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December 2012

Roche Buissiere Petit Jo

Drinking the Petit Jo is revelatory to me.  Not because of it's interesting back story (which it does have), but because it really just tastes revelatory to me.  The Petit Jo tastes revelatory like it wants to party!  It's also revelatory in having a wild taste that's different from all the wines I'm used to drinking in a way that I have trouble pinning down.  The Petit Jo's flavors aren't so different from other, the difference is in the intensity and freshness of it; the Petit Jo is like a person that has so much energy that even sitting still they bounce up and down and rock back and forth.  I've shown the Petit Jo at several tastings now and it wows people every time I show it.  Sometimes I actually get comments like "this is too loud for me" or "this is just too much!", but the vast majority of the time shock is a positive one and it sells out.


My friend Joe Appel just wrote about another natural wine from the portfolio of Zev Rovine: the Contadino 9.  The Contadino from Frank Cornelissen is a better known, more sought after, more complex, more profound (and expensive) wine that's kind of a standard bearer for natural wines.  It made a huge impression on Joe and I totally agree with him that the Contadino is a truly exceptional wine and is a piece of art.  Personally though there's something about the simple and unabashed exuberance and accessibility of the Petit Jo that I love more.  The Petit Jo isn't trying to be a fancy thought provoking wine.  That it ends up being one is simply because it is so damn delicious!

So here's that back story I promised.  Petit Jo is a Grenache that's made by a small family winery in the Cotes du Rhone: the town of Vaucluse.  The Joly family has been farming organically since 1975, and started making wine in 2000.  They make their wine with nothing at all added to it.  Basically they put whole grape clusters into an open vat, let it start to ferment with wild yeast on the skins, and then after some racking off of the sediments and what not they bottle it.  This is radical because almost all the wine in the world has things added to it to make it taste the way the wine maker wants.  Nearly all wines are fermented with commercially developed strains of yeast and many have coloring, tannin, sugar, and other funny things added.  Even in the world of small scale natural wines that I work in most producers add some sulfur to stabilise the wines.  The Jolys add nothing at all.  The Petit Jo is 100% grapes and nothing else!  The thought provoking revelation is that it is so delicious without all that other stuff.  It makes you ask: "why add all these other not grape things to wine?"  What's the point?  Well the point is predictable tastes and reliability, and profitability too, but that's a whole other conversation.

The point is that the Petit Jo is a subversively delicious wild young Grenache with vibrant pepper, loads of juicy fruit, and a slightly wild furry aspect to it.  I call it subversive in how it challenges our accepted wisdom of how wine has to be made by being fun and $15.  You should try it and see what you think of a really wild no sulfur wine.  It's available at the Bier Cellar, the Rosemont Markets, Aurora Provisions, RSVP, and Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport.

Devenish Holiday Wine Reccomendations 2012


Thank You so much for your business and support over the past year! Money and business aside, all of us at Devenish do this work because we are really passionate about wine.  In our spare time we taste wine, cook, read about wine, and try out new food pairings.  So thank you all for your business and support that allows us to do the things we love!  You feed our passion.  

Looking back it feels like our spring show at the Seagrill was an eternity ago.  We’ve grown a lot over this year and we couldn’t and wouldn’t have without the support of our customers.  Devenish has been in Portland for 10 years next spring and I can say that I don’t think we could have done this anywhere else in the country.  The food and dining scene here is so rich but also open and personal.  Over the past 10 years the way we operate and the wines we carry has been really driven by the development of the Maine food scene.  Thank you for making us what we are today and we wish you a fantastic end to the year!

-Ned Swain

New Wine Portfolios

The holidays are crazy, why would you do anything to make them worse?  Well, some amazing wine opportunities came along and we couldn’t pass them up.  We’re adding not one, but three new portfolios.  They’re all amazing.  It’s hard for us to not just freak out and hyperventilate.

Zev Rovine Selections

Blue Danube

Adonna Imports

Holiday Wines Suggestions

Domaine des Espiers Sablet Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2010 $14.67
This is the most perfectly balanced and cleanly integrated Rhone red I’ve ever had.  The Espiers Sablet is primarily old vine Grenache and it has the vibrant berry fruit and pepper that you’d expect, but the refinement and polish is really exceptional.

