A Holiday Gift from Not Drinking Poison
The year's five most popular natural wine reports. Plus a trio of new stories from the Bay Area: Les Lunes, Stagiaire, and Sam Rogers.
Another year of NOT DRINKING POISON ! Where did the time go?
We raced across the autobahn in the freezing sleet to get to a Czech natural wine salon. We broke the story of sanctions against the new owners of Domaine Ganevat in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We pulled wood in the southern Jura, toured America, received drunken polyphonic singing lessons in Georgia, and released an omnibus natural wine book to minor acclaim.
I’m using the first-person plural here because I couldn’t have done any of this without subscribers like you. By way of thanks, here’s a holiday gift from NOT DRINKING POISON. I removed the paywall on the five most popular subscriber-only articles of the year.
Here they are, with hindsight commentary:
The Legends of Champagne André Beaufort - Feb. 2022
I haven’t crossed paths with Jacques Beaufort since February. But I did run into his sons Constant and Reol - the two remaining at the helm of the family estate in Polisy - at lunchtime at Aux Crieurs de Vin in late November. Owner Jean-Michel Wilmès, who seemed as surprised to see the Beauforts as I was, offered everyone a glass of riesling at the bar as their party arrived. I showed them my book and explained, somewhat sheepishly, that in the course of writing the chapter on Champagne I’d sent them like nine emails, all unanswered, before it occurred to me to telephone their father.
Thomas Popy’s House of Cards - April 2022
Back in February I ordered a bottle of Popy’s “Sous la Roche Maldru” with Alice Feiring and our friend Jaime Stettin at Le Verre Volé. I was delighted to introduce Feiring to his work - so delighted that I failed to note the bottle was corked, as Feiring quickly pointed out. A second bottle soon proved her right. Still got it, Alice!
From San Diego to Saint Aubin: Vin Noé - May 2022
I had the chance to check in on Jon Purcell’s 2021s in early November at the Les Vignerons au Potager tasting at Le Doyenné. I noted that the Côte de Nuits-Villages wine pictured at the devatting stage in my article was particularly winsome and floral in bottle. “You helped with that!” said Purcell, until I reminded him all I did that day was stand around and take photos. Later in November Purcell made a memorable appearance in Paris for Beaujolais Nouveau, pouring a muscular gamay primeur (a collaboration with Sec Wines in Utrecht) at our friend Oliver Lomeli’s too-brief Taqueria pop-up on rue de Lancry.
The Tao of Jean-Jacques Morel - May 2022
My favorite image of Jean-Jacques Morel this year came at the close of Jon Purcell’s Haut Les Mains tasting, held in Morel’s courtyard. “Time to go please!” hollered grey-maned Morel, stalking the grounds and bearing aloft, in the manner of a priest spreading frankincense, a sonorous silver wind-chime.
My translation of Olivier de Moor’s May 2022 open letter to vigneron colleagues was by far the most-shared article of the year. I guess this testifies to de Moor’s wisdom in couching his urgent environmental plea in the most innocuous terms imaginable: even conventional wine people felt okay sharing the article. In this follow-up interview, de Moor makes clear his radical case against plowing. (In my opinion, it’s more newsworthy than the original letter.)
Plus, for subscribers, here are three new reports from my recent stay in the Bay Area:
A CHAT about GROWING THE BUSINESS with CALIFORNIA NATURAL FARMING-AND-WINEMAKING DUO SHAUNT OUNGOULIAN and DIEGO ROIG of LES LUNES at their NEW CELLAR in Richmond, CA.
An INTERVIEW with the SAUVIGNON SAVANT of the Bay Area, BRENT MAYEAUX of STAGIAIRE WINE.
A PREVIEW of the DEBUT PINOT NOIR from my friend SAM ROGERS, the latest Julie Balagny-acolyte to TAKE ROOT in Oakland, CA. (No paywall.)
Lastly, a few more new reviews of The World of Natural Wine:
Eric Asimov, writing in the New York Times, says the book “presents natural wine in a clear and comprehensive way that recognizes its complexities,” adding “That’s an achievement.”
Leslie Williams, writing in the Irish Examiner, says the book “does a brilliant job at explaining natural wine from farm to table, what it is and is not…”
Kourtney Paranteau, writing for Tasting Table, calls the book a “gorgeous introduction to the sometimes snobbish world of natural wine… The handbook wine culture has been craving for the past ten years.”
Morwenna Ferrier, writing in The Guardian, didn’t mention the book at all, but kindly quoted me at length about wine’s relationship to class anxiety.
That’s all for now. Stay warm, everyone ! But keep the reds lightly chilled.
It’s December 24th. Need an intangible stocking-stuffer for a natural wine lover in your life?