Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Year, New You: Elodie Balme

We at Thirst Wine Merchants believe there's a way to make a New Year's Resolution that dissolves headaches rather than creates them. Now the jury's still out on why it is that natural wines are decidedly better for you; whether it's the lack of extraneous petro-chemicals, added artificial flavors, artificial yeasts, or the healthier soil (and thus grapes) and natural yeast, resulting in sips with more flavor -- or the lower-to-nil added sulfur -- or other natural compounds that are not eradicated by herbicides or pesticides in the vineyard. We're not scientists, but a confluence of factors and experiences have us resolved to drink -- and sell -- only wines made as naturally as possible.

The young and talented Elodie Balme is a great example of our type of independent winemaker. She makes the kind of wine that we decided we were going to represent in our store when we opened in 2006. 2006, in fact, was her first vintage! She was selling wines when she realized she was more interested in making wine; she decided to study viticulture and oenology and to work part-time for the influential Marcel Richaud, who makes phenomenal organic, naturally fermented wines based in Cairanne, a village in the Côtes du Rhône, for almost forty years now. Marcel is also active in the association of natural winemakers in France (Association des Vins Naturels) and believes, as do we, that "real wine is wine that sees no chemical treatment, no filtering, no commercial yeasts and no other technique that would specifically alter a wine." 

Marcel encouraged Elodie to become an independent vigneronne, telling her "there's always room for you when you're motivated to work well." Elodie returned home to make wine and began re-calibrating what were her father's vineyards by eliminating chemical pesticides and herbicides and converting to organic farming informed by biodynamic principles. Her approach is centered on attaining eminently drinkable wines rather than following a set of dogmas in the abstract. 
Elodie also cites influences from numerous other vignerons, young and old, whose work we also sell in our shop from the Loire, Languedoc, Champagne. (Please inquire if you want to know more.)

Although Elodie's father has not been completely convinced of her natural methods (parents take time, no?) such as minimal sulfur usage at only the most robust stages of fermentation and bottling, we are inspired by her quick ascension to making thirst-quenching wines and are stoked to have locked down a nice allocation of her 2011 wines that just arrived and to share them with you. Elodie wants you to actually drink and enjoy some of these wines in their youth, and their ethical pricing reflects a commitment that allows you to relax about opening them now.

2011 Elodie Balme Vin de France Rouge

We'll start with her Vin de France from Vaucluse, which is made from Grenache, Carignan and Merlot. The Grenache comes from a single hectare (about two acres) of forty-year old vines in the sandy village of Roaix, river-side Carignan of equal age, and young vines Merlot (hence the Vin de France designation -- this Bordeaux varietal is not allowed under the strict Rhône regulations for Appellation status) to complete the blend. Elodie's Vin de France potentially takes the cake for the most versatile, drinkable, party-friendly Rhône red we've tasted in a while.  The balance is impeccable, albeit with ripe black fruit that's not intensely dry so you can enjoy it even on its own.
2011 Elodie Balme Côtes du Rhône Villages Roaix "Champs Libres" Rouge
Drink her Vin de France casually, but for more serious cooking, Elodie's single-village Roaix has a more roasted meat quality, with Mourvedre entering the blend to give the wine grip, texture, and tension, as well as serious depth on the nose and an energetic, vigorous finish.  Both wines are showing phenomenally well, proving that the Mediterranean sun of this region will warm your winter cooking appropriately.
Elodie's Vaucluse is $15 per bottle, the Roaix $18 -- buy a combo six-pack of four Vaucluse and two Roaix for only $89.

To order any of these wines, email us! 

No comments: