Monday, August 8, 2011

Provence winemaker

Sometimes I just get so darned lucky that I have to pinch myself.  I got emails from Randy and Craig at Wine Authorities last week asking if I could possibly help out on Saturday with the scheduled tasting.  Alain de Welle from Domaine Pinchinat, in my beloved Provence, was coming to town to pour his wines in Durham.  Could I come and help out?  Perhaps translate a bit and help pour?  I shrieked with joy and quickly accepted.  Perhaps they were afraid I would camp out for three hours at the end of the tasting bar just to listen to French being spoken?  Oh, who cares.  Ça m'est égal.   It's all the same to moi, just as long as I am invited.

I had so much fun.  First, I met his charming wife and two sons, here for vacation.  Then, Alain and Bruno, the importer, born French but living in the US for 25 years now and working for Wine Without Borders, started off the tasting.
Since Bruno had a date with the beach and planned to leave after an hour, I listened intently and then helped out.
Alain sniffing...
Alain sipping...
It was a very busy three-hour tasting.  I learned that the vineyards have been in his family since 1753.  The soil has never been touched by a chemical.  He is certified as organic in France and he carries the bio label.

He adds the smallest amount of sulfites possible and guarantees that his wines will not give you a headache the next day.  What a guy.  (Although from a lot of articles that I have read, there is not conclusive evidence that sulfites cause headaches.  A lot of people think that they are only present in red wine, but whites also contain sulfites, sometimes in higher quantity than reds.)
Alain poured two whites, two rosés, and two reds.  The first in each color, his vin de pays, Vénus, and the second, Côtes de Provence, his AOC wines.  The AOC designation is given to agricultural products from certain regions and it is based on the idea of terroir or what the soil, weather conditions, surrounding vegetation and farming techniques give to a product.  There are AOC wines, cheeses, hay, honey, and many other products.  The AOC designation was first given to wine in 1905 and was used to protect regional winemakers.  The Côtes de Provence designation covers wines in the Var and Bouches-du-Rhône départements.  Grapes used by Alain in his wines include vermentino, clairette, grenache, syrah, cinsault, mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.
The Venus wines are named for the Vénus de Pinchinat, a statue found on his property over 200 years ago.  Vénus now lives in the museum in Avignon.  I intend to visit her next March when I am back in Avignon.
Last March, while in France with my students, we saw two Vénus likenesses--
Vénus de Milo in the Louvre
and the Vénus d'Arles, in the hôtel de ville in Arles.

Alain's Côtes de Provence wines have a Roman pottery jug on the label.
It is common for farmers to find shards of Roman pottery in their fields when they are plowing.  (Can you imagine??)
Arles Lucy came at the end of the tasting and joined us.
(I took this photo of her last spring in Paris.  She will fuss at me, but once again, ça m'est égal because I like it.)
She and I have been big fans of Alain's rosé since we first found it at Wine Authorities.  This photo is one of my favorites, taken in her kitchen.
I've promised to email it to him.
The whites and reds are both excellent, also.  He uses no barrels to age his wine, so there is no oak taste present, just the fruit.  His wines age in stainless or concrete (yes, concrete-- I had no idea.)
I have all three colors chez moi.
And a bib (not a fancy French word I was unfamiliar with, although I spent a good 20 minutes puzzling over bib and trying to figure out what on earth it meant until I finally asked Alain's wife... bag in box.  The Frenchies just use bib as their word, it seems).
I got an autographed bottle from Arles Lucy as a birthday gift--

It was a wonderful way to spend my Saturday afternoon-- pouring wine, speaking French, talking about food, meeting great people who love wine and food (and some who speak French beautifully), and making a new friend.  I hope to visit the de Welle family in 2012, and their vineyard at the foot of Mt. Saint Victoire in Pourrières.

Bon appétit, les Welle, mes nouveaux amis!  C'était un vrai plaisir de faire votre connaissance!  À la prochaine!


William Widmaier said...

Une belle façon de passer un après midi! said...

My husband and I attended the Domaine Pinchinat wine tasting and we really enjoyed it also. In the Wine Authorities email this week, I clicked on their link to your blog, and have just been fully entraned by your adventurous for the past two hours! There is so much more to read, but I must break away and get some things done! But I felt compelled to write you (could not find any link to email you, hope this does the trick!) because you are living my dream! I am also a Francophile (and have no idea how that happened and have been called nutty because of it!) and a gourmand and love to cook! I would love to get some advice from you about 1)things I could do to get better in my own French (it is so difficult for me to understand it spoken!) 2)advice as a middle school teacher for my middle school son who is doing quite poorly in French. Plus I would love to someday take some trips like you take! My friends often joke with me that I should write a travel guide or write about food, and I always think what a dream job those would be! I recently went on a dream trip for 10 days with my husband and 2 friends to Languedoc, touching the western bit of Provence with Nimes, Uzes, Pont du Gard. It made me just yearn so for more!! (And I hope this doesn't come across as a stalker post!)

The Sabbatical Chef said...

Kisses -- gros bisous-- to Wine Authorities for the shout out and for linking my blog. I hope to make lots of new friends!!