Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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% [?]

Franco-Italian Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On July - 8 - 2010

I apologize for the infrequency of posting of late, but summer break from school keeps me occupied with my kids, and much as I love writing about wine, they deserve better than an absentee father, which is what I'd be otherwise. However, greater frequency is imminent. Speaking of patriarchs, yesterday I was drinking a lovely glass of '09 Domaine L. Chatelain Chablis when my father, a bottle of '08 La Toledana Gavi in hand, topped up my Chablis, thinking, not unfairly, that Gavi already occupied my glass. I'm game for this kind of thing (there was more Chablis to be had, so it wasn't a big deal), so I drank--with some relish as it turns out--what was roughly a fifty-fifty blend. We were having swordfish steaks (from the USA of course...gotta be sustainable about your fish), and while neither the Gavi nor Chablis had been particularly scintillating with the fish, the combination was, as you have probably guessed, spot-on.

The Chablis on its own was crisp and lively, with a brilliant texture that seemed lighter than usual. The Gavi, conversely, came across as more intense and robust than I consider typical. This combination was singular and really quite fun. It yielded something more akin to a Marsanne from a cooler vintage. A marriage of Chardonnay and Cortese (the two grapes involved in the impromptu blend) cannot be a common one, but the result was enlightening, and in the event that I had forgotten, it would have been a reminder to keep experimenting--even in some unusual ways--with wine and food.

Any experiments and discoveries of your own?

Popularity: 20% [?]

Winter Cleaning

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Posted by Burke Morton On January - 15 - 2010

Dirty Wine CellarIt's time to clean our basement. It is a naturally cool space that is conveniently damp thanks to the hydrostatic pressure applied by the hillside that rises behind our house, so naturally I have stashed my wine there. I have a fair amount of wine, some of which is neatly stored in racks. The rest of it is stacked rather haphazardly in front of the racks, which is sort of impractical, but there's precious little space to choose from, so there they sit.

This is, of course, the problem. The state of our basement--for which my wife (wisely) refuses to take responsibility--has become a 'situation' because I couldn't find the wine that I wanted to have with dinner. This is not the first time this has happened, but the results were certainly the most outré.

Needle in a Case Stack
I had just served linguine with a Gorgonzola cream sauce with peas and figs, and my wife said to me, "It seems like we should have a bottle of white wine with this." Oooh!!! Throwing down the gauntlet! Of course I was embarrassed that I hadn't thought of this, so I headed for the basement to try to regain my dignity. I wanted a Viognier, but the challenge was finding one. I thought I knew where the Viogniers lived, but after digging through 12 cases of assorted wines (food's getting cold!), the only thing I could actually lay my hands on that seemed appropriate was Alsatian Pinot Gris. Despite being the biggest enthusiast of Alsatian wine I know, I just didn't want that (I have had LOTS of it recently...). So I went with a Chardonnay, which might have been okay had it been a Monterey Chard with a butterscotch thing going on flavor-wise, but no...it was Chablis.

Even if You Believe Hard Enough, You're No Less Wrong than "We'll Be Welcomed as Liberators"
It was a bottle of Verget 2004 Chablis. This was wrong. I knew it was wrong. Chablis would never have occurred to me under any other circumstance. Chablis is, by nature, tensile and minerally, which was not right for the Gorgonzola cream. But I suspended my own disbelief and sought some credible way of shoehorning the choice into place by rationalizing that the Jean-Marie Guffens (the man behind Verget) treatment (which yields a cool creaminess) would help it out. Any help this style of wine making may have made was negated by vivid clarity brought by the 2004 vintage, which energized most white Burgundies beautifully (the reds have not fared so well).

It was delicious wine, no question, and it didn't ruin the food, but it didn't really work, either. It became a little black peppery, which was not the flavor I was seeking. My wife put it well: "It's on the edge of clashing, but it still makes my mouth water." Yes indeed--perfect description.

A Viognier, on the other hand, would have really been lovely, and when I finally found one the next day, it provided a delicious lift to the leftovers.

...I Meant to Do that!
Coincidentally AND ironically, the Chablis was a success with our dessert: we had M&M Bars that I made with my children (essentially Toll House pan cookies made with M&Ms instead). The moment I took a bite, I knew that the Chablis would work, and it was indeed an extraordinary companion. Ha! Redeemed right at the end! .

Of course I planned it all along....

Popularity: 8% [?]

Video Today


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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