The Wine Curmudgeon's guilty secret is white Burgundy — chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. Why guilty secret? Because white Burgundy is not cheap, and has not been so for years. It's not unusual for a very ordinary bottle that's worth $8 or $10 to cost $15 or $20; unless I get a sample (or splurge on a $60 bottle for a special occasion), I don't drink much white Burgundy any more.
So you can imagine my excitement when this wine, along with several other white Burgundies, arrived at the house. Joseph Drouhin is a respected negociant, and its wines are almost always well made. I figured, if nothing else, I could get an expensive wine of the month out of the shipment. And a couple of the bottles do fit that category.
But several weren't expensive, including the Macon ($13, sample). Macon wines are not complicated, don't get much oak (if any), and are made to drink now. In other words, they are Wine Curmudgeon wines. In the long ago days of the strong dollar and more sensible French export policies, there were half a dozen or so quality Macon-Villages wines for $10 or so, but the ones that still cost $10 are usually disappointing and the others aren't $10 any more.
Which makes the Drouhin all that more wonderful. It's one of the best values I've tasted in white Burgundy in years, and my tasting notes show that the producer actually cut the price this year. This is a very traditional wine, with hardly any fruit at all (lime zest?), no oak, and lots of minerality. So, no, it doesn't taste like came from California, but it's not supposed to. In this, it's a hint of what the 2009 vintage will ultimately deliver in Burgundy. Drink this chilled with roast chicken, any kind of shellfish, or on its own.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, in honor of the record-setting temperatures across much of the U.S., heat wave wines:
? Round Hill Chardonnay Oak Free 2010 ($12, sample): This wine deserves a real review, but I'm still waiting — after several calls and emails — to hear from the winery about availability, so it gets a mini-review. Lots of fresh pear and green apple with refreshing crispness. Highly recommended, assuming you can find it.
Robert Mondavi sold his self-named company to Constellation Brands in 2004, which means that at least a generation of wine drinkers knows Mondavi only as a name on a bottle of wine they see at the grocery store. Such are the vagaries of family businesses.
Enjoy this wine and imagine what could have been. The chardonnay, frankly, stunned the Wine Curmudgeon with its style and complexity. I was expecting a heavy-handed, post-modern approach — too rich, too overdone and too much of everything else. Instead, I found — dare I say — classicism. This is a wine in balance, with acid to offset the wonderful green apple fruit and enough oak to show it's there but not to overwhelm the wine. Drink this on its own with someone you care about or for a special occasion dinner. Highly recommended.
Want to buy Mom wine for Mother's Day? Or serve something she'll enjoy for brunch? The Wine Curmudgeon is ready, willing, and able. Keep in mind our wine gift-giving guidelines ("Don't buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like"), as well as these suggestions:
? Naked Grape Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Pleasant pinot grigio, which isn't easy to do for less than $10. This California white has more lemon fruit than Italian versions, and is missing the off-flavors that frequently crop up.
? Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage 2009 ($11, sample): All in all, a well made $11 red blend. It has California-style black fruit, but not overdone, plus better balanced tannins than one usually finds at this price. There is even oak for people who like that sort of thing.
? Benessere Sangiovese 2007 ($28, sample): Very nicely made, with proper tannins and acid (though not as much red fruit as I expected), but with the usual sort of quality to price problem that crops up with Napa wines. How many quality Chiantis can one get for less than this?
? Ch teau Tour Coutelin 2007 ($20, purchased): Well-done left-bank Bordeaux with much welcome earthiness, though more red fruit than I expected. Probably 5 or 6 Euros in France, which would make it a fine deal.
? Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc 2008 ($20, sample): Solid, dependable basic chardonnay from Burgundy (green apples and a bit of citrus), but which is clobbered by the weak dollar. Have you noticed a theme in this post?
Jess Jackson, who died last week, was one of the most important figures in the modern American wine business. If Robert Mondavi gave Americans a reason to love wine, Jackson gave them a wine to love. His Kendall-Jackson chardonnay is one of the most popular wines in the country, and has been almost since he introduced it in 1982.
How big a deal is the K-J Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay? That first vintage sold 20,000 cases. Today, K-J sells some 2.5 million cases of the chardonnay, which would make it alone the 12th biggest winery in the country, according to Wine Business Monthly.
Yet Jackson's death will probably elicit little of the admiration and respect that marked Mondavi's passing in 2008. One reason, say people who knew him, is that Jackson was not an easy man to get along with — something, they say, he often acknowledged. A lawyer, he liked to sue people, and that included Jed Steele, the winemaker who made that first vintage of chardonnay. He sued E&J Gallo, the biggest fish in the pond. And when, later in life he raced thoroughbreds (his horses won the Preakness twice), he sued horse people, too.
The Cave de Lugny ($11, purchased) is just such a wine. It’s almost unoaked, with some green apple and citrus at the front. If the mineral finish is a bit thin, it’s not unpleasant like so many California grocery store chardonnays, which reek of fake oak and other winemaker manipulation. I stumbled across this while looking for something to have on hand in case Icepocalypse: The Sequel kept me from wine shopping, and snapped it up. Cave de Lugny has a fine reputation as a grocery-store Burgundy producer (I especially like the Les Charmes, though it’s not $11 any more), and one could do a lot worse than this wine. Which, sadly, I have.
Drink this chilled on its own, with leftovers if you’re cleaning out the refrigerator after the power goes out, or for Chinese takeout. Assuming you can get to the restaurant for takeout in between the winter storms.