DECEMBER 2023: BIG Holidays

by Leslie Pariseau

Being in this world can be heavy. And sometimes I can get heavy about wine too. Wine, for me, is a prism of everything—politics, nature, climate change, philosophy, capitalism, art, and on and on. BUT, sometimes you gotta take it easy, and now would be that time. So rather than wax philosophical this month, let's just go big.


This month, I picked the best of the liter bottles available to humans at this time of year. What's so great about a liter? The average wine bottle is 750ml. A liter o' wine is 1000ml, which is approximately a whole extra glass. Sometimes a bottle of wine is not enough and sometimes two is too much. A liter is a boon for sliding into the holidays. A liter feels a little like the loaves and the fishes—a gift that appears from nowhere, exactly when you need it.

Here is your gift + a mini sidecar of socialism:

Milan Nestarec "Bêl" Žižkovská, Czech Republic 2021

Milan Nestarec is very aware of his brand. His savvy is rare in a sect of wine that is deeply agricultural, i.e farmers—and farmers working in the Czech Republic. He declares his methods "normal" rather than "natural" or "low intervention." A way perhaps to de-cultify a term that has can sometimes be used as a commodity rather than a meaningful practice. Whatever the term, we agree that his wines are normal—and also not.

The thing that strikes me about Milan's wines is the energy. They have a up-ness to them—an exciting zip that is, on the exterior, delivered with very good packaging and, and on the interior, well made and utterly kinetic. Do not let the plump, beer-y bottle deceive you. Supposedly rustic, its intention is mirrored with a beautiful woodblock print by Milan's wife, Mirka, but the handmade trapping belies its sleekness. Gruner veltliner, welschriesling, and Müller-Thurgau are a textural and electric blend, with weight appropriate for buttered lobster or spicy mussels. Conserva setup please.

And before we depart without a little political banter: Let us remember the geography; take a peek at a map. The Czech Republic is at the center of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. It was also a Communist (lightly branded "socialist") country up until 1990 with a shifting economy that moved from cooperatives to privatization within a few years. This affects EVERYTHING when it comes to wine—the way it's farmed, produced, distributed, and more. It's something to consider when it comes to thinking about how Czech wine ends up on a little ole' shelf in New Orleans. (We're here to talk about that in-shop whenever you like; raise your hand if you want a Communist-themed wine club soon.)

Poderi Cellario "La Grinozza" Langhe, Piedmont, Italy NV

I will forever have Poderi Cellario's wines in the shop. And if you come through often, you know them. They're the perfect intersection of approachable and experimental. And they specialize in liters.

Party people! aka Fausto and Cinzia Cellario make this "La Grinozza" from 100% grignolino, a super-seedy grape friend in Piedmont. An entirely biodynamic, hand-picked pèt-nat, it's a bubbly red full of cherry cordial and mouth-coating rhubarbary. Pair it with a stinky cheese or a pizza bianco. Importantly, the bottle is ornamented with Tonio, Cinzia's well-mustached dad who recycles his liter water bottles via Poderi. This is the very reason our shelves get filled with these beautiful, clear glass liters o' wine. Full circle, full cycle, good for your world.

La Boutanche, Martin Texier Rhone Valley, Cinsault 2022

La Boutanche and its poppy, anthropomorphic labels have become synonymous with the image of the natural liter bottle. The label was conceived by natural importer Selection Massale as a way to present glou glou wines from excellent producers at an accessible price. "La Boutanche" loosely means "my bottle," and comes from the French tradition of locals filling their jugs at the local wine co-op.

This gorilla-adorned label from Martin Texier, is just a delight. He says his idea was to make "an easy-drinking cinsault, low in alcohol and extraction." For the first few years, he made it with grape from his neighbors, but for the past three years has been making it from Cyril Cuche's vines in the Gard, an all-organic outfit with deep clay soils ideal for light-bodied Southern Rhone wines. According to Martin, this year was dry, perfect for super-healthy grapes with excellent fermentations. It's spicy, easy and just the thing for sitting in front of a fire, or a fake fire, or a bonfire with friends, a joint, and a carol.

Jingle Bells. Rudolph. Frosty. Happy New Year.