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Archive for the ‘Tastings’ Category

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: 10% [?]

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: 10% [?]

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: 9% [?]

Identity Crisis: Marselan

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Posted by Burke Morton On May - 27 - 2010

Humans and beavers are the only two mammals that alter their environment to suit their needs. Humans are the only ones that do it, on a large or small scale, out of curiosity AND necessity. Marselan, a hybrid-crossing of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, is one of those environmental tweaks that hasn't had much impact on the world, but it looks like it may actually be catching on. Hybrid grape varieties are genetic oddities created to result in a grape with specific characteristics. Playing with Mother Nature in this usually just results in an identity crisis of the Hermaphroditic sort.

An Unlikely Union
Marselan was created in 1961 in France. You might be wondering why such a variety doesn't fit into the realm of genetically engineered grains that Europeans so famously calumniate (is dwarf wheat really so different from a man-made crossing of two grape varieties? Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon are not native to the same regions, and so would never have reproduced with each other on their own). Not that Marselan is so warmly embraced by French growers, though there is no suspicion surrounding it in comparison to other more genetically modified plants. Grape varieties naturally procreate through cross-breeding: a strapping and multi-faceted grape like Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the union of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in what I hope was a particularly torrid affair. Marselan is a botanical researcher's attempt to combine the breadth and heat-tolerance of Grenache with the lithe but muscular and well-structured qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh, and they wanted the vine to yield heavily at harvest...my favorite thing. As never fails to be the case, things didn't go as planned.

The Main Character
I've now had four wines made of Marselan (one of which was a blend), which is a relatively wide sample in the scheme of Marselan. They each have a few characteristics in common: Marselan is a medium-bodied wine that lacks the sense of an endoskeleton that Cabernet almost always has (unless it's been heavily manipulated), it's fruit is not so cherry-oriented as Grenache commonly is, and the vine does not yield any heavier than either parent variety. Or looking at it with a less Socratic eye, it has Cabernet Sauvignon's fruit expression with Grenache's easy, open feel. In other words, almost the exact opposite of the initial goal. You can try for it yourself, because it has been imported into the U.S. for a couple of years now, and it makes good wine.

A New Red for Your Glass
Since Marselan didn't turn out the way growers had wanted, nothing really happened with the vine commercially. Marselan has been grown in the Languedoc ever since it was first crossed, and over the course of four decades, some estates made single-variety Marselan with leftover fruit, but these weren't made for commercial release. In 2002, Domaine Devereux made the first one I'd ever seen (a gift from a friend from France), and it was pretty good. Château Camplazens 2006 Marselan is widely available and delicious, if a little too polished (it strikes me as having an 'international' character, and is therefore less distinctive), but the Domaine de Couron 2006 Marselan is first rate, with brilliant black fruit and a pure, unfettered expression. The one I found most interesting, however, was a blended wine from Domaine de la Mordorée, the great southern Rhône Valley producer: 2007 Re:NAISSANCE, which was fifty-fifty Merlot and Marselan. The soft-core luxury of Merlot gave the Marselan a velvety richness that prompted me to buy another bottle. I would've bought a case of this one, but I was in Paris, and schlepping that across the Atlantic wasn't my idea of fun. Yeah, the Mordorée was good...but not that good.

Popularity: 17% [?]

Drinking Scheurebe on May 5

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Posted by Burke Morton On May - 8 - 2010

A couple of days ago, Cinco de Mayo to be exact, I drank a Scheurebe--a classic if obscure wine from Germany. Seems ludicrious, I know, when you consider that I had cooked honest-to-goodness Mexican food, and had even prepared the story of Cinco de Mayo for my kids. Turns out they learned about the Battle of Puebla in school, so once robbed of a tentpole for the evening, I figured that it didn't matter than I didn't have a Mexican beer or Tequila.

But Scheurebe? Many of you may be saying, "What the %#&! is that?" Well if you are unfamiliar with Scheurebe (SHOY-ray-beh), it's time to change that. Not that Scheurebe is easy to find, because too many outlets for wine retail don't carry one, or have never even heard of it themselves, but Scheurebe is available, and you can ask them to order one.

