Fabrice Monnin (Corbières, France)
Perhaps it was a misjudgment in scheduling breakfast with Alban Michel prior to our late afternoon meeting with Fabrice Monnin of Mazière. By the time we arrived in Padern, a commune in a particularly awe inspiring section of the rugged Corbières where Fabrice works discreetly, we were drunk as fuck. It was late June of 2022, summer had just begun, and the high Mediterranean sun made me feel that anything was possible, the thickly hot air enveloping my body and alcohol drenched brain, rain clouds obscuring the sun momentarily and dissipating as fast as they had appeared.
The French like to talk about a concept called ivresse, or a quality of drunkenness. Does the wine make you feel high and enlightened or does it put you down, sedate you? I'm certainly not after the latter effect when I drink. I'm not sure there is a term for ivresse in English, but at a certain point, I realized that, knowingly or not, this is what all of us natural wine drinkers who have gone deep are after. I've taken plenty of psychedelics, drank ayahuasca, smoked a lot of weed in my 39 years on this planet, but there is nothing—and people think I'm crazy for saying this sometimes, but there is nothing like drinking wine from certain makers that gives you this specific feeling—it's an awareness that I'm after when I drink. Good wine takes you places and awakens the senses, softens the blow of life. It shouldn't wallop you over the head.
Fabrice Monnin is a quiet character who deals with the slow passage of time. He understands that good wine takes time, and that there is no other way. Time alone. In this stupid instant gratification world that we live in, Monnin and his wines are antidotes. He keeps barrels back from every single vintage and plays with blends, topping and untopping. Every wine has a little bit of every other wine in it, and perhaps not from the same year. His cellar exudes a sense of calm, and is both a place to meditate in, and to work. I hate to make specific analogies to art practices when talking about winemaking, but I can't think of another one here: Fabrice is a painter and Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Macabeu are his colors. His collection of barrels are the palette, and what ends up in the glass is the painting. In an unbelievable tasting that actually sobered me, brought me back down to earth a bit that day, Fabrice led us through vertical pours of every single cépage, beginning with Macabeu and ending with Grenache, and then through a series of multi-vintage blends, and finally with a taste of red rancio. We talked about music and our mutual love of jazz and players like Keith Jarrett, and about other winemakers that were exciting him in the region, l'Absurde Genie des Fleurs especially.
Despite the usual high degrees of alcohol on most Mazière wines, the level of ivresse is high, the drunkenness soothing, recalibrating. I went on a terrible date at Café Deco in London recently, but of course Anna’s cooking was absolutely fantastic, and there was one last bottle of C18 on the list. I ended up drinking most of the wine, meditating on velvety, softly tannic and rich 15% Carignan, remembering that afternoon in Padern, and that despite all of the shit going on in my life, things were actually good. I ducked out of the café into the foggy and misty deep indigo London streets, and took a long, quiet walk back to the apartment on the other side of the city.
One of each per customer, only, please
Grenache et al
Carignan et al