for example, it means there are a lot of different things inside! If by any chance it's good, you've got a new recipe!" It's a light-bodied red/white blend that even in a hot vintage comes in at a whopping 11.5% alcohol. My tasting note for it in August was, "delicious."
It was important to me to give Adrien a label that reflected his thoughtfulness and kindness. From the maker to the label, Fouzy Tout is special and significant. It's a gentler and softer story than most in this money-driven world. Adrien isn't a self-proclaimed rockstar, but he is making wonderful wines that we're very lucky to have imported by Selection Massale and at the shop. Enjoy.
- Rebekah Pineda
We're stoked to have Chablis from Duplessis back in the shop! The family domaine is run by fifth-generation vigneron Lilian Duplessis. He's made the estate one of the few certified organic producers in Chablis. His careful maintenance of the land is apparent as each wine is a precise expression of a specific plot or a blend of Chardonnay from multiple plots amongst his eight hectares.
Each plot is vinified independently in stainless steel vats and all the wines spend 12-15 months there before racking. Most are then typically barrel aged for six months (Vaugiraut, Chabils, and Petit Chablis only see stainless and Les Clos is in barrel for nine months). Minimal sulfur is used at bottling, if necessary. Lilian makes a point to forego sulfur entirely if he can.
As anyone who's had them knows, these wines are really special. They give you a taste of each mindfully cultivated and cared for parcel. The beautiful expressions of clay and limestone soils come through a variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. These wines are all about terroir and they're a good match for the stormy days of August and the coming change that signifies.
Here is one of our favorite offerings from Duplessis:
Chablis 1er Cru Montmains "27 Mois D'Elevage" 2015
The grapes that make this robust wine come from Montmains, two plots of clay-limestone rich soils in Chablis. This vineyard sits on the left bank of the Serein River. Its name means "medium-sized mountain," as the vines are elevated and surrounded by two taller peaks.
2015 was the last vintage of high yields until 2018, and since Lillian holds his wines back in barrel long enough, he saw what frost and hail did to his crop in 2016 and 2017 (yields were down around 75%). Because of this he held back some 15s in barrel to release over the few years in between so he didn't have as severe a shortage of wine. This wine was vinified normally but saw around 40 months of elevage!
It packs in the minerality and acidity while remaining very delicate. It's the perfect marriage between savory, smoky notes, and some more tropical fruit flavors like mango. Enjoy it on a late summer evening.
- Erica Christian
We're incredibly excited to announce Kayla Mensah as the inaugural Major Taylor fellow at Domestique. She's an enthusiast of the high-low pairing and loves all things involving Italian wine and Caribbean food (especially when combined). Before coming to wine, Kayla studied and worked in mechanical engineering. Her end goal is to increase inclusivity in wine by cultivating a space that focuses on wine and food from underrepresented regions. Think: juicy pet nats with Jamaican patties.
We asked Kayla a couple questions to help everyone get to know more about her before the fellowship. Follow along @winegriot.
What are you drinking these days and why?
It currently feels like I'm swimming in the Devil's swamp, so I've been almost exclusively drinking bubbly and lighter reds. The "Monkey Jacket" red blend from Cruse Wine Co. and the "Le Temps d'Aimer" VDF Rouge 2018 from Le Briseau were fast favorites.
Why did you apply for the fellowship? For a long time, the wine industry has been all but inaccessible to people who look like me. As a consumer, I was stereotyped, and as a professional, I have been ignored and underestimated. This program creates a safe, affirming place for those of us who have been overlooked while disrupting the status quo. Being able to learn invaluable skills in an environment that is rooted in inclusivity and activism (plus really good natural wine) is a dream come true, and I’m very excited to have this opportunity.
Beyond wine, what makes you giddy with joy? The ocean (or any swimmable body of water) and good food. A combination of the two, if I'm especially lucky.
Identity is layered and complex, for everyone. Tell us a little about your background and what makes you you. I'm a New Yorker at heart. A mash up of all the cultures that raised me in a 90s version of the Bronx. As a child of Jamaican and Ghanaian immigrants, my happy places usually involved a lot of food, drinks, and impossibly loud music. I'm also queer, which doesn't necessarily always play with the aforementioned cultures nicely but leads to some interesting (if not exhausting) debates. All of these parts of me inform how I move through the world, including the wine world.