J.Heinrich Blaufrankisch 2011 $17
The aroma of this Blaufrankisch has smells of nearly every berry you can name.  It’s super vibrant and juicy, but also has hints of wood smoke and roasting meat; it’s a gorgeous and exciting young red. Available at the Blue Hill Wine Shop and Aurora Provisions.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV $80
Regularly chosen by people whose job it is to judge Champagnes as the best rose in the world.  Available at Browne Trading, Lilly Lupine and Fern, Whole Foods, Bow St Market, and the Old Port Wine Merchant.

Roche Buissiere Petit Jo 2011 $15
Petite Jo is 100% Grenache; literally!  The family that makes this ferments in open tanks with the wild yeast and then adds nothing before bottling, not even sulfur.  It really is just fermented grape juice.  It’s beautifully clean, exuberant, and juicy; wildly fun and delicious!  Available at the Rosemont Markets, Aurora Provisions, RSVP, The Bier Cellar, and Royal River Natural Foods

Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil 2009 Galichet $20

This is a single old vine vineyard in Bourgueil farmed biodynamically and then aged in bottle for two years!  It’s perfectly integrated ripe and juicy Cabernet Franc for a great price!  Available at Whole Foods, Rosemont on Brighton, Downeast Beverage, RSVP, and the Bier Cellar

Chateau de la Moriniere Muscadet sur Lie 'Vieilles Vignes' 2011 $13
Muscadet in the winter?!  Yes!  It’s scallop and oyster season!  This is a clean, crisp, focused white that’s aged for longer on it’s lees so it has a bit more follow through. Available at Whole Foods, Local in Brunswick, RSVP, all the Rosemont Markets, Bow St Market, and Downeast Beverage.

Patricius Harslevelu 2011 $17
Harslevelu is a grape variety from Hungary’s Tokaj region.  In this instance it’s fermented completely dry, but has a nice full mouth filling texture alongside some crisp minerality.  This is an interesting white that’s well suited for the winter and works well with shellfish.  Available at the  Rosemont Markets, Aurora Provisions, and Browne Trading.

Jaffurs Syrah 2010 $29.99
Wine doesn’t get much more hedonistic than the Jaffurs Syrah.  This is a big, voluptuous, dark Syrah with intense fruit so thick you can sink your teeth into it, aromatic spices, and medium tannins that draw out the finish. The shocking thing is how integrated and complex this heavy hitter is.  Available at the Rosemont on Brighton Ave and Browne Trading.

Gattavecchi Rosso di Montepulciano 2010 $15
Classic Sangiovese aged in oak for a year from the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany.  This tastes like the dry rolling sunny hills of Tuscany and sometimes that’s exactly what you need in the winter.  Available at the Cheese Iron, the Rosemont Markets, Bow St Market, Le Roux Kitchen, Downeast Beverage, and the Market Basket in Rockport.

Domaine Laguille Gros Manseng 2011 $13
This is unique wine has fresh peach and pineapple fruit, spice, and vibrant acidity.  It also has some residual sugar, but the sweetness isn’t the dominating characteristic of the wine, it’s balanced by everything else and is fantastic for cheese or a greasy cheeseburger or pork roast! Available at Local in Brunswick, Rosemont on Munjoy Hill, Aurora Provisions, and the Bier Cellar in Portland

For news, updates on limited offerings, as well as tasting notes, please visit, like Devenish Wines on Facebook, or check out our blog:

What Makes Wine Taste Like It Does?

Wine: it’s made from grapes.  Seems simple enough.  Oh, the grapes are grown by vines, and there are all these different varieties of vines.  Some we haven’t even identified and they all make different grapes.  And the vines grow differently based on what kind of soil they’re planted in.


The density of the vines matters too: closer together means more competition for water and nutrients.  The sun also makes a big difference; how much, when, how hot.  We can’t forget rain if we’re talking about sun.  The effect the rain has is different depending on the slope and drainage of the vineyard too.  What about fog and humidity?  But if the winemaker has pruned the vines maybe the sun matters more, because it hits the grapes more directly.  Oh, yeah, the winemaker.  The winemaker is important too.


 Depending on how densely the vines are planted they behave totally differently and get more or less nutrients and water.  Then how are the grapes pressed? Different techniques give you different qualities of juice.  How the juice ferments depends on what kind of yeast is used, and what kind of container it’s in, and how big the container is, and is it open?  and how long is it in the container?  and is the juice pumped over or stirred or pressed down or....... then there’s culture and tradition and the winemaker’s personal preferences...... Can we just all agree it’s magic?

