DOMAINE GENOUX, YANN PERNUIT, ARBIN, Savoie – Biodynamic
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- BORDEAUX To happy convents deep in vines Where slumber abbots purple as their wines Alexander Pope – The Dunciad WHAT’S UP MEDOC
DOMAINE GENOUX, YANN PERNUIT, ARBIN, Savoie – Biodynamic
Arbin was once located on the Roman road linking Vienne to Rome. In the second century, Arbin was already surrounded by
vineyards, as shown on one of the frescoes found in 1870 on the site of a luxurious gallo-roman villa discovered in the subsoil
of our estate. The name “Arbin” seems to come from Albinus, a famous character, a former vice-procurator of Lusitania. At
that time the vineyard was cultivated by the monks of the Arbin priory related to Cluny, and later by the Chartreux monks. It
spread over more than 400 acres before the phylloxera crisis. Nowadays only the slopes between 250 and 350 metres high are
used for vines. The upper slopes have been returned to wild and, in the distance, one can still see their terraces hidden behind
wild red dogwoods.
Fifteen acres are given over to the Mondeuse grape. Some of the old vines of this domaine are more than fifty years old and
produce small quantities of wine which express all the fullness and uniqueness of the Arbin vineyards.
Four acres are planted with Roussane, at the foot of the “Grand Blanc” rock, the other great area of Bergeron,
Three acres, on the glacial moraine of Mérande, are planted with Altesse and give Roussette de Savoie, the great Savoie white
wine, with Gamay and Jacquère sharing the remaining patches of land.
Since 2000, the estate has been extended thanks to the re-cultivation of former vineyards. Among the most prestigious in the
area, are “Paradis” and “Terrasses de Lourden”, which over only a few years have become the leading producers of the
label of origin.
Since 2001, renovated cellars have been installed in the Château de Mérande, an exceptional place and the most
representative emblem of local history. Through continuous observation the family has nurtured the environment (terraces,
hedges and groves) and developed a regime of protection and care without weed-killers and other pesticides. They don’t claim
to be “biodynamic”, but devise treatments for the soil viewing it as a living entity linked to the cosmos.
This development of the soil and the vine is achieved through vegetable, mineral or animal preparations, with application of
these preparations at precise moments, according to the cycle of the vine and connected to the lunar and planetary calendar.
They also use animal traction – horses to plough the soils.
The Mondeuse Noire, a fascinating variety, originated in the Rhône forests, and was cultivated by the ancient Gauls. It was
mentioned by Columelle and Pliny the Elder: “Allobrigica frigidis locis gelu maturescens et colore nigra”. It is similar to
Syrah from the northern Rhône.
Appreciated in its youth, it will improve after five to ten years, or even more for some vintages, once its tannins have become
Arbin La Belle Romaine is truly authentic Mondeuse. Traditional wine-making on full or half-skinned grapes. This version has
a relatively short time in vat and is then matured for 10 to 12 months- also in vat. It is a lovely lucid wine, somewhere between
Syrah and Gamay on the flavour spectrum with lifted red and blueberry fruit aromas and flavours.
Roussette de Savoie Son Altesse reveals the fragrances and delight of Altesse. Traditional wine-making at low temperature.
Matured in vats with partial malolactic fermentation.
ROUSSETTE DE SAVOIE SON ALTESSE
MONDEUSE ARBIN LA BELLLE ROMAINE
MONDEUSE ARBIN 45.30.506
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DOMAINE BELLUARD, DOMINIQUE BELLUARD, Savoie – Biodynamic
The village of Ayze is a little commune in the Haute–Savoie situated in the heart of the valley of the Arve between Geneva and
Chamonix Mont-Blanc. Vineyards have been established here since the 13
century. The vines are 450m high on exposed
south-facing slopes where the soil is composed of glacial sediments, moraines (continuous linear deposits of rock and gravel).
The Alpine climate ensures a big temperature difference between day and night, ensuring both physiological maturity in the
grapes as well as good acidity. Patrick and Dominique Belluard make use of the virtually unique ancient grape Gringet said
to be related to the Savagnin grape of Jura. Also called Petite Roussette and said to be part of the Traminer family, other
research suggests that it was brought back by monks, returning from Cyprus in the 13
century. Wilful obscurantism apart
this is a wine that expresses a lungful of mountain air, heck, it’s as glacial as a Hitchcock heroine, with exuberant acidity that
skates across the tongue and performs a triple salchow on your gums. No malolactic fermentation – the fruit is beacon-bright,
crystalline and the acidity sings. Aromas of white flowers and jasmine, citrus-edged with a hint of white peach, violet and a
twist of aniseed to finish. The brilliance of the acidity provides a profound palatal expergefaction (you heard it here first).
