New Arrivals From Christian Venier
These Loire beauties will go fast
Christian Venier, in Cheverny, combines Pinot Noir and Gamay per the local appellation rules. But he also manages to combine wild pleasure and nuance while using zero sulfur like few others in the natural wine world.
For all the talk about sulfur, it's important to note the producers who can make a clean, compelling wine without sulfur. Wines that you'd never notice had zero sulfur because you're too busy enjoying them. I'm always particularly impressed when the wine has zero sulfur without displaying any of the clichés of zero/zero winemaking. That takes a lot of work. Your cellar practices have to be super clean, you have to sort your grapes like a crazy person, and you have to constantly check in with the wine during elevage.
One of the best examples of this are the wines of Christian Venier in Cheverny. Some of you know how these are getting more difficult to find. That's the bad news. The good news is that we just received the 2020 batch, and they are sensational.
The past few years we've had them on the shelves and a few people who know will buy most of them. The people who try them for the first time come back quickly for more. Then it's all gone. This year I decided to tell the whole email list about them because Venier is just such a well-loved producer it felt wrong to not share my feelings about his wines, and this vintage is just so special. We're just featuring his reds today. Two are blends of Pinot Noir and Gamay from different vineyards. The third is his astoundingly good Pinot Noir from another vineyard. Everything is fermented whole-cluster, semi-carbonic, native yeasts, and zero sulfur.
Cheverny, in the east of Touraine in the Loire Valley, is one of the most dynamic and exciting appellations in France because of the range of styles represented. Producers like François Cazin, one of the old guard (whose wines I very much enjoy), seem aligned with people like Thierry Puzelat, Olivier Bonhomme, Herve Villemade, Philippe Tessier, the late Olivier Lemasson, and, of course, Christian Venier. Puzelat especially helped establish a burgeoning natural wine scene there in the 1990s that was a catalyst for much of the natural wine movement today.
Christian Venier is Theirry Puzelat's cousin, and he began working for Thierry and Jean-Marie at Clos de Tue Boeuf in the early '90s, soon meeting figures like Philippe Laurent of Gramenon and taking classes alongside Agnes and Rene Mosse. Christian makes less wine than Tue Boeuf or the Mosses, making them more fought-over when they arrive in New York. To me, regardless of scarcity, Venier's wines have an extra-special quality. They can be wines of thirst-quenching hedonism, especially the Hauts de Madon, but with more Pinot Noir in the mix they are structured and serious, with tannic detail and depth rarely found in zero/zero wines, especially at this price. Even if I'm crushing these bottles with friends, I find it impossible not to stop for a moment and marvel at the many wild elements he somehow wrangles into something beautiful.