Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

The Hiatus Is Over…

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 25 - 2016

I'll be back writing more regularly in this forum, as we've moved again (this time from Michigan to the Chicago area), because my wife got a great new job, so I gave up my job (which was all of 6 months old at the time) so we could remain a happy family. It was an easy decision, but I very much enjoyed what I was doing, and I am sorry that I couldn't continue, but now I can regularly contribute to this forum...so more commentary, observations, experiences, and non-sequiturs for your reading pleasure!

Popularity: 21% [?]

The Trouble with Late Bloomers

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Posted by Burke Morton On August - 24 - 2012

That Whine's Ready to Drink...is they're not young and sexy! We--in the impersonal, cultural sense (so not necessarily you...or me...)--are obsessed with youth. You wouldn't have to try hard to convince me that this has been true since the earliest hominids reached middle-age and first noticed the nubile charms of their H-O-T hot youth frolicking through the ferns. Eons have passed, and there has been nothing to stop the insanity! Just take a look at music: in popular music, attractive kids are first snatched into the stage-mom vortex at the Disney Channel, and if they kind of have talent, that's an added gift; in classical music, the examples of child prodigies are legion--young violinists or pianists are lionized because of their technical facility, and while physical beauty is not so important, well, it sure would be a plus.

This attraction to youth is, I have noticed, also true with wine. For a while, economic factors--and advances in winemaking technology--drove many producers to make flashy, fresh, up-front wines. It makes perfect sense: as the buying public grew, the horde of new wine drinkers gravitated naturally to the wines that are easy to drink right away. Such wines have always existed, but now they can be as tutti-fruitti as you could want, and that makes them even easier to slurp down.

Too Much of a Good Thing
My least favorite scion of this trend is the wine that you can either drink now, or save for twenty years. You can do this with most any wine of course, but I'm talking about wines that are fruit-forward as well as capable of aging. It's the vinous equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Advances in technology now allow winemakers to control oxygen absorption (micro-oxygenation) to a specific degree before bottling. While oxygen is the the enemy of wine, it can--if well-monitored--make a wine more approachable. This means that now you can buy wine that will, supposedly, taste great young (because the tannins are softly nestled into the structure and expressed with varying degrees of intensity, directly proportional to the price you paid) and age beautifully (those tannins are intended to ensure longevity...though I've witnessed many wines that are decrepit before their time).

I don't know about you, but despite my inclination toward wild flights of fancy, this notion has my reality-o-meter blaring like a car horn in a box-blocking traffic jam. A wine that is delicious now and is great after a score of years sounds idiotic. It's like Kingsford charcoal, which now "lights faster, burns longer!" How's that possible? Imagine the chemical engineering that went into that! This is the wine world's version of a dress-'em-up-to-look-old-enough kind of thing, and not the way a 16 year-old tries to look twenty-one. It's more disturbing than that...there's something a bit too JonBenét Ramsey about it for me.


Continued in Part II on Monday

Popularity: 64% [?]


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Posted by Burke Morton On May - 27 - 2011

Roussanne, one of the grapes at the heart of many a white wine from the southern Rhône Valley, remains among the more obscure grape varieties thanks to the lack of ubiquity of white wines from southern France. Its name is derived from the russet hue that its berries acquire when they reach maturity.

A first-rate variety with a beguiling, haunting aroma, Roussanne was once on the brink of extinction thanks to irregular yields of its fruit, which was not resistant to rot or mildew. With the advent of newer clones that provide more reliable grapes (though they are still not as steadfast as its frequent blending partner, Marsanne), its has found a more solid place at the table with other white varieties of the Rhône Valley, though it is still planted in smaller quantities than are Marsanne (with which it comprises the only varieties allowed in the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St.-Joseph, and St.-Péray).

The aromatic profile, while inspiring, is also rather reticent. The aromas are often reminiscent of an enchanting herb blend (occasionally it has openly bergamot and rosemary notions) steeped into tea using saltwater, though this aroma, which by this description sounds as though it should be grandly effusive, usually seems to be teasing the nose from a distance..."haunting" indeed.

