Drinking Outside The Box

With Simon Woods – wine for people who have a life

Pierre Overnoy 1999 Arbois Pupillin March 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm

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Highlight of a sedate weekend was a bottle of this wonderfully weird wine from eastern France. I mentioned the idea of ‘Yeah But No But’ Wines in this post and this blend of Chardonnay with the local grape Savagnin is most definitely one of those. Some people will loathe it, but those who can get their heads round a white wine that combines the zesty lightly cooked apple character of Mâcon whites with the nutty, flor-like tang of aged fino sherry, and then chucks in some herby minerality for good measure will love it. To misquote Psalm 139, it is ‘fearfully and wonderfully mad’, and the only thing I can say against it is that it comes with one of those wax capsules that is a toal pain to remove. Available from Caves de Pyrene for around £20.

That nutty sherry edge is one of the results of using minimal sulphur in winemaking. As Caves de Pyrene’s Doug Wregg said about such a modus operandi on the company blog, it makes for intriguing wines. And these so-called ‘Natural Wines’ are enjoying a surge in interest from drinkers looking to avoid ‘made’ wines. The theory is great, but in practice…

For me there’s a parallel with personal hygiene. Instead of fertilisers, pesticides, cultured yeasts and winemaking additives, think shampoo, deodorant, razors and perfume. Now no sentient wine drinker wants to drink the vinous equivalent of Swiss Toni, but equally, they don’t want to share a meal with Stig of the Dump. So while good natural wines can appeal to our baser instincts with something akin to a pheromone rush, bad ones are just too smelly, too hairy, too unkempt. I want my Stinking Bishop on the cheeseboard, not in my glass.

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