J. Heinrich Blaufrankisch 2011

J.Heinrich is a winery located in the town of Deutschkreutz in Austria's Burgenland region.  Burgenland is over in the east of country, surrounded by mountains, and is home to Austria's best red wines.  The Heinrichs have been making wine here for over three hundred years now; Silvia Heinrich took over ownership from her father in 2010 after studying winemaking in Italy and Germany.  Blaufrankisch is the family's primary focus and over 80% their vineyards are planted to the grape.  You can read more about them here: J. Heinrich.

This 2011 Blaufrankisch is the youngest and freshest of their reds and is aged in stainless steel.


Aroma: Pow!  The J. Heinrich has really intense lively young blueberry and crushed raspberry that leaps out of the glass and grabs your nose.  The aroma is a check list of small ripe red berries, including but not limited to: blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and blackberries. The aroma of this Blaufrankisch is very juicy and floral, but clean, clear, and not particularly earthy.  Underneath all the vibrant fruit aromas there are some subtle hints of of pepper and spice as well as touch of smoke.  It's a very autumny smell, like a whiff of burning leaves in crisp cold fall air.

Taste: Just like the aroma, there's lots of intense juicy young berry fruit to this Blaufrankisch.  The texture is smooth and pretty polished, the tannins are soft, and it has nice fresh acidity.  The J. Heinrich is medium bodied and the mid-palate kind of opens up and picks up body after the bright opening.  There's substance to the mid-palate that you can sink your teeth into. 

This is a lively and refreshing, but polished red wine.  It reminds me of exciting cru Beaujolais, but with more stuffing.

My Trek through Brooklyn Part II

In the last post we left off with Erin and I walking around a cold and dark Brooklyn unable to get any food.

We walked through a lot of empty industrial areas that didn't look like the best place to find a fantastic restaurant.  Kind of like this:


So after unsuccessfully trekking through Brooklyn for hours in the cold and the dark, Erin and I continued heading east towards our last hope: The Pines. 


We walked in to a long bar space with tin ceiling tiles coated in peeling paint covering the walls and ceiling.  We sat down at the bar and started to take in the scene around us.  I'm pretty sure that we were older than the entire staff excepting only the chef, who we could see by looking down the bar and into the open kitchen alcove.  20121124_220131
There was some down tempo trip hop music on when we entered but since it was late that quickly transitioned to some energetic NY rap.  I ordered a bottle of Taillender Laguzelle Minervois and we started looking through the menu.


I don't know why, but the menu had a picture of Tom Cruise holding an M16.  We were cool with it.  The menu seemed to list the primary ingredients of dishes, and then on the right the accompanying ingredients.  It took some time to figure out, but we wanted to try everything so making decisions wasn't really a priority.  We started out with the Jicama, Sweet Potatoes, and Prosciutto. 


All of it was great.  The sweet potatos were served like little baked potatoes cut open with buttermilk filling in the center and the Jicama was in a great fresh coconut dressing with crispy salty pancetta crumbled over it.  The combinations of competing textures and flavors was playful and exciting. 


For the main course I had a sliced pork shoulder served over rye berries and Erin had a house made Gargenelli pasta with muscles, oregano, and stracciatella.  Both dishes were delicious!  The flavors were intense and clear and played off of each other creatively.  It wasn't subtle or understated, more loud and boisterous tasting.  The combinations and pairings of flavors was spot on and gave both of us an impression of playfulness.  It seemed like we could taste that the chef had had a really good time playing around in the kitchen and dreaming up the dishes. 

Often times I dine at restaurants away from Portland that are billed as amazing by non Portlanders and am unimpressed; Portland does really have it pretty good.  The Pines though was some of the best food I've had in years and brought back memories of some of my most memorable meals.  We probably enjoyed it just a bit more because we had to work so hard to find it, but the food really was stop you in mid bite, mouth open, shockingly good.

Patricius Tokaj Harslevelu 2011

Patricius is a family winery in the northeastern Hungarian wine region of Tokaji-Hegyalja.  The Kékessy family started buying vineyards back in 1997, but the Tokaj appellation goes back many hundreds of years.  The history is long and rich and I'm not really going to try to get into it here, but if you want an over view check this out: Tokaj-Hegyalja.


Varietal: 100% Harslevelu

The Patricius Harslevelu is a modern dry Tokaj.  The sweet traditional botrytized style is what's so famous, but there's been a lot of experimentation with dry styles more recently. 

