At Vinisud, I had the pleasure of introducing an alternative wine tasting for the Outsiders.
The Alternative Tasting
Basically, we just did a fun wine tasting where we encouraged people to describe our wines with images that Louise Hurren had picked out for our tasting booklet. Forcing people to think about a wine with images instead of words gets them to think outside the box instead of falling back on the oft repeated tasting note vocab like rich, balanced, and a laundry list of fruit.
Furthermore, it empowers novice drinkers to review wines without worrying that they’re using the wrong word. The experts can make us feel inadequate about language sometimes, but they pretty much have no dominion in the land of photo reviews.
Why was this tasting on the Pavillion 2.0 space?
This tasting was held at the Internet space of Vinisud and there’s a good reason for that! The reason for the prominence of the tasting note is largely grounded in the limitations of print media. Limited space means we talk in pure descriptors without any conjugation. But the Internet doesn’t pose the same challenge. We can have infinite words and infinite photos in full color. And heck we can even use moving pictures, music, and other media that were previously impossible to include in printed wine journalism. The Internet provides us with a path to escape the tyranny of the tasting note!
So I did a little presentation on this topic to get everybody thinking outside the box before we got to drinking outside the box:
All the slides are available on slideshare with relevant links to related articles in the penultimate slide.
I’d say everybody had a blast. Including a lot of wine journalists (showing once again that even they can be fed up with tasting note format). I originally wanted to do a tasting with music and video and all sorts of crazy stuff. Thankfully, our group’s organizer Louise had the good sense to rein it in and focus on photos.
We had less than an hour to run the event so it was good to keep it simple and focused. We got insanely good feedback about the event and it has already spawned several requests for similarly styled “alternative tastings”. We also got several good ideas from our tasters who offered up ways to evolve the program and make it even more interesting. Doing physical touchy feely tastings, doing musical tastings, tasting in darkness, drawings instead of photos, and so on.
In terms of tasting notes, I think we all received a wide range of notes. I got everything from Lego man to Dutch masters. I got several of the He/She picture that makes me wonder if I shouldn’t change my look. Some of the outsiders noted that certain age groups tended to pick certain pictures (the more daring ones) more frequently than other demographics. I’m sure we’ll compile more on this at our next meeting.
Everybody had fun tasting and I think this sort of event gets people to think and talk about wine in a new and stimulating way without feeling overly stuffy or pretentious. A success!
Like all the great music and art festivals, Vinisud draws a lot of talent to the area where it’s held (Montpellier). So every day, after the fair ends, the party is just beginning for other people.
The French refer to afterhours parties and tastings as “OFF’ events. This is a run down of all the OFF events I’ve heard about so far. Feel free to add your own in the comments section or email me if I’m missing some.
If you find this list helpful, consider tweeting about it or sending a link to your friends by email.
Events that require a reservation or paid entry are marked as such. Note that virtually all of these events are meant for wine buffs. Especially the ones that are invitation only. You should probably only attend if you’re in the trade or press, or if you can demonstrate a pretty professional enthusiasm for wine. The dinner events are probably more open to amateur visitors. Don’t get mad at me! You know I don’t make the rules. 🙂
Sunday OFF Events
Le Vin de Mes Amis – 14h-19h – Domaine de Verchant 34170 Castelnau le Lez
RSVP to email@example.com
Cost 10€ Vin de Mes Amis blog
PDF of invitation vdm 2012 pdf A huge list of very good wines. A lot of the usual suspects from Changer l’Aude en Vin, but tons more to boot. See page 2 of the Vin de Mes Amis PDF for details. I heard that this might be at Trinque Fougasse O’Nord but the invitation says Domaine de Verchant. Look into it if you’re interested!
Haut les Vins! – 10h-20h – Chateau de Flaugergues (in Montpellier) official website list of participants A large group of winemakers from all around France, and a couple from Portugal, Spain and even Serbia. This gang will be doing their tasting at a Domaine that is actually located within Montpellier’s city limits. My buddy Benoit will be pouring his zero dosage Champagne and lots of other good winemakers are in attendance. It’s open all Sunday so if you get to Montpellier early, this is a great way to ease into ViniSud. But don’t party too hard as you have three days of salon ahead of you!
ViniFilles – 18h30 – Jam 100 rue Ferdinand de Lesseps 34000Montpellier
This group of Languedoc Roussillon winemaking women are having a rock show and tasting at the Jam. There’s a buffet and ample wine. The bands playing are Les Gazelles de Bruxelles and La Mal Coiffée. But there is a guestlist so you have to contact them if you want to get in.
