Exploring Bordeaux

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Picking up where I left off on Tuesday

Like any good tasting menu or flight, the Bordeaux seminar progressed along a crescendo of increasing complexity and robustness.  Unlike traditional tasting menus where the progression typically follows a change in grape, Merlot remained the primary grape through 10 of the 12 reds.  The grapes that the winemakers blended with the Merlot differed; the first half of the seminar featured primary Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Blends.  By the second half, the wines were also including Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  To my mind, it wound up being a more interesting seminar because of this, providing an opportunity to experience the range and depth of Merlot.

Château Coutet 2009.  AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru.  60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec.  This, as Jean-Christophe Calvet was quick to point out, was very much a sneak preview as the wine won’t be available until September.  Calvet encouraged us to approach it as a barrel tasting. The nose is subtle with deep rich notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is not as robust as the previous wine, although I suspect that additional aging will bring out some additional depth.  The wine is nicely fruity with light tannins on the finish.  The finish lingers, but I found it to be a bit chalky.  The wine shows a lot of promise, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out once it’s released.  Scheduled for release in September, this wine will likely retail for $26-$28/bottle.

Château Picque Caillou 2009.  AOC Pessac Leognan.  45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Another 3-star wine in my tasting notes, and one of my top three wines of the seminar.  The nose is rich and deep, but quite discreet with notes of  soil and dark cherry.   The nose hides, and you have to breathe deep to really pick it up, but to my mind that made it all the more interesting.  In the mouth the wine has a silky, smooth mouth feel.  There are hints of spice on the front of the wine, which then opens up to stronger notes of earth and dark berries (definitely blackberry).  The finish lingers for well over a minute, providing an overall satisfying experience.  This wine will be bottled in May and will retail for $25-$35/bottle.

Château L’Argenteyre 2009.  AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  35% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot.  This wine was an interesting contrast to the previous wine.  Where I found myself using words such as “rich” and “deep” with regards to the previous wine, here the adjectives that predominate my notes are “fresh” and “lively.”  The nose is loamy with subtle notes of dark stone fruits, perhaps plum?  In the mouth the notes of loamy earth are strong, but balanced with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a nice balance to the brightness in the front.  This wine will be released in April and will retail for $16-$18/bottle.

Château Trois Moulins 2009.  AOC Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  According to Calvet, this is regarded as the best wine produced in the history of the vineyeard.  It’s a lovely wine with a soft fruity nose with notes of black currant.  In the mouth the wine is rich and fruity with notes of black currant and blackberry.  The mouth feel is soft and silky and light tannins give it a nice balance and a beautiful finish.  I really liked this wine, and it definitely made it into my top five of the seminar.  Available now, the wine retails for $20-$22/bottle.

Château Mongravey 2009.  AOC Margaux Cru Bourgeois.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.  With the last two reds, the primary grape shifted to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another sneak preview tasting, Calvet described this wine as being in the “feminine style of the Medoc.”  I have no idea what “feminine style” means with regards to wine – perhaps it’s lighter, more delicate?  A quick Google search turned up several references to “feminine style” but no real explanations.  Now I’m intrigued, so the research will continue and hopefully become a post here on Vino Verve at a later point.  And if any of you know, please leave me a comment here or send me an email at marguerite@vinoverve.com

But, today is about the wine, not my research.  Another one of my top five, this one has two stars in my tasting notes, the wine is very fruit-forward with lip-licking notes of lush, ripe berries that develops in the mouth to interesting notes of licorice at the end.  The wine is very well balanced with a velvety mouth feel, and quite delicate, surprisingly so given it’s predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, which in my experience generally produces heavier wines.  This wine will be bottled in April and May and is definitely on the list of wines to add to the cellar.  When it is released, it should retail for $30-$40/bottle.

Château Fonbadet 2009.  AOC Pauillac.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Hands down my favorite wine of the seminar – four stars in my tasting notes!  The nose is subtle and discreet with notes of loamy earth and black currants.  In the mouth, the word that first came to mind was gorgeous.  Rich and silky with lush notes of black currant and earth.  Described by the winemaker Eric Boissenet as cassis-style, this wine will cellar for years.  The most expensive of the wines presented that day at $40-$50/bottle, it is definitely worth picking up as many bottles as you can afford.

Château Bel Air 2009.  AOC Sainte Croix du Mont.  100% Semillon.  The seminar concluded with a lone dessert wine.  Medium-gold in color the nose is rich and lightly sweet with strong notes of honey and honeysuckle.  In the mouth the wine is soft and sweet, but not as strongly sweet as many dessert wines, and lightly floral with lovely notes of honey.   A very nice finish to an excellent – and quite extensive – seminar.  The wine is available now and retails for $12-$15/bottle.

2009 Bordeaux – In Boston

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The Boston Wine Expo seems to have become my venue for exploring French wines.  Last year it was the 2007 Chateuneuf-de-Papes, and this year the Terroir of Burgundy and the 2009 Bordeaux.

2009 was a record year for Bordeaux, hence the seminar title, “2009 Bordeaux – A Record Setting Vintage.”  The weather produced near perfect conditions that year: sunny days and cool, dry nights, a warm and relatively dry July and August followed by rains at the end of the summer produced grapes that have all the hallmarks of the greatest vintages.

