A Continuation of Abe Schoener’s [The Scholium Project]…
A NEW LESSON IN THE MORAL NATURE OF WINEMAKING: LES JARDINS DES ESMÉRALDINS
The Wines: Transcendental and somehow Historical at once
When we taste, he is very eager for our impressions, our reactions. He watches our faces, especially our eyes, carefully. He is clearly proud of how old the wines are: 2004– it was so fresh; I knew that it was not a 2016 from barrel, but perhaps a 2015? No, 2004; bottled in 2010. Totally fresh, punchy, dense but light on its feet at once.
- Bottled in 2008. Equally fresh. Showing the beginning of what you could call bottle age. Then, he pulls out and pours a wine that is slightly golden by comparison– 1999. “The first wine that I ever made.” We cannot believe that he is sharing a bottle with us.
This wine too is absolutely fresh, vigorous, even electric. The wine is perhaps more viscous than the others, and more golden to the eye– but not tired or even maturing in the mouth. The wines are complete and developed– and in this sense, mature– but there is no sense that the first two wines have aged at all, and it is hard to place the bottles in time in any way. They are, in this respect transcendental, which is difficult for wine– but they have dates. 1999 was the first year that I made wine too; it is hard for such a wine not to seem historical in this respect. How can a winemaker’s first wine not be historical?
We taste a red wine from 2004 and another early white, from 2001, that finished primary fermentation in bottle (by surprise). Both wines were very good, even great in some way– but it was so hard to come back and down from the 1999, the wine of origin. He calls all of the wines: “Genèse”– Genesis. The winery is the Gardens of Emeralds; the wines are Genesis White and Genesis Red.
All of the wines have intensity– particularly in what you might call “minerality.” They are saline and have the body and density that comes from fruit– but they do not taste or smell of fruit. Nor do they smell of yeast, in spite of their long lees contact. Nor do they seem oxidized. Even the 1999, opened 15 days ago, was fresh and yellow– no more golden than many Chenins only a couple of years old.
You could say that the wines are rocky– but you must somehow also mean that they are graceful. You could point to nuts and nut skins, and high-acid, young champagne, but you would have to be careful not to simplify too much. It is also worth saying that the wines taste and smell reduced, but that this is not an overwhelming sensation; and that there is no trace of VA at all, or, at most, perhaps one senses some acetic in the mouth, but nothing else, and certainly nothing acetate-y. The wines do not have the markers of wines that stand out as “natural” and seem utterly classical in spite of their unconventional origins.
Lastly, the wines have no typicity for me. I cannot identify the whites as Chenin (though they are not so far from what Eben Sadie sometimes accomplishes by rather different means). I cannot place them as Loire wines. This does not bother Xavier at all. He is in fact proud of this. Even though he is a super careful farmer, he is not interested in revealing or somehow representing the vineyards. There is clearly an unbroken continuity for him between the vines and the wine, but he nonetheless does not feel that he respects this continuity by seeking typicity, or by making single vineyard wines. Neither holds any interest for him.
He suggests, with both pride and mischief in his eyes, that the wines would be hard to identify in a blind tasting. When I agree and tell him that the 1999 reminds me of old first growth Bordeaux, he is clearly pleased– not because he cares at all about old Bordeaux, but because my mind roamed.
To be continued…