William Henry

Terroirs – Apparently, every major city must have a wine bar carrying this name, with or without the trailing pluralization. This one was a little more groundbreaking than some of its namesakes, shaking up one of the most established wine cultures in the world with naturalia and a passel of its qualitative cousins.

The menu’s perfect for a sort of place in which one wants (or should want) to sample and graze both solids and liquids. I make it simple on myself, in conception if not quantity, by assembling an array of charcuterie from the Pyrénées, radishes with anchoiade (the only failed dish I’ll order; the sauce is gelatinous and obliterates the delicate radishes), and cod roe with egg. The bread’s good, too, and given what I’ve ordered I end up with rather a quantity of delicious cornichons, which are about as sharp a palate-clearer as one can find.

To my amusement, the guys behind the bar are both American. We chat into the wee hours of the late afternoon, at certain points including my neighbors to the right (ties over their white-shirted shoulders and highly intrigued by the opacity of the orange wines in front of me) and my neighbor to the left (a beer aficionado with an immense affection for Portland, Oregon). Wee-hour chatting encourages wee-hour bibulous addenda, and that is how the rest of the evening goes slowly but inexorably wrong. On which subject I will have nothing to say, now or in any future post…

Mathis Bastian 2008 Riesling “Grand Premier Cru” Wellenstein (Luxembourg) – Bright and vibrant. Crisp acidity, not overly sharpened, with flaky limestone minerality and ripe lemon flavors. Pretty impressive, and by a fair margin the best Luxembourgeois wine I’ve tasted. (3/11)

Il Tufiello 2007 Fiano “Don Chisciotte” (Campania) – An orange wine. What’s most interesting to me is how clearly both the waxiness and textural impact of the grape and the dust of the region shine though the layers of tactility provided by extended skin contact. The tannin here is present but quite manageable within the wine’s overall balance, and acidity hasn’t been completely lost, so the end result is something a little brighter and fresher than the orange norm. It’s not as complex as some, but it’s a simple pleasure. (3/11)

La Stoppa 2006 “Ageno” (Emilia-Romagna) – Very deep, rich, and shaded. A powerful, almost stravecchio style of orange wine (really more brown when taken to this extent), full of dessert spices, minerality, and preserved fruit. Absolutely delicious, albeit heady. (3/11)

Vino di Anna 2009 “Jeudi 15” (Sicily) – Carbonic (at least, what one imagines a carbonic wine to taste like) and crisp. Apple (skin on), raspberry, red cherry. Vivacious, irresistible. I love this. (3/11)

Les Foulards Rouge 2010 Vin de Table “Octobre” (Roussillon) – Spicy, frothy acidity with sharp, boisterous red berries. There’s more to it, thankfully, with earthier and more herbal…well, I was going to write “nuances,” but they’re more like microbursts. Nothing’s quiet in this wine. Fun, if simple. (3/11)

Navarre 2008 Saint-Chinian “Cuvée Oliver” (Languedoc) – I really don’t like this. Stale butter and the scotchy taste of wood (is it wooded? the web site doesn’t mention it if so) completely ruin whatever fruit characteristics might be present. Nasty stuff. (3/11)

de Bartoli “Vecchia Samperi Ventennale” Vino Liquoroso (Sicily) – A wine of tension. This strikes me as amusing, since I’m sure it would be characterized as a wine of meditation on many Italian lists. But it’s that settled uncertainty – is it trying to be sweeter or drier? is it a Marsala or not? – that’s this wine’s brilliance. Complexity defined. A jumble of bones, rocks, nut oils, and differing shades of late afternoon. Long. Incredibly long. Really brilliant. (3/11)

Cazottes Eau-de-Vie Goutte de Mauzac Rosé Passerillé (Southwest France) – Floral as much as fruity, with the quality of my preferred clear spirits in that it goes beyond a simple spirituous expression of the source material to achieve something a little more interesting. Those who prefer that purity might not like this as much. There’s a delicacy along with the usual heat that’s not often found, either. (3/11)

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