The year’s end is a time of togetherness, when we band together as friends, coworkers, family, in-laws, and chance acquaintances in the name of holiday cheer. It’s that exact community closeness that led December host Aaron Ayscough to focus on multi-varietal blends, wines in which the basic identity of any given grape variety is secondary to the unique character of the final assemblage. Cuvees that are greater than the sum of its parts, you might say.
This winemaking style is a hallmark of France’s natural wine community, which first arose in the 1980s and 1990s; becoming a true international counterculture in the 2000s. Today we still look to the community for an industry-standard when it comes to the principles of natural winemaking, and here and now, we toast to all forms of togetherness among your own communities. Read about each bottle below:
- Mas Coutelou “Quoi Qu'il en Goutte” | Languedoc, France; red, syrah, carignan: Bottled with a touch of volatile acidity and a dab of residual sugar, this wine was an effort to salvage a funky tank of 2019 carignan and syrah with the addition of some 2020 syrah. This is lively with spritz, and a bit like an abandoned glass of lambrusco. Dark, devilish, faintly sweet, and perfectly enjoyable with a chill and a bit of roast meat.
- Domaine Ozil “Gourmandise” | Northern Rhone, France; red, syrah, grenache, marsanne: A blend of 30 percent grenache with a 10-day, whole-cluster maceration of syrah, ‘Gourmandise’ is silken and saline, with notes of licorice and iris perceptible amid the purple fruit. It’s perfectly normal for a young red wine to have a mild effervescence on the mid-palate. If that effervescence isn’t for you, swirl the glass for a minute or so and it should disappear.
- Les Vins Pirouettes “Saveurs de Raphaël” | Alsace, France; white, gewurztraminer, riesling: "Saveurs de Raphaël," by Raphaël Marchal, is a peculiar blend of mostly gewurztraminer with a touch of riesling, in which the gewurztraminer’s exuberant nature has been hewn away, somewhat, by an oxidative path of vinification. What remains is an upright acidity and a firm, muscular structure, supporting subtle flavors of curry and sweet onion.
- Les Vignerons d’Estezargues “Les Grandes Vignes” | Southern Rhone, France; white, grenache blanc, clairette, viognier, borboulenc: Les Vignerons d’Estezargues, piloted by CEO and winemaker Armelle Rouault, remains squarely in the pragmatic camp of natural wine producers. ‘Les Grandes Vignes,’ a filtered, lightly sulfited blend of grenache blanc, clairette, and bourboulenc, is a sunny southern white with minimal fat on its bones. Its lime-tinted marshmallow tones show best with a brisk chill.
- Gregory Perez Brezo Blanco | El Bierzo, Spain; white, godello, doña blanca: Gregory Perez is a native of Bordeaux who came to Bierzo in the early 2000s and worked extensively in the region before starting his own project. Perez farms 5 hectares with a goal of expressing the Bierzo terroir as vividly as possible. Brezo Blanco is comprised of godello and doña blanca, each from different neighboring towns. There is an incredible concentration of citrus fruits and minerality and a lifting acidity.
- Gaspard Rosé | Loire Valley, France; rosé, pineau d’Aunis, cabernet franc, gamay: Gaspard is one of importer Jenny & Francois’ house labels, where they partner with winemakers in France and beyond. This rosé is bottled sunshine; it's fruity with cranberry and raspberry, plus white pepper and herbs on the finish. Easily the bottle to win over a mixed crowd at a holiday party, that tastes just as delicious on the second day.
- Mas Théo “P’tit Gaby” | Southern Rhone, France; red, grenache, syrah, carignan: Laurent Clapier took over his family farm in 1999 and decided right away to farm organically and eventually he created his own winery and Mas Théo in the process. A fresh and lively fruit expression. There are many layers to uncover when drinking this wine from Mas Théo. Juicy but not sweet, pleasing acidity mixed with a luxurious red fruit.
- Domaine de la Patience Rouge | Languedoc-Roussillon, France; red, carignan, merlot: Owner and winemaker Christophe Aguilar works with Jenny & Francois to bring his La Patience project to life, which includes this rouge: soft and juicy and rounded out with crushed red plum, fresh herbs, and easy tannins. This is super versatile and another easy win for any crowd.