Chateauneuf du Pape, Tavel & Rasteau – 19h – Chateau de la Banquiere Vauguieres le Haut 34130 Maugio
dinner & music
The AOCs Chateauneuf du Pape, Tavel & Rasteau are organizing a nice dinner with music and winemakers from the three appellations presenting their wines around a buffet dinner.
Monday OFF Events
G-Night, Occupy Grenache – 19h-2h – location not yet announced (underground ;D)
PDF of invitation G-Night Invite Vinisud 2012 Facebook event page A night devoted to Grenache. Run by the same people who organized the Grenache Symposium at La Verriere. Should be fun. The location is still a surprise so I expect they’ve got something fun in store to reveal it closer to the date.
Le Vin de Mes Amis – 10h-19h – Domaine de Verchant 34170 Castelnau le Lez
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost 10€ Vin de Mes Amis blog
PDF of invitation vdm 2012 pdf Les amis this time around are Jean Yves Bordier with butter and cheeses from Saint-Malo, Irene et Julienne Daniaux with glass art, and Antony Cointre a roving chef. And a huge list of very good wines. A lot of the usual suspects from Changer l’Aude en Vin, but tons more to boot. See page 2 of the Vin de Mes Amis PDF for details.
Contains Sulfites…Mais Pas Trop! – 18h – Le Ban des Gourmands, Place Carnot, Montpellier Official blog
RSVP required on the official blog
This hilariously named group of reasoned winemakers are doing an event on Monday night at a restaurant. It might be a sit down dinner… the invitation just bills it as an Intergalactic journey. 😀 Reservations should be made before the 10th so hurry up!
Mas de l’Ecriture – 18h-20h30 – Chez Boris (brasserie)
invitation only, for wine trade and press
A 12 year vertical of Mas de l’Ecriture. Pretty stunning opportunity, but very limited space in the venue.
Tuesday OFF Events
Mardi Gras des Gaillardises – 11h-20h – Aeroport Hotel Maugio/Montpellier blog post about the event facebook page 25 winemakers will present their wines at the Aeroport Hotel which is easy to get to by using the regular airport shuttles from the Parc des Expositions. There are some really top notch producers from all over France. And of particular interest to my blog readers, there are a couple of Internet superstars including my mom from O’Vineyards, Iris Rutz-Rudel from Domaine Lisson, Isabelle Perraud from Cotes de la Moliere, Amy Lillard from La Gramiere, and Lilian Bauchet from Les Bachelards. So if you’ve been reading our blogs and wondering if the wine is as good as the words, here is your chance. Full list of vignerons available in the link above; you’ll see there are some heavy hitters.
Mas de l’Ecriture – 18h-20h30 – Chez Boris (bistrot)
invitation only, for wine trade and press
A 12 year vertical of Mas de l’Ecriture. Note the venue changes from the similarly named Chez Boris Brasserie to Chez Boris Bistrot. But still limited space.
So OFF that they’re ON
There are a few events that are structured like OFFs or have the spirit of an OFF, but they’re actually going to take place within the walls of ViniSud.
The 2012 edition of Vinisud includes a space devoted to the web called Pavilion 2.0
I’ll be spending a lot of time there. Additionally, I’ll be doing a presentation with some of my buddies from the Outsiders
on Monday afternoon at 16h
on Tuesday morning at 10h.
Each presentation will consist of a 10 minute talk about new opportunities in wine communication afforded by the Internet, followed by a tasting workshop where we’ll encourage people to talk about our wine with images instead of words.
It should be a lot of fun. It’s a focused, high-energy event. Each producer is bringing just one wine to be tasted so it’s a small sampler platter of the Outsiders that will hopefully inspire you to visit the stand of your favorite producers. And we might revolutionize the way you think about wine writing while we’re at it. 🙂
This morning, the Cabardes did one of its regular organoleptic test flights. That’s a pretty fancy way to say we get together and taste newly bottled Cabardes wine.
The primary purpose of these tastings is quality control. We want to make sure that everybody is putting their best foot forward with their Cabardes wines. But it’s a pretty intimidating prospect.
You get there in the morning and you have a little desk set up with paper, pen, spit bucket, etc. It feels a lot like I’m back in school except for the two wine glasses and plate of bread.
There are five of us on the tasting panel. We have a flight of 12 wines. The tasting is partial single-blind. That means that we, the tasters, don’t know what cuvées we’re tasting. Although they do tell us the vintage since that is pretty important to determining whether or not it’s up to snuff. There is a third party organisme d’inspection that is hired to make sure all of the tasting is legit. They also do our field and winery inspections throughout the year. They report the results to our ODG Cabardes and they also forward it on to the INAO, the national body that governs AOCs.
