Archive for November, 2016
At our VINO restaurant, we are constantly looking & tasty Italian wines to add to our offerings. Here are a couple, which came highly recommended–“trophy” styled wines–which is a category really growing in popularity across the country. They are certainly each mega intense & are very swashbuckling in style. We, however, only bought one of them.
2011 Dipoli Sauvignon Blanc “Voglar”–here is a Sauvignon with the presence & swag of early Didier Dagueneau bottlings, similarly produced from the vision & passion of one man. The importer noted–“a pure Sauvignon Blanc grown in chalky dolomitic limestone soils on near-vertical slopes (1800 to 2000 feet in elevation), fermented and aged in acacia casks—is characterized by gorgeous exotic fruit with abundant minerality“. This wine is certainly a “stand alone” star–really mega intense & structured, yet is still so pure, quite stylish & refined.
2009 Braida Barbera d’Asti “Bricco dell’ Uccellone”–Barbera is a grape variety which has a lot of interesting attributes. The challenge pre-mid 1980’s, was finding ways to harness its mojo in fulfilling its real potential. Braida was certainly one of the stars to bring this grape variety to the limelight with their Uccellone bottling. It was also suggested to me to search for Barbera in the Asti appellation, as the Alba appellation usually reserved their best sites to the Nebbiolo grape variety, which is how I came upon 3 producers–Coppo, La Spinetta & Braida. The Bricco dell’ Uccellone bottling hails from the Rocchetta Tanaro vineyard, located roughly 500 to 600 feet in elevation with predominately clay & sandy soils, which helps in the savory, masculine edge the resulting wines have. The 2009 was aged in French barrique (225 liter) for 15 months. Definitely a stud to search out for, although insiders would say the high acclaim certainly has decreased the availability & increased the prices.
Lavantureux has been one of our favorite wine producers since the 1980’s. We love and have loved the stark, authentic, mesmerizing purity of their wines, which hail from the limestone soils of Chablis. I once read, “NO nonsense wines with show stopping nerve”, which is certainly and completely apropos. “The region is best-known for the Kimmeridgian soils, a highly-prized terroir of limestone and clay infused with tiny, fossilized oysters. The intense chalk and sea-shell minerality lends deep complexity to whites”. Furthermore, I have admired how tasty, honest, artisanal & personal their wines really are…….always at a truly remarkable price, given what’s in the bottle. There are not many wineries singing a song their own way like Lavantureux. Here are three of their offerings we tasted & bought recently. Wines like this just don’t happen along. Don’t miss out.
2014 Petit Chablis
“The Portlandian soils in the extension of the Chablis appellation, known as Petit Chablis, may not enjoy the same reputation as the Kimmeridgian, however they imbue the wines with a crisp, lively freshness and zesty, citrus aromas that speak to the deep mineral component of northern Burgundy. There is no accounting for these imaginary boundaries. As Roland once told Kermit Lynch, his US importer– “I don’t know why the INAO named some vines ‘Chablis’ and others ‘Petit.’ When I stand in the middle of my vineyard, the row to my left is Chablis, to the right it is Petit Chablis, but you can’t see any difference.” Fermented and aged in stainless with five to ten months on the lees, depending on the vintage. Of the 3, this seems to be the lightest in weight and with more etherealness to the minerality & therefore a wider window of foods one can work with.
This was the bottling which originally captured my attention and spurred my imagination. Yes, this is Chardonnay in its purest form—so transparent, minerally lively and zesty. In the old days, we would offer such a wine with raw oysters. While other producers may offer a Chablis bottling, I haven’t had one this artisanal, personal and sincere. “This wine drinks as honestly as the man who made it”. Typically 70% stainless and 30% older five to six year old barrels (something his sons added to the winemaking).
In the beginning I recall there only being two Lavantureux bottlings. The sons added other bottling including this one—2.6 hectares of 60 year old vines. This wine is therefore VERY different than what Roland would make, as it is barrel fermented (partially stainless steel)—with aging in old oak with roughly 15% in new oak. Grand Cru….baby……that tastes like chiseled rock–pure & majestic.
My wife & I dined at a hot, newer restaurant recently. The rosé Cheryle ordered by the glass was from a rather obscure appellation & a hip producer. While it was tasty, we both found it somewhat bitter & inadvertantly clashed with the foods we were eating, which is at least partly why I believe she only had the one glass. It was not something we discussed or thought much about while dining, but it was something I certainly thought about later.
The question I then asked–is bitterness now IN?
It seems we encounter wines by the glass at restaurants more & more which have a bitter finish. In addition, many of the cocktails we taste also have a bitter edge, especially those made from whiskies. The same can be said about many of the hotshot craft beers we taste, especially in the IPA & Double IPA categories.
So in addition to climbing alcohol levels more frequently found in wines today, one can also add the increase & seeming acceptance of bitterness levels.
Furthermore, I am also quite amazed to see how many people don’t seem to notice or mind how the higher alcohol & bitterness really affects pairing with foods.
Yes, tastes have certainly changed.
We are very fortunate at VINO to taste many different styles of wines. There are times when we sample a bevy of “trophy” wines, each world class, grand and truly memorable. This is especially most enjoyable when we revisit a particular wine which we previously had had 20 to 30 years prior and can see first hand how the wine had changed with the years of bottle age.
Another real joy of tasting wines is to run across a wine which stands out because of how honest, unpretentious, artisanal and personal it is. It would be like hearing a singer sing a song their own way, and from the heart. The especially endearing ones are, not of the “trophy” or highly acclaimed genre and for me and greatly over deliver for the dollar.
The Henri Perrusset Mâcon Villages (roughly $20 a bottle) is a prime example. This is a “country” styled Chardonnay based white wine from the limestone soils of the Mâcon region of southern Burgundy. (There is in fact a limestone quarry a couple of kilometers further down the road.) A very flowery, ethereal, some say seashell character somehow gets transmitted from the limestone-marine soils, through the vine and into the grape itself. While some will argue that this is just a romantic notion, I don’t find those kinds of character in grapes from vines grown in clay soils. If you want to check this out yourself, buy a bottle of a New World Chardonnay—California, Oregon, New Zealand or Australia, for instance, and sample it side by side with this Perrusset.
Then, also consider which one seems more refreshing and thirstquenching. Given the weather we have been experiencing lately, this is the kind of wine that hits the spot for sipping on those especially warm, often muggy days.
Interestingly, over the 40 plus years of tasting wine, I have never run across a Mâcon Villages which hits the spot like the one from Perrusset. It is beyond correctness and scientifically sound. Furthermore, this bottling is certainly not grand or highly acclaimed and I would actually be surprised if it ever scores more than 85 points on any writer’s 100 point scale. It does, however, standout and is memorable. One could say this wine has the “it” factor and I am continually reminded of this by how my wife smiles every time a bottle is cracked open. Honest, unpretentious, artisanal and personal is its schtick.
As one would imagine, wines like this are far and few in between.