The seminar was led by Jean-Christophe Calvet, President of the Aquitaine Wine Company.  Jean-Christophe Calvet is a sixth-generation wine merchant, and Aquitaine Wine Company can trace its roots back to the 18th century.  Today the firm distributes in 47 states and focuses exclusively on the wines from the Bordeaux region.  In addition to the “Classified Growths,” the superstars of Bordeaux which command the highest prices and the greatest prestige, Aquitaine Wine Company also features the “Discovery Wines,” or as they refer to them on their website, the “challengers.”  Aquitaine has formed partnerships with more than a 100 families who produce quality wines at more affordable prices.  For this seminar, Calvet selected 14 Discovery Wines, the most expensive of which was only in the $40-$50 range (as compared to $1200-$1500 for the Classified Growths); most fell in the $10-$20 range.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Blanc.  50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon.  This was the only white table wine of the 14 wines presented that day.  A lovely light yellow color which sparkled among the denser reds of the other glasses, the wine had a floral, lightly fruity nose with soft notes of honeysuckle and lemon.  In the mouth the light citrus notes continue, with the sauvignon blanc providing notes of grapefruit so common to the grape, and the semillon bringing a touch of honey sweetness to balance the citrus.  The wine opens up in the mouth, with the grapefruit building slightly to a sweet/tart finish.   This wine is available now and retails around $12.99/bottle.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a medium garnet.  The nose quite subtle.  In the mouth however, the wine was quite fruity with lovely notes of berries and plum.  Medium-bodied, the wine felt a bit young, and while nice, I would definitely cellar it for a few years to see how it develops.  Available in March, the wine should retail for $12-$14/bottle.

Château Mylord 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a very drinkable, very nice wine.  Medium garnet color with a bright, very cherry nose.  In the mouth, the wine is fruit-forward with strong notes of cherry and soft tannins on the finish.  Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a clean, smooth mouth feel that is quite charming.  The wine is definitely a “drink now” wine, but should also age well for another few years.  Also available in March, the wine will retail for $12.99/bottle.

Costes du Château Feret Lambert 2009, AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.  90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet.  From St. Emilion, “Kingdom of the Merlot,” according to Calvet, as it was one of the first areas to cultivate Merlot grapes.  The region’s wine history dates back to the Romans in the 2nd century (Source: Wikipedia).   While predominately a Merlot, th ewinemakers add the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to provide acidity to the wine.  A darker, yet still medium garnet color, the nose is earthy and quite subtle.  It was a distinct difference from the first three wines which had much stronger fruit and floral notes.  In the mouth, the wine has strong notes of damp earth, some light notes of blackberry and plum, and a lightly spicy finish.  The wine is available now and retails for $10-$14/bottle.

Château Haut Colombier 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  90% Merlot, 10% Malbec.  One of my early favorites, this is a really nice wine.  The nose has rich notes of black cherry and currants, notes which carry over onto the palate as well.  The wine has charmingly sweet notes of fruit with a nice pepper finish.  This will drink well now and also should cellar well, and I made a note to buy several bottles, some for now and some to age for a few years.  The wine was released in January and retails for $10.99/bottle.

Château Roland La Garde 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another favorite – I have the word “gorgeous” circled next to my tasting notes – this is another lovely, very drinkable now wine.  The color is a ruby-garnet, and the nose is earthy with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is supple, rich and surprisingly robust with notes of black cherry and light notes of spice on the finish.   The tannins give the wine a nice bite of acid on the finish which gives the wine a bit of a kick that balances the velvety smoothness of the mouthfeel.  Calvet recommends bottle aging this wine an additional 3-5 years, although it is quite lovely now.  Available today and retailing for $13-$15/bottle, this is a wine that I will definitely add to the cellar.

Château Saint Andre Corbin 2009, AOC St Georges St. Emilion.  75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc.  Another favorite – this time I have three stars next to my notes, as well as notes to buy a case!  The nose is deep and rich with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is rich and velvety with soft tannins and rich, complex, but not sweet notes of cherry and dark berries.  The finish is soft and lingering.  The wine is produced by one of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, dating back to the 4th century.   Calvet recommends cellaring this wine for an additional 5-6 years.  The wine will be released in May 2011 and should retail for $20-$28/bottle.  Definitely one of the pricier of the wines featured this afternoon, but it is worth it.  I’m already making plans to order a half-case, if not a full case for myself.

Coming Thursday, 2.24 – the second half of the seminar wine list.

Maison Joseph Drouhin ~ Chambolle-Musigny, Cote de Nuits

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’ve been remiss in not keeping up with my writing here. You’d think with all the wonderful wines I sampled during my two seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, the words would flow from my fingers onto these pages. But even with great notes and great experiences, writing, I find, is very hard work. And too often takes a back seat to work, chores, friends, and, hopefully, further wine adventures.

So I metaphorically pick up the pen again after an absence of almost three weeks (where DOES the time go?) and continue with the second flight presented in the “Taste the Terroir of Burgundy” seminar I attended at the Boston Wine Expo. The seminar had kicked off with a flight of four white Burgundies from the Chablis and Côte de Beaune regions of Burgundy.  The next flight featured reds, and in this case four wines all from the same village, Chambolle-Musigny, in the Côte de Nuits region.

According to our host, Laurent Drouhin, this is one of the family’s favorite villages, with a range of vineyards, including both Premier Cru and Grand Cru that produce wines that are subtle and rich, without too many spicy notes.  The four wines presented were, like the whites, all from the 2006 vintage.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny From vineyards classified as village vineyards (for a discussion of the differences between village, region, premier cru and grand cru classifications in Burgundy, see my post of January 25th).  Fermented in open vats and matured in oak, with a limited use of new oak, the wine is bright and easily drinkable.  The color is a bright, deep ruby-garnet.  The nose is fruity with notes of black cherry and plum.  Also, I immediately noticed the flinty “tang” that I find so often in Northeastern US reds.  The soil in these vineyards have strong limestone content, similar to that of southern New England, and it comes through in the wine.  In a seminar entitled “Tasting the Terroir,” it felt very satisfying to be able to make that connection.