These are wines sans maquillage. In 2001 the vineyards started undergoing a total conversion to biodynamic viticulture. Now
the wines are natural. Belluard have run through the gamut of fermentation vessels. Now all wines other than amphora
Gringet are fermented and aged in cement ovoid betons, the liquid inside in biodynamic suspension. Le Feu is from late
maturing old vine Gringet grapes on steep slopes – the “hot spot” of the vineyard. White peaches, wild mint, minerals... The
wine’s opulence is balanced by lightness of alcohol and incredibly relaxed leesy spiciness. The Mondeuse is fermented in
amphora and is as thrillingly pure as the whites.
VIN DE SAVOIE-AYZE GRINGET “LES ALPES”
VIN DE SAVOIE-AYZE GRINGET “LE FEU”
VIN DE SAVOIE-AYZE « LES GRANDES JORASSES »
VIN DE SAVOIE-AYZE MONDEUSE – amphora
Ovoid the obvious eggsexcrable puns
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FOOD & WINE IN JURA & SAVOIE
The wines of Jura and Savoie are not for the faint hearted, but their peculiar angularity vitally accords with the food of the region. It may
not be all cheese and pork – actually that’s what it virtually all is!
As is customary in rural France in the Jura region there is plenty of pig to poke about. Jambon de Luxeuil, a cured ham from the town of
Luxeuil, is smoked according to an ancestral recipe. It is initially marinated in a bath of salt and juniper berries then slightly smoked with
fir tree sawdust. Saucisse de Morteau, a sausage made exclusively with pork meat, originates from Morteau, located in the heart of the
traditional “tué” region. The sausage is hung in a “tué”, enveloped by the smoke from coniferous trees for a minimum of 48 hours to
achieve its unique taste and full flavour. It needs to be carefully poached in simmering water to prevent it from bursting and can be eaten
hot or cold. Saucisse de Montbéliard comprises high quality pork, spiced with cumin, nutmeg, garlic and white wine and is smoked in
accordance with the regional tradition. The sausage should be cooked for twenty minutes in simmering water or wrapped in foil paper and
baked in the oven. It goes well with most vegetables and is traditionally served with warm cancoillote cheese. A rustic spiced berry
Trousseau or Trousseau blend would serve admirably. Coq au vin jaune benefits from the unique flavour of the famous “vin jaune”
(yellow wine). Other French regions prepare a similar dish with red or white wine. This recipe uses a rooster or a large hen. The wine of
choice to accompany the dish is naturally vin jaune, although a straight Savagnin will suffice. Poularde aux morilles is a variation of the
“Coq au Vin Jaune”, and also a local speciality popular in many Jura restaurants. It is prepared with a hen (16 to 20 weeks old, ready to
lay eggs but not laying yet), yellow wine and morels (morilles). Used fresh in season (spring) or freeze-dried, morel is a delicate
mushroom imparting distinctive perfume to the sauce. Truite au vin jaune, another classic Franche-Comté recipe, the delicate flesh of this
freshwater fish is perfectly complemented by the exotic flavour of the unctuous sauce made with the typical Jura wine. One might try a
Chardonnay with this, especially one where the wine has been aged in previously used Savagnin barrels.
Other local favourites include Escalope de veau Comtoise – first glazed in a pan, then topped with cured ham and grated 152eper cheese,
the veal cutlet is coated with a rich and creamy mushroom sauce and Potée Comtoise, which, unlike other country “potées”, includes
smoked meats. Palette, sausages and lard enrich this complete meal of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celeriac and green beans, slowly
simmered. A Poulsard with its high acidity would cut through this hale heartiness. Chèvre sale (salted goat) is a traditional dish of the
Haut-Jura, served in winter, from October 15
to March 15
. It used to be the staple country food and is now becoming fashionable again.
The number of “salt goat nights” is increasing in the city of Saint-Claude; restaurants have it on their menu or it can be cooked at home.
Its meat is an attractive pink and is prepared as a pot-au-feu served with boiled potatoes.
Fondue-making consists of melting Comté cheese into a pot of warm, garlic-infused white wine. The pot called “poêlon” is centred on the
table where guests (this is truly communal eating) dip pieces of crusty bread on long-handled forks to coat them with the cheese mixture.
Raclette Jurassienne is made with “Bleu de Gex”, instead of the traditional Raclette cheese. An electric grill is centred on the table and
each diner is given a stack of sliced cheese and places each slice into his assigned individual square dish under the grill till it melts. It is
then spread over boiled potatoes, served with pickles and “charcuteries”. Still on a cheesy theme, Morbier cheese gave its name to the
being baked until the cheese melts. This hearty dish needs a spiky local Jura or Savoie white wine and a green salad to cleanse the palate.
