Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cuvée du Chat Beaujolais-Villages: Mature, Absolute, Thrilling Love

Joseph Chamonard was probably the least-known of Beaujolais' Gang of Five (Yes, Kermit Lynch dubbed them the “Gang of Four” but left out Chamonard, which doubtless explains his low profile). Along with Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton,  Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Jean Foillard, he helped show that there was far more to Beaujolais than Nouveau. For many years, he produced world-class Morgon from his 10-acre estate in Corcelette, just a short drive northwest of the town of Villié-Morgon. Chamonard's daughter Genevieve married Jean-Claude Chanudet, himself a proponent of minimal-intervention winemaking, and in 1990, after Chamonard's death, they took over management of the estate. In 1998, the property was renamed “Domaine Chanudet.”

Chanudet, like his late father-in-law, has never bothered to obtain “biologique” certification. Nonetheless, he operates his vineyard organically, picks later than most of his neighbors, relies only in part on the typical carbonic maceration technique, and uses indigenous yeasts to start his conventional fermentation. He makes minimal use of sulfur.

His Cuvée du Chat is the result of a partnership with Mathieu Lapierre, son of the late Marcel; the wine is made with fruit from properties they own in the Morgon and Fleurie appellations. The label reads “Vinifié par  Jean-Claude Chanudet.”

Chanudet Cuvée du Chat Beaujolais-Villages 2011:
Ruby-colored in the glass, this begins with aromas of roses, cherries, raspberries, faint cocoa note. In the mouth there are flavors of soft, deep, fresh red fruits, and an almost glossy mouthfeel. Citrusy notes and tannins appear at the back of the mouth, with a hint of grilled orange peel on the persistent finish.

The wine is charming, and much more. After a glass, I found myself thinking of a scene from The Russia House, in which Barley Blair (Sean Connery) declares his love for the beautiful Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer), saying “It's like nothing I have ever known: it's unselfish love, grown up love. You know it is. It's mature, absolute, thrilling love.” Please understand: I'm not saying this is a great wine, just one that evokes far more than a passing infatuation. Imported by Savio Soares, priced at $21.99 at Table Wine in Asheville. There is one bottle left of the 2011, so if you want some, you'd best get on it now.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It is good to begin well: Champagne Grongnet Special Club 2008

We didn't get around to properly toasting the New Year with bubbly until  noon today, popping the cork on a deluxe bottle from a favorite Récoltant-Manipulant producer, Cécile Grongnet.
She's based in the village of Étoges, just south of the Côte de Blancs, where she and her father Guy have a small property, just under 35 acres. She's a member of the Club Trésors de Champagne, a group of 26 like-minded grower/makers who occasionally produce a prestige cuvée called “Special Club.” Click here to find out how the club works.

Champagne Grongnet Special Club 2008: This was fermented in foudres (1,200 gallon oak casks) and left on the lees for a good long while before bottling. I don't know the exact proportions, but since Grongnet is highly regarded for Chardonnay, I'll guess it is the highest proportion of the blend. On the nose: orange zest, fresh pear, dried honey, almond, and lots of lees-y, toasty notes, followed by flavors of pear, lemon, and honey, a strong core of acidity, mouthfilling texture (thanks to time on lees), and a long mineralic finish. Like her regular NV bottling, the attraction is one of balance and finesse more than power. It was a fine brunch accompaniment, and the feeling that we had begun 2014 well brightened the outlook of all at the table. Happy New Year! (This is about $60 at the Asheville Wine Market.)