In the mouth, the wine is bright, lightly dry with a somewhat chalky finish.  The notes of black cherry and plum that I picked up in the nose are very subtle and the fruit is very much in the background.   This would pair well with lighter meats, tuna or salmon, but would not stand up well to anything really spicy or peppery, or rich robust meats like roasts or steaks.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru This and the next wine in the flight were both from Premier Cru vineyards.  This particular wine I found to have the strongest affinities with a southern New England red, and interesting observation because the Burgundies are all Pinot Noir, a grape we grow very little of here in the Northeast.  What’s coming through the wines in both regions is the terroir, the mineral content, particularly limestone; these were the observations that really brought the seminar alive for me.

The color of this wine was a lovely bright burgundy red.  The nose had notes of black cherry and the hallmark flintiness that I’ve been commenting on above.  In the mouth, the wine is very bright with light notes of black cherry and stronger notes of damp earth.  The finish is really nice, smooth with silky tannins.  Laurent Drouhin recommended cellaring this for no more than 6-7 years.  I personally thought it felt “young” that day – a little too bright – and may track down a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years and sample the difference.  Perhaps we’ll see this wine featured in my 2015 Open That Bottle Night festivities.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses, Premier Cru Aged 25% in new oak, this was was very nice wine, and one of my favorites of the seminar.  The color is a darker, more matte-finish burgundy than the previous wine.  The nose is chalky and deeper, not as bright, than the previous two reds.  The notes of cherry are still present, but they are much more discreet; the predominant notes in the nose are flinty, “tangy,” granite/limestone.  Interestingly, in the mouth, the wine is fruitier and richer than the previous two, and overall the wine is more intense and complex.  The wine lingers on the palate with a long finish with the black cherry fruit notes developing into a delicate earthy, granite finish.  Only 240-250 cases of the Amoureuses were produced, and the wine can age for a long time.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Musigny, Grand Cru The last wine of the flight – and the seminar – was the Grand Cru.  The color is a very dark ruby with a matte finish.  The nose is very subtle, and interestingly, didn’t have the strong limestone/granite flintiness that I picked up in the other wines.  We were also told that the inclusion of this in the seminar was a special treat, as it was only the 3rd or 4th time in 10 years, that Maison Joseph Drouhin had included the Grand Cru in the seminar.

In the mouth the wine was very intense; deep, rich, and complex, although not a “big” wine.  Notes of black cherry were present here, as in the previous wines, although the wine is still young and the presence of the fruit was not fully developed.  According to Laurent Drouhin the wine should be cellared for 10-30 years for optimal drinking.

Joseph Drouhin ~ Chablis and Cote de Beaune

ôMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

To best present the effects of terroir on wine, Drouhin selected two flights, one white one red, of the 2006 vintage.  Same grapes, same vintage ~ different regions, different vineyards.  In addition, among the whites all four wines were either Premier Cru or Grand Cru.

Wine classifications such as Premier Cru and Grand Cru are critically important and very tightly controlled in Burgundy, dating back to the Cistercians, among some of the largest landowners in Burgundy in the Middle Ages, who were able to differentiate soil differences and types and identify those areas that would produce the most distinct wines. (Source: Wikipedia).   This focus on terroir remains, and as a result Burgundy is known as one of the most, if not the most, terroir conscious wine regions in the world.

Burgundy’s wine classifications are strictly defined by AOC laws and are assigned based on the quality of the soil not the house producing the wine. Grand Cru, the highest classification, is the rarest with only 33 vineyards or 2% of the region being classified as Grand Cru.  Recognized as the best vineyards in the region, the wines produced from these vineyards are generally intended for cellaring a minimum of 5-7 years. Premier Cru, which total 12% of the region’s vineyards, are considered to be high quality vineyards, but not as high quality as the Grand Cru, and are also intended for cellaring, although for a minimum of 3-5 years.  Grand Cru wines will be produced from grapes from a single Grand Cru vineyard; Premier Cru, on the other hand, may be produced from grapes from several Premier Cru vineyards.

Below the Premier Cru are the Village and Region appellations. Village wines are produced from lesser quality vineyards organized around one of the region’s 42 villages.  The influence of terroir remains important at this level as well, with distinct characteristics present in the wines differentiating and helping to define the boundaries of the villages.  Again it is the soil which defines the appellation and not all towns in Burgundy are recognized as villages for wine classification purposes. Finally the Regional appellation are wines that are allowed to be produced form vineyards across the entire region, or regions larger than the individual villages.   For a more thorough discussion of Burgundian wine classifications, see Wikipedia or The Wine Doctor.

Having soaked up this quite fascinating background, the next step was to experience the terroir in the wines themselves.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru From the Chablis region of Burgundy, the northenmost of Burgundy’s five regions.  The soil in this region is generally flinty and chalky with strong minerals.  The Les Clos Grand Cru is one of seven Grand Cru vineyards on the hill overlooking the town of Chablis.

Aged in old oak only, the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru is pale golden yellow in color.  The nose is pretty and floral with light notes of honeysuckle and a hint of lemon which gives it freshness.  In the mouth the wine is delicate with some light grassy notes and a finish that opens up with notes of lemon.   The finish has the brightness of the citrus without the tangy bitterness.  One of the seminar participants described the wine as “having weight without being heavy,” a description that was well received by Laurent Drouhin, the seminar host.  It’s a perfect description – the wine has presence, lingering on the palate, but doesn’t overwhelm the mouth.  Food pairing suggestions included seafood and goat cheese.   Cellaring is recommended for a minimum of 5-6 years, although the wine should keep for 15-20.  The wine is currently retailing for $70-$75 a bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Folatières Premier Cru From the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, the southern region of the Côte d’Or.  The soil of Puligny-Montrachet has a lot of limestone which contributes strong minerality to the wines.  The Folatières is the most famous of the Premier Cru vineyards in the region.