Aroma: The smell is elegantly interesting and aromatic without being over powering.  There's a soft aroma of white peach, green apple, and some pear, as well as dried hay, golden raisin, and some candied ginger.  There's a subtle but unmistakable spice there alongside all these enticing smells of ripe fruit, somthing akin to the spice of pepper and some dried grass and hay, but not herbal at all. The Patricius Harslevelu's aroma is inviting and insinuates that the wine will be lush and generous. 

Taste: Harslevelu isn't a familiar grape to me, so I didn't have any real expectations from the Patricius, other than what the nose had lead me to expect.  On the palate the Patricius has crisp apple fruit supported by a full body and a texturally rich mouth feel.  The Harslevelu has some serious glycerin and coats the inside of your mouth while still tasting fresh.  The mid-palate gets richer and picks up more of a lush toasted lemon tart-let kind of thing.  The Patricius Harslevelu definitely has a quality on the finish that makes me think of delicious baked goods: kind of a combination of the fresh fruit and a hint of warm toastiness.  There's also a mild pepperiness to the finish that's unique to me and lingers for a bit afterwards. 

The Patricius Harslevelu is certainly a unique exciting experience; I'm so glad to be working with it!

Domaine Espiers Sablet 2010

Domaine Espiers is an excellent tiny winery in the Gigondas area of the Rhone created and run by Philippe Cartoux.  I've carried wines from Espiers for a few years and wrote about the Espiers white Cotes du Rhone a while back.  You can see that post here: Cuvee Diablotine20121122_220914

Philippe Cartoux created Domaine Espiers in 1989 when he started acquiring small parcels of vineyard.  Today he has 14ha spread among parcels in Gigondas, Sablet, and Violes.  He works very hard in the vineyard, planting vines at higher than usual density to limit the yield of grapes.  The soil in Sablet is sand and clay and Cartoux leaves a fair amount of natural plant life and grass in the vineyard to prevent erosion and also limit grape yields.  Espiers farms organically, ferments with the natural yeast on the grapes, and adds very little SO2. Philippe Cartoux describes Sablet as the pinnacle of the 16 villages included in the Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC and his Sablet is a good argument for that opinion.


Aroma: I smell lots of flowers but also with some herbs like lavendar.  There's very pretty clear ripe rose and other red flowers along with some garrigue here.  This Sablet undeniably smells like the dry hills of the southern Rhone on a hot sunny day!   The aroma is fresh and bright and alongside the flowers the Espiers alslo has a strong smell of fresh just picked raspberries.

Taste: What really hits me about the taste of this wine is how clean, purposful, and well made it tastes.  All the different tastes were very balanced and integrated, but also very clear and crisply defined. 

First I taste bright clear cherry, but then the Espiers Sablet gets a bit darker riper tasting before adding some black pepper hints and dried fruit on the finish.  There's also a really tasty dry rock kind of mineral componant underneath the fruit in the mid palate.  The finish has soft mild tannins that fade away nicely. 

This is a nicely balanced, pure tasting wine that is a great expression of the southern Rhone.  Cartoux and Espiers are famous for clean, pretty, classic tasting wines like this that are unusually drinkable.

My trek through Brooklyn part I

On the second night of my three day wine and food research trip in NY I got a list of restaurant recommendations prefaced with: "Brooklyn is where all the cool food stuff is happening now". We were based in down town Manhattan for the weekend but how could we refuse the challenge of a statement like that? After some debate Erin and I decided to take the subway over and see what we could find. We emerged in an empty avenue next to some large dark school building.

After some wandering we got our bearings and headed down Atlantic Ave and over to the Columbia.  It looked like we were going to walk onto a highway though so we took a detour through a hospital and then some large dark apartment buildings.  It was a shock to be somewhere with out mobs of people going in every direction after the day in Manhattan.  Finally we found our destination: Pok Pok.  Pok Pok was described as a fantastic little Thai restaurant with very exciting food.  Unfortunately the wait was an hour and a half.  

