Wednesday, January 29, 2020

iPad Champagne Sabre

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Posted by Burke Morton On December - 31 - 2011

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

Popularity: 83% [?]

The Dog-Days: 2003 in Europe

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Posted by Burke Morton On June - 18 - 2010

The dog-days of summer are relieving themselves on my front door. I hurried into the house just now, trying to elude the heat, and started thinking about the 2003 vintage in Europe. I don't want to sound like I think fondly of it--no one should, given the humanitarian toll exacted upon Europe, France in particular. Although many fine, idiosyncratic wines emerged that year, it was a tough vintage overall, as Europe hadn't experience that sort of heat in anyone's memory. More than a week of over 100ºF across a mostly non-air condidtioned continent...this wasn't good for anyone.

The wines of this vintage are difficult to read in a long-term/short-term sense, but the conventional wisdom is that the best made wines from '03 are still not worth keeping for an extended period (20-30 years--or more), because the acid levels never had much of a chance to build up, as grapes ripened quickly and were only minimally exposed to the cool temperatures of autumn that encourage acid development. Pundits got hold of this and pronounced that these wines would have unbelievably short lives, sounding more like a doctor telling a cancer patient how long he has to live. However, conventional wisdom regarding deleterious weather effects on wine is, at best, shoddy, and the generalized prognostication is thrown off a bit by those who dealt well the vintage conditions. However, there were a few European producers whose are always reliable that didn't get the vintage right, and what with all the heat and dryness coming out of nowhere, they're hardly to be blamed.

The 2003 vintage was relatively successful in Spain, the Rhône Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Puglia, and Sicily--all places that are used to hot summers. The main worries of '03 for me were Austria, middle-to-northern France (especially Burgundy, Loire, Champagne, and Alsace), and Germany. And to narrow it down further, two varieties concerned me: the Pinot family and Riesling, which don't generally perform well in oppressive conditions without some extraordinary and prescient vineyard management. Because of the heat, the 2003 vintage produced wines that were larger-than-life with ridiculously thick textures and dense fruit profiles. German Rieslings were unbelievably full-bodied, like Barry Bonds between 1998 and perjuring himself. Burgundy seemed to suffer the most as far as reliability (I know, I know, those of you who follow Burgundy will say that this true in any case): there were far too many jam-on-toast, indistinguishable-from-one-another Red Burgundies from 2003 to permit much plauditory locution. These jam-on-toast wines were actually not bad, but if wine from one Cru tastes exactly like those from another Cru, then one of the principal and most compelling reasons for buying Burgundy is gone. However, the good Burgundies--red or white--possessed both some measure of subtlety and an impertinence that reminded you that they were from a normally cool climate.

Flash forward to now, and the well-made '03 Rieslings from Alsace, Austria, and Germany presently seem to have more acidity than they did through most of 2008. I have had many within the past year that have a surprisingly fresh acidity, such that I now wonder how much longer they'll make it. The 1973 vintage in Germany produced wines that few thought would live long lives, but here they are, still full of vividness and youthful vigor. The weather wasn't so extreme in 1973 as it was in 2003, but we might see a similar evolution (however, I'm not suggesting that you test this out, because if the wines are good now, there is no reason not to drink them). The well-made '03 Burgundies have also proven resilient. The '03 Bourgognes (entry-level wines) that I bought are still a bold and assertive smash, and even continue to have that saucy character I mentioned. This element usually mellows over the course of five years or so in the lower-end wines, but here we are after six years in the bottle and they're still motoring.

Why am I writing about this today? I see many 2003s still in the marketplace. I wonder why that is? I went to four different wine shops today, doing a little survey, and there are many wines from the south of France (mostly Gigondas and some upper-end Côtes-du-Rhônes, but also a few Châteauneuf-du-Papes), the Loire Valley (mostly Vouvray and Savennières, and some sweet wines, but a couple of Sancerres from the cousins Cotat, which are unusually long-lived...for Sancerre), Alsace, Burgundy, and Germany.

Do you still have '03s left in your cellar? Are you seeing them on shelves? I'd snap them up, particularly if you have some idea of quality, because the wines from this vintage may be extreme, but if they were well-made, then I don't doubt they'll be good.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Duval-Leroy Set to Exploit Second-Best

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 25 - 2010

You've gotta love The Onion! Going to college in Chicago in the early '90s meant that The Onion (which started in Madison, WI) was my comic meat every week. Even after it caught on nationwide around the turn of the millennium, it kept its edge, perhaps becoming even snarkier. Here, America's Finest News Source steals the show again with this little gem about an under-appreciated group of potential wine drinkers, bringing Champagne producer Duval-Leroy into the mix (probably unbeknownst to them...):

Champagne Company Develops New Second-Place Beverage

VERTUS, FRANCE—In an effort to provide second-place finishers with a taste of the champagne enjoyed by true winners, vintner Duval-Leroy unveiled a new sparkling wine Monday designed to be bitterly consumed by runners-up. "'Deuxième' balances the sweetness of near-triumph with the acrid aftertaste of once again falling just short," company spokesman Henri Babineaux said. "It is less effervescent but higher in alcohol content, ideal for sipping quietly in a rapidly emptying locker room." Babineaux added that the new beverage will be available in a screw top, allowing consumers to get stinking drunk without having to fiddle with a goddamn cork.

