Sunday, January 26, 2020

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 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% [?]

Wine Region Once Removed

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Posted by Burke Morton On May - 15 - 2010

In the Loire Valley, the appellations are mostly dispersed along the banks of the Loire River, and some of its tributaries. There are a few curious regions that are generally included under the administrative umbrella of the Loire Valley that have about as much in common with the Loire as a cygnet does with ducklings. In fact, I have heard some Loire Valley producers refer to one of these regions in particular, Châteaumeillant, as the ugly duckling of the Loire.

Châteaumeillant is a young appellation, raised to AOC status in 2007. Only red and rosé wines are permitted under AOC rules, and the two grapes responsible for its wines are Gamay and Pinot Noir. The wines in Châteaumeillant are quite distinctive and have shown consistent and excellent quality in recent years, so some of them are now showing up on shelves in the United States. I recently bought a bottle each of two '07s from the same estate--Geoffrenet-Morval's Version Originale, and Extra-Version. Calling them fascinating is an understatement. I wonder how well they will sell? They are not geared toward what is often perceived as an "American" palate, but neither are they difficult to appreciate. Is this the kind of wine that retailers will balk at because they'll have to hand sell it? Well, we'll see.

The Wines--With & Without Food
The Version Originale is 100% Gamay, and was delicious and vibrant--heady blue fruit aroma and a light body with a lovely black currant tint to the flavor. Beautiful color--dark heliotrope, catches the light like crystal. Wow. A tricky wine for usage, because tannins are initially sleek but build steadily. It's great depth of flavor and slight salinity steered me toward tuna tartare, and that worked beautifully. Had a small plate of charcuterie to start, and the combination was dynamite with it (except for the chicken liver mousse, but that's no surprise). Spanks every other Loire Valley Gamay I've ever had (and that's actually saying something).

The Extra-Version, a name no doubt filled with double meaning [it both capitalizes on the French word for extroversion (extraversion) and because it is another version of Châteaumeillant, because it is atypical], is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay, an unusual blend, as Châteaumeillant is generally Gamay-based with no more than 40% Pinot Noir. Soaring, edgy aroma that is full of rhubarb, blackberry, and lavender. Lithe but not flexible, this might be controversial for someone expecting it to be more "Pinot Noir"--the vivacity is quite rotund, but it comes through a fairly light-body. I loved it with a napoleon of capicola, frisée, Cherokee Purple tomato, and classic southern mustard sauce between flats of jicama. I imagine it would also be quite delicious with trout.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Bringing Back the Forgotten

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 2 - 2010

I just read on a pop culture site that Olivia Newton-John's former boyfriend has been found. Surely you remember that he vanished five years ago?!?! No? Well, I do, if only because I am apparently still holding a little Xanadu flame for ON-J. No, I'm not much of a disco fan, and yes Xanadu was a ridiculous movie (I haven't seen it in about twenty-five years, but I recall Gene Kelly (!) is in it, and ON-J is a Muse who inspires a guy to build a disco roller rink, and there's a whole mortal/immortal love thing, did that movie get funding?), but it was the news story that got my attention in the first place. I realized that I had forgotten that her former boyfriend (one Patrick McDermott, 48) disappeared, and that I actually hadn't cared much. Since I'm a poster child for free-association, I began to wonder what else have I forgotten--and then what have we forgotten--that was once important to someone else. Coincidentally, I had in front of me a bottle of Henry Marionnet's 2003 Les Cépage Oubliés--the forgotten grapes.

There are a slew of forgotten grapes out there, and if we knew something about most of them, we'd probably thank God that we don't have to suffer through a glass of whatever dreck they perpetrate. But you know, these grapes were at one time important to someone, some region, some cuisine. They undoubtedly complimented the cuisine of the region beautifully, but other grape varieties came along that were better (better for whom?). What did we lose? Surely there are some varieties that had some charm, but have been victims of economic viability. Reestablishing some of these has really paid dividends in today's overheated wine market, which is why we can find wines made with grapes like two arcane varieties from Champagne, Arbanne and Petit Meslier; one of the old great rosé varieties from Provence, Tibouren; and the one in the Marionnet wine, Gamay de Bouze.

Gamay de Bouze is a very cool grape, because it has RED FLESH underneath its skin (part of a class of grapes called teinturiers). Most red wine grapes have white flesh and white juice, but Gamay de Bouze has naturally pink juice. Both red and white fleshed grapes depend on the grape skins to become dark red. The wine from Gamay de Bouze is more rustic than the FAR more common Gamay Noir that you'd find in Beaujolais. It's flavors don't suggest a reason for it's obscurity other than a relative lack of refinement. At first sniff I wondered if the vine had taken a bath in apple pie spices, and I loved the wine's intensely dark fruit flavor. These qualities are so ingrained in this's as though some regular Gamay Noir got tattooed with cinnamon and then tarred and feathered with black plums and wild blueberries. Those feathers give it an unbridled, flyaway notion too, both in the aroma and even more so in the mouth--a slightly churlish expression. This fleshy wine might actually be a good Gamay for meat (there are others, but I don't want to crack that encyc-lobe-edia right now), including a seared rare duck breast and even a filet.

So this Patrick McDermott guy apparently doesn't want to be found. Dodging some debts, it would seem. It's arguable that we wanted to find him (although Dateline NBC apparently thought we cared...maybe they should've done a focus group on that one). At least he had an insurance settlement, fraudulent though it may have been, to go to his offspring to cover his encumbrances. No matter how it turns out for him, there's no doubt that we'll be happier ignoring him while more grape varieties rebound, eventually finding a refuge in our glasses.

At least the FBI won't get involved with that...unless we invite them in for a drink.

Popularity: 5% [?]

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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!

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