Tag Archives: expensive wine

Expensive wine 121: Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet 2013

Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet The Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet is young white Burgundy in all its glory

Wine is known for making food taste better, but it can also improve the ambiance of a meal. This has little do with the alcohol; rather, it’s about the quality of the wine and how its enjoyment makes everything else seem better. Which is exactly what the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet did recently.

The Big Guy wanted to have wine with lunch, which meant we had to eat at the blog’s unofficial BYOB restaurant. The catch, as we discussed on the drive there, was that the food had been ordinary lately and the service worse. It’s not asking too much to be greeted politely at a restaurant, is it? And especially when you eat there as often as we do?

Not to worry, The Big Guy told me. I have some Puligny, and all will be well. And he was exactly correct – the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet ($50, purchased, 13.5%) smoothed out all the rough edges, and I remember the wine much more than I remember the rest of the lunch.

The Clerc is the kind of wine that reminds us why French wine is French wine, if only because the estate dates to the 16th century. The wine itself — chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy is young. The term is “nerovisite” – sort of like a teenager who can’t sit still. As such, it should open and become more elegant and richer as it ages over the next decade. Now, though, it’s delightful – lots of fruity acidity (crisp pear, pleasantly tart pineapple?); full through the middle; and lots and lots of the wonderful Puligny minerality on the finish.

Highly recommended, and just the gift for Father’s Day if Dad wants something other than a big, red, and fruit bomb-y wine.

Imported by Vos Selections

Winebits 596: Tariffs, wine writing, wine prices

Wine pricingThis week’s wine news: The booze business has discovered it doesn’t want tariffs, either, plus wine writing’s unique demographics and expensive wine doesn’t guarantee quality

No tariffs, please: The Wine Curmudgeon is not the only one who understands that tariffs are a mug’s game. Most of the booze business’ leading trade groups, including the Wine Institute, have asked the federal government to drop plans to tax European Union products. The story, from Shanken News Daily, is a bit convoluted, but the gist is that even people who never agree about anything else agree about this: “Entry level, everyday products are going to be affected just as much as high-end imported products,” said the CEO of the group that represents wine and spirits wholesalers.

An exclusive club: Tom Natan, writing on the First Vine blog, discovers one of the wine business’ underlying truths, “the uniform racial makeup of the wine writing world. … at least the part I experience at meetings and conferences — seems to be populated almost exclusively by White people like me.” He parses some intriguing numbers, including that almost one-quarter of U.S. business owners and bosses are women, but that only 4 percent of wine and spirits businesses are owned or run by women. And only one-fifth of those 4 percent are women of color. This is in marked contrast to food writing, he writes, which is much more diverse. Natan looks for reasons why this is true, but misses something else: Does this lack of diversity explain why the wine business is so obsessed with expensive wines – the kind that are preferred by its older, wealthier demographics?

Not so fast, expensive wine: Dan Berger, writing in the Santa Rosa Pres-Democrat (in the heart of wine country, no less), warns us that “wine buyers willingly accept being fed a diet of misinformation — or no information at all. They continue to buy wines based on marketers’ fictions, accepting lies or faux facts, and believing high prices indicate high quality.” And, just to be sure we understand, Berger asks: “Can you imagine buying a car without first gaining specific details about its specifications, and without taking a test-drive? How about buying furniture off the web that doesn’t give measurements or the material from which it was made?” But, and as been mentioned here many times, wine drinkers do that regularly, because we assume that wine is different than cars or furniture.

Expensive wine 120: Jean et Sébastien Dauvissat Chablis Saint-Pierre 2017

Dauvissat ChablisThe Dauvissat Chablis is chardonnay that shows why that French region makes such terrific white wine

There are very few values left in high-end French wine (to say nothing of not-so-high-end French wine). But you can still find value from Chablis in Burgundy, like the Dauvissat Chablis.

Yes, $27 seems like a lot to pay for value. But the Dauvissat Chablis ($27, purchased, 12%) is the kind of wine that offers more than you expect. Chablis is chardonnay, but chardonnay usually made with little or no oak. Hence, it’s not only much different from New World chardonnay, much of which is dripping with oak, but it’s also much different from other white Burgundies. That means a steely, very mineral quality, with almost no vanilla or toastiness, but a wine that can still be rich and full.

In other words, chardonnay for those of us who appreciate fruit and less winemaking. The Dauvissat Chablis is just that: Fresh and crisp, with lots of tart green apple fruit, lots of that wonderful Chablis minerality, and nary oak anywhere. The wine combines Chablis tradition, so that it’s clean and almost stony, but with more New World-style and less subtle fruit. It’s an impressive combination, and especially at a price that usually buys very ordinary white Burgundy or even less impressive Napa chardonnay.

Highly recommended, and should age for at least a decade. This is just the bottle for anyone who wants a white wine for Mother’s Day that is more than buttery and caramel.

Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchants

 

Expensive wine 119: Stags’ Leap Chardonnay 2017

stags' leap chardonnayThe Stags’ Leap chardonnay may be the best value among expensive wines I’ve tasted in years

This California white wine may be the best value for any domestic white wine costing more than $25 I’ve tasted in years. It’s certainly the best value in California chardonnay: It tastes like Napa Valley, where the grapes are from. It tastes like chardonnay, and not a tub of butter. And it’s only going to get better with age, truly amazing given its price.

