Austria in April

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Zum Wohl!
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Thursday Tasting 8-5pm
 

When you describe a wine as “drinkable,” what do you mean? I don’t mean the proverbial “you,” I mean you, literally – the person reading this email right now.
 
By nature of how the question is being posed, I suppose it’s rhetorical. It’s an important question though – it’s our job to interpret what our customers ask for into recommendations that you’ll enjoy. We spend our days looking at, talking about, tasting, and drinking wine, so it’s easy for us to distinguish between one wine and another, and use them to triangulate our individual and collective viewpoints on abstract ideas like “drinkability.”
 
I’ve touched on ideas like this in previous emails. The piles of cultural baggage that we all sort through in this simple transaction – buying a bottle of wine to drink with dinner – are overwhelming. Eric Asimov dives into this idea in his book How To Love Wine; Americans tend to think that they have to “understand” wine to be able to enjoy it.
 
I pose this question with sincerity. It’s overwhelming for us too. When someone asks for a “drinkable red wine,” we’re tasked with untangling the meaning behind that statement and reconciling it with our preferences and our stock. The touchstones for drinkability in the context of our shop tend to be; low alcohol, light tannin, little to no oaky flavors, lively acidity, fresh fruit flavors, with herbaceous and/or mineral (savory) flavors to balance that fruit. (These all more or less hold true regardless of color.) The bottles that are gone before you know it.
 
You don’t have to agree with us. In fact, it’s satisfying to have a discussion with customers about their own personal points of view.
 
This brings me to this week’s Thursday tasting. There are certain categories that we turn to internally for satisfying and drinkable wines that aren’t on everyone’s radar. For us, Grüner Veltliner is as familiar as you can get, and Blaufränkisch is something everyone should be drinking but nobody knows about. So yeah, we’re going to taste a couple of Austrian wines tomorrow.
 
Austria isn’t Germany. They share a language, but when it comes to wine they are different. Most Austrian whites (including Riesling) are dry, and half of the national production is red wine. Add to that geographic and cultural diversity, and you start to get a picture of why we find the wines so interesting.
 
Join us tomorrow to taste two wines, equally drinkable and complex, and let us know what you think of when you say “drinkable.”
 
 
Hofer Grüner Veltliner Freiberg 2015 – $21
The Hofer family farm their vineyards a little over twelve miles outside the city limits of Vienna. The region, called the Weinviertel, is tucked into the north-eastern corner of Austria, bordered by the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Hofer’s have farmed organically since 2001, growing mostly Grüner Veltliner. Freiberg is one of their top sites. This bottling is a balance between up-front, approachable fruit, and white peppercorn and spring herbs – classic for the variety and the region.
 
Preisinger Blaufränkisch Kalkstein 2014 - $22
Claus Preisinger is cool. A tall and handsome guy in his thirties who geeks out on natural wine, and is proud of his Hungarian heritage. His region, the Burgenland, on the north side of the Neusiedlersee, was a part of the ancient Roman province of Pannonia – straddling eastern Austria and western Hungary (as well as parts of Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina). Blaufränkisch is the noble grape of the region, and arguably one of the most unsung in the world. Dark fruit flavors, a hint of earthiness, with a great balance of acidity and tannin.
 
 
These wines taste good. You should come in and try them tomorrow. We think you’ll like them.

-PC



As always, if you can't make it to the tasting but would like to order one of the featured wines, please let us know by replying to this email or calling the store directly at 773-486-4769.
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Mountain wine with Wink

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Wink, wink!
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Saturday Tasting 2-5pm

Come by tomorrow for a special tasting of five exceptional wines from the Jura & Savoie regions of France. We welcome Wink Lorch, who, as Paul likes to say, "literally wrote the book on Jura wine." She is also an avid skier and resident of the Savoie. Wink take us through the line up, answer questions and animate her book, Jura Wine, available for purchase.

Wink's project continues to substantially broaden our understandings of France's eastern mountain regions. Her book is the first English language publication devoted to the wine from the Jura, an area of low mountains and one of the smaller, most intriguing wine regions of France. It gives well-researched, comprehensible and lively profiles of virtually every producer in the area. It may be read all at once or equally well-enjoyed as a reference. I love having a copy in the shop to pour through periodically, or to pull off the shelf when we need the chronicle of a specific producer. The book is also a necessity for planning a trip full of good eating, drinking and exploring in the region.

Like the best culture writers, Wink effortlessly integrates description and commentary. Her writing speaks about the larger traditions and trends of Jura winemaking by sticking closely to the contours of individual people and places. Keenly diplomatic in her approach, Wink does justice to an incredible diversity of vinicultural styles and practices. Her next publication will explore the higher mountain wines of the Alps, another under appreciated but remarkable region.

On top of how cool it is to have Wink here, these are simply some of the best wines and finest producers we represent.

Finally, we wanted to include Dominique Belluard's 2015s in this tasting, but quantities are so small it might have been a mean tease. The following wines are available- please let us know what you'd like to reserve.

Grandes Jorasses - $46
Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee Altesse. Original vines from the Dupasquier family.

Le Feu - $55
Le Feu (the Fire) comes from steep, bright red, iron-rich clay slopes of high altitude vines. This is Dominique's only single-parcel Gringet cuvée and considered his top wine.

Mont Blanc - $51
This sparkling Gringet spends three years on the lees. A deceptively rich and textured wine that ages beautifully, retains delicate aromatics.


Onto the Tasting!


Domaine de l'Octavin, Foutre d'Escampette 2014 - $26

Alice and Charles Bouvot are the proud proprietors of 5 hectares of vines in the Arbois region of the Jura. They started their domaine in 2005 with just 2 hectares and over the years have bought small plots and slowly increased their production. Some of our favorite winery visits are with Alice and Charles and their adorable sons. On top of their warmth, the vineyards are equally as vibrant.

Since 2009 all L’Octavin wines are "pur jus", with no additives whatsoever. The grapes are destemmed by hand and fermented without the use of SO2, cultured yeasts, or other additives. Most of the wines are fermented and aged in fiber glass or steel tanks, but only at the ambient temperature of the cave.


This Chardonnay pet nat has shown incredible complexity thanks to the longevity Octavin's traditional whites are known for. This is the same mature-vine fruit as their still Chardonnay bottling called Pamina.


Domaine des Marnes Blanches, Savagnin en quatre vis, 2014 - $36

The Sud Revermont area of the Jura has become a small hub for terroir-driven, natural wines that more than titillate the palate. Beginning with the renowned Jean-Francois Ganevat, the philosophy for making wines of nature spread to his neighbors Peggy and Jean-Pascal Buronfosse who started their domaine in 2000, and to the nearby village of Saint Agnès where Geraud and Pauline Fromont began Domaine des Marnes Blanches in 2006.

Their domaine covers 10 hectares of vines (some of them being around 100 years old!) spread across three towns in the southern part of the Côtes du Jura AOC: Cesancey, Vincelles, and Ste-Agnès. Cesancey was their first acquisition and is home to the white marl soils for which the domaine is named.

The Fromonts have two cellars on their property, one dedicated to ouillé (topped-up) wines, the other to the traditional sous voile wines the Jura is known for. The former is a newer facility, filled with stainless steel tanks and neutral casks of various sizes. The latter is a 200-year-old farmhouse that they have converted into a three-story cellar that also contains their tasting room. Windows on each end allows for warm air to pass through each level in the summer, and different levels of humidity on each floor make for conditions that flor can flourish in.

En quatre vis is ouille, neatly rendering that silky texture the Savagnin grape possesses. The wine has beautiful non-fruit character, like some cool metallic sea tones. It's their Chardonnay's enchanting siren older sister.

Jean-Yves Peron, Les Barrieux 2012 - $36

Jean Yves Peron is an intrepid natural winemaker in the Alpine town of Chevaline in the Haute-Savoie. A native of the Haute-Savoie, he attended university in oenology and biochemistry at Bordeaux before taking up winemaking. He encountered his first wine made without sulfur while working at Willakenzie in Oregon. He returned to his family home in Chevaline, a large farmhouse with a cheese room and adjacent pastures with their contended cows, in the early 2000s; his first vintage was 2004. His vines are a few kilometers from Chevaline near the town of Albertville and rest at 400-500 meters.

Jean-Yves’ wines have a very particular character. All undergo some carbonic maceration and a regime of pigeage and skin maceration. "Pigeage" is the term for punching down the cap of grape skins that forms on top of the wine during fermentation, a process that imparts color and tannins to the wine. All the wines are aged in Bordeaux barrels, generally six months for the whites. Jean-Yves likes the effect of oxygen on his wines. He generally bottles without any sulfur, and has been known to bottle the whites before all the deposits have settled to the bottom of the barrel.

Les Barrieux is Jean-Yves' blend of Jacquere and Roussane. The Jacquere lightens the blend, while the Roussane imparts a precise, floral quality to the wine. This wine is the richer, more structured papabear to his other whites.

Domaine Ardoisieres, Argiles rouge 2015 - $42

This domaine was planted during Roman times before becoming overgrown with forest. A passionate group of supporters cleared the vineyard in 1998 and began piecing the steep terraces back together to create Domaine des Ardoisieres. Since 2005, Champagne native Brice Omont has taken over the winemaking and is now considered one of the most exciting producers in France. Only recently have they been imported into the US.

The domaine’s 17 acres of vineyards are planted on steep, rocky slopes high above the town of Freterive. The entire production is sourced from two single vineyard sites: Cevins and St. Pierre de Soucy. The domaine produces five different cuvées (three white, two red) using the area’s unique varietals, including Altesse, Jacquère, Mondeuse, Gamay and Persan. The domaine has employed biodynamic principles in the vineyard since the vines were planted. The reds are produced without any de-stemming, and all the wines are fermented with native yeasts.

Brice’s wines are brilliantly unique, capturing the stony and mineral character of the vineyard terraces, and possessing an amazing crystalline purity. Drinking these wines from the side of Mont Blanc is like tasting freshly squeezed juice running off a glacier.

2015 Argile Rouge is made of 80% Gamay and 20% Persan. The wine then spends nine months in three- to five-year-old barrels before bottling. It is a touch smoky on the nose with red raspberry compote, pomegranate seeds, with a bright, lean and mineral palette.

We have Argiles blanc in house as well, and have access to other wines from Ardoisieres - please inquire if you'd like.

Louis Magnin, Mondeuse Arbin, 2011 - $34

The Savoie village of Arbin is home to the fascinating Mondeuse grape. Domaine Louis Magnin devotes 55% of its eight hectares to Mondeuse, all planted within the confines of Arbin in the sector known as the “Combe de Savoie”. Another 30% of the vineyards are devoted to the Roussanne grape, known locally as “Bergeron”, all of which are situated in the neighboring village of Montmélian, equally renowned for its affinity to the Bergeron. The remaining 15% of the holdings are planted to Altesse and Gamay.

Louis and his wife, Béatrice, are dedicated to organic viticulture, with certain parcels are treated according to biodynamic principles. The vineyards generally face south-southeast and are planted on steeply-sloping hillside sites the soil of which is a clay and limestone mix with an overlay of scree. Almost all vineyard work must be done by hand.

This classic cuvée is produced from several parcels scattered about Arbin. The grapes are destemmed before crushing. The period of maceration can last for as long as 12 days with daily pigeage in the first days. The elevage is principally in stainless steel but a small percentage is left to age in older barrels. The Mondeuse “Classique” is a rustic wine with a slight smokiness to the nose, herbaceous and spicy on the palate and marked by gentle tannins in the finish.


Jean-Francois Ganevat, Vin Jaune, 2004 - $95

At this point I've already needed to mentioned Ganevat, showing the significance of the domaine to Jura wine at large. We don't receive much of the remarkable cuvees he makes, but we've hoarded some Vin Jaune from the 2004 vintage.

