France, natural wine

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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Arvid Rosengren, working in Copenhagen, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about natural wine. At the end of the post he gives fair advice to those who are for and against natural wine, including:

“If things seem black/white it’s only because you don’t know better.”

The neon sign at Little Social Restaurant is from Godard’s science fiction film “Alphaville” (1965). In the movie it is  what welcomes visitors to this outer-space city where all emotion is outlawed. Everything in Alphaville is a statement and nothing is an explanation. Even the word “why” is criminalized. It’s a dark and dystopic future.

To have it enshrined on the wall in ironic neon, begs the question: are we there? 

My friend and I were at Little Social Restaurant to have a lunch on a school day so nothing could stop us being the complete opposite: loud, impulsive, dangerous and devil-may-care. We were there to have a very long lunch.

The sommelier gave a low whistle of approval when we chose the 2011 Arretxea Hegoxuri from Irouleguy. It’s from a tiny region in the South-West of France made up of a blend of white grapes with challenging Basque names translated as Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu. Like Spanish white blends, to know the grape in the blend is not in itself that enlightening. What is more important to know is its chameleon quality – from honey to acidity and back again making it perfect for every course from entree to dessert.

To ask questions is to have emotions. This wine provoked a response, “why?” Why this blend of grapes in this region? Why did the sommelier treat it as a precious gift from him to us? Why did the Michel and Thérèse Riouspeyrous decide to go biodynamic in 1989 when the rest of the region was selling to local co-operatives? Why is it so damned good?

With all these questions, we’d certainly be kicked out of Alphaville.

This is a natural wine, sure, but it would be too easy to dismiss it as a natural wine. So much in wine can be lost to “black and white thinking” whether that is a slavish-following of points, vintage, or “natural wines”. Yet often the best wines come from the off-vintages, the sub-90 points, beyond labels. Irouleguy is a romantic wine. There’s nothing black and white about it.

As they know in Alphaville, the emotion of love is the greatest challenge to control.

Love is sometimes too easy to forget, wine lovers.



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