Monday, May 05, 2008
Splendor in the grass
It's hard not to heed the picnic's siren song on a sunny May day in Paris when it's in the 70ºs (F, that is) and the market is brimming with all the fresh fruits, charcuterie and roasting chickens you could want.
Six of us convened on the Coulée Verte, which is a deep green stripe running through the 12th arrondissement with bike paths that flow directly into the Bois de Vincennes a few kilometers away. Our bike baskets were filled to the hilt: sausage, duck pâté, partridge pâté, a roast chicken and a half, salad with corn and avocado, bread, six kinds of cheese, grapes, apples and a homemade chocolate cake with whipped cream.
We settled into the deep grass. And then Vianney and Anne-Juliette announced they are getting married! (In Beaune, with a reception where they'll be pouring Vosne-Romanée, I should add.) So they had brought a small producer's champagne to test-run and see if it would appeal to our palates for the reception. I found the NV Frédéric Massonot Cuvée de Réserve 1er Cru Brut to be well-balanced, with a judiciously light dosage; I'll enjoy drinking it in Beaune.
With the pâtés, we had some rosé that Vianney's school buddy had brought and kept mysteriously shrouded in its chilled sleeve. Nice southern French unpretentious stuff.
I'd popped the 2000 Philippe Alliet Chinon "Coteau de Noiré" early, but Arnaud was thirsty for red and it got poured about fifteen minutes later. Closed, dark and tight with surprising underbrush tastes (I had imagined it more "sun-drenched") this petered out in the mid-palate; I was expecting something a little more polished. But with air, it fleshed out and smoothed out. Not the Platonic ideal of Chinon I had been expecting, but very Chinon, which is a coup and an answer, too, to people who think Alliet deforms the model a little too much with this cuvée. Everyone else loved it, but Arnaud was cantankerously opposed. He did down quite a bit, though, just to make sure.
2006 Janin Moulin-à-Vent - we'd tasted this with the producer a few weeks ago and it had curiously paled beside the more complex and deeper Beaujolais-Villages. Here, it had come back into its own and was the picture of classically styled Moulin-à-Vent with that tasty, unmistakable gamay nose.
As we headed into the cheeses, I regretted not bringing the rest of the 1998 O. Leflaive Corton-Charlemagne I had brought home from a wine dinner the evening before. What we had to work with here was a 2005 J.-P. Mugneret Hautes-Côtes-de-Nuits, which is light-bodied yet upped the complexity a tiny bit from the Moulin-à-Vent and gave us a brief sprut of pleasure until everyone was wined out and we ate fruit and chocolate cake and then drank tea and lay back in the grass for an hour or two, to the sound of birds chirping and children playing down by the lake.