Wednesday, May 5, 2010
There is a particular tier of wine that eludes analysis, and to which typical adjectives don't apply; these appeal to a grosser, more aesthetic instinct, and can only be understood by hearkening to many senses at once, including that of time... signal among them are those of Paolo Bea in Montefalco (Umbria). At a unique tasting of 13 Bea wines last night, with Paolo's son Giampiero, current winemaker and erstwhile architect, I found myself pausing again and again to cross out swiftly written, 'default' tasting terms like 'licorice', 'musk', 'rosepetal', and 'menthol' as inaccurate - I couldn't shake the feeling that, by settling for a facile, one-and two-syllable description, I slighted, somehow, both myself and the wines... A quieter consideration drew forth an evocative set of impressions that rang more true... the 2006 San Valentino Umbria Rosso called up not only the twilight aromas of worn, sun-bleached cobblestones in Montalcino, but something as well of their firmness and solidity (and even an element of that city's herb-scented air); the 2004 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco, Vigna Pagliaro had a lean yet generous, stern yet lush character which echoed the fine line and rich coloration of Raphael's Florentine portraits (1504-1508) which hang in that city's Palatine Gallery; the mahogany-hued 2006 'Arboreus' Trebbiano Spoletino conveyed the peculiar tang of Riomaggiore's lemon trees, to which the sea's proximity lends a haunting, gauzy saltiness... I was reminded of a quote from Jean-Michel Deiss (whose wines also, unquestionably, belong to the above tier), concerning wine's musicality, and how a piece by Mozart isn't 'understood' by a percentage-measure of its oboe, percussion, or violin, but instead by a sensual, wordless knowledge of its harmony... Giampiero, like Deiss, is a committed 'natural' winemaker (check out the ViniVeriGroup @ www.viniveri.net, to which he belongs, as the current 'president'): very involved in the cellar, yet also uncompromising in his refusal to over-manipulate... Is it this commitment that produces such compelling harmony? I think so... (More later on this topic...) Considering these impressions, I was also reminded of Faulkner, whose total cadence (a mysterious combination of sinuous sentence structure + ever-shifting narrative time) provides a lasting 'feel' and 'sense of place' that no mere plot description ever could, especially in Light in August... A 'Faulknerian' wine? Pourquoi pas??
Monday, April 12, 2010
What is it about older Alsace wines that continue to haunt one? Tasted the 1998 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 'Herrenweg de Turckheim' again tonight... at 15% alcohol, it was fairly hot & slightly lacking in fruit, yet so soy & vanilla & cola & light cumin-driven, it really engaged... tired, a bit, yet the wine lingers in the mind well after the taste falls away... a 'cerebral wine'? ... Purposefully tasted ahead of my 3-week tour of Alsace, including Olivier, starting 16 May, stay posted...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Cornas... why don't more lists feature wines from here?! I so clearly recall clambering up Clape's rocky vineyards in ripped jeans on my hands and knees for a full 30 minutes in 2006 - the soil was scarlet-red, so filled with iron it left me with scars that I treasure... So I tasted a 2001 Courbis 'Eygats' with my staff tonight, how beautiful it was... these wines take 8-10 years to open up and show their bloody-iron, lavender-peppery stuff, sure, but why not wait? 2 years ago, this wine was heavy and inky and slightly closed, but now it's lively - lithe, certainly, charming, even... tasting this wine tonight proved ONCE AGAIN how place trumps varietal - all Syrah, sure, yet the Cornas-esque-ness here was EVERYTHING...
Sunday, March 14, 2010
When did 'Sur Lie' become a regulated 'necessity' for Sevre et Maine?
Why was this regulation restricted to Muscadet? (Jo claims 12 percent alcohol is easy to reach: who needs more?)
What, after all, is a 'Dada' wine? (video to come soon...)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
A lovely tasting today at Perman's with Candid Wines and Jo Landron of Domaine de la Louvetrie in Muscadet; some mature Muscadets along with young ones, all from the 4 best winemakers in the region: Landron, Bossard, Ollivier and Papin. Jo likes to compare Muscadet to Burgundy in ripe years, and Savennieres in less-than-ripe years... an interesting idea, but for me, the extended lees contact of Muscadet tends to obscure those relations. It would take a 5-page essay to describe all the information he shared; I'll limit myself to a few choice rapid-fire comments.