It's too bad this isn't a real news story rather than fake news. Of course, too often the real news, as it gets more politicized, seems to be heading toward fake news anyway, leaving an acrid aftertaste all its own.

Anyway, kudos to The Onion for their backhanded acknowledgement of runners-up everywhere, and for putting something in their glass, too.

Popularity: 6% [?]

A Too-Short Day in Champagne

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Posted by Burke Morton On February - 20 - 2010

François PetersOr specifically, a day at the only estate I could manage to fit into a six-hour span! The rail ads in Paris make a day-trip to Champagne sound easy (and it is), so I took the TGV from Paris to Reims, rented a car and drove south to drink some bubbly. Turns out that car access to the rail station in Reims is a morass of construction and detours, so naturally this figures prominently into the question of my punctuality for the return train to Paris, but that's another story. Thrilling though that tale is, the part you'll care more about (I hope) is that I spent the better part of an entire day at Pierre Peters, a small grower-producer in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a village south of Épernay.

An Ineffable Spirit
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is in the heart of that portion of Champagne known as the Côte des Blancs, referring to the white, high-chalk-content soil. In this area, Chardonnay is the only grape to which growers give serious consideration. This part of Champagne is Grand Central for Grand Cru vineyards, and Pierre Peters has holdings in four different crus: Le Mesnil, Oger, Avize, and Cramant. Grand Cru holdings don't ensure great wine, of course, but they do give one an edge. When that one is Pierre Peters, the wines are among the great Champagnes. For all you Chardonnay-weary folk out there, these wines also provide ample evidence/reminder that Chardonnay actually does deserve its exalted place in the firmament of wine.

Some have said that Peters' wines are textbook expressions of Blanc de Blancs Champagne, and that's not wrong, but that description doesn't accommodate the soulfulness of these wines, a trait that transcends the confines of "textbook". Peters' wines have an intimacy of élan, expressing their charms with dramatic flair, but they do it as though whispering into your ear. This may sound like mystical nonsense to you, but to me it is the underlying character that emerges only after you taste many Peters wines from through the past few decades.

Strong Even in Weak Vintages
The thoughtful and generous François Peters, erstwhile mind behind the wines at Pierre Peters (his son Rodolphe took over in 2008), presented a series of wines that far surpassed what I had hoped to encounter. We tasted a wide range of years and different cuvées. We started with the the always exciting non-vintage Cuvée de Réserve, then dove into the vintage wines. Two vintages that we tasted are considered "great" vintages--2002 and 1996--and indeed these wines were great. Naturally, the less-than-ideal vintages provide a more satisfying glimpse into the mastery of this estate, and the luminescence of the wines 2005 and 1993 vintages do just that. The '05 was positively velvety, which is not a quality I associate with this producer's wines. It was excellent and rather warmly comforting, although still a bit stiff, so I'll stash some of this one in my cellar to give it time to unwind. The '93 was the real revelation, as it bore no hint of the trickiness of this vintage. It was in the prime phase for drinking, sensuous and in perfect harmony, and no, I didn't spit this one.

Popularity: 6% [?]

A Week in France

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Posted by Burke Morton On February - 7 - 2010

Train à Grande VitesseI'm headed for France today--I'll be there for the next week while my wife is on a business trip for her employer. You can get from Paris to Reims in 45 minutes--thanks to the TGV--so while my wife is working, I will do some wine work Champagne. I'll be visiting two of my favorite small grower-producers, Pierre Peters in the Côte de Blancs (south of Epernay) and Vilmart further north in the Marne Valley (just south of Reims). Also thanks to the TGV, I'll spend two days visiting and tasting in the under-appreciated region of Alsace. It is a mere three hour zip across the country to the eastern corner of France, where I'll see several producers, including Trimbach, Weinbach, and Zind-Humbrecht (alas, they do not have a website). I know, it seems crazy that it's February and I'm going to be drinking a ton of white wine. Sounds perfect to me. I'll post updates as time allows--the next one will be from France!

Popularity: 6% [?]

A Ringing Glass of New Year’s Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On December - 31 - 2009

Bott-Geyl and a game of TroubleWe are getting started early on New Year's Eve--dropping in a brief post to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We're staying in this year (saves money on the babysitter) and we've already gotten into the Bott-Geyl Crémant d'Alsace. Our kids are old enough that we are willing to let a game of Trouble drag on until 10pm on New Year's Eve (those are my four pieces still stuck at the beginning!), especially when we can have something to drink.

Crémant d'Alsace is a long time favorite of mine, in part because it is one of the the best sparkling wines to drink any time--affordable and delicious. I treat Crémant in the same manner I would a Prosecco (a sparkling wine--also the name of the grape variety--from Italy) or a Cava (sparkling from Spain): it is proof that one SHOULD DRINK BUBBLY OFTEN, because few things can make us as happy as a good glass of sparkling wine.

In the Glass
I love the Bott-Geyl Crémant, by the way--it is dangerously is so easy to drink that I could polish off the whole bottle myself, but that never ends well! It is a crystalline wine with peals of flavor that points to a fair amount of some of Alsace's noble varieties in the mix (Crémant d'Alsace is most often a repository for Pinot Blanc...not considered "noble" in Alsace). Special thanks my friend Denise for showing me the way to the Bott-Geyl!

I'll finish by repeating myself--drink sparkling wine often (and this one would make a great choice!)--because you don't need to celebrate to have bubbly!

Happy New Year!!!

Popularity: 4% [?]

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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