Anyway, since it seemed like the right time, I popped open the Lingenfelder 2001 Großkarlbacher Burgweg Scheurebe Halbtrocken from the Pfalz region of Germany. And it was good. [NOMENCLATURE: Lingenfelder is the producer; Großkarlbacher Burgweg specifies the vineyard known as Burgweg in the town of Großkarlbach; Scheurebe is the grape; Halbtrocken literally means 'half-dry', but for purposes of American drinkers, it equates to 'dry']

Scheurebe is a hybrid crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner [a common hybridization--other results of this cross include Ehrenfelser (a great but nearly impossible wine to find), Müller-Thurgau (completely uninspired in Germany, but tasty from Italy), and Rieslaner (which can be fabulous)] perpetrated by one Georg Scheu. Thank goodness this guy came along, because he gave us one of the lustiest wines around. How lusty? There are some versions of Scheu (shoy) that if you put it in a black glass, you'd think it was red wine, as the aroma is often dominated by black currants. The range of aromas for Scheu is quite wide, though: the Lingenfelder I drank with my chicken in red mole effused a beautiful, angelic scent dominated by candied pink grapefruit. It was a marvelous pairing.

I find Scheurebe--burlesque grape that it is (I say that because it strikes me as having a queen's bearing and stripper's sensibility yet has a rather gender neutral appeal)--so lip-smacking and tantalizing that I spread the word about it as much as possible. Have fun drinking it...or perhaps I should say don't have too much fun drinking it....

Popularity: 15% [?]

Selene Wines

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 21 - 2010

In this profession, I meet many suppliers as they travel around the country, and it is particularly nice to see them again (provided I found them scintillating on the first go round). I saw one of my favorite people again a few weeks ago--Mia Klein of Selene Wines. Her wines could be lame and I would still look forward to seeing her, because she is candid in her assessment of wine (her own wines included), generous with her time, and a very thoughtful force in California winemaking (she is the wisely-chosen consulting winemaker at many estates in Napa). As it is, her wines are exceptionally beautiful, individualistic, and user-friendly.

Mia was in town for a winemaker dinner at one of Ohio's coolest (and best) restaurants, The Winds Cafe (thirty years ago, this restaurant was twenty years ahead of its time, so far in the vanguard of the locavore movement that not only was "local" not yet trendy, it was alternative, which--at the dawn of the Reagan Era--was not a compliment; they've been making extraordinary food since the late Seventies, and if you haven't been you should go). I didn't make it to the dinner, tragically, but I did have the wines.

And On to The Wines
Mia presented four current releases, made of varieties one expects from Napa Valley, and here is how I found them, for what it's worth:

Selene 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Hyde Vineyard
Broad and elegant aroma, more perfumed than SB normally is--musqué clone? (I neglected to ask this...)--fluid and fresh with excellent fruit and wonderful body. Not straight-up mouth-searing, but plenty of acid, mitigated by its corpulence, as though it was aged on lees, which I don't doubt that it was. I'd love to have some shellfish right now!

Selene 2007 Merlot Frediani Vineyard
A beefy, serious Merlot. Great flesh and bit of youthful tannin--it has a broad, fairly bright, sweet fruit that is quickly subsumed by the structural elements, only to reemerge as the perception of the acids fade. This wine is in a very cool state presently, and while it could use some time, it is really marvelous. This is a pretty flexible wine food-wise, too...anything with strong proteins--beef, blue cheeses in particular.

Selene 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
This one is five years in, a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon, but not "complete" in the stereotypical way of California...thank goodness! It has all the components you'd expect from fine wine, along with a good lance of tannin...like a tent post, but it's so full of fruit that it screams California. With five minutes of non-stop swirling, the tannin yields some, fruit is even bolder--stash this one away for another five years, or have it with dinner--it'd be excellent with leg of lamb. CS from Stagecoach Vineyard is 90% of the blend, and CF from Frediani Vineyard is the balance.

Selene 2004 Chesler Napa Valley
Beautiful--aromatic and long, a great sense of allure. Aroma of lilacs, but it's like you're on the other side of a hill from them. This is so graceful--soft and curvy, feminine and suggestive--hard to beat good Cabernet Franc for that, I guess, but this character seems more amplified than I recall from the '03. The Franc and Merlot were co-fermented (they rarely ripen at the same time, so this is usually impossible), and MK thinks this is what made it so wonderously smooth. Still, it's got plenty of tannin. I think she said 60% Franc, and roughly equal parts of Sauvignon and Merlot (I forgot to write what and which, but it doesn't really matter). It'd be nice to have a roast duck with this one.

Popularity: 12% [?]

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

Popularity: 64% [?]

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