Wine enthusiasts throughout southwestern France keep open the first weekend of November each year to attend the region’s premier wine event, the Salon Vins et Terroir in Toulouse. The same wine producers, who come from throughout France, return each year to present their wines. It’s comforting, walking around and seeing familiar faces and winemaking families that have come here for several generations.
But, like everything, change happens as tastes evolve. For example, there was the appearance this year of several stands filled with bottles of an evil-looking cocktail made from a base of wine, fruit syrup and rum. The peach, grapefruit, kiwi and lychee-flavored drinks seemed to be competing on which phosphorescent-colored concoction was the most eye shocking. There were several such stands, but the most prominent was boldly named La Diablotine. A large, ornate capital letter “D” graced the bottle labels like some demonic coat of arms. Based on the number of twenty-somethings in front of the stand, I think that this drink must be a marketing success. Fortunately, this gut-wrenching elixir was in the “Terroir” food section, and not with the wine-producer section of the show. Although that poses the question of whether or not “Diablotine terroir” is of this galaxy.
The French exception
Ninety-nine percent of the winemakers present are French, with just a few winemakers from Spain and Italy in attendance each year. Which is why I was surprised when I saw, among the bearded, short-sleeve shirt clad, dirt-under-the-fingernails French vignerons, someone who stood out from the others. In contrast to the majority of the other winemakers present, the man behind one of the stands had a shirt with a collar (and the shirt was even nicely pressed). Rather than a José Bové moustache or an unkempt, burly beard, he had a neatly trimmed goatee. He was wearing wire-rimmed glasses, his fingernails looked as if they had just been manicured, and when he said hello to me in a Viennese accent that I remember from my time spent in Vienna a lifetime ago working for Coca-Cola, an image of Sigmund Freud came into my head. And, you might be excused, especially if you have already read a previous post of mine about when I swore that I had seen Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character at the Toulouse wine show, that I might not have spit out the La Diablotine (actually, I hadn’t been brave enough to taste the bottled, radioactive-waste-colored cocktail). But I wasn’t too far off from my hunch.
Dr. Peter Weigl, owner of the Domaine Krainz in Slovenia, had been, like Freud, a neurologist in Vienna. This was before he recovered in 2002 his family’s 24ha vineyard that had been nationalized in 1946. He is the grandson of the vineyard’s founder, the first Dr. Peter Weigl. During the 54 years that the Weigl family lost control of their property to a state-run cooperative, the small family vineyard located in the eastern corner of Slovenia, not far from the borders of Hungary, Austria and Croatia, fell into ruin.
It took until 2004 to replant the vineyard with white grape varieties that do so well in the vineyard’s wind-blown, silt loess that arrived here from North Africa eons ago. The main varieties grown here are Sauvignon Blanc, Šipon (the Slovenian name for the Furmint grape that is used to make Hungary’s Tokaji dessert wines), Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and the Traminer grape of Gewurztraminer and Jura wine region’s Savagnin Blanc fame.
Each of the wines that I tasted had a precise aromatic expression, with savory, refreshing acidity. The Šipon, a wine that was totally new to me as I had only tasted sweet Furmint-based Tokaji wines before, had delicious apple and citrus flavors and savory acidity that reminded me of one of my favorite wines from the Gaillac region north of Toulouse, the Mauzac wine made by the Domaine Plageoles.
The 100% Sauvignon Blanc was a delicious, medium-weight wine with grapefruit and floral aromas, brilliant acidity, and a vibrant minerality. Another Sauvignon Blanc that I tasted, a 2004 late-harvest wine that had taken a grand prize at the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge competition, still tasted young with its elegant and expressive wild strawberry and blueberry notes, well-balanced sapidity, and long finish. Another late-harvest wine, the 2007 Ilovci Traminer, had intense, persistent floral and spice aromas, with a complexity and citrus zest that lingered on the tongue. This dessert wine, like all of the Domaine Krainz wines that I tasted, demand food to enjoy them completely.
I have no idea if Dr. Weigl is an adherent of Freud’s dream therapy, but I, for one, will be dreaming about his wine until next year’s Toulouse wine show. I trust that he’ll be there to provide me with the cure.