Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pif Pif!

You do things in a certain way for long enough and the odd begins to seem normal, and vice versa. Habit and context. Ditch that SUV and eventually you'll wonder why you ever had it. Taste a fresh-picked green bean and you'll never buy canned again. Drink enough natural / "real" wine and that grocery store wine tastes downright artificial.

That said, when I tasted the 2004 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Pif, I thought, "Dang, this sure is a strange little wine!"

Some context here. Catherine and Didier of the Loire estate Clos Roche Blanche are big stars amongst the natural winemaking set, as they not only farm organically but avoid using "organic" pesticides, rigorously pursue biodiversity in the vineyard, implement certain biodynamic practices, and avoid sulfur. All the hard work this requires means the wines should be more expensive than the mass-produced stuff, yet the wines are extremely affordable. Also, they make the wine themselves, even though they have no formal training, so they're not paying the salary of a winemaker or a consultant.

To the wine. What does this 2004 Pif taste like? Well, the first thing to know is that it's a blend of cabernet franc, the Loire's signature grape, and malbec (which is called cot in the Loire). Unlike the malbec you'll find in Argentina, the cot grown in Touraine ain't all drippy and plush, and indeed, this wine starts off on a tart note. It just needs a little air, and then it unfurls like a shoot. That's when the acidity mellows and a note of smoke from the cot emerges.

Speaking of shoots, the Pif shows broccoli, wet leaves, wet dirt, and grilled mushroom characteristics, along with high-toned cranberry and raspberry fruit. It's concentrated, with scratchy tannins, yet spry. It is, in short, a complete wine with oodles of character, and it sells for only $14.

Now for the strange thing: this didn't pair well with the dishes I tried — roasted potatoes on day one, spinach pie and lentils and rice on day two. I thought for sure the earthiness of these dishes would work well, but the wine turned into a wallflower on both occasions. So if someone has a better pairing suggestion, I'm all eyes!

Am I compaining? Hardly. Not only is the Pif a good wine, it is a real wine, and I've had nothing quite like it. It's not a fake wine posing as real. As if to illustrate the difference, I was sipping the Pif tonight when a new McDonald's commercial came on my TV, advertising chicken for breakfast with the tag line of something like, "Isn't it great to be counterculture?" You betcha! Go tell it on the mountain, daddy-o!


David McDuff said...

Are you vegetarian, lad? If not, think pork. Or roasted quail and bacon.

Wicker Parker said...

While my diet is largely vegetarian, I abandoned true vegetarianism a few years ago. Pork it is! Thanks for the tip.