It has a fine, often prickly acidity that allows it to age quite well, and in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (where it is one of four permitted varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc), its wines can have ageing potential of twenty years or more. And speaking of ageing, the most notable exponent of this uncommon wine, Château de Beaucastel's palm-sweatingly expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, illustrates how well top-quality Roussanne can benefit from oak ageing.

Planted throughout the Rhône Valley, it also is notable in Chignin (Savoie) and in Provence. The Italians have also taken to it, and significant plantings can be found in both Liguria and Tuscany. Small amounts of Roussanne are produced in Australia and the United States, but in every case, Roussanne is the least successful Rhône Valley export, as its yields cannot match the vigorous Marsanne, and its charms are not as dramatically proportioned as Viognier.

Roussanne with Food
Cheese, poultry, pork, smoked fish, vegetables (it even works with crisply-cooked asparagus), and pâtés.

Popularity: 15% [?]

Wine of Small Interest…

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Posted by Burke Morton On December - 10 - 2010

...which should be of larger interest, but these are the realities, I suppose. Matteo Correggia, who is himself no longer with us (a tragic loss of a young winemaker, father, and regional standard bearer), is one of the Italian Piedmont's most important producers. Based in the Roero, the Correggia estate makes a broad range of wines, one of which is a red table wine made from the Brachetto grape. Brachetto is mostly used in Brachetto d'Acqui, a red, off-dry (well, it's just plain sweet), lightly fizzy wine in the mold of Moscato d'Asti. Correggia's version isn't sweet and fizzy, but rather a still, light-bodied, quite dry, elusive, and wildly exotic wine, so they have to call it a proprietary name, Anthos. It's less than $20 (usually about $18 in most markets), and is a beautiful wine with, of all things, okra (one of the few vegetables that I cannot abide), as well as asparagus (one of my favorites). I've also enjoyed it immensely with Taleggio cheese.

Popularity: 13% [?]

The New Chablis Négoce

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Posted by Burke Morton On August - 27 - 2010

I tried a line-up of 1er and Grand Cru Chablis earlier this week that were new entries in the resurgent negociant trade. For decades negociants in Burgundy--more specifically, those who were not also growing their own fruit--were, in far too many cases, little more than swill merchants. That has changed dramatically over the past twenty years, with two Chablis-oriented purveyors, Verget and Brocard, among those showing the way. These négociants purchase high-quality fruit from growers with whom they have influence regarding growing practices. Their track record of beautiful wines is impressive, and they have been joined by a Québecois named Patrick Piuze, who made wine at Verget for four years, then spent a year or as cellarmaster for Brocard. Clearly the lure of being his own master was too much to turn down (who can blame him?), so he decided to start his own label with fruit from the 2008 vintage.

Thank goodness. That's what we need--more wine! Okay--sarcasm aside, we REALLY DO need more good Chablis, which remains, in my view, in tragically short supply.

As a rule, the style cultivated by Patrick Piuze differs from his former employers: Verget's wines are creamy and with softened-edges yet still quite bright, while Brocard's wines are more streamlined and gilded more obviously with the classic brilliance of fruit grown in the Côte d'Auxerre. Piuze's wines are a step beyond this--they are austere, effulgent, tensile, and haunting, due mostly to a most transparent purity. While I recognize that these wines may cause some revulsion from those who tend to like soft and pillowy Chardonnay, I would contend that lovers of Gro­ßes Gewächs Riesling [a recently implemented Grand Cru system (don't get me started on the folly of that) in Germany from which the wines are, by law, intensely dry] would be enthusiastic. I'm actually convinced that anyone who loves great Chablis will like these wines, because they are crafted with such care. They were all excellent wines, but my favorites were the 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, which was more enchanting than the Grand Cru Les Preuses (one of the more famous Grands Crus of Chablis), though it lacked the classiness of the Grand Cru; the Grand Cru Blanchots was also extraordinary--supremely succulent and penetratingly aromatic, with a rapier zing driving it along. In the end, the one that stood out the most was one of those that seemed least impressive initially: the Grand Cru Bougros, which I discovered was absolutely mesmerizing TWO DAYS after it had been opened, whereas it was clearly well-made but overly reticent when I tasted with the others. What a difference two days makes.

