Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Burgundy vs Bordeaux vs Languedoc?

Dwayne Perreault — Comparing Burgundy to Bordeaux to Languedoc wines is like comparing apples to oranges to bananas I suppose, yet it seemed like a novel idea for a tasting, so David Bolomey, Jan van Roekel and myself met recently to open some beautiful bottles. The idea was mine. Being the rather estranged Rhône/Languedoc lover in our little group, I wanted to see how some top Languedoc wines would stack up against similarly priced Burgundy and Bordeaux. We chose €35-50 per bottle as our budget to try to keep it competitive, and the results in my opinion were predictable: you cannot compare apples and oranges and bananas. There was perhaps only one exception. But first, the wines. We decided to start with Burgundy, then move to the Languedoc and then Bordeaux.

Jan fittingly brought a Chambolle-Musigny, "La Combe d'Orveau" 2009 from Anne Gros. I say fittingly, because Jan has worked several seasons picking grapes for Anne Gros and knows her and her wines well. But not only that, Anne Gros is one of the few Burgundian producers who has also expanded to the Languedoc, to Cazelles in the Minervois.

The Chambolle is a beautiful, seductive and elegant Pinot, a feminine wine I would say, with a hint of licorice behind the red fruit, and sublimely integrated oak with a light pepper in the aftertaste. A classic and beautiful red Burgundy, with 13% alcohol.

I provided the next two bottles. First, the Côteaux du Languedoc, Mas des Dames "L'Unique" is indeed unique, as only 666 bottles are made after aging three years in a 500 liter barrique. Only the best Syrah and Grenache grapes are used, at yields of 25 hl/ha. What a change of gears here, very deeply concentrated dark fruits and also an intriguing barnyard note. Silky texture in the mouth with powerful tannins, a well balanced, powerful and truly Languedoc wine, with 13.5% alcohol.

Next, the most atypical wine, the VDP de l'Herault, Mas de Daumas Gassac 2007. In retrospect, I should have served this before l'Unique, as this is a leaner, less robust wine made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% "Variétés rares," whatever that may be. According to winemaker Samuel Guibert, "We belong more to the Bordeaux 1961 attitude—wine with 12.5% alcohol and good acidity. Only 15% new oak is used to get finesse. The wine is no more typical of Bordeaux than it is Languedoc." This is a very expressive wine which may yet in some ways be compared with Bordeaux, with darker notes of coffee and toast with different tannins than the Syrah, well balanced with good acidity.

Finally, it was time to try David's bottle, the Pomerol, La Gravette de Certan 2009. This is the second wine from Vieux Château Certan, still a young vintage with 14% alcohol, though you wouldn’t notice it in the very user-friendly taste. Super elegant, fruit driven (both red and dark berries) with softer, melted tannins held up by upright acidity. There is a beautifully integrated use of wood, not overdone but showing notes of tobacco and spice. The wine remains elegant yet gripping in a quite long, fresh and fruity aftertaste. A truly beautiful right-bank specimen which will only gain more complexity with some bottle ageing.

After tasting, we start drinking. Some cheeses and dry sausages are brought out, and I notice that the Pomerol is the first to disappear. But all of these wines are beautiful representatives of their genres; it gives us more pleasure to enjoy them instead of compare them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Loire trip through a handful of tweets

I like Twitter. Twitter forces me to summarize whatever special or noteworthy I experience, in 140 characters. I don't tweet about dull daily stuff, only about things I like. And those likeable things then need to be summarized to its essence. It makes Twitter a sort of diary also. I can look back for example at the few remarks I made when visiting Angers and Champagne last week.

Tweet #1 on 6 Feb 2012 « Tasting with @chris_kissack & @burgoholic at Carême #salonvinsloire True discovery y'day in Chez Rémi - details later »

Jan and I tasted some exciting young wines again at the Salon des Vins de Loire. But this is the last time we will be going. The organization decided to thwart the organizers of small 'bio' fairs like Dive Bouteille and Greniers St-Jean and choose a different weekend for their Salon. Great to see my contacts, but it's not the place for the most exciting new discoveries. So next year we will make a short tour along the alternative fairs.

But of course it was good to taste the new vintages of the producers that I work with. Next year I will taste these somewhere else. Perhaps at a smaller fair, perhaps at the domain, perhaps in Amsterdam, we'll see.

At the stand of Vincent Carême (who wasn't there because he was so unfortunate to break his foot) we ran into Chris Kissack (again), whose Winedoctor is one of my favourite resources on the web. I have always wondered how somebody can have such a complete website with so much information and tasting notes. But now I understand: Chris and his laptop are virtually glued together.

The Chinon producer that I've been working with for a few years presented a good new vintage but decided to raise his price by 40%. Perhaps something the Bordelais can get away with, but we felt it was time so look for an alternative. Some time. To our own surprise we ran into something great the same day. More about that later.

I mentioned another discovery that we made in Restaurant Chez Remi. Will also get back to that later. You have to be careful these days. Just heard that one of my 'colleagues' is hunting my Orléans...

Tweet #2 on 6 Feb 2012 « À Chartres Bistrot à Vins: Andouillette "AAAA" sauce moutarde »

Yes another event, that evening, in Chartres! A lovely smelly sausage to make followers back in Holland jealous (or not at all). It was an okay andouillette by the way, I have tasted better stuff.

The organic Cheverny that accompanied the food was just okay, actually a bit disappointing. Jan and I did not finish the bottle, and that's quite a bad sign.

Tweet #3 on 7 Feb 2012 « Dégorgement manuel par Emmanuel Brochet. Millésime '06. Exciting organic Champagne. Very refined and ongoing finish... »

Perhaps the best part of this short trip was our (second) visit to Emmanuel Brochet. We tasted his 2009 Extra Brut plus the millésime 2006. I love his approach. Brochet releases (dégorges) purely based on what he tastes. So after the 2007 now follows the quite accessible 2009. The 2008 isn't ready yet.

And the early batches usually receive a modest dosage, like this 2009 that we tasted (Extra Brut). For later batches of the same vintage the dosage gets smaller and smaller, and might eventually be omitted at all. I'm currently selling the 2007 Non Dosé. A pure beauty!