Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By the Glass - Thierry Puzelat Edition

Thierry Puzelat, along with his older brother Jean-Marie, is responsible for a big lineup of delicious wines from the Touraine and Cheverny appellations in the eastern part of the Loire Valley. The family estate is called Clos du Tue-Boeuf, but Thierry Puzelat also operates a négociant business, buying grapes from nearby growers who farm as he does. The Puzelats grow Pinot Noir, Gamay, Côt (called Malbec in Argentina), Bréton (called Cabernet Franc in the film Sideways), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris (called Pinot Grigio in Italy), and the rarely seen Pineau D'Aunis and Menu Pineau (called Arbois in the Jura).

Puzelat's wines are delicious regardless of the particularities of the weather in the vintage. The style may change depending on the year, but not the level of quality. These are food-friendly and inexpensive wines, even now with the terrible dollar. These are natural wines - vineyards are organically farmed, fermentation is accomplished using yeasts on the grapes and in the cellar, and there are no further manipulations to the juice. The Puzelat brothers' wines are an institution at natural wine bars in France, and are firmly entrenched in the vocabulary of natural wine aficionados here in New York.

Here's what I love about these wines: they taste honest, like real representations of the grapes and soil from that place. They buzz with energy, some say "wildness." They are eminently drinkable, great with dinner, and they just feel right.

My guess is that if you like the wines that I talk about here, you might already know about Clos du Tue-Boeuf and Puzelat. But if not, why aren't you drinking these wines? You love good wine, right? And most of these are under $20 a bottle. Maybe it's because the shops you frequent don't carry Dressner's imports. Or maybe your shops focus on high scoring wines, and these wines don't really feature in the publications that dole out the points. Maybe the wines are sitting right there on the shelf and you never tried them because after all, the grapes aren't always listed on the label and there are so many cuvées...where would you start? Start anywhere - it honestly doesn't matter. Everything is good. Here are some notes on wines I've had over in the past month or so:

2004 Puzelat Touraine Pineau D'Aunis La Tesnières, $18. Tesnières is the little village near Cheverny where Puzelat sources grapes. The new vintage is 2006, so you're not going to find this now, but it's a gem each year. This one offers fresh strawberries and cracked black pepper on the nose, a waft of caramel underneath is the only clue to the wine's age. Fresh and light in the mouth, this is great with a chill. Well balanced, great acidity, energetic and alive in the mouth. I'm drinking it right now with a plate of Buffalo Mozzarella and golden beets. It works.

2006 Puzelat Touraine La Tesnières Pinot Noir, $18. A funky nose of mushrooms, red fruits, and violets. Pure and lovely palate of ripe fruit and mushroomy earth with buzzing unpolished energetic tannins. Very impressive indeed, and a great price for interesting Pinot Noir. This recently reappeared on shelves in NYC.

2007 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny, $17. Cheverny rouge must be a blend, and this is about 90% Gamay and 10% Pinot Noir. I love this wine, just as much as I loved the 06, although this one is quite different. A much lighter wine - in color, in flavor, in texture, and in alcohol too - this is only 11%. A bright red berry and potting soil set of aromas and flavors, with that Puzelat wildness that provides underlying energy. There is some spice, the tannins are smooth and friendly, the overall effect is incredibly gulpable. Chill a bit and pair this with literally any food. Literally. Okay, maybe not with starburst fruit chews or haggis. But steak, eggplant Parmesan, lobster, mushroom barley soup, scallion omelets, raw oysters, chopped liver, etc.

2002 Puzelat Touraine Pinot Noir La Tesnières$18 I stumbled on this bottle, the last in the store, at Astor the other day. How's that for sunken treasure? And the bottle was imported by Jenny & Francois, not by Dressner. Who knew? Four years of age on one of these is rare - it's almost impossible to stop your self from drinking these on release. This has an interesting color, like strawberry juice with some orange bricking, and a bit cloudy. The nose is very Pinot, strawberry with cooling herbs, a pleasant soft earthiness. Almost no tannins left in the wine, or they're so fine and sweet that I can't perceive them. Light and graceful on the palate with delicious hints of stewed strawberries, soil, and subtle minty notes on the finish. Some chalk on the palate too, and lovely acids - not bright, gentle. If this wine were a person it would be Jessica Tandy.

2005 Puzelat Touraine La Tesnières, $19. Can you guess what this is from the name of the wine? Me neither.This is the glorious white wine made from Menu Pineau, known in the Jura as Arbois. This is honestly one of the finest bottles of white wine I have had the pleasure to consume in 2008. A rich golden yellow color, like a much older wine, but this is as fresh as a daisy. Nose of smoke, petrol, mineral water, figs, and fennel seed. A really amazing nose, clean and incredibly well defined. BrooklynLady thought we were drinking a northern Italian wine - the fennel threw her off. Viscous on the tongue, full bodied, it really spreads out with figgy and citrus flavors, all supported by vibrant acidity. Smoked fish! Pickles! Black Mission figs! Sushi! Pasta with a tangle of spring herbs and green garlic! How I want to drink this wine with all of those foods...

2006 Clos du Toe-Boeuf Le Brin de Chèvre, $18. For whatever reason, this was denied appellation status and is a Vin de Table. This happens periodically and should act to convince you of the wine's particular interest and deliciousness. Not as tingly of a nose as the 05 Puzelat Touraine Tesnière, but lovely nonetheless. Smokey figs, nuts, citrus rind on the nose. Viscous texture with really sharp acidity. Slightly oxidized, especially on day 2, but very delicious. I would lay this down for a year and drink the 05 Puzelat Menu Pineau today.

There are many others to try too, this is just a sample. If you haven't yet done so, taste a Puzelat wine. Hard to do better for less than $20.


David McDuff said...

I don't know, Neil. T-B Cheverny and haggis sounds like a dead on match to me.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Great wines. Great values.

Brooklynguy said...

look at this - you see this - look at the caliber of commenter on this post. equal to the caliber of the producer. david - if you make the ghaggis i'll bring the wine.

and craig - it's an honor and a pleasure to see you round these parts. i really appreciated that link the other day on the Beaujolais thing.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

And there's an easy on the pocketbook non-dosed Vin Pétillant. Which doesn't suck.

Anonymous said...

No fair! As hard as I might look I won't find any of these on my local retailer's shelves. (Any San Francisco readers besides me? I am informed that we *might* see some of these wines arrive in August.)

Sean said...

Great to see these wines getting their due...Pineau d'Aunis has always been one of my faves, particularly for that inimitable black pepper note. Quick question for you, though. Isn't Arbois the AOC in the Jura (& the town, of course)? In Arbois, they tend to make whites with that funky Savignin grape (& Chardonnay as well). Those are a must to explore--the regular bottlings, not the vin jaune, which is a delight in its own right, but both more expensive & not the type of thing you usually delve into in your blog. Just a thought....

Anonymous said...

Arbois the grape has nada to do with Arbois the appellation. Just another example of clarity in the French wine universe!

kimmm said... ex-pat New Jerseyan in Copenhagen enjoying a glass of Tue-Boeuf's 'Le Bouisson Pouilleux' 2001 with a coquelet with acidic verjus, green grape juice. Perfect combo, and the wine is stille completely alive and kicking.

More expensive here in our expensive country, but still a pleasure with every sip.

Anonymous said...

Your right dude. Puzelat is great. His wine breaths: LIFE! Very healthy fruits which you smell in the glass. Best of all his winery is half a day drive from here.

Personal recommendation: try his: In Côt We Trust. Just great !