Aged in oak with 25% being new oak, the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Folatières Premier Cru is a lovely bright goldeny-yellow color.  The nose is very dry with discreet notes of honey and an “alcohol sting.”  In the mouth, the wine has strong mineral notes, although it’s not as flinty as the Chablis Les Clos.  There’s also a slight creaminess to the Folatières, but it’s not the kind of creaminess one finds from the more heavily oaked California Chardonnays.  It’s more of a softness – very subtle notes of honey that hover just under the minerality and earthiness of the wine.  The wine retails for about $100 a bottle, although a recent internet search turned up many places which list a sale price of $80/bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche Premier Cru.  Also from the Côte de Beaune region, this vineyard is part of the estate of the Marquis de Laguiche, one of the oldest and most aristocratic families in France.  In 1947 the family approached Maurice Drouhin, son of Drouhin founder Joseph Drouhin and asked him if Maison Joseph Drouhin would be interested in taking over management of the Marquis de Laguiche vineyards.  The two struck a handshake deal which continues through today.

Aged in oak, with 25% being new oak, the wine is light gold in color with a soft, delicate nose.  Described by Laurent Drouhin as “one of the ultimate expressions of what they can do in Burgundy,” the wine is very silky and light, earthy with a light chalkiness, and has soft notes of apricot and a very light citrus/acid finish.  The finish has some tannic texture which gives the wine a bit more body to the finish.  Very well balanced, it’s a subtler and rounder wine than either of the previous two.  A beautiful wine.  This wine currently retails for $100 a bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru The last of the four whites also hails from the Côte de Beaune, although north of both the Puligny-Montrachet and the Chassagne-Montrachet regions. The soil here is stony with limestone, clay and silica.  The word “mouches” means flies, so named for the honey bees (“flies”) once housed in beehives in the vineyards.  The Beaune Clos des Mouches was one of the first vineyards acquired by Maurice Drouhin, son of Maison founder, Joseph Drouhin, in the 1920s.  Today half the vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, the other half Pinot Noir.

The wine was my favorite of the four, edging out even the Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru.  The color is a pale yellow as opposed to the more golden yellow of the previous three wines.  The nose is soft, rich and delicious with notes of damp soil, grass and a hint of almonds.  In the mouth the wine is velvety – subtle notes of honey give the wine a hint of soft sweetness, delicate and very lightly creamy with notes of nutmeg.  The wine finishes with a nice balance of acid that develops into soft citrus notes at the back of the mouth.  Retail prices for this wine seem to range widely; I found prices from $60 – $100 on a recent internet search with the majority in the $75-$85 range.

Taste the Terroir of Burgundy: Maison Joseph Drouhin

Maison Joseph Drouhin, logo from company website www.drouhin.com

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

This year I treated myself to two wine seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, focusing as last year on French wines that I don’t have a chance to experience on a day-to-day basis.

The day began with “Taste the Terroir of Burgundy with Laurent Droughin of Maison Joseph Drouhin.”  Maison Joseph Drouhin is one of the largest and most well regarded houses in Burgundy.  Founded in 1880 by Joseph Drouhin, it remains a family-owned business run by the fourth generation, Frédéric Drouhin, President; Véronique Drouhin, Head Winemaker; Phillipe Drouhin, Estates Manager, and Laurent Drouhin, Director United States Market.  They work closely with their father, Robert Drouhin, who ran the house until 2003.

The house was founded in 1880 when a very young Joseph Drouhin established his own wine company in the Beaune region of Burgundy.   Joseph’s son, Maurice, expanded the business, purchasing the domain’s first vineyards in 1919.  He continued to purchase vineyards through the 1920s and 30s, including the Clos des Mouches, which produced one of my favorites among the eight wines presented that afternoon.   Maurice Drouhin was, in turn, succeeded by his son Robert who continued to expand the vineyards, particularly in the Chablis region, which hadn’t yet been recognized for it’s full potential.  Under Robert Drouhin’s leadership, Maison Joseph Drouhin became a leader in “natural” viticultural practices, moving away from the use of pesticides to organic and sustainable methods.  In 2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin was awarded organic certification.  While proud of this certification, Laurent Drouhin pointed out that Joseph Drouhin did not pursue organic, “natural” methods in the hopes of winning awards or recognition, but rather to better allow the nuances of terroir to express themselves through the wines.  “The Burgundian soil expresses itself through the vine.  We strive to reveal its most hidden and subtle message.” (Source: Joseph Drouhin brochure).

Laurent Drouhin, seminar host; photo from Joseph Drouhin website www.drouhin.com

Maison Joseph Drouhin has vineyards across Burgundy in the Chablis, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune (Côte d’Or) and Côte Chalonnaise regions.  The domain encompasses 182 acres of which 60% are Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards.

Maison Joseph Drouhin remains committed to five core values:

  • Dedication to the diversity of Burgundy through a focus on clean, pure wines that reflect the character that nature provides through the soil and the climate.
  • Family heritage which allows the family to make decisions based on what is best for the wine and not just the bottom-line.  To illustrate this, Lauren Drouhin offered as an example the family’s decision to declassify (not bottle and market) a recent vintage.  The barrel tastings indicated that the wine was “not bad,” but “not bad” was not good enough to release in the family’s mind.  Better to not release the vintage than to release a vintage that did not live up to the standards Maison Joseph Drouhin has set for itself.
  • Listening to nature, which manifests itself through a commitment to use only natural products and methods, including ploughing by horse rather than machine to avoid compacting the earth and better protecting the vines roots.
  • Perfection and Elegance.  Joseph Drouhin works to craft wines that achieve balance and harmony, elegance, charm, complexity and pleasure.
  • Sharing with the world
  • The Final Four

    Marguerite Barrett
    Contributing Writer

    We could easily have stopped with the Réserve Personnelle, and I would have felt I had gotten more than my money’s worth from the seminar, but there were four more wines lined up in front of me.

    Change le Merle Vielles Vignes 2007, Bosquet des Papes, presented by Nicolas Boiron, proprieter and winemaker.  Blend 88% grenache, 8% Mourvèdre and $% syrah grown on three parcels, Gardioles, Montredon and Cabriéres.  The vines are 90+ years old, and the wine is aged 14 months in a combination of demi-muids and foudres.  Only 750 cases were produced.

    The Chante le Merle Cuvée was first produced in 1990 by Maurice Boiron, the third generation of the Boiron family to helm Bosquet des Papes, and since then he, and now his son Nicholas who took over the winemaking in 2000, produces the Cuvée only in those vintages that he feels deserve it.

    The color is a dark ruby color with some lovely deep red notes when the wine catches the light.  The nose is very soft with light notes of fruit, particularly cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is soft, lush, lightly fruity and very spicy with strong notes of pepper and cumin.  This is a very big, robust wine, a “steakhouse wine,” if you will.  The finish lingers with the warm toasty spiciness of the cumin.  Soft tannins help give the wine a nice balance and complexity.  Overall this was another one of the eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head, wish-I-could-afford-these-wines moments and I immediately texted Kevin, who, I am sure, was heartily sick of my taunting him with “you should be here” texts.

    Vielle Vignes 2007, Domaine de la Côte d l’Ange, presented by John Junguenet.  Blend 90% grenache, 5% syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, grown on the parcel for which the domaine is named: Le Coteau de l’Ange.  the age of the vines is 95 years, and the wines are aged for 12 months in foudres and 2-3 year old barrels.  600 cases were produced.

    The Vielle Vignes gave the Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Cuvée du Mon Aïeul a run for it’s money for the top spot as my favorite of the day.  Even revisiting the Cuvée in a back-to-back tasting, I was hard pressed to choose between the two.  I’d call it a tie, but as I tasted and compared, I realized if I was going to recommend one wine to Kevin from the entire group, this would be it.

    The color is a dark garnet, not as bright as the previous wine, but still a lovely color.  The nose is soft and very light with notes of sea air – that bright salty crispness you often find in sea air.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and fruity, although I found it difficult to isolate particular notes.  The finish is also smooth and lightly fruity and while another robust wine, it lacks the spice found in the Chante le Merle.  It was a very interesting contrast to taste the two back to back.

    Cuvée du Quet 2007, Mas de Boislauzon, presented by Daniel Chaussy, proprieter and winemaker.  The blend is 80% grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, grown on the Bois Lauzon parcel.  The wine is aged for 16 months in a 50/50 combination of foudres and 3-year old barrels.

    Daniel Chaussy, who runs the winery with his sister Christine, first produced the Cuvée in 2000 as a showcase for the Mouvèdre, with the base of the wine (60-70%) being old-vine Mouvèdre.  In 2007, he flipped that and increased the percentage of grenache.  The result earned the Cuvée 100 points from Robert Parker.

    The color is a deep ruby/garnet.  The nose is earthy, rich and almost loamy – a really lovely nose with a much stronger presence than that of the previous few wines.  In the mouth, the wine is dry, earthy and elegant – lovely notes of grass and a lot of spice, particularly the sharper heat of pepper.  The finish lingers on peppery notes.  The wine still has the feel of a young wine, and while definitely drinkable now, I very much felt the potential, and think that this will really transform and blossom with aging.  Overall, while not a bad wine, I found it not as strong or as interesting as some of the other wines in the selection.

    Les Petits Pieds d’Armand 2007, Domaine Olivier Hillaire.  Presented by Olivier Hillaire and translated by John Junguenet.  Blend, 100% grenache grown on a single parcel, Le Crau.   The vines are just over 100 years old, and the wine is aged 14 months in demi-muids.  330 cases were produced.

    The color is a dark ruby, with a dense opaque tone.  While a lovely color, the wine doesn’t catch the light in quite the same way as a number of the other wines.  The nose is absolutely gorgeous – soft but complex; earthy, spicy and notes of dark berries.  In the mouth the wine is smooth with lovely, soft, rich notes of dark plum.  The sharp spicy heat of pepper comes with the finish providing an interesting complement to the soft plumminess.  Very, very nice wine, and like all the wines I tried that day, will definitely grow in depth and complexity as it ages.

    That concluded the seminar, 10 Chateauneuf-du-Papes from the remarkable 2007 vintage, that near-perfect year.  Since returning from the seminar, I’ve been doing some hunting via Google to see if I can pick up at least a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years.  Even as young as they are, these are not cheap wines – most start in the low $100s and move up from there.  They also are not widely available, due both to the relatively low number of cases produced and limited distribution here in the US.  Luckily I live on the East Coast, near New York, and am sorely tempted to head down to the city, cruise the wine shops, and see what I can find.

    Ten 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Papes – The Journey Continues

    Marguerite Barrett
    Contributing Writer

    The seminar proceeded rather leisurely; we were provided with plenty of time to enjoy each wine before moving on to the next one.  Also. the Junguenets were generous with their pourings, providing full half glasses of each wine, rather than the usual few ounces I’d found with other seminars.  It meant that most wines were left unfinished on the table (or I wouldn’t have made it home that afternoon), but there was plenty of opportunity to not only taste the wines, but also to revisit them, doing quick side-by-side comparisons of ones that were particular favorites.

    After the Reserve Sixtine, we moved on to

    Cuvée Vielle Vigne, Domaine de la Charbonnière, presented by Veronique Maret, daughter of proprieter and winemaker  Michel Maret.  Blend 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre grown on two parcels, La Crau and Charbonnière.   The age of the vines averages 65-70 years old, with a few being almost 100 years.  The wine is aged in both foudres and barrels for 12-18 months.  4,000 cases were produced.

