Restaurants · Wine tasting

Keys to the Natural Cellar – Vine Arts

I attended Juice Import‘s Keys to the Natural Cellar ($35) event on Sunday at Vine Arts on 17th Ave SW. I was looking forward to this particular event because Erik featured natural wines that showcase an ability to age gracefully, which I need to learn to do. For this post, let’s listen to “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M.

When we arrived, a staffer gallantly poured us a flute of prosecco to sip as we looked around. The whimsical setup of the shop reminded me of the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter. After a few minutes, we were escorted upstairs to the tasting. Lululemon was pumped to attend as she thinks Erik is one of the fascinating wine gurus in town. She asked him if he would host a wine tasting at her office. We discovered he does; the cost is only the wine purchased for the tasting.

Erik began with a question. Can natural wine age? The first wine we tried was 21 years old, almost as old as me.

The 2002 Tarlant l’Etincelante Champagne Brut Nature from Champagne, France tasted softer and cleaner than its initial prominent scent. He noted that people often drink prosecco regularly and champagne on special occasions, which makes it even more pronounced how different they are from each other. One is young and fruity, while the other has yeasty characteristics and not as bubbly. Erik found the champagne satisfying, full of umami. At around $275, it was a treat for everyone at the table to try a champagne from a winery with such stringent standards for fermentation. The owners refuse to release any wine unless it is fully mature.

Next was the 2018 Domaine Marnes Blanches Savagnin Sous Voile from Jura, France ($75). Marnes Blanches is one of my favourite wineries; their wine is always a hit at my parties, as it is so easy to pair with melted Comte cheese. Lululemon could smell maple. While it smelled sweet, Erik described notes of camomile and fresh, dried and bruised apple. We learned this wine comes from 45+-year-old vines grown on marl and limestone. I loved this one so much that I bought a bottle, as did my friend. Erik recommended pairing this cuvee with something fatty and raunchy, like salty almonds or raw clams.

Our third tasting was a 2015 white wine, Domaine Garreliere Chenin Blanc “Coulée Douce” ($45), from Loire Valley, France. This wine smelled bright and floral, and the texture was much lighter than the previous wine. Erik described the notes of stonefruit and pointed out the green tinge of colour. We liked this one so much that we bought a bottle as well. Erik recommended pairing this wine with mushrooms, morels, or gorgonzola. There was a cheese master in the room, and he recommended a gouda, such as a Dutch Grasskass.

Erik described the next wine, the 2014 Pacina Rosso from Tuscany, Italy, as a classic old Italian wine that tastes just as the winemakers intended. Pacina seldom releases their vintages consecutively as they wait for the wine to reach optimal maturity. I found the scent pretty, but my favourite red wine was the next one.

The 2018 Franz Weninger Saybritz Blaufrankisch from Burgenland, Austria, was bright and delicious. We admired the violet and red plum hue. I asked Erik about sentiment and why some wines have it, and others do not. He informed us that sediment comes from many things, such as skins, yeast, and colour. Leaving the sediment in (unfiltered) provides texture and quality as the natural tannins act as filters. In commercial wines, filtering wines provides that sterileness that some people have come to think as standard.

The dessert wine was a 2017 Cantina Marilina Gocce d’Autunno Passito from Sicily, Italy. Erik noted the “rapturous sunlight from Sicily” wine was baked under the sun for 10 to 15 days, and it is a bottle you could keep for a couple of decades.

I’ve been to a few tastings, and this might have been one of my favourite events because of all the neat things I learned. Thanks, Erik, for hosting these informative seminars and teaching us about natural wines.

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