Monday, February 2, 2015

A Day With FiFi



Fifi. What can I say. Only worthy dudes are known by just one name.

Fifi will always be associated with the Ten Bells wine bar in New York that he founded, but he's moved on to other pursuits lately. He opened a tiny wine store two years ago in Brooklyn called Passage de la Fleur, then more recently he launched his import business called Fifi Imports. He imports wines, of course, but he also added the magnificent Perceval knife selection.

I'm elated to collaborate with Fifi in introducing more great natural wines to San Francisco Bay Area wine lovers. Since starting Vineyard Gate 16 years ago, I've been keen on carrying wines made without junk. I was one of the first to sell in the Bay Area wines from Yvon Metras and Clos Roche Blanche back in 2000, then I brought in the West Coast for the first time the wines of Domaine l'Octavin and Jean-Marc Brignot. While I would've loved to carry more natural wines from the outset, unfortunately, their availability in the States was tough, as there were very few sources even in the East Coast.

Today, finding natural wines in the US has gotten a lot better, especially with Fifi entering the scene with a terrific portfolio of producers. While most natural wine producers we've seen are from Beaujolais, the Loire and, the Jura, what's unique about Fifi's selection is that he's scoped out some of the best producers in the South of France. Vineyards along the Mediterranean, from Provence to the Sud-Ouest, is now the hotbed of rising natural wine producers in France. Land is cheap and plentiful. The weather is warm and sunny, which makes it easier to producer natural wines.

Fifi flew to the West Coast last November to launch his import selections. He hit the road touring Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. We kicked off his San Francisco visit with a store tasting, then a wine dinner at Belcampo in San Francisco.

We made Bacchus proud as we opened over 30 different bottles that one night. Everyone who attended were charmed by both Fifi and all the wines we drank. These wines were all new and unknown in the States. It was an eye-opening experience. Not only have natural wines come a long way from the days of experimentation, but drinkers are starting to appreciate the good ones for what they are, delicious and expressive in character.

Here are some of the wines that we stock from Fifi's Imports. Give them a try!

Vin de France "Alfred & Leon", Les Vignes Herbel (2012) $20.00 (order here)
A 50-50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was vinified naturally without additives and no added sulfites, except for a small dose at bottling. Medium-bodied, with charming earthy black fruit flavors

Vin de France (Anjou White) "Fragile", La Grange Aux Belles 2012 $25.00 (order here)
100% Chenin Blanc. Vinified without addition of sulfites. Bone-dry. Intense and layered flavors.

Vin de France "Brise d'Aunis", La Grange Aux Belles 2013 $22.00 (order here)
Pure Pineau d'Aunis from vines in Anjou. Bright and lovely.

Vin de France "Akoibon", YoYo 2013 $40.00 (order here)
All Mourvedre from the micro-estate in Roussillon of Laurence Manya Krief. She always vinifies whole-cluster using carbonic maceration. No additives and sulfites are used in the winemaking. Elegant and juicy.

Vin de France "Chime-R", YoYo 2013 $40.00 (order here)
A delicious complex wine from a blend of 40% Grenache Noir, 40% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Mourvedre

Vin de Table "Plus noir que rouge", Domaine Les Sabots d'Helene 2013 $29.00 (order here)
Without "junk" is how vigneron Alban Michel simply describes how he made this special cuvee from 85 year-old Carignan vines. Vinifed without additives and no added sulfites, it has the delicious warmth and power of a Southern France wine.

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