Weekly Apéro Hour: Little Things, Ploussard or Poulsard or Just Wonderful Wine, Motherhood (The Book)

Welcome to your weekly apéro hour!

After excursions to Spain and Serbia in the last edition of #apérohourweekly, we return to my regular, ongoing consumption of French and Aussie wines! (This is a short one, also, because editing Pipette and bottling spring releases is pretty demanding on time and energy, as you can probably imagine.)

FRENCH DRINKING. Fill in the blank: discovering a good bottle of Poulsard you’ve never had before is: ________________

(Options include: “like finding a new favorite band” // “better than sex” // “almost as exciting as discovering a good bottle of Trousseau you’ve never had before” // your unique answer.)

Over the weekend, I met a new friend in the form of Domaine de la Borde’s Ploussard (aka Poulsard; this is the local name). Poulsard, for the uninitiated, is a light red Jura grape (Eastern FrancE) found mostly around the Pupillin area, and delivers heavenly, aromatic, wine with note of dark cherries or crushed roses).

Domaine de la Borde, I learned from online research, is helmed by a young vigneron who is one of the relative newcomers to the Jura, named Julien Mareschal. As of now, Julien has about 5 hectares of vines, many at high elevation, and in conversion to organic or biodynamic. All of his wines are single-vineyard products. This cuvée, “Brume des Chambines,” (2015) is from a plot of 30-year-old vines on red clay soil, is aged 10 months in tank, and is currently the only (or one of the only) wines that is made completely without added sulfites. It was incredibly light and ethereal, with hints of curry spice and cumin, and an overall savory character. The hue was almost translucent like a precious gem. There was a hint of tart raspberry on the finish.

AUSSIE DRINKING: This yummy wine was made not far from where I am writing, in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, by a guy named James Madden whose first vintage with his own label, “Little Things,” was just in 2017 (450 cases total). This wine is called “More Than White,” which as you may suspect indicates the use of skin contact to extract more flavor from the grapes.

I’ve had the pleasure of sipping on wines from Little Things before — Pinot and Syrah, of late, both really pure and showing lots of wonderful fruit notes — but this was my first time trying the “More Than White,” made from Sauvignon Blanc, destemmed and fermented on the skins for a few weeks, and zero sulfites added.

And this wine was just a pure delicious bomb: it explodes in your mouth with white peaches and yellow grapefruits, as well as happy, broad acidity that swishes around on the tongue. The grapes were picked early so the alcohol is low (10%), James told me over e-mail (he’s out of town, otherwise I would’ve probably just gone over there!) — and he also informed me that the light rosy hue of the wine comes not from the addition of some red grapes, as I guessed, but from ageing in old red wine barrels! “A case of limited funds/resources starting out,” he says.

Note that if you’re outside Australia, it might be just a bit of a wait before you see “Little Things” abroad, as James is slowly scaling up production. Meanwhile, those of us Down Under will be lucky to enjoy these sumptuous and pretty wines.


READING. It took me a while to process this book, Motherhood, the latest autofictional novel from Toronto-based writer Sheila Heti, whose earlier book How Should A Person Be? was life-changing for me and one of the few things I dragged across the world with me to Australia.

As you can discern from the title, this is a book about motherhood — specifically, it’s about the decision that women make consciously, at a certain point in their lives, as to whether they want to become a mother. Heti constructs a character not unlike herself in real life — approaching 40 years old, deeply focused on her “art” (in this case writing), also deeply in love with a man, and desperately unsure of whether to have a child or not.

The device that Heti employs to move the book along is a strange thing: she adopts a technique from followers of the I Ching, who flip three coins, six times, to get a “yes or no” answer to any question. At first, I liked this, and even found it very humorous in instances where it gets out of hand (the coins lead the narrator to do all sorts of things, like hiding a knife as a response to some weird symbolism in a dream) and then I soon found it annoying, and before long I found the entire book annoying and disappointing because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere except despair, indecision, and self-loathing. I found myself struggling to enjoy reading the book, and also sort of judging the narrator — just have a baby already, won’t you! It’s clearly what you want! Or at least it’s what I, as a reader, want. 

Then I noticed my feelings and realized that I wasn’t really listening to how much the narrator was struggling, and I wasn’t quite getting how difficult it would’ve been for Heti to write this book. It’s a book that grapples deeply with all the complexities of femininity, womanhood, our bodies, ageing, and choosing a creative life. Parts of it, as well, follow the arc that a woman’s body goes though during the menstrual cycle. Maybe my own discomfort was partly a reflection of how much I also live these questions, and of course that same cycle, though in different ways to Heti. Her point, of course, is that each woman is on her own journey, and I was judging her just as the narrator feels judged by women who have babies while she does not.

In the end, I feel that this is a book very much worth reading, although it does miss out on some of the sense of wonder and adventurousness that I found in Heti’s earlier book. Anyway, motherhood isn’t an easy role or an easy topic, so it surely deserves a difficult book.

It’s time to head back down to the winery for more bottling! More soon, friends.

xRachel

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Weekly Apéro Hour | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Here’s your weekly apéro hour!

 

DRINKING.

I am sorry.

It’s a unicorn wine.

I kind of hate when people post and write about unicorn wines. So many of us don’t get to enjoy them. It doesn’t seem fair. And it feels like it can fuel this sense of hype that permeates the natural wine world: get the bottle that nobody has the privilege to drink! Then Instagram it! Watch the likes flow in!

But take a moment, and flip the perspective: think of the winemaker, who has chosen to run a very small business, and to make precious few wines that they really love and believe in. Not because of ego, but because small is truly beautiful, to that winemaker.

