Monday, April 25, 2011

The New Wave: Aged Muscadet

It is worth remembering that the very idea of a superior, much less profoundly delicious, Muscadet is still quite new. Ten years ago even most advanced wine critics condemned the Nantais to the production of wines “ drunk as soon as purchased, by the mouthful, without the magnifying glass of scrutiny.” No one had reckoned that people like Guy Brossard and Marc Ollivier would come along and demonstrate that the humble melon de bourgogne grape could produce wines for cellaring on a par with cru Chablis.

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007: This wine has been on its lees for two years, long enough that it exceeds the permissable limits for “sur lie,” so those words do not appear on the label. Someday the INAO is going to have to catch up with all the new developments. While we're waiting, we'll enjoy the aromas of lime, oystershell, and asian pear, and what one of us called the “full-spectrum citrus” (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) flavors and beautiful broad, briny character of this effort from  Marc Ollivier. (We got this bottle from Josh at Table Wine, price was in the vicinity of $25, which seems like a lot for Muscadet, but only if you're still using the Old Paradigm of gulpable white.)

The appellation Le Cru Clisson is scheduled for review by the INAO in June, covering the granite-rich soils of the village of the same name and the surrounding area. “Granite de Clisson” is an example of a Le Troisième Niveau wine—Muscadet made at “the Third Level” of quality. For more on the ins and outs of Muscadet appellations, read Chris Kissack's excellent review of Nantais wines.

Monday, April 18, 2011

There Are 59 Appellations in Languedoc/Roussillon. "Vin de Pays du Val de Cesse" Is One Of Them.

Alain Rochard & Laurent Farre own a restaurant in Montreal, The Continental Bistro, and a bar called Plan B Bar. They also own a winery in Minervois called Vignoble du Loup Blanc. All the links are in French; these guys are Quebecois before all else. Rochard trained as a sommelier, and he and Farre decided that what they really needed was their own vineyard; since they were Quebecois, that meant a vineyard in France. They aquired property in the tiny village of Roueyre in the Bize-Minervois district, where the Aude and Herault appellations share a border. The wine under examination tonight is labeled “Vin de Pays du Val de Cesse” which is a sub-appellation of the Aude, and which means the grapes were grown south of the winery near the village of Ginestas. Yeah, I know. There are 59 appellations in the Languedoc/Roussillon AC. Or maybe 61? This is one of them. So:

Les Trois P'tits “C” Vin de pays du Val de Cesse 2007: Made from an unusual blend of 40% Grenache, 35% Carignan, 20% Tempranillo, 5% Alicante Bouschet. The first note out of the glass was charcoal, followed by big, billowy black cherry aromas, and a note of chocolate mint. This is another one of those Southern reds that has a ton of fruit yet still manages to achieve full dryness on the palate. The tannins are fine, and the texture is slightly grainy; dark fruits, brambly notes and just a hint of oak at the end. Nicolas Gaignon is the winemaker; his wine is certified organic; he picks by hand, uses indigenous yeasts, and ages the wine in old neutral barrels. Our bottle accompanied a dinner of ribs done in the oven, rubbed with Penzey's Southwest mixture; broccoli rabe, and rice with black currants. It was one of our first dinners on the front porch of 2011; and for once everything lived up to our unrealistically high expectations. We got the bottle at Vinsite.

Monday, April 11, 2011

White Grenache From Spain

Back in 2006, English wine writer Julian Jeffs called the Terra Alta district of the Catalunya D.O. “a place to watch.” As is the case with other continental climate regions, Terra Alta is brutally hot in the summer, very cold in the winter, with an average rainfall of just under 20” a year. Most vineyards are planted at elevations of between 1,000 and 1,500 feet. Until recently, this was the back-country, with little in the way of highway access. Things are changing, and one example of how they've changed is Celler Xavier Clua, now in its fourth generation of family ownership. Xavier Clua got his degree in oenology in 1994, got some experience working in Bordeaux, and returned to Terra Alta a year later to announce that he would get the winery out of the bulk wine business and concentrate on producing bottled wines of good quality. To the great good fortune of all concerned, he also married a local girl, Rosa Domènech, herself an oenologist, and also from a vineyard-owning family.

All this by way of introducing a wine that arrived on my doorstep last week, courtesy of Chad Turnbull, head of Brooklyn-based Savorian Wines. Called “Bogatell,” after the beach (and subway stop!) of the same name in Barcelona, this is a 100% garnacha blanca, made from 100-year-old vines and produced by Cellers Xavier Clua. The wine isn't labeled organic, but Clua makes it clear that he is following “natural” precepts: “I don’t like to interfere with nature,” he says. “I just grow ripe fruit, and get out of the way.”

I brought the bottle to Vinsite, to get another palate involved, and the notes reflect both Les's and my own reactions.

Bogatell Garnacha Blanca, D.O. Terra Alta 2010: On the nose, spring pea, herbs, a hint of citrus zest; a bit angular at first. With time, the citrus zest takes center stage, some tropical fruit notes emerge, and the texture becomes fuller and smoother. The wine finishes with the barest snap of acidity and refreshing mineral character. This was very clearly a Spanish take on the grape; we found little family resemblance to grenache blanc, a common component of whites of the southern Rhone. Bogatell is promoted as something to accompany light summer fare; we're inclined to agree. No idea what the pricing on this stuff will be; from talking with Chad Turnbull, it sounds like he's still in the early stages of finding wider distribution for the wine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vinsite is open

Doors opened last Friday. I would have pix but the notoriously camera-shy Les is not interested in having his mug broadcast on the Intertubes. The website is coming along, coming along...