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The Dirty Guide to Wine
Special natural wine tasting with wine writer Alice Feiring
Wednesday, August 9 between 6-8 PM $12

The notion of terroir, the Venn diagram in which the animal, vegetable, mineral, and human dimensions of wine converge, asserts that wines can taste uniquely of their places of origin. Unique origins produce unique wines, and yet everything we do to wine in the modern world seems to destroy terroir. This is a central tenet of natural wine, that low-intervention, sensitive winemaking lets terroir speak while industrial winemaking erases terroir, masking it with yeasts selected to produce a specific flavor profile and rejiggering wine with enzymes, acidification, deacidification, and machinery seemingly capable of denaturing a wine and reconstructing it into a perfectly plastic nowhere wines.

Terroir is a fragile thing. The squares want us to give up our belief in it, daddy-o, and treat us like a parent explaining to her child that sadly, the tooth fairy does not exist. And yet some of us stubbornly cling to our belief that the earth transmits information though subtle frequencies—you just need to find it on the radio dial.

This Wednesday, August 8, we are pleased to welcome one our most eloquent advocates for terroir, wine writer Alice Feiring, to the shop for a natural wine tasting, book signing, and foo. Author of The Battle for Wine and Love, Naked Wine, and her Feiring Line newsletter, Alice has a new book, The Dirty Guide to Wine (in conjunction with New York natural wine sommelier Pascaline Peltier) entirely dedicated to the question of terroir.

When I asked Alice what she’d like to pour she floated the idea of pouring one or two wines that are affected by gôut de souris, a peculiar flavor that affects some natural wines and that present a challenge to the shibboleth of low-intervention. Gôut de souris, or in the inelegant and difficult to parse English translation, “mousy” flavors, is a peculiar sort of lactic, corn chip taste that, once you identify and name, is unforgettable.

Many consider mouse a repellant wine flaw. A hardy bunch, probably numbering in the dozens, savors the flavor and consider it a sign of authenticity, a signifier of the real. It’s not quite “some hate it, some love it,” but more so, most hate it, a few cannot taste it at all, while a small minority dig it. I cannot speak for Alice, but I do not find mouse the most repellent thing I’ve put in my mouth. I don’t like mouse and do not seek deliberately seek wines that have it, but sometimes one slips through. Mouse is a Hollywood party where nobody sleeps tonight; it’s going a mile a minute, but then you abruptly realize that you’re trapped in the corner with a witless narcissist who talks incessantly and oppressively about themselves—enough about me, let’s talk about me. And then the relief you feel when you’re finally able to excuse yourself, oh, I would like some more punch, whew! Unlike any other wine flavor, even musty TCA, responsible for corked wine, the flavor of mouse expands and grows inside your retronasal cavity, for five or maybe ten minutes. Personally, I consider mousy wine flawed, but that’s not why I don’t dig them. I don’t dig them because they drone on, and on, and on. They’re boring.

When you ask most natural winemakers about mouse, they make a sad face and despair about the appearance of mouse for it is not something that they ever deliberately seek. A minority but a persistent number of natural wines, grown and made without recourse to the crutches of contemporary wine engineering, exhibit mousy flavors; industrial wines are never so affected. To me, mouse is noise that makes it hard or impossible to hear the signals of terroir, because mousy wines always taste the same, regardless of their region of origin.

We will taste two wines affected by gout de souris: one is very lightly affected; the other is moderately so. We will also taste two natural wines that are certainly funky, but not mousy. You can decide how you feel about mouse after the tasting.

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