These were great wines, but don't yet have much market penetration. Ask your retailer about them, because they'll hear about them...eventually...so help speed things up!

Popularity: 12% [?]

A Gift from Beaujolais

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Posted by Burke Morton On July - 27 - 2010

I have long been a fan of Beaujolais--well, Beaujolais of the non-Nouveau variety, at least. I don't have to scramble to explain the Nouveau/non-Nouveau nomenclature so often any more, what with the annual decline in popularity of Nouveau's arrivé-ing, and the coinciding (if not exactly commensurate) rise in popularity of Cru Beaujolais and its cousins, Beaujolais-Villages and good old fashioned Beaujolais. It's a delightful and classy glass of wine for not so much money...in fact, it's qualitatively better than the amount it will set you back, which can't be said for most wines that have widely recognizable (although not so recognizable that they have become commodities) names.

Many purveyors (unimaginative ones, perhaps?...sorry, but Beaujolais is EASY to sell, despite the too many merchants who tell me otherwise) swear that they can't sell it above $14--a cynical view that, to my mind, does their customers no favors. And because of my own long history as a successful agent of Beaujolais, I think this is a loss for both parties. Some merchants (and reviewers, too) are quite concerned with Beaujolais not being full-bodied, as if a wine's body has everything (or anything, really) to do with its value or ability to provide pleasure. It just has to taste good and be intriguing. Good Beaujolais does this beautifully, and with the 2009 vintage arriving--a stupendous vintage by any measure--there should be joy in glasses everywhere so long as customers get into these wines. These '09s will provide the thrills of any Pinot Noir that sells for twice the price. I know it's Gamay instead, but the wines are proving to be so good, that who cares? 2009 is one of those vintages, it appears, when you would have had to work hard to NOT make good wine, so the time is now...but I've gotten away from the impetus for this post:

I first met Roy Cloud, the man behind importer Vintage '59, ten years ago, and I have seen him occasionally through that time, following (to the degree that it is possible in Ohio) the growth of his portfolio, which has become a treasure-trove of marvelous wines, some of which clearly required some sleuthing to be able to bring to us. A couple of months ago, I had one such wine, a delicious Beaujolais--Boissieu 2007 Beaujolais-Villages (pictured above). Regrettably, it's not available in Ohio, but I was in Virginia, so there it was that I had the pleasure of drinking this lovely little wine. As I was savoring its blueberry and red currant flavors, I read the back label and discovered two other wines from Boissieu that I really needed to taste. I was quickly able to procure a bottle of Bossieu's 2007 Beaujolais-Leynes. (Leynes is one of 27 communes allowed to attach its name to Beaujolais to act as a distinguishing factor within the Beaujolais-Villages, but in my experience, there is precious little difference cultivated even at the top level between Beaujolais' ten crus, and it's usually even less distinctive between the communes.) Well, I loved the wine, it was a distinctive one (a beautiful bloom of violet candy--an aura that made it hard to quell my desire to sniff it long enough to take a sip--and when I did the crescendo of the whole essence was all I could have wanted. For $21, I thought it was a bargain. With 30 seconds web research, I discovered that it is now sold under a new label--Château de Lavernette...but it is still not available in Ohio.

What prompted this post now is that yesterday I did eventually taste the the other wine that intrigued me: the Beaujolais Blanc. It is only a Beaujolais Blanc by a fluke of where the boundary line between Pouilly-Fuissé and Beaujolais is drawn. I have found Beaujolais Blanc to be, as a rule, fairly diaphanous. It's not unpleasant or disappointing, but there is little definition to it, and great Chardonnay should have a real landscape, or at least the hint of one. Well, thanks to the fluke, the Lavernette Beaujolais Blanc is a bargain at around $21, and it's a shining example of what can be: a wine with a lively and robust character and still a suggestion of mystery. Incidentally, Château de Lavernette also makes Pouilly-Fuissé, and I managed to get a bottle of their Maison du Villard, which was another example of continued excellence from this domaine. And there are yet more wines, including a couple more Pouilly-Fuissés and even a Crémant de Bourgogne...where does it end???

Let's hope that at Château de Lavernette, it doesn't.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Video Today

You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 83% [?]


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