"...the dip into nostalgia's mist awakens a child's impetuous risk: a raucous romp through fecundate thickets and orchards wet with sweetened scents, burnt and bent by the rays off a stones austere slant; pluck plush jewels of wildberry dissent, myrrh and dried flower petal dusting from the nearby church apse's carol and singalong resonance, a delicate delight, a daring razor-light slice..."
There are few wines that elicit a sense of enchantment when the bottle is first opened, much of the time - maybe most of the time - we have to coax a wine to show itself, to show its best side by decanting or letting to breathe in our glass, shaking the bottle or aging it to sit for anywhere between a few days to a few years before opening it in hopes of capturing that optimal expression. We play lots of games with our fermented juices both in the short and long run, both obvious and unseen which is why, for a wine to play it's best cords upfront, I was hooked to see how it would develop.
Mondeuse isn't exactly a varietal on the radar of most people, it's not even on most wine shop shelves; it's a varietal that seems more of a hidden treasure to those that know of it and from a region that seems equally caught in a veil of mystery to the everyday consumer. Have you ever tried pitching a Mondeuse to a customer, personally I haven't, only two have come across my palate but I can imagine describing it as something like a spiced up Beaujolais with more grit, unassuming and delicate, not exactly full bodied but can be just south of medium sometimes. It leaves you enticed and intrigued, wanting to know more but can't quite grasp what it's trying to say; perhaps a better analogy are those fleeting dreams where nuisanced gazes and familiar presences suddenly evaporate before allowing yourself to know a key piece of information that seems to be dangling right on the edge of their lips and your ear.
Although Savoie is now effectively the heartland of this varietal, first noted in a 1731 decree as Maldoux and then in 1845 as Mondeause, it possibly originated from the Dauphine region just to the south where it also went by the name Allobragica -named after the local tribe similarly named Allobrages back in Roman times. If you like to dabble in the genetic findings of grape varietals as I do, it's been connected to one of the thirteen grapes permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape called Muscardin and going even further into the family tree it's fascinating to find out that Mondeuse blanc -of which Mondeuse noir has an unestablished parent-sibling relationship- was the mother grape to Syrah, and we all know Syrah to have spiced undertones of which Mondeuse is known to elicit. Its these missing histories in between that really sends curiosity on imaginative detours of stories and events that must have brought a varietal to another region or caused one type to decline and another ascend; it's one very substantial part that led to the regions, the styles and their provenance as we know them today - not all varietals are as well documented (to a point) as Pinot Noir. Now that ampelographers (those guys who study grape vine classification) are starting to get a better picture of the family tree of grapes, we have yet another tool to search the historic stacks and try to figure out the trajectory, though having a time machine or an amphora of Allobragica would be much easier.
Currently what we have to work with are what the winegrowers are doing nowadays. I don't pretend to know the current state of Savoie wine, its politics, nor the intricacies of winegrowers with whom studied under whom but I've managed to find some information on Adrien Berlioz: a relatively young winemaker from Chignin who took over the family farm in 2006, expanded the property from 2ha to 5.5ha and works somewhere within the biodynamic and organic framework. Because Savoie is a very alpine environment, Adrien's vines are planted extremely densely at 8,000 vines per hectare on fifty degree slopes composed of calcerous clay; two whites -Chignin (100% Jacques, beautifully floral acidity) and a Chignin-Bergeron (100% Roussanne)- and one red, Mondeuse are produced.
I've had all three of his wines over the years, tasting them intermittently -the Chignin comes to mind more recently- but never really having a chance to sit with one and find out what was so special about Savoie. So in pulling out the Mondeuse 2013, popping it and pouring a glass just before going to walk the dog, I was immediately enchanted. Within that solid twenty-to-thirty minutes of air time the wine revealed a driven mineral nature laced within the tannin as bursts of pure wildberries, with sweet scented fuchsia flowers, potpourri and burnt herb dappled stone, churned into the gritty wildberry stems that in combination eventually coated your mouth until that nagging familiarity of all these factors, that I couldn't quite pin down, came through: myrrh swung around during mass in a Catholic church as a kid - it was slightly musky at the edges, filled in the center with these robust notes of dried petals and though drying on the palate with a little grit and hint of black pepper at the roof of your senses, it left me feeling I was in the midst of a small calm pool in the forest. I don't know how to explain that transition or cohabitation of two opposites in the same sensation. If I had to pin this wine down to a term it would be water, a creek, a lake bed; serene with a wild fecundate perfume surrounding it's reflective surface. With all it's aromas it reminds one of a warmer Beaujolais but with spice.
Don't mistake me, this isn't light bodied but more medium and as I had this bottle open for three days with the profile staying fairly consistent, the perfume returning to the forefront gradually weakened the longer it was open allowing for the palate sensations of dark fruits and gritty tannin to take over. It never turned to displeasure, always remained as if revisiting an old friend with history as cantankerous arguments fill the air and time - the natural way of things.
As you can see from the photo above I had this wine beside Domaine de Boissan's Gigondas Vieilles Vignes 2011 which made for quite the contrast. Certainly a much warmer wine as one expects from the south and going back to my notes I don't feel I took as diligent care (or perhaps there wasn't as much to express when finished over the next day or so) with recording the experience: I felt this one could use a few years rest to sooth the creme/vanilla extract that lifts from a base of cooked/baked fruits: figs, dates; almost a thick citrus creme cake burnt at the edges with a bit of pepper - a swelling profile of heavy savory and sweet notes with the vanilla hiding underneath and the alcohol quite noticeable.
At left is the sketch done in the same night, the weight and density of the wine the dominating factor as the other characteristics lift and attempt to individuate.This one isn't on my radar to become an entry at the moment as I've been meaning to finish two very exciting paintings aside from this entry.
Importer: Savio Soares Selections