It was pretty cold and windy right by the river, but Erin and I decided not to go to one of the other near by restaurants and move on to the next option on our Brooklyn list: Battersby. Battersby was about another 1-1.5 miles east.  We found it eventually after another long walk through dark apartment blocks.  At this point we'd been out walking in the high 20's temps and wind for a while and were getting uncomfortable.  Battersby though had an even longer wait at over 2 hours.  0-2

At that point we needed to get warm so we went into a next door bar called the Clover Club to get drinks and reassess.  We'd spent over an hour wandering around being cold in a vaguely gritty urban landscape inhabited by depressed looking hipsters.  Luckily the Clover Club had a serious cocktail list and once we were fortified by some warmed liquid courage and political discussion we decided to follow the example of a certain sometimes dysfunctional political party and "double down" on the same strategies that were failing us.  We headed east to a restaurant called "The Pines".  The Pines had been described as "truly an experience place".

Before you all write in accusing me of wrongly impugning your political party in a space that should be a political: I was in fairness referring to both political parties.

Part II soon!

The Fantastic Portfolio of Zev Rovine

Part of Devenish's basic mission statement is that we focus on hand made wines that express the climate, culture, people, and vineyard that they come from.  Although we're always looking, it's not so easy to find wines like that.  Devenish is looking for wines that are exceptional and by definition they're rare.  So it's been a while since we found a wholly new (to us) importer that we were wowed by, but we have in Zev Rovine Selections.  Zev is a younger, passionate, intense guy who has made a name for himself by pursuing and working with natural wines that others thought were too quirky, small production, or just totally unknown to be marketable.  The wines in his portfolio aren't made with any particular market or sales angle in mind and don't have marketing guys in suits and pointy shoes.  His wines have had an outsized impact on the wine world and there's been lots of written about the producers he works with.

That sounds a lot like the mentality that has made Devenish successful.  After meeting and talking, tasting wines, and getting to know where we both come from it was evident that our companies were a good match and we agreed to work together.  Devenish couldn't be happier about the addition of these wines.  Why?  Well, we got together a couple weeks back and tasted through a series of samples. They were beautiful, alive tasting, exciting, and very compelling.  Here're the tasting notes:


Philipp Tessier Cheverney 2011

Cheverny is a region in the Loire north east of Tours that grows both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  This blend of th two was floral and pretty in a clean cool Loire valley in springtime kind of way.  The acidity was fresh but not too intense, the salty minerality was a more dominant taste.  There was bright fresh almost unripe pineapple on both the palate and aroma.  I found this to be lively, vibrant and fun.


Tessier Cour Cheverny 2009

Cour Cheverny is 100% Romarantin; a rare local indigenous grape.  The Cour Cheverny was a bit more oxidative and had a rich luxurious, but slightly volatile smelling aroma of golden raisin, ash, and candied ginger.  The palate was big and lush with toast and riper fruit similar in taste to the Cheverny.  The Cour Chevrny still had pretty tasty minerality that was a great counter part to the full texture and body.

Petite Jo

La Roche Buissere Petite Jo 2011

La Roche Buissere is a family domaine in the southern Cotes du Rhone near Vaison-la-Roche.  The family had been farming organically since 1975 but selling their production to others; 2000 was the first year that they made their own wine.  The Petite Jo is primarily Grenache with a bit of Syrah. 

The Petite Jo was super bright and vibrant, fun and very honest tasting.  There was really bright vibrant black cherry.  It's simple, but so fresh!  kind of jammy but in a really good fresh home made blueberry and black raspberry kind of way.  This is so playful and exciting!


Azienda Agricola Cirrelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

This is another really bright, honest, slightly rustic in a friendly kind of way wine.  The Cirrelli had bright lively cherry and raspberry fruit and some slightly spicy pepper and a bit of a rich earthy gamey quality.


Taillandier is a 32 year old who started his domaine in 2007 with 7 ha.  The one quote from him I could find said that he wants to make wines with "a lot of french in the mouth"  Great.  Well, the wines are pretty fantastic so mission accomplished. 

The Viti Vini Bibi Minervois 2010 had an intense earthy aroma that smelled like digging in a farm pasture in early summer.  Not muddy, but rich dark loamy soil.  The Viti Bini Bibi was big and dense, smooth in texture and sleek with softer tannins.  Lots of dark tight berry fruit as well. This was a very intriguing wine.

Taillandier's Bufentis Minervois 2010 was less gamey but darker and more profound and serious seeming; more complex.  This had some chocolate to it as well.  It was juicy and took longer to open up, but was delicious!

I should have these wines in a week or so and Zev is coming up to visit for the 10th through the 12th.  I can't wait!!!!  Keep your eyes out as we'll be doing some events to allow you all to meet him and taste the wines.