    The wine itself is a dark ruby color, with an earthy, lightly musty nose that I found really pleasant.  In the mouth, the Cuvée is earthy and spicy, with strong notes of pepper that linger through a very long finish.   Strong tannins and an overall “young” feel to the wine kept it from immediately being one of my favorites of the afternoon, but I was definitely intrigued enough to want to revisit the wine in a few years.  This is one that I may try to track down and cellar a few bottles just to see how it ages.

    The Domaine de la Charbonnière will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2012.  Originally purchased by current winemaker Michel Maret’s grandfather, Eugene, as a present for his wife, herself the daughter of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape winemaker, the estate has been family owned ever since.  Under the propriertorship of Michel Maret the domain has, in the words of Alain Junguenet, become one “of the upper echelon of Chateauneuf-du-Pape estates.”

    Cuvée de Mon Aïeul 2007, Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils, presented by John Junguenet.  The Domaine is a relatively new one, founded in the 1940s by Francis Usseglio, who had left his native Piedmont in 1931 to work in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyards.  He produced his first vintage in 1949, and soon was joined by his son, Pierre, for whom the domain is now named.  Francis’s grandsons, Jean-Pierre and Thierry Usseglio today run the estate are the Domaine’s principal winemakers, who designed this wine as an homage to their grandfather.  The age of the vines is 80 years, and the wine is fermented for 14 months in cement tanks, with 10% being aged in 1-3 year old oak barrels. 1,500 cases were produced.

    The Cuvée is a blend of 95% grenache and 5% syrah, grown across four parcels: Grand Serres, Les Serres, Esquirons, and Les Bédines.  The is a medium-dark ruby color, a bit more vibrant and not as deep a color as the previous Cuvée.  The nose is earthy, musty, and has light spice notes, particularly pepper and a hint of the toasty warmth of cumin.

    With one sip this wine went immediately to the top of my favorites list.  Definitely one of the eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head moments that I tormented Kevin with all day.  This is an absolutely beautiful wine, smooth with deep rich notes of dark fruits particularly black cherry and blackberry.  The mouth feel is lush and satiny, and the wine really expands and blossoms in the mouth.  The finish moves to notes of spice and toast and lingers on the palate.

    Unfortunately a bit out of my price range at an average of $150 per bottle, but one I will definitely keep on the list for a future indulgence.

    Réserve Personnelle 2007, Le Vieux Donjon, presented by Claire Michel, daughter of proprietor and winemaker, Lucien Michel.   This was one of the highlights of the seminar.  As the name suggests, the 2007 Réserve was produced as a private wine, just for the family.  Only 600 cases were produced, and none were released for sale.  However, because of the Michel’s longstanding relationship with Alain Junguenet, who we were told begged to have the wine included in the seminar, the Michels did agree to release a case.

    The blend is 90% grenache and 10% syrah, grown on the Pied-Long (Pielons) parcel, the oldest parcel of the domain.  The vines are between 95 and 100 years old, and the wine was aged for 15 months in foudres.   Described by Claire Michel as a very traditional wine, the color is a lovely jewel-tone ruby.  The nose is earthy with discernible notes of grass and hay.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and fruity with a soft peppery finish.   The oak adds a soft butteriness, rather than the toast or licorice notes I had been finding in the previous wines, and it contributed to an overall soft, silky mouth feel.

    I found myself comparing it to the Usseglio Cuvée we had just sampled, and even went back to the previous wine to try a back-to-back tasting.  Both are very impressive wines, but I found the Usseglio just edged out the Réserve for the top spot on my list.

    Coming Thursday: The Final Four

    Ten 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes

    Marguerite Barrett
    Contributing Writer

    If there was one theme we kept hearing throughout the seminar it was “2007 was as perfect a year for growing wine as one could hope for.”  Despite experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than 20 years (only 1.38″ of rain between June and mid-September), the consistently mild temperatures (average of 73ο F) and over 20 days of strong, cool Mistral winds blowing across the Rhone Valley which kept the vines from drying out after the rains, resulted in near-perfect growing conditions across the region.  As a result, the 2007 vintage is consistently one of the best across all Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers.

    Joining Alain and John Junguenet in leading us through this exploration of the 2007 vintage were many of the winemakers or winery owners.  A couple only spoke French, but it was a rare and fascinating treat to hear their impressions of the wines we were tasting.  We kicked off with the

    Hommage à Henry Tacussel 2007, Domaine Moulin-Tacussel.  Presented by Didier Latour, the cellarmaster and winemaker at Henry Tacussel.  Blend: 93% Grenache, 7% Syrah; Parcel: Charbonnière.   The Charbonnière parcel has a mix of Galet (rocky) soil in the higher elevations and sandy in the lower.  The vines are between 80 and 90 years old and were planted by Henry Tacussel, who created the domaine in the late 19th century.   The wine is aged in oak barrels for twelve months, and only 1800 bottles were produced.

    The color is a rich, dark purple.  The nose is earthy with very discernible notes of pepper.  In the mouth, the wine has light notes of cherry, and the mouth feel is smooth, rich and full.  There’s a slightly sharp finish that I felt primarily in the top and back of the mouth, but that should soften with cellaring and when paired with food.

    Réserve Spéciale, Château Fortia.  Presented by winery manager, Pierre Pastre.  The domaine was founded by Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie, the man credited with organizing the region’s winemakers in 1936 and creating France’s first AOC, and is now owned by his son, Bruno Le Roy, who is also Fortia’s winemaker.   The domaine, and the parcel, are named for the castle, Château Fortia, that sits on the land, and the estate is one of the few whose vines and cellar are all within the same parcel.