That’s the case with Kenjiro Kagami’s wines. They number at most 10,000 bottles per year, coming from his 3-hectares of vineyard in Grusse, in the Jura, not far from the legendary Ganevat, who has been an influence on Kenjiro’s wines. Kenjiro, a former engineer who left his native Japan for the love of French wine, studied winemaking in Burgundy, worked for Bruno Schueller in Alsace for five vintages, and for one year with Thierry Allemand in the northern Rhône, winemaking is not a practice of ego exultation. He’s not hoping that we’re getting 300 likes on a photo when we post one of his wines.

But at the same time, his winemaking is about ego. Miroirs is French for “mirror.” Kenjiro chose this name for his winery because his last name actually translates to “mirror,” but also because he sees winemaking as a reflection of himself. Which, of course, it is. Such a simple, almost obvious truth, but what a lovely way to express it. We speak of terroir as the “environment,” but it’s absurd to think that the hand of the maker does not play a role in how the wine (or any product) turns out. Especially with a small-batch producer, the maker’s touch defines so many aspects.

No sulfites are added to the wines, making them an even more naked reflection of oneself. And they are immaculately pure wines. I had the opportunity to taste from barrel with Kenjiro’s winery when a friend, the Jura natural wine queen Sev Perru kindly organized for a few of us to visit him in February of this year. Each taste of wine caused us to exclaim at its purity, as well as the tension and precision. Just the right level of reduction. Just that hint of lush creaminess that you find at the end of a long, diligent fermentation. Nothing above 12.5 percent ABV, we guessed.

Luckily, we were able to bring a few bottles with us. If you get ahold of some Domaine des Miroirs wines, please do yourself a favor and age them. This 2014 bottle of “Sonorité des Vents,” made from his 1.5-hectare parcel of Chardonnay, was just beginning to show itself. Unlike a real mirror, which gets dirtier with time, Kenjiro’s wines become brighter and truer expressions as the years go on. It’s as if they polish themselves, somehow. 

Kenjiro also makes, of course, Savagnin, as well as very small amounts of the light red grape Poulsard. One highlight during our visit to his cellar was tasting the Chardonnay he fermented on skins for 1.5 months (destemmed). It had notes of white peach tea, with tannins on the front palate. That’s definitely a wine which will need time in bottle.

These are wines to pull out of the cellar when good friends come over for an intimate meal. (Although we did impulsively drink one during a harvest-time lunch with about ten people at the table.) These wines will bring you joy. And be warned, they could also make you become a little self-reflective.

READING: Sorry. More self-reflection.

It has been five years since Tao Lin published a book. (The photo above is from several years ago, when I wrote to Lin asking for an advanced copy of a book he published of his own tweets along with the tweets of an internet poet Mira Gonzalez. Possibly my weirdest selfie ever, I think I was excited because he personally addressed and stamped it! I loved the book but never wrote anything about it because I was working full-time at Vice and wine-writing on the side. So it goes).

Lin is a controversial, though quite popular author in the U.S., known for his novels, which portray the bleak realities of upper-ish-middle-class existence in bare bones prose: the pointless shoplifting and fiendish drug use so many get wrapped up in; an overall sense of boredom; constant digital chatter. I like books like this because they don’t try to hide anything. Much like I prefer natural wines, I like books that reveal the world in its raw form, which is sometimes beautiful and inspiring but often quite gritty.

With Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, Lin strikes a new tone. He has achieved a completely different voice, in this nonfiction book (he has only written fiction until now) that explores the legacy of Terence McKenna, a pioneering advocate of psilocybin and LSD use in the 1970s and 80s. I am only halfway through the book but I could hardly put it down even to write this, and to recommend it — it’s a definite must-read if you’re curious about the topic. 

Before writing this new book, Lin was addicted to Adderall, Ecstasy, and other manufactured drugs. Pretty nasty stuff. When he discovered McKenna’s lectures, he felt drawn to the way he spoke about the world — the vocabulary he used, his ability to not preach or profess that one must believe in certain things. Lin had never even tried psychedelics. Lin wrote this book in order to undertake a deep, personal exploration of hallucinogenics of various classes (and yes, he documents his trips in the book, including one that he undertakes with his mom!) — and it’s all with one aim: Lin wrote the book in an effort to try to be a less narcissistic person, less skeptical about the world, and more OK with oneself. 

TRAVELING. This week, I head to Sydney and Melbourne for some fun events! Do you live in either of those places? If so, please join me on Wednesday the 20th at Sydney’s PNV Wine & Liquor Merchants, where I’ll be co-leading a panel about the intersections of terroir with a beekeeper, a coffee roaster, and a seafood procurer (info and tickets here — and a copy of Terre Issue 2 comes with your entry fee!). Then, on Thursday the 21st in Melbourne there’s a fantastic pop-up you won’t want to miss, at Milton Wine Shop (pictured above), where I’ll be guest somm-ing with a special winemaker-guest-chef. Check details on the Milton Wine Instagram.

And following that, I am headed to Tassieeeeeee. I have never been to Tasmania, and I’m so excited. It’s for a winter solstice natural wine tasting called Bottletops. You can follow along on my personal Instagram if you like!

If you enjoyed this week’s apéro hour, take a peek on the right side where you can sign up to receive this blog directly in your inbox (if you’re on your phone, you have to go back to the blog’s home page, rachelsigner.com, to find the sign-up). I promise that it will only occasionally be slightly boring or irrelevant and will otherwise be the highlight of your week! (Sorry, I am too honest, sometimes.)

more soon xxR