Poulet à la Comtoise is another gratin-style dish involving poaching chicken then covering in creamy cheese sauce and mushrooms and
finally grilling it in the oven. Comté cheese goes a long way in the Jura!
The region of Savoie, divided today into the departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, lies at the heart of the French Alps—the remnants
of a kingdom that ruled much of this part of Europe for eight centuries, until the mid-1800s—and it is here that French mountain cooking
thrives most vigorously. The raw materials are rich and varied—cheese and other dairy products; apples, pears, plums, and cherries;
mountain berries and wild mushrooms; wild game; fresh fish from local lakes—not just trout but perch, pike, and the sublime omble-
chevalier. Fondue Savoyarde is the region’s most famous dish, but hearty soups and stews (among them the famous potée), civets of
game, potato dishes, and glorious fruit tarts all appear on the Savoyard table as well.
Historically, during the long winter months, the people of Chamonix subsisted on a diet of potatoes, cheese, onions, and ham or pork.
Today, these same ingredients are still fundamental to the local cuisine. One of the most popular offerings is an ancient speciality called
reblochonnade (also known as tartiflette), a sturdy cousin of the classic gratin Savoyarde. The dish is made of thinly sliced potatoes
sautéed with bacon and onions, moistened with cream, and then baked in the oven. Finally, generous slices of creamy reblochon (a cow’s-
milk cheese made in the Haute-Savoie) are melted on top.
The restaurants in and around Courchevel (and there are many) serve authentic Savoyard dishes such as warm Beaufort tart, cured country
ham, wonderful cheeses, and desserts. In the evening, the mountains still reflect light from the horizon, tingeing white peaks with pink. At
this hour, when the day’s play is done and the broken limbs and bruises totted up, skiers sip mulled wine before heading off to the table.
Then they sit down to a sumptuous array of dishes, from Mediterranean seafood to such unmistakably local offerings as raclette (melted
raclette cheese served with potatoes, ham, and cornichons) or a classic fondue. Dishes such as trout or char cooked in white wine from
nearby streams, roast kid with morels, lambs’ brains fritters, and local cheeses, followed by mountain berries beaten with cream or by
honeyed matefaim—literally “hunger-killer”, a dessert of thick risen pancakes and apples cooked in butter—all washed down with a crisp,
pétillant Savoyard white wine (Gringet or Abymes), have been a feature of Savoyard cooking for centuries. Things change slowly in the
mountains of France.
The wines are unique. In Jura the whites are characterised by their rich nuttiness: Vin Jaune, Château-Chalon and even straight Savagnin
are magnificently aromatic with texture and flavour in abundance. Notes of apple, straw and almond for the lighter wines moving
towards flor, marzipan and hazelnut and grilled walnut and oloroso in the great vins des gardes. Savoie whites are as crisp as mountain
air. The reds from both regions are pale yet robust with plenty of acidity, bitter fruit and tannin.
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“I had that Bertrand Russell in the back of my cab once. So I asked him, “Well, Mr Russell, what’s it all about?” And do you know – he
couldn’t tell me!”
A cab driver funnily enough asked me what I thought about wine, and, lacking a pat ontological response, I went puffing in many
directions simultaneously. Wine as a subject is out there; it is part of mass culture now, yet equally it is about formulating individual
opinions and developing a personal sense of taste. Wine elicits in some a strong philosophical inclination; in others, conversely, it exposes
an anti-philosophical, pontifical side; it seems that many must hold deep opinions even if they are about shallow subjects. Meanwhile, the
omphalic wine press focuses increasingly on the folderol and gimmickry of a trade fascinated by the tarnished lustre of PR campaigns,
endlessly regurgitated surveys, the fripperies of branding, trite packaging, the meagre frivolity of awards, and, most of all, the deadly buzz
of what’s considered new and groovy. The wine trade reinvents itself constantly in order to track trends, but, in reality, it’s just changing
one set of the emperor’s new clothes for another. Novelty, as Pierre Brasseur observes in Les Enfants du Paradis, is as old as the world
The quality of debate is not much better at a supposedly more exalted level. I read recently a forum on biodynamics and was surprised
how many contributions were couched in the contrarian language of pseudo-academia. Man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority
most ignorant of what he is most assur’d etc. There was an extraordinary amount of hobbyhorse-riding, posturing, quoting out of context,
intellectual absolutism and second guessing. It reminded me of those conferences where carefully researched papers are given, many
opinions are vehemently ventilated and no-one ends up any the wiser.
