Monday, February 24, 2014

IESE Wine & Spirits at L'Anima del Vi

2012 Xavier Benier 'Pur Jus' | AC Beaujolais-Villages
2012 Simon Busser 'Sauvages' | AC Cahors
2012 Cueva by Mariano Vino Natural | DO Utiel-Requena | Valencia
Take courage when the road is long
Don't ever forget you're never alone

I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

- Live Forever, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

I'm so proud to announce the official kicking off of the IESE Wine & Spirits Club, at an event that was at once both a realization of a personal dream as well as a statement about Europe as a continuing source of inspiration in wine. Firstly, much gratitude and credit to my other club officers for helping me set up IWS, as well as this first tasting.

And what a tasting it was.

This (as yet) adolescent wine adventure has been a roller-coaster, so to speak. Barcelona's been fantastic for cheap and cheerful bottles, but we should never be settling, no ... never accepting. Give me a decent bottle, or I'll break your fingers. Nicely. Gently. Because without a challenge, without constant change, we get lazy, we get complacent, we start to think we know it all. And if I want to accomplish anything with IWS, it's to challenge our members' perception of what wine is, what taste is ... in short, everything they thought they knew about wine. If I can get just one person to say, You know what, eff this, I'm drinking this the way I want to drink it, I think we've done our job. Hack at the feet, pull that noose tight around its neck ... let's pull down those statues the old standby worshipped, and be free to have our own personal relationship with wine.

Right. Back to the tasting, before I took a sharp right. There's a tiny wine bar in Barcelona, in one of my favourite neighbourhoods. El Born is such a cool place, with all these little alleys hidden away in dark corners. And in one of them stands L'Anima del Vi, run by a man absolutely committed to natural wines. Benoit brings in interesting things, across France and Spain ... and the latter was the big learning for me. I've been to L'Anima del Vi many, many times, always finding something new to taste, something inspiring. I never knew that there was such a large group of Spanish natural winemakers, but there are - and they're doing a great job. Wines of great depth and purity, with all the sunshine-y brightness you expect from Spain. As I said to my members, this first tasting was organized partly for selfish reasons, and partly because I wanted to set the tone for what IWS will stand for. Selfish, because I'm a bit obsessed with natural wines at the moment ... but more importantly, IWS will be about real wines, true wines, and wines that sing of honesty, authenticity, and character.

After all that build up, how did the wines show? Benoit chose some good ones. Beginning with a Beaujolais-Villages (100% gamay), sharp and expressive, like a rapier. Deadly acidity, screeching in the natural style. The Sauvage Cahors was next. Simon Busser, a disciple of Olivier Cousin in the Loire, who returned to the Cahors to make wines of great finesse and depth. Dark, with an animale personality that roars on the bouquet, yet coos on the palate. A bit of love from the fact that Simon farms these 100% malbec wines with horses? Or simply because he's able to stick to the principles (zero sulphur) yet create these magical wines that change a hundred times in the glass. We ended with a Spanish wine from Valencia made from a varietal that no one's even heard of, much less tasted. Bobal, a native grape, and for all intents and purposes, a minor blending varietal. And as luck would have it (or the other way around), the winemaker was at the next table. Immediately recognizable as a lush, full-blooded Spaniard (the wine, but also the man). Sunshine and spice, like all things nice. Soft and round, that glorious ripe, raisin-tinged fruit.

Good. A good start. The Chairman is pleased. Many thanks and much appreciation for those who attended, and all those who supported IWS. Many, many, many big things coming up for us!


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