Having reached its third Issue in what seems like no time at all, it’s about time I reviewed Pipette, an independent magazine running to three issues per year, coming out in February, June and October (Issue 4 is scheduled for November according to the web site) and devoted wholly to “natural wine”. That forms the first part of this article, but there are a couple of other magazine publications which also deserve being brought to your attention.
Root + Vine is a spin-off from Root + Bone, with a focus on what I might call some of the more interesting parts of the wine world (ie not DRC or Mouton). Vin.s La Passion des Terroirs is a relatively new French publication with a fairly wide remit to cover terroir wines. Root + Vine is cheaply produced, but well designed, relying on enticing articles from writers you really want to read. Vin.s has production values somewhere between RVF and World of Fine Wine.
Finally we will take a small step into Wine “BD”, and then into infinity (if not beyond) with Doug Wregg’s long awaited first novel publication.
Rachel Signer, a former New York resident who is now based in South Australia, and who was a leading member of the team that brought out Terre Magazine, is the lady behind Pipette. Terre had quite a wide remit. I recall an article on cannabis consumption in Issue 2, but Rachel has made natural wine the sole focus for Pipette and it continues where Terre left off with more fabulous articles which somehow cover the producers, or wine bars etc, you really want to read about. That’s the first thing I’d say about the magazine…it has its finger firmly on the pulse.
So what do we get in Issue 3? Articles on Pineau d’Aunis (desert island wine), Le Verre Volé, Clos Lentiscus, Daniel Sage, Sam Vinciullo, Claus Preisinger, and François Saint-Lô, among others. You get writers like Aaron Ayscough whose intimate knowledge of Beaujolais and the Gamay grape is translated here to Mont Pilat in the Ardèche, and we have young and talented photographers like Ania Smelskaya, who might be better known for creating innovative natural wine lists at Plateau and Silo in Brighton (UK), following her stint at Sager + Wilde, yet here creating the feel and mood of the articles: professional but still fun.
In addition, every issue from now promises a city guide, and Pipette’s guide to where to imbibe natural wine in London is an obvious place to start (don’t worry Paris, Tokyo, Berlin and SF, your time will come, as I hope will Vienna’s).
Pipette is pretty close to Terre in terms of production (same layout, same quality paper and certainly a publication where photography and graphic design are considered important). It’s very easy on the eye, and I love the format, close to A5 and perfect bound, which makes it pretty easy to carry around for planes, trains and automobiles.
Issue 3 runs to 92pp, with just one or two unobtrusive ads, and I paid £18.50 for it in a specialist magazine shop. I think the price might surprise a few people, those accustomed to paying less for wine material, but I’d argue that the price is justified. That’s not just because of the quality. I’m told Rachel believes in actually paying her contributors, far from being a given for writers on wine, I can tell you.
The production quality is very good, irrespective of the fact that the writing easily matches it. And finally, if you do take a nose around a specialist magazine shop like the one where I bought this issue (see http://www.magazinebrighton.com ) you’ll soon realise that in order for a relatively specialist magazine like Pipette to survive they, like others, just have to charge this much, relying on the consumer to pay for quality.
There aren’t many opportunities to read about natural wines in English, and even in French we pretty much only have the more narrowly focused Le Rouge et Le Blanc, so I would recommend supporting Pipette without any hesitation. Subscriptions are available via pipettemagazine.com. The cover art was created by Justine Saint-Lô (see Pur Jus, below).
ROOT + VINE
Root + Vine is an offshoot of Root + Bone, an independent rag that has a wider focus on food and drink. It doesn’t give away some of its secrets lightly. I know that I grabbed the first “Root + Vine” published separately to Root + Bone, and that it was actually published at the end of 2018. It was hard to track down once I’d been alerted to its existence by not one but two of the contributors. The suggestion that I might find it at Berry Bros London shop proved fruitless (none left), but then I stumbled upon a copy at Winemakers Club later that same day.
Whether there will still be copies knocking around, and whether there will be any more Issues, I’ve no idea, but it was well worth the paltry (in wine media terms) £5 I forked out for it. It runs to fourteen articles, and these include Mark Haisma on the challenges he’s faced in Burgundy, Miquel Hudin on making wine in amphora, Ben Walgate on his Tillingham project, Aaron Ayscough (he crops up all over) on Beaujolais’ furthest flung satellite village, Joss Fowler on Wine Crit, Henry Jeffreys on En Rama Sherry, Simon Riley on urban wineries, Doug Wregg admonishing us to stop dissing, Wine Carbooter Ruth Spivey on wine in London, and Tom Cannavan on wine forums and the great institution known as “WIMPS”. If you’re anything like me, you’d shell out a fiver for just a couple of those.
EDIT: I’ve since been informed that Root + Vine is still available and individual copies can be bought here for £7 delivered (effectively £2 p&p);
VIN.S LA PASSION DES TERROIRS
I also picked this up at the back end of last year in France, a brand new (Issue 1 – Novembre) French wine publication which seems to originate with Groupe EBRA (Le Dauphiné Libéré).
Issue 1 is a perfect bound magazine running to 226pp. It begins with news items, accessories, ways of buying wine, etc, before getting into the meatier features. This is why I bought it. A section on Champagne includes an article on Delphine Richard-Boulard (Champagne Francis Boulard). Other regions include features on Domaine Weinbach (Alsace), La Famille Lapierre (Marcel Lapierre, Beaujolais), Lyonnais Bistronomie, Michel Grisard (Savoie), Pierre Overnoy (Jura), and Gramenon and Chapoutier (Rhône).