If we find one of the wines to be flawed or not Cabardes-y enough, we could declare it NON CONFORME and the winemaker would be admonished. If the wine is already on the market and it’s a first offense, the winemaker would be followed very closely on his next vintage. And if its a second offense, we can even call for the wine to be removed from the market. That’s a lot of power. And everybody has to fight so hard to get wines on the market, it seems absurd that we might have to take one off the market. But such are the rules!
Anyway, today’s tasting went very well. The quality was good to very good for the three rosés and nine reds we tasted. I noted one weak objection on the last wine in the tasting that had a bit of reductive rubber/tar quality to it. The rest of the panel approved of the wine, and I’m honestly happy because it was a good wine and I think the free market will naturally select the best wines in the Cabardes. This tasting is more of a formality to prevent gross misconduct.
Perhaps the best part of these tastings is that you get to see what the other producers are up to. Although they never reveal what you tasted. Cabardes is small enough that I can just ask around and the people who had to give samples to the inspection organization will know who they are. And it’s fun to see what the AOC is up to as a whole. And it’s a timely lesson as I put the finishing touches on my Cabardes book and map of the wineries in the appellation.
The tasting is supposed to be more focused on defects than traditional wine criticism, but I took some notes anyway. The keywords that kept coming up were dark fruit, plum, and garrigue. There were also two or three mentions of eucalyptus, spice, and pepper in my notes. One of the wines came off with an absurd amount of ripe raspberry or red fruit and really reminded me of certain coastal wines (which can happen in the eastern Cabardes). And there were a couple that felt a bit rustic and a couple that felt a bit light (if I were in a bad mood, I’d say weedy), but this is a style and it has a place in the appellation. At least it’s not me who will put an end to that trend.
Anyway, on the whole, I feel like the wines presented were well-balanced between Atlantic and Mediterranean traits. They were bold and flavorful but they were also rather refreshing with a brightness that is somewhat unique to the Cabardes. Amen!
For every good idea I have, I get at least three ridiculously bad ideas. And some of those bad ideas make it far beyond the planning stages.
So, last week, I was joking about the rhetoric we terroir-lovers tend to use. We get very wrapped up in the importance of a wine reflecting a sense of place and we can often minimize the efforts of the winemaker. We say that winemakers should only act in order to produce good fruit that reflects the place where they’re growing the fruit. Anyway, we can get a little carried away with the rhetoric. So in the spirit of making fun of myself, I bottled some vineyard dirt and put it up for sale on the website.
The idea, unfortunately didn’t stop there. Once I had a bottle of dirt, it was pretty much unavoidable: I had to do a dirt tasting.
So, without further ado, Ryan O’Connell from O’Vineyards tastes some dirt and makes fun of himself.
If we can learn anything from this ridiculous exercise, it’s that the perfect wine is not 100% vin de terroir or 100% vin d’effort but some clever middle path between these two extremes.
It’s spring and it’s wonderfully hot. We went from one of the coldest winters to one of the hottest Springs. And in brief, it feels like Summer at O’Vineyards.
And now we’re starting to get our dearest vacationers so it feels even more like Summer. The other day, Anthony Swift from Wine Pleasures came through with a group of Norwegian wine women. These wine ladies had just visited Carcassonne’s castle ramparts in the morning where I met the group and led them back to the vineyard just a few kilometers away.
I like all the tour groups we get, but Wine Pleasures was a special pleasure because Anthony is as obsessed with the Internet as I am (maybe more?). So the group doesn’t get shy around cameras. And we get to share the tasting with you.
We did a live stream that you can still access here:
What you don’t get to see in the stream is the delicious schmorgesborg that my mom prepared for the luncheon after the wine tasting. The photos don’t do it justice. But if you follow the blog or visit us with any frequency, you know that my mom is a cooking machine.
Lauren Buzzeo, a writer for the Wine Enthusiast, stopped by the Domaine O’Vineyards stand and tasted through our wines at ViniSud this week. A lot of great people stopped by, but Lauren wins the contest for first person to pop up in my google alerts with her article for the Wine Enthusiast. She likes our wines with their distinctive Atlantic influence, unique in the Languedoc. But she talks about a lot of great winemakers that she met at the salon! I can’t wait to see all the articles and posts that roll in as a result of ViniSud 2010 which was a fantastic experience. I got to put a lot of faces to the names and goofy avatars of my online friends.
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.