Tasted the '09 Louvetrie, which had wide-out, generous flavors of orange blossom, tea, and chive, next to the '08 Louvetrie 'Hermine d'Or', which had powerful mineral and salt and a lemon-curd grip, which bore out Jo's comment that '09 was sunnier, more bold and juicy than '08.
The 2002's were showing GORGEOUSLY; we had a healthy number of these. Jo's 'Fiefs du Breil' was powerful, rich, and dark, with an exotic blue cheese/anjou pear flavor... Bossard's 'Orthogneiss' was round and plush, driven by golden raisin and sweet cherry... his 'Granite' had a saltier, mintier, nervously 'taut' character, while staying quite overt... Papin's 'D'Or' was very floral & fragrant, perhaps my favorite of the tasting - the palate was all smoked salt and fresh red salmon.
Interesting thing about Muscadet which speaks to other regions in France (and the world): the greater degree of minerality to the wine at harvest, the longer it can sit on lees and gain in complexity. The exposure of the site, the heat of the year, and the time of harvest all affect the potential minerality (expressed in terms of the root depth & essential oils they pick up). So 'sur-lie' time in Muscadet is relative to all of these. I found Bossard's wines (a biodynamic winemaker) to be the most complete... Yet Jo's, read as sculptures, had the strongest mineral 'pedestal', the highest step by which to be viewed...
Friday, March 12, 2010
... I discovered a terrific new taste pairing last week: roast pheasant and the superb 2007 Rully from Clos la Folie. The 'Schildknecht-fave' Domaine de la Cadette 'La Chatelaine' from Vezelay had also been my preferred mid-priced 2007 white Burgundy/Châlonnaise, but this Folie -a bit less nervous, perhaps, with less overt 'greenness' than the former, more yellow apple and textural 'give' - is of equal, if not superior quality. Roasted for 2 hours at 375ºF alongside raw white onion, basted in 2004 Montbourgeau 'L'Etoile' Jura Chardonnay, stuffed under-skin with fresh sage leaves [!] and butter, dusted with cracked black pepper and sea salt, the phinished pheasant had the ideal balance of sweet gaminess, buttery succulence, and pronounced herbality to allow the wine's otherwise disguised sinuous and muscular development to show itself. I ate the whole bird in one sitting, at 3am, along with the entire bottle. At times the Rully had the perfume and salty grip of a top manzanilla, La Cigarrera, let's say; at others, the grapefruit/taffee-ness of a Slovenian Tocai; and at others still, the autumnal fresh honey-crisp apple and cracked pecan that signals Rully... 'Clos la Folie' is one of their oldest sites, but perhaps not their meilleur cru... I can't wait to try their 'Clos St.-Jacques' with coquilles St-Jacques!!! Perhaps this spring...
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Waiting for the onions to cook down, working on getting this site in order, drinking the Moinette Bruin 2009 from Brasserie Dupont, and regarding a press-pot-decantation of a bottle of Schiavenza 2001 Barolo, decanted yesterday, waiting for tomorrow's enjoyment. It had an odor of rosepetals and tar on Monday, inspiring a rosepetal/hibiscus tea that evening, and then it became very tannic, dry and acidic (Barolo, bien sûr), and required more air. Decanting is always an issue, but not in this case... How will it taste with tomorrow's Onion Soup/Brandade with Morels/Roasted Pheasant? On verra... A great friend's birthday is tonight, and I can't miss the party...
So I'm just home, crafting a classic French Onion Soup after a day of creating a new cheese menu for the wine bar for which I'm sommelier and now the proud and passionate cheesemonger, and after tasting through a host of terrific new arrivals from Neal Rosenthal, including an unusual range of 2008 rosés from France, which signaled the coming of Spring. As may be expected, the Côtes du Rhônes were showing beautifully, along with the Provençals, while the Bandols and Ventoux were still a bit closed...