Posts Tagged: Czech Republic

The Legend of the Grand Arnaque

Back in 2015, when 6ème arrondissement bistrot Café de la Nouvelle Mairie was known for its influence on natural wine and not Emily in Paris, I was sitting near the bar when I noticed an unfamiliar label displayed high on the wall among more famous empty bottles from the likes of Dard & Ribo and Yvon Métras. It was a vintage 2008 wine bearing the name of Czech-born Ardèche vigneron Andrea Calek, but instead of his trademark, minimal, multi-colored brushstroke motif, it bore a sumptuous, slightly unnerving neo-impressionist Biblical painting. “That’s the Grand Arnaque,” said then-owner Ben Fourty, when I asked him about it. “You don’t know the story of the Grand Arnaque?” CALEK’S GRAND ARNAQUE Though he would assuredly deny it if asked, or get up and leave the room, or drown the conversation in a foreign opera station, Andrea Calek has always been a savvy manipulator of the media. He has just been, on several occasions, weirdly ahead of his time.

The Abandoned Orchards of UTOPIA

Ivo Laurin leads a tasting in the couple’s kitchen in Jan. 2023. Eva and Ivo Laurin produce natural cider and cider vinegar as UTOPIA on a majestic farm dating to the 15th century outside the village of Obrataň – a short walk through the woods from where my friends Jan and Nada Klimes produce EUFORIA birch saps. Apparently both couples fled the city life in Prague at around the same time; upon meeting in their new surroundings, they quickly became friends and colleagues on the frontier of Czech Republic neo-paysan artisan beverage production. The UTOPIA cider production is notable for the Laurins’ deft exploitation of the regional particularities of their situation, notably the late ripening period, the reliably intense winter chill, and the proximity of numerous and diverse old orchards, unfarmed or abandoned outright.