Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slow Wine

There's more and more producers claiming to produce sustainable wines -- and wine stores claiming to sell them. But a lot of them aren't walking the walk. We're at a moment when Monsanto claims to be following a sustainable model.

Thirst was founded on the notion that we will sell only delicious wines made as naturally as possible. We search out wines that aren’t on steroids--what we like to call slow wines. Slow wines are the opposite of industrial wines. Industrial wines are mass-produced wines made from high-yielding irrigated vineyards, with grapes grown with herbicides and pesticides, mechanically harvested, engineered with lab yeasts, artificial flavors and stabilizers.

What's a slow wine? It's wine made from vineyards without pesticides or herbicides, and without chemical additives or added flavors in the cellar. Slow wines are made on a small scale from grapes grown in low-yielding dry-farmed vineyards farmed sustainably, organically or biodynamically.  Slow winemakers harvest by hand by careful selection. Slow wines aren't made with laboratory yeasts but with ambient yeasts so that the fermented grapes can naturally express themselves and the place from which they come (terroir). New oak barrels, if used, are used judiciously. Many winemakers who take these approaches do so without certification, simply because they believe it's the way wine should be made.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Domaine Faury

One of the most heartening things we notice as merchants, especially among Kermit Lynch’s producers, is continuity. Philippe Faury, for instance, works side by side with his son, Lionel (they’re pictured on the left). Philippe took over his family's 2.5 hectare estate in 1979. Since then he's expanded it to over 11 hectares. They now have vineyards in Cote Rotie, Condrieu and St. Joseph.

I've always had a particular affection for wines from the Northern Rhone. We especially love Faury's wines and have carried them at Thirst from the very beginning. Domaine Faury's wines are notable for their purity and elegance. We were eager to meet them, and excited to taste their wines, at their property last January.

Our special order of their 2008 Syrah has just arrived. It's essentially a baby St. Joseph meant to be drunk in its youth. The grapes come from young St. Joseph hillside vines and from older vines on the plateau above. Officially, it's classified as a Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes. It's juicy but a little meaty, with spice and pepper notes. An awesome inexpensive Syrah from the Northern Rhone--where Syrah is King. Great served slightly chilled.
We also have their Condrieu 2006, which is made from Viognier. A good Condrieu is hard to find and, unfortunately, they're not cheap. If you've ever wondered what a Condrieu tastes like, you must pick up a bottle. It's not screwed up, like many are, with new oak. It's piercing, powerfully aromatic. Of it Kermit Lynch has written: " I’ll start with what it is not: woody, cloying, flabby, showily shallow. Here are all the fireworks of Condrieu’s Viognier without it going too far. Stunning."

Their St. Joseph 2006 red is a benchmark Northern Rhone Syrah. The winemaker Steve Edmunds (Edmunds St. John): "[..]when I taste a wine like Philippe Faury’s Saint Joseph, with its textbook rendition of suave Syrah fruit and smoke and that spinetingling perfume of tender berries and violets, I feel a whisper of wildness in it, that presence of not just the human endeavour in that place, and that year, but of something elemental, behind those things, something inviting me to engage with it. Something very hard to name."