Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drinking in Paris: discovering burnt wine

30.01. 2013. I met Emma Bentley, from the fantastic food blog Burnt Cream after doing a guest post on her site about some of my favorite Paris markets. We met for a drink (okay, a few drinks) and Emma told me about starting her blog in 2011 and how writing had segued into hosting events at her home, such as the Burnt Food supper club and her Burnt Wine tasting series.

Intrigued by these events and Emma’s evident knowledge of natural wines, I was eager to attend a Burnt bash as soon as I had the opportunity. I was therefore pleased to join Emma’s Eastern wine themed Burnt Wine event on a snowy evening in January, which not only provided me with the chance to participate in one of Emma’s tastings, but also proved the perfect primer for another Georgian wine tasting I had later that month.

Emma, who studied at West London Wine School before moving to Paris two years ago, is drawn to natural wines because she appreciates the transparency and authenticity of the process of natural winemaking, as opposed to mass-produced alternatives.

“I like to know where my wine comes from and how it was made” Emma told me, adding that she gets interested in wines that she knows were harvested by hand and pressed by foot.

The selection of wines our small group (events usually have a maximum of 8 people, keeping it intimate and fun) tasted certainly rose up to those standards. Georgian wines, we learned, have been made for over 5,000 years and the region has a rich history of winemaking that has hardly changed over the years (later at the Georgian wine tasting at Le Chateaubriand I would learn that this is in part due to the fact that winemaking is not taught in schools, but passed on through the generations, observing the ancient tradition of growing and vinification).

Georgian wine after being shaken to break up proteins and transferred to a carafe

The Georgians ferment their wine in clay pots called “amphorae”, which are buried underground. The wines ferment in these pots from anywhere from a few months to a year. The underground aging mixed with the fact that many of the wines (including the whites) are fermented with their skins and stems, makes for some surprising and delightful discoveries.

These eye-opening moments don’t happen par hasard they are exactly what Emma aims for when organizing her Burnt Wine events. “The idea of Burnt Wine is to give the floor over to some of the most exciting discoveries I have made in my professional context and share them with anyone who’ll listen” Emma expalined.

A knowledgeable and totally accessible resource, Emma runs the events like an easy-going Wine 101 class, where concrete examples and demonstrations are provided in response to questions asked in a comfortable and non-judgemental setting. This, too, is intentional. “The wine world can be very introverted and snobbish” Emma admitted, “it’s difficult to ask what you think is a silly question, like ‘what do people mean when they use words like legs, body, tannins, strawberries…”

Emma clearly and effectively explained to our group the affects that tannins and acidity have on wines and how we taste them (tannins dry your mouth out, acidity brings the moisture back). She also answered my question about shaking wines, which I had been advised to do by a caviste upon purchasing a bottle of natural wine. “It’s to break up the proteins” Emma told me, while agitating a bottle of white.

Burnt Wine provides not only the opportunity to enjoy Emma’s taste for adventures in wine, but also her stellar cooking skills. Apparently people were getting a little too tipsy at earlier incarnations of the event, where light tapas were served with the wine, so Emma decided to include a meal in the event- so we can thank past drunkards for that!

The Eastern wine event was accompanied by cheesy bread, Georgian pierogis, a hearty meat stew and a gorgeous dish that included kidney beans, garlic, and walnuts which paired perfectly with the reds on hand.


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