Pinot Noir doesn’t need my stamp-of-approval of course, but Gamay is a groovy grape that occasionally wears a stamp-of-ignominy because of Beaujolais Nouveau—which I also like—and which, in any case, is as absurd as dissing Zinfandel because of Sutter Home.
Passetoutgrain, sometimes written with a hyphen after the ‘Passe’ and another one after the ‘tout’, is an interesting Burgundian appellation in that it not location-centric and may cover all of the AOC ‘Bourgogne’. This includes the communes of Côte d’Or, Rhône (not the wine region Rhône), Saône-et-Loire (not the wine region Loire) and Yonne. But, since it is an appellation defined by grape varieties, one of which is Gamay, the bulk of it comes from areas in the Côte Challonaise, where red wines may be spicy and relatively inexpensive, like the Pinot Noirs of Rully and Mercurey.
Created in 1937, Passetoutgrain means ‘All Grapes Pass’, and indeed, there is little separation of varieties at harvest. But there must be some, since the rules of the game say that to wear the name Passetoutgrain the wine must contain more that 30% Pinot Noir, more than 15% Gamay with the rest made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris in any quantity totaling less than 15%. The resulting hodgepodge, if vinified with circumspection, equals a beautifully rustic, everyday wine that is suited to casual consumption without pedantics; no requisite mention of lieu-dits and two-acre-parcels that often accompany wines from Burgundy, the most coveted real estate in France.
And that pretty much describes Domaine Arnoux Bourgogne Passetoutgrain, 2011. A touch older than ideal, the wine nonetheless shows more complexity than might be expected from a like-priced Beaujolais (around $16), opening with a carbonic whiff of cranberry juice and fresh tart cherries, leading into deeper, chewy scents of dry, earth and leather, and then even deeper to roasted meat. It’s sharply acidic and slightly smoky, filled with immediate flavors that emphasize the fruit in the nose (kirsch as well) and less of the savory fleshiness. The wine shows satisfactory, medium length on the palate and seems suited to a family of intrepid, Pre-Revolution subsistence workers hunched in a peaty hovel supping thistles, salt fish and beans and raising a cup of the meal’s highlight: