A growing number of small, serious wine shops have recently opened in Brooklyn, specializing in what they call "natural" wines. They feature small domaines where grapes are grown organically, or at least "sustainably," new oak is rarely used, and acidity is prized over ripeness.
I tend to respect these growers more than I actually like their wines, which sometimes prioritize "purity" over fruit, balance and even cleanliness. But I'm always willing to try something new, so I gambled $20 on a 2005 Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley to serve as an aperitif at a dinner party last weekend.
The white was immediately impressive for its stony purity, but was not exactly eager to please. It was flinty and austere, with mineral, almond and herbal flavors, and just a hint of peach lingering on the clean, fresh finish. You might call it shy, but it rewarded close attention; 89 points, non-blind.
The vintner, Bénédicte de Rycke, worked in Sancerre before buying her first vineyards in 1985 in Jasnières, a tiny appellation devoted to Chenin Blanc. It's located along the smaller Loir River (one of the Loire's tributaries), north of (and cooler than) Chenin Blanc's heartland of Vouvray and Coteaux du Layon. The resulting wines tend to be leaner and crisper, and less often late-harvest in style. The "natural wines" movement is flourishing in the Loire, and this domaine is a fine example.
Bénédicte de Rycke Coteaux du Loir Cuvée Tradition 2005 (87, $17, 400 cases made)