Two new wines today. Both from Domaine Le Briseau, both what we call pétillant naturel, or pet nat. The method to make these sparkling wines differs from Champagne or Prosecco. The general idea is to hit pause on the tank fermentation of the wine, bottle it, and let the residual sugars and live active yeasts continue their biochemical romance under cap and glass. The tradition comes from way back, and over the past decade has trended up through the natural wine movement, which tends to favor austerity over opulence.
Christian Chaussard was an early adopter. He and his wife Nathalie began crown-capping their delicate bubblies from the Coteaux du Loir in 2002. Tragically, Christian died in 2012 when his tractor flipped. Nathalie has since taken charge of the farming and production, single-handedly, and achieved nothing less than brilliance in her wines.
The Coteaux du Loir, lying along the diminutive, mellow tributary of the mighty Loire, forms the northernmost appellation in France. Chenin Blanc (white) and Pineau d'Aunis (red) dominate the vineyards, with Côt (red) and Gamay (red) filling out the fringes.
Pet nat has caught on big in this part of the world, where these traditional grapes grow with high acidity over a slow growing season, making perfect candidates for the style.
Here's a bottle of the Domaine Le Biseau "Patapon" after pouring out a couple glasses and leaving the cap resting on the top of the glass. The gas has a musical rhythm to its escape.
The "Patapon" this year is made of Chenin Blanc, a change from the Pineau d'Aunis with which Nathalie's been making it in years past. It pours a dazzling golden, hay colored, with a soft mousse of bubbles stacked high in the glass. Behind the core of acidity lies a delicious honey note, tipping the wine from merely enticing into straight dope.
The "You Are So Bubbly" packs a bit more punch. Primarily Pineau d'Aunis, with Côt and Gamay blended in, the wine is a beautiful bright pink. Very fragrant, clean on the approach, with a finish like a berry fruit reduction. Think cherry-berry snowball, though only in spirit (the faint hint of sweetness is balanced by the bubbles and the acidity).
These are some of the hippest wines in town. But unlike so many hip trends, this one pays off in spades. More casually drinkable than Champagne but with all the fun of delicate bubbles. And, as with all our favorite wines, Nathalie's approach is principled and unwavering.
Even when she purchases fruit from other farmers, as in the case of the "You Are So Bubbly," she sources from only those vineyards that adhere to her own standards: put nothing in, taking nothing out. No sprays. No sulfur. No added yeasts of any kind. Just the fruit from the vine and what comes with it. In her hands, it's simply magic.
Domaine Le Briseau "Patapon" - $28
Coteaux du Loir, France
Domaine Le Briseau "You Are So Bubbly" - $26
Coteaux du Loir, France
Pineau d'Aunis, Côt, Gamay