Showtime! (Part One)

Let the tastings begin...

That picture?  That’s about 1600 wines waiting to abuse my tongue and liver.

Early every year, there are a slew of wine trade shows in the South of France.  Now, not being one to suffer needlessly, it’s hard to say no to these.  My choice is thus cold, snowy, windy New York, or warm, sunny South of France.  Surrounded by wines and winemakers I love and potential new discoveries.  Hmmm…  let me think…

But, of course, it’s not just days of wine and roses.  Meaning, it ain’t easy going to these things unless you cherish the idea of swirling, sniffing and spitting wines of dubious quality for EIGHT to NINE hours a day at minimum, starting at 8am.  Ever have wine at 8am?  Let me tell you, unless it’s something crisp and light on its feet, it’s like trying to drink a bowling ball.  At the end of the day, your teeth are black, your tongue purple, and using a toothbrush feels more like brushing your teeth with a cactus.  Then there are the endless meetings with well-meaning and (sometimes) hard-working vignerons, too many of which have caved to market demands and are making wines for the international palate instead of remaining traditional and true to their terroirs.  Luckily, there are a few still doing what their regions have been doing for centuries.

Txus Macias of Bodegas Aroa

Speaking of which, it was great to see one of those doing good work at the Millesime Bio (largest organic wine show in the world) like Txus Macias of Bodegas Aroa in the northern Spanish region of Navarra.  He’s a winemaker I’ve written about previously here and here and who’s wines I represent (so disclaimer, I might be slightly biased about them).  There he is posing with his Mutiko (young wine), a blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Merlot from mountain-grown, certified Organic grapes.  If you’re curious, his wines are arriving soon in the New York market, I’m happy to report.

Still, it does get tiring, even for someone who loves wine.  You sit through endless hours of tastings and meetings, listening to the same schpiel over and over again, desperately wishing for a beer, a Pastis, heck even some Draino, anything to get the taste of the bad wines out of your mouth.  Did I mention that any assumption of the easy availability of water is a pipe dream?

Traditional Cassoulet

One nice thing is being able to try the local delicacies and savor regional dishes.  In this case, for Millesime Bio, it was cassoulet outside of Castelnaudary.  Filled to the brim with beans, duck confit and sausage, it was the perfect way to ward off the (relative) cold wave that had blanketed the area (lows in the 30sF, highs in the 40s).  It was also a nice distraction from the many poorly-made, over-priced wines we had to taste, as I may have mentioned earlier in this post (paying attention?).

Of course, the flip side is when that little light goes off, when you taste something that piques your interest, when the perfect trifecta of quality, price and story come together and make you sit up straight.  It doesn’t happen often, so when it does it’s a special feeling.  And I’m happy to report that I had a few such experiences on this trip.  We’ll see how negotiations end up, but I’m hoping to add maybe 1-2 wineries to my portfolio.  Stay tuned…


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