When we were in Paris a few months ago I picked up this bottle at L’Avant Goût Côte Cellier, a wine store near our hotel. I had read about the store, which specializes in “nature” wines (organic, biodynamic, sustainable and the like) in Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, a slightly twee but generally useful book from the woman behind the excellent Chocolate & Zucchini blog. The tiny cave — that’s French for wine store, but the miniscule, cramped shop was cave-like in the English sense of the word as well — was stocked with small-production, unusual wines I had never heard of.
The proprietor and I chatted for a few minutes about his selection. After he recovered from his shock when I told him that there were stores like his in the U.S. that focused on environmentally responsible wines (yes, France, we’re not complete savages), he steered me to this 2006 Domaine le Briseau “La Dérobée,” ($28) an organic red from the Loire Valley. Made primarily from the rare Pineau d’Aunis grape, the wine is packed with peppery, herbal, olive and earthy notes that were incredibly refreshing after a few days of Thanksgiving-induced indulgence. He said it would be a great match for fish, and he was right on: we served it with cod in a tomato, sherry, and bacon sauce, and the wine’s robust acidity levels cut through the smoky fishiness perfectly. Pairing red with fish has become a mini-obsession for me since I wrote this post, and this was my most successful match to date.
The wine was also a great match for our dinner guests. She’s a huge fan of Sancerre, a Loire white with zingy acidity, minerality and reasonable alcohol levels — characteristics of Loire wines in general, and the La Dérobée in particular. And he’s not wild about aggressive tannins, a good thing as this wine’s tannins were moderate, at most.
In all, it was worth schlepping this bottle back in our suitcase — although you won’t have to. Turns out one of my favorite importers, Louis/Dressner, represents Domaine le Briseau in the U.S. They also import a Pineau d’Aunis from Thierry Puzelat that’s worth a try, and sure to impress any wine hipsters you know, as Puzelat has quite the cult following in the U.S. These wines would benefit from 15 minutes in the fridge before serving to tame their peppery bite and underscore the refreshment factor.