Known as “Fanfan” to his friends, Jean-François’ wines have occupied the better part of la Combe, filling picturesque country cottages with barrels and barrels of his diverse yet traditional wines. He comes from a long line of winegrowers, dating as far back as 1650, although the family supplemented their grape growing with a dairy that produced milk destined for the local cheese, Comté, until 1976. After working both for his father and for the prestigious Domaine Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet, Jean-François returned to the Jura in 1998 to take over the family domaine.

Literally translated as yellow wine, Vin Jaune is one of the rarest of French wines, representing less than 5 percent of the production of the Jura. Its complex, distinctive flavor, marked by notes of pine resin, curry, citrus, nuts, salt and anis, is unforgettable. Vin Jaune is aged sous voile like other traditionally made white wines of the Jura. This involves leaving the wine in a partially filled wooden barrel after fermentation — for six years, in the case of Vin Jaune. A film of yeast forms on the surface of the wine, protecting it somewhat from oxidation, which would impart musty flavors if it were allowed to proceed unchecked.


Sherry is made in a similar way, and develops similarly nutty aromas, but sherry is fortified with distilled spirits, an ally against the effects of age, yeast and oxygen. Most unfortified wines would be too fragile to handle this regime on their own, but Savagnin is uniquely unwavering.

*We can only afford (actually we can't really afford to, but we're doing it anyway) to open one of these 375ml bottles - try to arrive early if you'd like a taste!


We hope you will join us!


Fondly,
Cubby

As always, if you can't make it to the tasting but would like to order one of the featured wines, please let us know by replying to this email or calling the store directly at 773-486-4769.

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Côt Côt

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Côt-Côt les copains!!!
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Thursday Tasting 5-8pm
In an opinion piece in the New York Times last week titled “Ignore the Snobs, Drink the Cheap, Delicious Wine,” Bianca Bosker made a case for the industrialization of wine as an egalitarian alternative to the “latest in holier-than-thou drinking” trend of natural wine.

I am simultaneously sick of hearing statements like this, and deeply concerned about the truth they hold. We face very real issues of cliquishness, and trend chasing. The charge of snobbery is a sensitive topic because we work so hard to get past it. For lots of people, the very idea of buying wine at a Wine Shop rather than the grocery store elitist.

The central conflict in the piece is philosophical. Young people are trying wines made with passion and integrity, they’re pursuing careers in hospitality at restaurants and cafés that are concerned about the health of their suppliers and guests, they’re returning to the lands of their parents or grandparents and farming grapes organically. Suggesting that this is “holier-than-thou” dismisses any positive aspects to these acts, but it also touches on the power of intention. Does doing something idealistic simply because it’s fashionable negate the value? Is the zeitgeist simply a trend mill, or an organic development of cultural awareness?


Besides, what was the previous trend in “holier-than-thou-drinking”?

The discussion about food-ways easily falls into a binary trap. If we suggest that the small family-owned farm, growing organic produce to sell at the local farmer’s market is the ideal, then human nature is to imagine a greedy corporate monster behind closed board-room doors, drooling with lust for profit and nothing else. If we’re reasonable, the truth on both sides is more complicated – the organic farmer still must concern herself with paying the bills, and research into GMOs is motivated at least in part by solutions to world hunger.

That holds true with wine. Most wine producers, from one man operations to the most industrialized, will speak of their desire to offer something that the public will enjoy.

The suggestion is that we need to “turn wine into” an everyday beverage. Is the underlying assumption that wine tastes bad on its own? Or that wine is an acquired taste? Does the so called “broad appeal” of beer include the first furtive sips most of us had as children? Aren’t the major beer manufacturers quaking in their boots because they’re losing tiny percentage points of market share to craft beer?

This is a logical jump, isn’t it? Or at least an issue of the chicken or the egg? There’s a problem with our food system, the costs of making an honest beverage are too high, so we need to learn to “love the bomb” as they say.