Each region has other features, including recipes from a local chef and recommendations from a local caviste. The photos are pretty good, many approaching World of Fine Wine standard, and it only costs 8,50 €. I’d say that if your French is just about acceptable, it’s well worth flicking through the current Issue if you see one in a Tabac or Librarie that sports a selection of wine mags.
It’s probably also a good place here to mention some wine-related Bon Dessiner. “BD” for wine lovers sort of took off when the Japanese graphic novel “The Drops of God” was translated into French (and initially into English, but I believe that the English translation only made it to five volumes…do please let me know if I’m mistaken). The Drops of God by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto was first published in Japan back in 2005 (English Language edition 2011, Vertical Press, New York). It was described, probably with good reason by Decanter Magazine as “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years” at the time.
At the same time I bought the Vin.s magazine mentioned above (Jura visit, December 2018) I picked up Pur Jus Vinification. This is the second volume of Justine Saint-Lô and Fleur Godart’s Pur Jus graphic series on natural wine (Marabout, August 2018). The first volume, on vine growing, is called Pur Jus Cultivons L’Avenir dans les Vignes.
Both work on the same format – visit twenty or more natural wine producers of note, discuss their philosophies and techniques, and render these interactions into a graphic work filled with facts, ideas and humour.
To list all the producers here would be tiresome, and you probably know almost all of them. A few names give a flavour – de Béru, Albertus, Riss, Cotton, Coutelou, Porteret, Overnoy, Péron and Grappe.
In some respects you need slightly better French to read this than Vin.S, because of the colloquial language. The graphics convey the humour…yet at the same time they can be quite surreal. But if you do feel up to giving it a go (I don’t claim fluency) then you can access a nice bunch of lighthearted interviews with some of natural wine’s leading lights.
If you quite like the idea of wine translated to the graphic novel format, there are a couple in English translations you can look out for. Michel Tolmer is probably the funniest of those writing (and drawing) on wine right now. His adventures of Mimi, Fifi & Glouglou published by Les Éditions de L’Épure describe the wonderful, often pretentious, always amusing, wine tasting scrapes of three obsessives. The stories are always tongue in cheek and afford a wry look at how we ourselves can become ever so slightly ridiculous on our chosen subject. As Jamie Goode suggests in the Introduction, we are all ripe for satire.
Mimi, Fifi & Glouglou – A Short Treatise on Tasting was first published in French in 2013, but an English translation by Doug Wregg (2016, £22) is available. I originally picked this up at the 2017 Real Wine Fair (Michel was signing copies), but I would guess that Les Caves de Pyrene will be able to point you towards a copy.
The Initiates is one of my favourite wine stories in graphic format. It’s a tale of a comic artist and an artisan winemaker changing jobs. It’s written by Étienne Davodeau, and he is that artist who goes to learn about wine from Richard Leroy. They visit vignerons and writers, as each is initiated into the world of the other. It’s a graphic novel all about inspiration, motivation, and a surprisingly similar world view.
This English Language Edition was published by ComicLit, an imprint of NBM Publishing Inc, New York (USA), in 2013, and I still spot it in places which have a good Food & Drink section.
I’m currently reading The History of an Unusual Wine Company in 10 1/2 Chapters by Sir Douglas Wregg, and I suppose if I don’t mention it here I shall misplace the moment.
What exactly is is, you ask? Well, one of the “Mr Les Caves de Pyrene”s has written a history of the UK’s first, and major, importer of natural wines. Except that it’s less John Julius Norwich and more a cross between Ulysses and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with a little added soupçon of Shelley, Shakespeare and probably Shakespeare’s Sister. It’s published to look like a university dissertation (though thankfully minus the two hundred pages of footnotes at the end, which Doug is doubtless capable of adding if not physically restrained).
I only know Doug a little, but I make no apology for suggesting he is one of my wine heroes (in fact, there aren’t all that many of them). Through his various writings (via blog and wine list) I’ve learnt more about natural wine than from anyone else. I have also shaped my whole wine philosophy around the crap (I mean astute words) he has spouted forth over the decades.
So for me, this ten pound tome has been essential reading, and I promise it’s not because I, to my surprise, found I get a mention deep within. The prose (or is it poetry?)…well, I think the phrase “off at a tangent” (aka AWOL) was invented for this lovely human being. But the tangential exposition is always entertaining and a little bit illuminating. I’m guessing that with the chance to expand, Doug took it and did a Mo Farah twenty-six miler with it. It’s a history of Les Caves…sort of.
Running to 320+ pp it is ironically pretty much the same length as Julian Barnes’ original (the first edition h/b of course), but the Wregg is weightier than the Barnes. This isn’t merely a comparison of towering intellects, albeit with different wiring, but the Wregg is in a soft A4 cover, most likely printed on a HP Photosmart C4780 inkjet, albeit with a new cartridge. If your English is up to it, you can probably still get a copy from Les Caves (I paid a tenner at Real Wine 2019, but I cannot speculate whether, like stocks and shares, it has gone up or down in price since then).
I love it Doug, I really do. Thousands of fans of Mr Robert Parker might not. I hope you sell half as many as Mr Barnes’ second most famous novel.