STBNY Favorites from Natural Wine Week

Happy NYC Natural Wine Week! Brought to you by natural wine importers/specialists Jenny & Francois, this event is now in its 7th year. NWW showcases wines made with minimal intervention at various wine retailers and restaurants across New York City. While I have some quibbles with the natural wine movement — particularly the fuzzy definition of what natural wine actually is — it’s undeniable that there are some terrific, thought-provoking natural wines out there. (There are also some natural wines out there that smell like my husband’s softball uniform after an extra-inning mid-August playoff game in Central Park, but I digress.)

Here are two of my favorite producers showcased this week:

La Grange Tiphaine

Adorable couple Coralie & Damien Delecheneau make still and sparkling wines in Touraine and Montlouis,  in the heart of the Loire Valley. I liked all of their wines, but my favorites were the sparkling white and rosé, both of which had me dreaming of summer. Not just the weather, mind you, but my post-pregnancy life when I will actually be able to drink immodest quantities of insanely refreshing wines such as these. The white, Le Nouveau Nez, is made from Chenin Blanc. It’s softly fizzy, with some subtle citrus notes, and would be great to drink all on its own. (As in, without food — not by oneself.  This is a highly sociable wine.)

If you have a keen eye and a little French, you’ll also note the cute play on words here:

“Nouveau Nez” means “new nose” but is also a homonym for “Nouveau Né” — that is, “newborn.” And that purple splotch on the label’s upper right hand corner is actually the profile of Coralie & Damien’s first baby. Coralie and I had a nice little chat about babies. (Note: being very visibly pregnant is a great conversation starter at a wine tasting.)

I also enjoyed their sparkling rosé, Rosa Rosé Rosam. One’s interest in this wine, I’d argue, would be directly proportional to one’s love of strawberries, as this is the vinuous equivalent of that fruit. Not in a sickly sweet, fruit wine way — just that this wine has the same appealing sweet/tart balance and subtle, slightly flowery scent as a great strawberry. Astor Wines has some of last year’s offering in stock, but as this wine is all about freshness, I’d recommend waiting for the next version, set to arrive soon. A little patience required — the wine has yet to be disgorged (that is, taken off its lees), hence the cloudiness:

I also loved the wines from Els Jelipins, a microscopically small producer working in the hills of Catalonia. Gloria Garriga (below — again, adorable) and her husband Oriol Illa may be running a tiny operation, but they have big ambitions.

Their reds are made from the ultra-obscure (and entirely new to me) Sumoll grape, have brilliant purity of fruit, and are somehow intense and subtle at the same time. The 2005 had sold out the day of the tasting, but look for the 2006 to hit the U.S. sometime in the next few months. For all those wine peeps who like to deride American taste in wine, take note: when I asked her if they sold a lot of their wines locally, she shook her head vigorously. Spainiards, she said, preferred to stick to the tried and true varieties and regions. “You Americans,” she said, “are much more open.” Cheers to that.

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