Fuck, Marry, Kill for mezcal, Savagnin, and zero sulfur wine: Marry Savagnin, fuck mezcal, and kill zero sulfur wine (I know, I'm sorry) .
by Peter Njoroge, Domestique young gun
One of the (only) great things about being alive in 2020 is that for a pretty minuscule amount of money you can summon, like a deity, pretty much anything in the history of recorded music at all times. Music can be like wallpaper that follows you and your headphones around anywhere that you go. I try pretty hard to use this awesome responsibility to check out as much new material as I can, but I always seem to gravitate toward the things that never seem to get old. Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of The Goldberg Variations is one of those special albums that I rarely miss a day without listening.
Gould’s playing here is non-sensational, unromantic, and the music is really baroque. Even as far as classical music is concerned, nothing here jumps out at you or, maybe, is even supposed to jump out at you. It’s not very cool, Gould isn’t very cool, and yet it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. His revisitation of the Goldbergs (he recorded the same variations in 1955) is so clear, so stylized, so full of artistic conviction that I can’t really get my head around what’s happening, and the music sounds brand new every time I listen to it. If you’re not paying attention, the temptation to check out can be overwhelming. In all honesty, to be very reductive, the album contains a lot of similar-sounding solo piano. But, if you really tune in, you get to be a part of something that was a lifetime in the making.
This is what my favorite producers do and why I love their wines. I’m similarly floored by the dedication to craft and the manifestation of nuance that my favorite winemakers are able to create. In the same way as Gould, they marry expertise, understanding, and individual personality in a way that’s truly singular.
So, they might not all have the most beautiful labels, they might not all have the coolest story and, honestly, someone might just have to tell you about it. But, like few other things in this world, all my favorite wines inspire the same kind of ecstasy that listening to Gould’s playing does.
- Peter Njoroge
WINE I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Ludovic Chanson Implicite, baroque in its own kinda way
LISTENING TO: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, exploratory and meditative
by Damion Reid, Grammy-nominated drummer
Within every craft there are trailblazers and trendsetters that push their own communities forward into
the future. Domaine Mosse does for Chenin Blanc what Miles Davis did for music. One can only be
inspired by what these individuals have done for their very different mediums.
I had the pleasure of speaking with natural wine pioneer René Mosse about what makes his wines so
special and he simply said, "terroir.” The soil and climate affect the vines, creating a unique product that's inseparable from its environment. This is similar in music, because your fundamentals must be intact when creating with a group of musicians so that you may fully express what is needed in every moment.
Mosse's Chenin Blanc always transports me because it remains on the palate, reminding me of why I love natural wine. The true essence of the variety is presented with an unpredictability that forces you to focus on the clean, slightly oxidative taste that only a Mosse Chenin seems to acquire from wooden barrels. Mosse is one of the originators of this progressive taste that's changed the wine world, in my opinion.
The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 by Miles Davis achieves the same life-changing effect on how I will hear music forever. Each song is correctly played in regard to form, harmony, and melody, while effortlessly interpreted in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a box set that consists of eight discs, cataloging a week-long residency at the famous Plugged Nickel club in Chicago. I will dispel all rumors about Miles Davis being sick in the beginning of this residency because I got confirmation from his nephew, who spoke with a member of the quintet who said, “Miles was healthy.” This legendary quintet consists of Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. What this group was able to achieve rhythmically while playing each piece will change how you feel about the possibilities of interpreting a song. Not only did they effortlessly improvise but they reinvented how you will hear each song forever. Initiating countless alternate harmonies, while exploring triple or duple pulse, alongside tempo changes at will. It should remind you of a transcendent wine that forces you to swirl your glass, smell, and taste once more.
Mosse's Chenin forced me to respect Chenin Blanc as a variety in a different manner. Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 similarly opened my mind up to the power one interpretation of a piece can have on how the listener will perceive that composition for years to come.
- Damion ReidContinue reading