Jean-Christophe Garnie Perle à Boule
Wine: Jean-Christophe Garnie Perle à Boule
Region: Anjou, Loire Valley
Grapes: Grolleau, Gamay
When I bought this bottle a couple months ago, I really had no idea what it was. It is entirely possible my friend Will at Woodland Wine Merchant provided details, though the only information I mentally logged was that it's good and I'll like it. Indeed, they know me well there. The bottle was one in a mixed case that also included a Dirty & Rowdy semillion and a Scholium Project Gemella - both interesting and unusual wines in their own right, with appropriately unique packaging, so that when I popped the bottle top cap on the Perle à Boule, it did not immediately occur to me that the wine would be sparkling. I thought the packaging was more in the vein of Austrian table wine practice where they often use bottle cap closures on liters of still wine. It is also standard practice to use bottle cap closures on sparkling wines while they undergoe the second fermentation in bottle (this is when the bubbles are produced). Usually the cap will be popped once the secondary fermentation is completed, the dead yeast cells degorged, the wine topped up with a sugar and wine mixture, and then the cork, wire and foil are applied. According to the importer's website, this wine was degorged, though evidently re-fitted with a new bottle cap closure.
To be completely honest, I wasn't all that certain where in France the Perle à Boule was produced. These days, I rarely research a wine until after I've tasted it. Sometimes this is the best way to experience a wine, or a film, or a person, for that matter. If you know nothing going into it (except that it/she/he came with a positive recommendation), then you take no prejudices along either.
Winemaker Jean-Christophe Garnier got his start as a sommelier in his mother country of France. In that profession he discovered many off the beaten path wineries, most of them natural wines from small, lesser known appellations. Garnier fell in love with the philosophy behind the wines, the respect for the land first - farmed organically and biodynamically - and the hands-off approach to making the purest vinos possible. He soon left his sommelier career to learn winemaking from Anjou producer Mark Angeli in the Loire Valley. Once his stage was finished, he bought some land and now makes his own natural wines off the beaten path in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay, a small town with roughly 1,800 residents in the Angers district near Anjou and Savennières.
The Perle à Boule, which means pearl ball in French, is aptly named. It was, upon first sip, a surprise gem and elegant treat. Gently sparking, pale pink and aromatically balanced with Pink Lady apple, a hint of grapefruit pith, and yeast. A 50/50 blend of grolleau and gamay, the wine was fermented with natural yeasts in fiberglass tanks and aged six months. It's slightly off-dry, easy to quaff, yet interesting enough to spend an entire evening with it, which I did, deliciously paired with a bowl of Cousin Willie's butter popcorn.