Last night, I had the chance to taste my first wine from Dard et Ribo, the pair of au naturel winemakers in the northern Rhone that wine geeks froth over. Little or no sulfur dioxide is used in the cellar. The idea, as I understand things, it to maintain wine purity without manipulation.
I wasn't so impressed.
The wine, the 2006 Dard et Ribo Crozes Hermitage rouge, smelled great. Lots of violets, gravel, and blackberry aromas. And the flavors were nice too, with fresh acidity and sweet fruit balanced by a pleasantly floral bitter character.
Then came the finish. Gone were the the wine flavors, replaced by a building medical bitterness that left the most awful aftertaste in my mouth. I first thought there was a bacterial issue in the wine. But then someone tried it and said, "brett."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not into squeaky clean, antiseptic wines that have no character or personality, not to say I'm into dirty wines. Let's just say I don't look at bleu cheese and shudder -- the mold, it takes away from the purity of the cow!
I just don't enjoy an otherwise delicious wine that leaves me with an awful, bitter taste in my mouth. To be sure, plenty of other people seemed to love the wine. And with food (I was tasting this in a wine shop), that aftertaste would likely be mitigated by other aromas and flavors. I just can't say this was really good stuff. I will say... a little SO2 (or a little more) would have helped, in my humble opinion.
We opened another bottle to see about variation. Low or no sulfur wines can vary from bottle to bottle, as you might imagine. Sure enough, the freshly opened bottle was much more pleasant compared to the first one that was decanted for an hour or more. The bitter finish was replaced by a reductive, stinky note in the aroma that blew off quickly. I'm left wondering though if this that second bottle wouldn't bloom like the first one after being open for a while.
I'd like to try some more from this producer. I've enjoyed the low or no sulfur wines from Marcel Lapierre for years. Same with Catherine and Pierre Breton's Nuits d'Ivresse. I'll have to see if other Dard et Ribo live up to the praise I've heard and read.