The love that many of us have for us for wine is gradually being
eroded by a welter of spurious scientific evidence thrown into our faces. Do you believe that you taste terroir in a wine? A scientist will
be on hand to assert contentiously that there is no evidence for terroir and that it is a fanciful invention of the French. (In fact that
argument is a fanciful invention of scientists on an ego trip. They can’t disprove its existence but they can create false arguments to knock
down). Do you love a particular wine? Then it may shake your confidence to know that many so called authoritative wine writers
(supertasters) will mark it out of a hundred and perhaps completely disagree with you. Romance? Magic? Pleasure. Forget ‘em. Wine
tasting has become over-evaluative; it bears less and less relation to the wine itself and to the way we respond as human beings.
a poem about itself
as a pearl speaks of pearls
and a butterfly of butterflies
which eludes me in daylight
has hidden itself in itself
I feel its bitterness
and internal warmth
but I don’t pull it out of
the dark hollow depth
on to the flat bank
it fills the emptiness
of a disintegrating world
with unknown speech
Tadeusz Różewicz – Translated by Adam Czerniawski
For me the pleasure of wine is pleasure: occasionally we should resist analysing our experience in the same way as when we read a poem
or listen to music we do not have to clinically dissect its beauty and rearrange it (what is this but translating one language into another).
Too often we strain for definitive answers, we want to consciously validate our experiences rather than to feel them on the pulses. Yet
pleasure may consist of denying the final moment of critical appreciation. In his Ode to Melancholy Keats depicts the tightly-bound
unresolved relationship between pleasure and melancholy with a succession of extraordinary taut images and juddering juxtapositions,
one of the most memorable of which is “…whose strenuous tongue/ Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine”. Keats suggests that the
instant you resolve the pleasure (be it through gratification of desire or exploding a grape or tasting a wine) you destroy the pleasure, but
that that let-down is an inevitable part of pleasure. Give rein to the senses, savour the moment exquisitely, suspend judgement and allow
yourself to receive impressions; like the poem that has hidden itself in itself a wine doesn’t need to be yanked out of a dark hollow depth
and exposed to flip judgement. In these moments the wine is more important than the taster. A portion of humility works wonders.
This is not to say that appreciating wine is a solitary activity. Sharing a bottle of wine in good company with good food is the definition of
happy sensuousness. Communicating pleasure takes it to another level. Wine writing has become an abstraction because it is unable to
celebrate this sense of pleasure; editorial constraints mean that even accomplished writers are shackled and their columns effectively
reduced to a succession of sound-nibbles and supermarket recommendations. Which brings me back to my initial point: to question
whether there is there any room in wine writing for philosophical interrogation, for relaying aesthetic appreciation and sensual pleasure,
or must every single word fit the purpose – in that the writing is designed specifically to sell “the business of wine” and is consequently
destined forever merely to skim the surface of this fascinating subject.
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To happy convents deep in vines Where slumber abbots purple as their wines Alexander Pope – The Dunciad
The Alternative Wine Glossary
A relatively small selection of Petits Châteaux at the moment, but
we are scouring the region for goodies. Are we that bovvered?
Maybe not. I would commend to your attention Château La
Claymore (a flavoursome Lussac Saint-Emilion likely to be
enjoyed by Scotsmen looking for hand-to-hand combat) and the
Château Penin, a consistently fine wine punching above the
modest Bordeaux Superieur classification. For those in the
Bordeaux name game who can’t afford the top dollar top dogs,
democratic second wines such as Lacoste-Borie and Sarget de
Gruaud-Larose provide an echoic flavour of the real thing. And for
a Bordeaux that has shaken off the clunky shankles of Bordeaux
we would unreservedly recommend Jacques Broustet’s Autrement
de Lamery. It’s not AOC, it’s biodynamic, low yields, no sulphur
– and tastes like a Burgundy. So not a Bordeaux.
That’s the upside. Now let’s talk quality and squeaky pips and the
mutest of fruit. Are not many growers in Bordeaux as smug as bugs
in rugs? They certainly have green fingers; a character transmitted
into the wines which embody the true flavour of LEAF-THROAT-
MULCH. Sure they talk the talk, but do they destalk the stalk? We
taste endless samples, lean, mean, joyless wines with either dried-
out or soupy fruit, or over-extracted wines where frantic fiddling
in the winery is trying to compensate for the poor fruit quality.
Until we find something good we will resist the lustre of Listrac,
avoid parting with our hard-earned moolah for Moulis and will
never rave for the Graves and damn it, my dear, I don’t give a
I give this peroration 84 Parker points
Upfront, fruity language, acidulous facetiousness, moderate
offensiveness, lacking in structure, very sudden fin--
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