Day 1: Domaine Belliviere and How i Arrived Here

The author of this post is the author of saignée as well the originator of 31 Days of Natural Wine. Considering the amount of talent contributing to the project, he is also probably the least knowledgeable on the subject at hand.

i don't smile in real life either

It was a couple years ago that i had my first glass of real wine. Now don’t misunderstand me here, i’d had wine before this, plenty of it in fact, and i thought i knew something about it.

Turns out i didn’t know much. (Still don’t)

So there i was at a local wine store after a tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noir looking for something to have with dinner. i asked a clerk for a suggestion. “Something…different” i told him and “have you ever had pineau d’aunis before?” came the response.

Pinot? Really? Was i that naive looking?

“Of course”

“No…” (he had heard this before) “not pinot, pineau d’aunis, from the Loire valley, rare variety” and he walked me to a plainish bottle with orange lettering Domaine Belliviere Rouge Gorge, Eric Nicolas Vigneron.

“What would you pair with it?” i queried “Maybe spicy pasta? Lamb?”

Pasta sounded good. I bought it, left, and started preparing a simple penne all’arrabiata at home. Then i opened the bottle, stopped, took a whiff, another, and maybe six or seven more. Couldn’t place the wine. At all. Took a drink.

This was different.

Mineral, chalky, green peppers, deep funky earth wine. Rustic. That’s it, rustic. Not smooth or big or glycerine or fucking crunchberries. Rustic. Not fucked with, to use the words of a friend i met later. i hadn’t ever had anything like it. The wine didn’t try and tell me it was good, i could have rejected it, opened something else and put the Belliviere with the cooking wine, i could have gone back to Argentinian malbec, Bolivian chardonnay, Thai viognier.

But I didn’t.

For weeks i couldn’t get it out of my head and started to seek out anything close in style to the Belliviere, that natural rustic style so firmly lodged in my head. i began to research natural wines obsessively. i found Thierry Puzelat, Clos Roche Blanche, started branching into wines from the Jura, fell in love with Huet, Puffeney and Paolo Bea. These were good wines and they went with food. i mean really went with food, not the bullshit steakhouse line of16% alcohol blueberry cocktails with t-bones. i was obsessed, reborn in wine (and clearly, hyperbole).

Note: At this point if this story sounds cliché, that’s because it is, but really, aren’t you glad i discovered pineau d’aunis instead of being that asshole that writes about discovering good wine by drinking a bottle of ’78 Romanee Conti? I mean really, does dinner at Taillevent get you to love eating? A ’57 Ferrari make you love the open road? Wearing the hope diamond for a week convince you that maybe rocks are cool?

i did the trendy biodynamic wine only for a while (a blessedly short while) to find the best producers, seeking out those producers that practiced the farming methodology of Rudolph Steiner. i found quite a few good ones doing this, but one day, on a tour of Benzinger winery i came to realize that this wasn’t it, at all. The guide was droning on about lunar cycles, bio-culture and Demeter all while pouring us bland, modern wines. Somewhere in between my eyes turning to glass and falling from my head and my brain shutting down entirely i realized that there wasn’t any mention of the people making the wine. Who were they? Demeter doesn’t make wine for you, so who is making it?

So i abandoned that (same thing with zero sulfur wines, rather people and not philosophy dictate that one). People make wine, and while i think that it has a lot of good ideas (and anything Huet and Lopes de Heredia use can’t be discounted), biodynamic marketing can obscure this fact. i abandoned the idea of any one definition for “natural” except perhaps that people make it, not certification entities, or machines, or architectural over-compensations doubling as wine caves, or enzymes, or chemicals, or micro-oxygens (i know, i know but i like the sound of it) or cultured yeasts, or INAO, or growing cabernet in Tuscany, or 100 point scores, or this shit talking hobbyist blogger.

So i was back to seeking out real wine made by real people, and i suppose that this is what this 31 days is all about.

Eric Nicolas and his wife Christine exhausted

i got a chance to meet Eric and Christine Nicolas a few months back in San Francisco where i tasted through their current releases and we chatted some. They showed me where their vineyards were located and told me why he grew pineau d’aunis (because it was there). i thanked them kindly for making such great wines.

So here i am right now writing this all down while drinking a bottle of 2006 Rouge Gorge with a bowl of penne, a pairing that has become one of my favorites. The wine cannot ever be as good as the first time i had it but that is ok. It’s still real.

Follow day by day here:

Next up: Wine is, after all, an act of humankind, or: Jeremy Parzen drinks the real stuff in Tuscany

~ by Cory Cartwright on June 19, 2009.

15 Responses to “Day 1: Domaine Belliviere and How i Arrived Here”

  1. Where did you buy the original Belliviere pinaue d’aunis, and is it available in the U.S.?

  2. It is available. I think with maybe one or two exceptions the wines we will talk about are not that hard to find. I bought this one at
    And it also available at

    I will actually make a list of retailers and importers later today that i trust.

    Thanks for reading!

    • funny we keep latching on to the *exact* same bottlings… am just reading this now. I am glad the July installment worked out. This wine is also at I dig the 31 days. Hope you got the feng shui sorted at the new joint.

  3. […] deck for tomorrow: the second of 31 Days of Natural Wine at Saignée. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Tommaso’s: “No good wines… just […]

  4. Good start Bro, gonna keep abreast with the other 31 days.

  5. Killer post Cory.

    “Reborn in wine”– Cool shit!

    Looking forward to the rest.

  6. Off to a great start… I love that wine!

    And I agree: It’s all about the people behind the wines.

    Looking forward to contributing, and seeing what everyone else has to say.

  7. sounds familiar, not cliche

    I’ve found that an elastic young mind and one or two tastes of Pineau d’Aunis is enough to create a convert. I must have got in under the wire.

  8. Great post Cory. I am impressed. You have sparked my interest and I am going to the local wine store, today, to see what they ahve and try something new. I am in a “wine rut” and hope to crawl out soon. Glad to have spent time with you, in france, where a lot of this interest was born. Keep it coming.

  9. Chris – Thanks. send me some 2012er softball pics…i need them for a post.

    Dirty – What can i say…

    Wolfgang – People then terroir then technique

    Putnam – everyone needs to try Pineau d’Aunis, young or old.

    mom – go grab something imported by Kermit Lynch at the wine store. Utah carries his stuff at least.

    • the terroir is a given; but i lump people in with that typically. i mean, a great site is a great site, but the family that has worked that land for years is a major part of it.

  10. Cory, this is good stuff. Thanks for sharing it. Very much looking forward to reading every one of your posts.

  11. Cory

    I am so happy you are talking about real wine, a topic I love as well! You are right, once you’ve gone real, its hard to go back to generic.
    I’ve added you on FB so we can chat. I am ex-pat from Los Gatos who lives in Norway now and focus as much as I can on natural wine. The clarity of these natural wines when done correctly is impressive.
    Chat soon.

  12. […] me that wine was a pineau d’aunis, for my wife it was a bottle of 2001 Brovia Ca’ Mia Barolo. When she first drank it, perhaps […]

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