Monday, September 7, 2009

Cave a manger - natural wine

Winebars of a very different kind. After a decade of lounge I thought I could not tolerate another wine-bar. But Ze'Bar (FR-La Rochelle) is different, it's not only a wine-bar that has an excellent wine-card with lots of biologic wines which are hard to get by. It's a cave a manger, which is a new culinary trend in France. The Cave is usually where you buy wine, a cave a manger is a wine-bar that has extended it's service to also include simple foods. Another such cave a manger is Mon Oncle le Vigneron in Paris (Belleville).
Philippe - Ze'Bar, La Rochelle, France

Ze'Bar's owner Philippe has come over from Paris and brought with him the cave a manger concept. Philippe is a super friendly host, that immediately creates a convivial and warm atmosphere. He knows everything about wine, and when I say everything, I mean everything. Maybe only just a little bit less than the wine critique that was sharing the terasse with us. Together with wines the minuscule kitchen makes and serves simple plates of local charcuterie or cheeses. The food is honest, pure and unpretentious. It's also possible to order a hamburger made of pure minced meat mixed with fresh spices. A new and completely different hamburger experience.

The interior, the bar radiates that same frankness. There are old-fashioned and solid charcuterie cutting-machines like a butcher would have and scribbled chalk boards that call out names and prices of wine in the same way you would find it in the local farmer-market.

People come from far (like myself) to taste the rare and special biologic wines from his card, such as the infamous Petit Jo coming from the la Roche Buissiere. (Vaucluse) Petit Jo is a biologic wine made from biologic agriculture which means no pesticides have been used to kill weed, no pesticides have been used to prevent diseases in the plant and finally in the production no additives have been used. In particular no sulfit. That is what makes biologic wine and Petit Jo so special. The taste is so pure that you only taste grape and soil. Nothing else. The grapes create a rich palette of different deep full fruity tastes like blackberries, and the taste of soil translate into a mineral taste, a certain dryness. There is absolutely no trace of bitterness or acid as you can often experience with wine. The Petit Jo is just a delightful, wonderful wine. As pure as it gets.
The lack of sulfit means that this wine won't grow better as it grows older, you better drink it within the first 2-3 years. Also it should be conserved in a cool environment to prevent it from going bad.

The cave a manger and the bio-wine are both examples that point in the direction of a renewed interest in the country side and local produce. It's suddenly ok, not to say to have a farmer-like wine-bar in Paris and la Rochelle, whilst wine has of course mostly been associated with connoisseurs of high standing.
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