    Blend: 85% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; Parcel: Fortiasse.   This average age of the syrah vines is 35-36 years, with the Mourvèdre averaging just over 50 years. Château Fortia vinifies the wine in cement tanks before aging for 14 months in oak barrels.  While not a common blend for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I found this one of the more interesting wines of the seminar.  The color is a very dark purple/dark ruby color, almost black.  The nose was very soft with deep rich notes of blackberry and black currant.  In the mouth, the flavors are layered but well balanced, with notes of blackberry, black currant and a gaminess which I found quite interesting.  Pastre described the gamey notes as touches of venison, and I must say they provided an interesting richness and depth.   The wine opens in the mouth, and finishes with notes of black licorice.   While definitely drinkable now, the wine was designed to be aged 10-15 years, and production was limited to only 250 cases in an attempt to improve the overall quality.

    Réserve Sixtine 2007, Cuvée du Vatican.  Presented by John Junguenet.  Cuvée du Vatican is owned by Jean-Marc Diffonty, who is both proprieter and winemaker, heir to a long family history of winemaking which dates back to the 17th century.   Diffonty’s father, Félicien, also served as Châteauneuf’s mayor for more than 30 years.   Jean-Marc Diffonty took over the winery from his father in 1993, and since then has been credited with bringing “the estate a very long way in the last 14 years” (source: Alain Junguenet Selection Seminar Notes).  He was the first winemaker in the appellation to have a punch-down machine, designing his own machine.

    The Réserve Sixtine 2007 is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre grown on three parcels: La Crau, Barbe d’Asnes, and Rayas.  The age of the vines is roughly 60 years, and a blend of grapes are gown in each parcel, allowing for a blend of terroir in addition to the blend of grape.   The Réserve Sixtine is a relatively newer wine for Diffonty, who first began producing it in 1998.  Diffonty also uses a relatively high percentage of new oak in his wines, aging the wine for 12 months in a combination of  foudres (40%), new oak barrels (30%) and stainless steel tanks (30%).  2,009 cases were produced.

    Like the previous two wines the color is a dark purple, but leaning more towards shades of dark plum rather than ruby.  The nose is soft with very discernible notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is bright, but elegant with a lush mouth feel.  The cherry is also present on the palate and there are notes of pepper on the finish, which lingers beautifully in the mouth.  While I liked the wine, I did feel it was still young, and would definitely benefit from cellaring.

    Tuesday, 4.20.2010 – the exploration of the 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes continues.

    Alain Junguenet Selection: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    Marguerite Barrett
    Contributing Writer

    Leaving the Corton Grancey/Corton Charlemagne seminar that beautiful January morning, I was hard-pressed to imagine that anything could top the experience of those Burgundies.  Until I arrived at the afternoon seminar, that is, and got to spend 90 minutes with 10 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

    The seminar was hosted by Alain Junguenet and his son John from Alain Junguenet Selection, Wines of France, Inc., New Jersey-based wine importers since 1984.  Alain Junguenet has been dubbed “Mr. Châteauneuf-du-Pape” by Robert Parker, who also has named him “Wine Personality of the Year.”  The seminar wines were all chosen personally by Alain and John Junguenet from the 2007 vintage.

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Southern Rhone Valley, was founded in the 12th century when the Bishop of Avignon began planting vines in his fief.  By the end of the 13th century others had followed his example, and more than 300 hectares were under cultivation across the region surrounding the town of Châteauneuf-du-Calcernier.  In the 14th century, the Catholic Church experienced upheaval and schism and seven popes lived in exile in Avignon from 1305 until 1378.  The first “French pope,” Clement V (1305-1314), actively embraced wine making, developing even more land across the region for wine cultivation, a practice continued by his successor, Pope John XXII (1316-1334) who is often credited with increasing the region’s reputation for wine during his reign.    John XXII also built the  chateau, which the popes used as their summer retreat, and which today stands at the heart of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.   The region’s wines and winemakers continued to grow in sophistication, and in 1836, Commandant Joseph Ducos, then mayor of Châteauneuf and proprietor of Chateau La Nerte officially changed the name of the village to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in honor of the Popes who had reigned there.  One hundred years later, the Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie of Chateau Fortia together with other vintners from the region formed the Syndicate of Châteauneuf, which declared the “Appellation d’Origine Controllé Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” the first official AOC.

    Today the region is comprised of 125 vineyards spread out across the five communes: Sorgues, Béddarides, Courthézon, Orange, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which make up the Appellation.  While there are a small number of white varietals grown and produced in the region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known primarily for it’s reds, which account for 95% of total production.  The primary grape of the region is grenache, the “base” of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.  In addition to grenache, the region’s winemakers grow an additional 12 varietals, each having their own hallmark characteristics which they carefully select and blend:

    • Muscardin – good aroma and fullness
    • Vaccarese – spice
    • Cinsault – big arome and body
    • Terret Noir – color and body
    • Counoise – acidity and spice
    • Mourvedre – black fruit, leather, spice, tannin
    • Syrah – peppery, red fruits & structure
    • Roussane – aroma & ageability
    • Clairette – alcohol and depth
    • Bourboulenc – acidity and floral notes
    • Picardan – acidity
    • Picpoul – citrus and roundness

    As with all AOC’s, the region’s winemakers are bound by a series of very strict rules governing wine production, including the mandating of manual harvesting of all grapes, minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, and three sortings with each domain required to exclude 5% of its harvest each year to ensure only the highest quality grapes are used in the wine production.

    A fascinating history, accompanied by a beautiful slide-show of the region’s vineyards and wineries, but through it all the wines were calling.  10 wines, ranging in color from deep ruby to a dark, rich plum, they lined up in front of us, teasing us…

    Thursday, April 15th – 10 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

    A Surprise Treat – White Burgundy from Louis Latour

    Maison Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne: A Vertical Flight ~ 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

    Marguerite Barrett
    Contributing Writer

    Ask any of my friends – or even regular readers of Vino Verve – and they will tell you “given a choice, Marguerite always prefers reds.”  Generally that is true, although now one could say “given a choice, Marguerite always prefers reds, unless she’s being offered Corton Charlemagne white burgundy.”

