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Glou trade tasting with Nicolas Vauthier

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As affable as he is scruffy, Nicolas Vauthier entered the wine scene as the owner of a bar, Aux crieurs de vins, that was one of the first to specialize in natural wines. In 2008, he decided to start a négociant firm, Vini Viti Vinci, based in Avallon, near Auxerre, in northern Burgundy dedicated to making unmanipulated, terroir-driven wines with no added sulphur. He learned the basics by working with Philippe Pacalet in Beaune, who continues to advise him. Nicolas sees himself as a winemaker, not a winegrower. When I asked him if he thought he might at some point acquire his own vineyards, his reply was clear: no, never. He does, however, have a talent for sniffing out parcels with great potential. And while he’s happy when the winegrower farms organically, he doesn’t insist they do: the quality of the grapes and their expression of terroir are what matter most.

He buys the grapes à pied, on the vine, harvests them with his own pickers and transports them to his winemaking facilities. Fermentation, with native yeasts, is in old wooden foudres. Some of the reds undergo semi-carbonic maceration to bring out their fruitiness.

Though his first two vintages included AOC wines, Vauthier has decided to buck the appellation system and now labels his wines as vins de France. And speaking of the labels, their whimsical line drawings of men and women in various states of undress (to view three, click on the cuvée names below) so alarmed the SAQ that it refused to accept responsibility for the bottles in case scandalized buyers returned them. In other words, the monopoly suspects that private import customers are prudes. Go figure.

Back to the wines. The common thread is purity, freshness and not just drinkability but guzzleability (look at the alcohol levels!). Unpretentious, unadulterated, expressive of their origin, a pleasure to down: what’s not to like?

Vin de France 2011, O L’Agité, Vini Viti Vinci ($25.90. Glou, NLA)
100% Aligoté, which cannot be mentioned on the label, hence the anagram. 11% ABV.
Bright and citrusy with some chalk and quartz. Light-bodied yet intensely present. Restrained fruit, tart acidity, chalk. Long finish with an appetizing sourness. Lovely. The aperitif par excellence. (Buy? Definitely.)

Vin de France 2011, Sauvignon, Vini Viti Vinci ($27.20, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from young vines grown in the Saint-Bris area. Manually harvested and sorted. Pressed in a vertical press, transferred by gravity into vats and Burgundy barrels for fermentation and maturation. Racked and blended the summer following the harvest. Natural clarification. Bottled using a gravity feed. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV.
Definitely Sauvignon Blanc but not of the in-your-face variety: minerals, citrus and gooseberry, a hint of grass. Light, clean, pure: ephemerally intense with laser-like acidity and a leesy/yeasty aftertaste that Vauthier says is an artifact of the winemaking and will soon disappear. (Buy? Yes.)

Vin de France 2011, L’Adroit, Vini Viti Vinci ($27.75, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir. 11.5% ABV.
Red berries, some of them candied, slate and dried wood. The fruit is sweet and tart, shot through with minerals and wrapped in lacy tannins that come to the fore on the finish. Lingering dried herb note. Simple in a good way: direct and to the point, a wine with no complexes. (Buy? Gladly.)

Vin de France 2011, Les Rouquins, Vini Viti Vinci ($28.30, Glou, 12 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 20-year-old vines. Manually harvested and sorted. The whole grapes are macerated for about two weeks with occasional push-downs. Pressed using a vertical press. The free run and press wines are gravity-fed into Burgundy barrels for eight months’ maturation. Naturally clarified. Bottled using a gravity feed. No added sulphur. 11.5% ABV.
Like the L’Adroit but with more spice and a fresh, herbal note. Light-bodied, more structured, less of a vin plaisir but very tasty. Vauthier says it will benefit from some time in the bottle. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France 2011, Le Molomon, Vini Viti Vinci (price TBA, Glou, arriving fall 2013)
100% Pinot Noir. 11.5% ABV.
Even more closed: less fruit, more wood, more structure. Tight though fine tannins. The potential’s apparent. Du sérieux as they say around here. (Buy? Probably.)

Vin de France 2011, Et pis, neuneuil !, Vini Viti Vinci (price TBA, Glou, arriving fall 2013)
100% Pinot Noir. 11% ABV.
Charming nose, a bit candied, with a crushed-leaf-like freshness. Rich and spicy, almost meaty, the fruit somehow deeper and more savoury than the other Pinots’. Beautifully structured. Fine, firm tannins give a lightly astringent edge to the long finish. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

June 10, 2013 at 12:11

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