My boyfriend describes me as an “aged-out hipster.” Maybe my visceral reaction to being a “target” betrays my age, I’m some sort of holdover p-rock kid who wants to view himself, and the people around him, as a human being rather than a consumer whose value is measured in buying potential. If it sounds anachronistic, I apologize. Yes, of course we need to sell wine to keep the doors open, but the inspiration comes from our community, not from analytics and algorithms.

One of the challenges we rise to here at Red & White here is between the spirit of conviviality that we believe in, and the nature of wine as an acquired taste. That first childhood sip of beer was repellent to many of us, yet those of us who enjoy beer persisted, maybe just to get a cheap buzz, but even then, because beer is presented as some “everyman” sort of drink.

If anything, in this day and age, and especially in a city like Chicago, the idea that beer is more accessible to the average Joe leaves gaping holes in this argument. You see it today, couples out to dinner or at your friendly neighborhood wine bar, she has a glass of wine, he orders a beer. How many of us have a friend who’s willing to wait in line to get a bottle or two of high alcohol, extremely hoppy, limited production, significantly priced beer? I doubt I’m the only one, and if anything, I love the fact that people geek out on beer like that.

I disagree strongly with the suggestion that industrial techniques are unique to less expensive wines. All the tricks available to the technician producing wine in a silo are familiar to the consulting winemaker responsible for a bottle of $500 Napa Cab, and utilized with the same fervor. Water, acid adjustments, reverse osmosis, the list goes on and on. To me, this is the real issue here – no one is really surprised that the cheap bottle of fruit juice blend they bought at the party store has a list of unknown ingredients, but when you spend $10 on a cold-pressed juice you expect something with more integrity.

The logic of concocting populist wines is circular. How can we really talk about “what tastes good” to the public within a narrative about market research and “calibrating palates”? Yes, wine is a drink of pleasure, but pleasure is extremely relative. The searing acidity of a mineral Muscadet is truly hedonistic to some, while there are plenty of drinkers who scratch their heads over a glass of syrupy wine that cost a pretty penny and was highly lauded by the press. There was a time not that long ago that “sweet wines, low in astringency” were exactly what the critics awarded big points to. A quick look at the trophied wine lists of some downtown steakhouses suggests that the times haven’t changed all that much.

If anything, the goal of many of the growers that we work with is make wines that are “low brow.” We have an inside joke here that you can tell a French natural wine by the label. It will have: at least three fonts, a Charlie Hebdo-esque cartoon on it, and will have a name that is a pun (usually a sexual innuendo). One of our favorite producers in the Loire, Thierry Puzelat, when asked in an interview what he likes to drink, replied “My favorite wines are the ones where the bottle is empty in less than 5 minutes.”
 
Yes, parallel trends exist in music, and the arts – but at Red & White we’re talking about wines that are the equivalents to House, Footwork, street art, super-8 filmaking, etc… What is being engineered for the “consumer” is Andrea Bocelli – a watered down idea of the “sophistication” of classical music, without any of the pesky work of having to think.

So, this week’s Thursday tasting is a bit of a metaphor. Two wines from the eastern Loire valley, from a grape called Côt, made to be drinkable, without the manipulation. These wines defy any sense of how wine (or a grape variety) is “supposed” to taste.


Jeremy Quastana Cot-lectif 2015 - $22
We’re not going to mention the better-known identity of Côt. Let’s just say it’s a grape variety that has been very popular over the last decade or so. Young Jeremy, who honed his craft in the cellars of Marcel Lapierre, Luis-Antoine Luyt, and Olivier Lemasson, shoots for optimal drinkability with this wine. Carbonic maceration, a la Lapiere, makes this wine lively and energetic.

Puzelat/Bonhomme In KO We Trust 2011 - $22
The previously mentioned Thierry Puzelat, alongside his protégé Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme (who has since taken full reins over this project), routinely make one of our house favorite renditions of Côt. The few years of added bottle age have brought this wine to a very good place – always tasty, now with a little something extra.


Come taste with us, and let us know what you think. 
-PC

 
 

As always, if you can't make it to the tasting but would like to order one of the featured wines, please let us know by replying to this email or calling the store directly at 773-486-4769.

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Red & White Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
1861 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
773.486.4769

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