    When Bernard Retornaz kicked off the seminar with the reds, he explained the decision to do so by noting that we had a special “extra” white that was being included in the Corton Charlemagne tasting, courtesy of Michael Apstein, which they were saving for the finish.  While no doubt the reason for the “flip”, it was a brilliant move because that day the whites outshone the reds and the tasting built like a crescendo culminating in several eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head, “oh my God” moments – with which I tormented Kevin by texting him every time I experienced one, knowing perfectly well he was sitting at home 800 miles away.

    Maison Louis Latour’s Chateau Corton Charlemagne is a white burgundy made from chardonnay grapes.  Latour is the largest producer of Corton Charlemagne white burgundy, having approximately 25 acres under cultivation across the Corton Charlemagne region (roughly 400 acres spread out across several vineyards, the largest being Le Charlemagne vineyard).  The vineyards range across the hillside with some of the newer plantings on hillsides facing west/southwest rather than east like much of the rest of the Burgundy region, resulting in a greater diversity of styles across the region’s wines than one finds in other areas.

    The tasting that morning consisted of four recent vintages, the 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002 – and a fifth “mystery glass,” which turned out to be the 1998 courtesy of Michael Apstein’s personal cellar.

    Corton Charlemagne 2005 This was my first “OMG” eye-rolling moment of the day, and immediately upon tasting I thought, “wow, Gretchen needs to taste this.”  Like the other vintages, the color is a lovely, rich medium yellow that catches the light and sparkles in the glass.  The nose is soft and slightly nutty.  In the mouth, the wine is soft, nutty, and lightly buttery.  The mouth feel is lush with an almost creamy texture that provides depth and richness.  It’s a beautiful wine.  One of my comments that came back to me  as I reviewed my notes was that “it has a lick your lips finish.”  As I read that, I found myself remembering the creamy butter finish that did have me licking my lips at the end.  My absolute favorite from Louis Latour.

    Corton Charlemagne 2004 Another eye-rolling, OMG moment here, and while it ran a very close second to the 2005 for being my pick of the day, in the end, for me, the 2005 took the top spot.  Very similar in color, the nose on the 2004 was noticeably different than the 2005, being soft, earthy with very discernible notes of green pepper, as opposed to the nuttiness of the 2005.  In the mouth, the wine wasn’t as soft, although in hindsight, I think what I was missing was the silky creaminess of the 2005.  I found the 2004 to be brighter, with stronger notes of citrus and a crisper, sharper finish than the 2005.  A gorgeous wine, and as mentioned above, I was hard-pressed to pick between the 2005 and 2004.  It was fascinating to taste them back-to-back and really experience the differences not only between vintages but also that the aging process can make on a wine.

    The Corton Charlemagne wines are made the same way every year, with one primary difference being the amount of new oak they use in their barrels.  In 2004, the barrels were 60% new oak, which definitely contributed to the differences between the 2004 and either the 2005 and 2003.

    Corton Charlemagne 2003 As I look back over my notes the first thing I see is a scribbled “not a fan.”  The 2003 shared the characteristics of the 2004 but, in my opinion, didn’t have the polish of the later vintage.  Perhaps it’s going through a closed period, perhaps it’s my palate, perhaps it’s a combination of both as well as other factors, but compared to the others, I wasn’t impressed.  The nose was soft and slightly grassy, and in the mouth, while creamier than the 2004, the notes of citrus are stronger, and there was a sharp bite and slightly bitter finish which I didn’t care for.  The mouth feel is soft but lacks the lushness I found in both the 2005 and 2004.  It’s still a lovely wine, and if I had tasted it on it’s own, I would undoubtedly be raving.  But against the 2004 and 2005?  No contest.

    At the end of the seminar Retornaz took a quick informal survey of the room, asking us to vote for our favorite vintage from each flights.  Interestingly the 2003 received the most votes among the Corton Charlemagne fllight – which only goes to show how intensely personal wine tasting and wine choices are.

    Corton Charlemagne 2002 Another beautiful wine.  Also a medium yellow, but slightly deeper and richer in color than the previous three.  The nose is very subtle, almost not present, with light earthy notes of grass and green pepper.  In the mouth the wine is soft and creamy with notes of vanilla and citrus which play off each other beautifully.  The finish is gorgeous – softly lingering with notes of toast and vanilla which develop in the mouth.

    Corton Charlemagne 1998 The flight – and the seminar – ended with a fifth white, the 1998 Corton Charlemagne provided by Michael Apstein from his personal cellar.  It’s one of his favorite vintages, and he felt it would be an interesting contrast to taste an older vintage against the four more recent vintages provided as part of the seminar.  The color was a deep medium yellow, both darker and brighter than the previous four.  The nose was soft, light and buttery, and evoked that wonderful smell of hot buttered popcorn – one of my personal favorite scents.  The wine itself is buttery with a nice blend of earthiness and citrus and a lovely bite on the finish that gives it some character.  The mouth feel is fuller and richer than in the previous wines, and the 1998 really blossoms in the mouth.   A gorgeous wine, although it didn’t knock the 2005 off the top spot of the day.

    As with the reds, I found myself wistfully thinking how lovely it would be to buy several bottles and cellar them to revisit over time, but alas it’s not in the budget this year.  I’d love to see how the 2005 develops – will it still have that same creaminess and “lick your lips” finish that I experienced that morning, or will it sharpen and become stronger and more earthy like the 2002?

    While considered more affordable than many other Corton Charlemagne wines, these are not inexpensive, averaging around $100 a bottle, which makes seminars like these not only a bargain but a great opportunity.

    For more information about Corton Charlemagne and the Louis Latour wines, there’s an excellent article by Michael Apstein in Wine Review Online.