I was recently asked a question regarding the Libertine Autumn Leaves Saison that I really couldn't explain exactly... What is a Saison? Well, it's kind of complicated I guess. Traditionally Saison designated a type of farmhouse ale brewed indoors during winter in the French speaking area of Wallonia, Belgium. These beers were low ABV and tended to be a refreshing drink for Summer while or after working in the fields.
But what does that mean? What does it taste like? What is the commonality that defines the modern style? All good questions that again were kind of hard to pin down.
Modern Saison's trace their roots to a few traditional Belgian brewers who took the rustic farmhouse ale and upped the ABV a little bit and made the beer mainstream. Most famously Brasserie DuPont from Tourpes, Belgium.
Cloudy pale gold with strong head retention, foamy almost cloud like. The nose is fruity with a barnyard funk and earthiness, finishing citrusy with lemon zest and sour orange hop notes. On the palate the beer is light and fizzy, refreshingly similar to a heifweizen without the banana and Bazooka Joe. Orange Peel, Coriander, and a hint of clove offer great complexity leading to a crisp bitter finish.
Modern beers began to emulate this style, but being the craft beer world, experimental exploration would create hundreds of other beers that really can't be defined, and no longer emulate the classic Saison as we know it. So what is a Saison? Well, it's different, each brewery tends to do it a little differently and it's usually pretty darn tasty. Generally though a Saison will always be...
An Ale (top fermented) that leans on it's yeast strains for complexity. Most will contain herbs and spices (commonly Coriander, Cloves, Orange Peel), and most will be close to dry with little residual sweetness, some may have a slightly tart component from wild bacteria. That is about as close as you can get to classifying the category.
To me, a saison is a fun beer when you're in a Belgian mood, but a sour is too tart and a Tripel or Quad might not be the best idea.....
In America it seems Champagne season comes only once a year. Although we firmly believe that Champagne should be enjoyed all year long, we get it: Staff parties, family celebrations, and of course New Years.
Knowing how much we love our Farmers' Markets here in Santa Barbara, our affection for Farmers' Fizz is only natural. The term Farmers' Fizz was coined by Champagne guru and wine importer, Terry Theise. Farmer Fizz is what we wineauxs call Grower Champagne. These winemakers unlike the mass produced sparklers we're familiar with devote their entire life to their vines, their blends consist of parcels and patches that are located only within their own villages.
In contrast, Maisons Champagne make up what America mostly drinks when it comes to fancy bubbles. These large and industrious houses buy their grapes from vineyards all over Champagne and are out for a formulated product. So where's the love in that? They negotiate with growers through cold handshakes throughout the difficult vintages, blend mega-lots, and have a perpetual stock of champagne to play and assemble with. This is why we love grower Champagne, its simply that idea of making the most with the least. This holiday season lets sow into our festivities the fun of tasting and appreciating the nuances from village to village and producer to producer!
So find a grower, support a farmer. Because we've only tilled the surface on this Farmer Fizz!!!
Join us on December 12th for our 2nd annual Champagne tasting where we'll feature both these style of wines and a good amount of what Terry Thiese has brought to america!
If you can't make it, we're sorry to hear that but let us make some recommendations for you on what to open for the holidays.
RM - NV Gaston Chiquet "Tradition" 45.99
RM - NV Robert Moncuit Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 47.99
RM - NV Pierre Peter Blanc de Blanc Cuvée Reserve 59.99
RM - NV Coutier Brut Cuvée Tradition 41.99
How to read a champagne label!
A little quick tip if a bottle says RM this means in french Récoltant manipulant AKA Grower, If it says NM this means négociant manipulant and this is a maison or house Champagne.