Friday, March 31, 2017

Opulent and Unctuous

There’s a double-edged sword with certain wine descriptors.  In the wider world, opulence can have negative connotations, bordering on extravagance, and unctuousness can mean sickly sweet in cuisine circles.  But for the wine aficionado, these terms can be positively positive.  It’s a matter of learning the context in which such words are used.
With the 2010 Dry River ‘Lovat Vineyard’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer, these terms show the wine to be something special.  SWMBO and I had saved it up, and we shared it with The Young One and Jo-Lo.  Whenever they’re here, it’s a good enough reason to share something delicious.  Still young in appearance, the wine had decadent perfumes with rose-petal and exotic florals enhanced by honied notes.  Yet this was stylish and not brazen or OTT as Gewurztraminers can often be.  A medium-sweet wine, the fruit expression was clear as a bell, but the weight and richness of the sugar and the fruit brought out the words opulent and unctuous.  The words balance and freshness should have accompanied the former two words, for that was what the wine was.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Seriously Sophisticated Funky Icon

It’s a fine line whether you praise or damn a wine for its slight funkiness.  So many factors come into play that affect your objectivity.  In the end, it’s your subjectivity that rules.  So here SWMBO and I were, visiting The Orbiter and Satellites, and the coup de gras for lunch was brought out and ceremoniously opened.  It had been lovingly search out from the depths of the cellar and stood up, but not decanted, and allowed to attain a temperature that was cooler than outside, but a little warmer than the cellar.  It was indeed a special time, and it was deemed the perfect occasion to open this wine.
Not only was the 1997 Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT a rare and expensive wine, it is a wine that is Antinori’s flagship, designed to sit amongst the likes of first-growth claret, but with its own Italian spin on it, being 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese.  The fruit comes from the best plots of the ‘Tignanello’ estate and sees a year’s aging in the finest barriques.  1997 was of course, a blue chip year.

On pouring the wine, one could see it was dense and dark, but with a little bricking on the edge.  Then the nose, a powerhouse of concentrated savoury, secondary aromas.  Load of black fruits, with no greenness, and indeed some plum, earth and liquorice.  A bit of game – and a little more – funky, you could say.  Beautifully structured still, with plenty of grip to match the fruit density.  Hinting at drying, but the fruit sweetness still to the fore.  We all pronounced it serious and sophisticated.  Truly a representation of an icon in the most serious sense.  Yet we all saw the funkiness – a bit of brettanomyces – but it just added to the complexity.  Sure, in a wine show we’d have doubts judging it at the highest level.  But here, in great company, excellent food, and the occasion of a rare catch-up, we were all enjoying life.  This wine’s status and all its positive points would not allow any thought of something technical as a yeast strain spoil our day.  Subjectivity rules!  This wine was a stunning one which cemented our bonds of love and friendship.   

Friday, March 3, 2017

Building White Burgundy

The white burgundy wines have always been a difficult category for me to get my head around.  I suppose it’s the wide variation in styles, compounded by technical issues that can be interpreted as complexity or faulty.  How far can you accept sulphide reduction and oxidative aspects before they are too much to handle?  Then there’s the issue of ‘pre-mox’.  Have the vignerons moved on, knowing how to prevent it?   I was raised on a diet of Joseph Drouhin wines, and learnt to love their elegant style.  But after that came the full-on styles of Lafon, and then the very subtle styles of Chartron.  The great wines, no matter what they were in style always shone through.  They had put on weight and richness, and had layers of interest
The negociant Chartron & Trebuchet white burgundies disappointed me.  They were lighter than light and more delicate than delicate, to the point of dilution.  Yet the Jean Chartrom Estate wines were altogether something else.  It is often the way between your own fruit and that purchased, the latter not quite meeting the standards of the former.  So when SWMBO and I visited The Orbiter, he produced a 2007 Jean Chartron Puligny-Montrachet 1er ‘Clos de la Pucelles’, a monopole wine too.  I knew we were in for a treat.  But it was more than that, it was gorgeous.  Still pale in colour, the nose exuded layers of white stonefruits, mealy notes, nuts and toast, all beautifully integrated, yet with a degree of power.  The palate reinforced the bouquet.  Lovely elegance and concentration, with a depth and density that was not surly in any way.  This had the stony/floral minerals of Puligny, with the understated richness and class of Pucelles.  The freshness and acidity just rounded to perfection.  Jean Chartron might not quite have the glamour of Leflaive or Ramonet, but this was up there.  Chartron knows how to build a great white burgundy.