Much of the credit for the quality for the Stag’s Leap chardonnay ($30, sample, 14.2%) goes to winemaker Christophe Paubert, whose approach is focused on the grapes, and not getting on the cover of the Wine Spectator. Hence, a wine that isn’t over oaked, isn’t hot, and isn’t stuffed full of winemaking tricks. “I’m not that kind of winemaker,” he said during lunch in Dallas last month.

Instead, Paubert worked with what the grapes gave him, and the result is a chardonnay that is fresh and bright, with crisp green apple fruit intertwined with a little lemon zest. It’s rich and full in the mouth, but not oaky and toasty, and it finishes with a certain sort of minerality one doesn’t taste much anymore in California chardonnay. Yes, there is oak, but it’s in the background, supporting everything else.

Highly recommended, and especially for Mother’s Day next month. This would pair especially well with something like crab and shrimp stuffed fish, or even a classic French dish like sole in a simple white wine sauce.

Expensive wine 118: Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2013

Le Cigare VolantThe Le Cigare Volant shows screwcap wines can age with style and grace

Randall Grahm, the Boony Doon impresario who only uses screwcaps, has insisted for years that wine ages under screwcap. This remains heresy in the wine business, which has grudgingly allowed that screwcaps are OK for cheap wine, but not for fine wine that can cellar for years. Which means not enough of the wine business has tasted this vintage of the Le Cigare Volant.

The Le Cigare Volant ($45, sample, 14.5%) is the Bonny Doon flagship, a fine red wine made in Grahm’s trademark Rhone style. Hence, Old World style and attention to terroir, but New World sensibility and technique. That means subtle tannins and a clean finish, but earthiness and spice (cinnamon, in the way it can be almost chili hot) on the front. There is also a mix of red and fruit black fruit (raspberries and plums), plus an almost gaminess that you don’t expect from California wine. Despite the high alcohol (and very high for Grahm, who prides himself on restraint), the wine is neither hot nor overwhelming.

Grahm says screwcap wines age differently than cork wines, which is not bad – just different. That this wine is still so young but intriguing speaks to this; as it continues to age over the next 8 to 10 years, the Le Cigare Volant will become richer and more complex, and it’s complex already.

Highly recommended. Serve this with lamb or duck, and enjoy not just the wine, but how easy it is to open the bottle.

Yes, cheap wine can still be interesting

cheap winePremiumization has sucker punched cheap wine quality, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to spend $10 a bottle and get distinctive wine

Can cheap wine still be interesting? This matters more than ever, as producers continue to dumb down wine that costs less than $15 in their effort to produce something whose reason for being is to be smooth and inoffensive.

In addition, the perception that all cheap wine is swill and not worth drinking seems to be growing as premiumization takes hold and consumers buy into the mantra that “If it doesn’t cost $25, don’t buy it.” And who can argue with that when even a producer like Bogle, which once cared about quality, sweetens its sauvignon blanc?

But know four things before we dismiss cheap wine as a waste of time:

• Expensive wine can be smooth and inoffensive, too, without a lick of interest and just as annoying as something that costs $6. I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. The days are long gone when high price guaranteed a wine worth drinking, as opposed to a wine worth bragging about on Instagram.

• Who can afford to drink $25 wine every night? The median household income in the U.S. is about $62,000. Drink a $25 wine every night, and you’re spending 14.5 percent of that median on wine. Cut it to 10 times a month, and you’re still spending 5 percent on wine. That, by the way is  six times the average U.S, household expenditure on alcohol — less than $500 a year.

• I drink wine most nights with dinner. These days, samples probably account for about one-third of what I drink, so that means I pay for 20 bottles of wine. That works out to $200 to $250 a month, at $8 to $15 a bottle. It’s not the average of $500 a year, but I drink quality wine, get twice as much, and spend about the same as the 10-bottle, $25 buyer. And how is possible I write about wine, but spend less of my income on it than someone who drinks wine as a hobby?

• There is quality cheap wine. Yes, it’s more difficult to find and it may cost $12 to $15 instead of $8 to 10, but it’s out there. The biggest problem for wine drinkers is that they’re terrified to drink something out of their comfort zone, be it varietal or region. And it doesn’t matter how much they spend. So chardonnay drinkers won’t try a $12 French viognier because it’s not chardonnay, and the Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon drinker won’t try a $13 Rioja because it’s not from Napa. In those situations, writing off cheaper wine because it’s different solves the problem of actually tasting it.

More about cheap wine quality:
Can grocery store private label wine wine save cheap wine from itself?
Is the $14 Yalumba viognier the new best cheap wine in the world?
Is $15 wine the new $8 wine?

 

Expensive wine 117: Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve NV

Jean Vesselle Brut ReserveForget scores: The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve is amazingly wonderful Champagne

The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve, as delicious and as well made a Champagne as I’ve had in years, shows once again why scores are useless. Its average on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software) is 88 points, or about what a quality bottle of $10 wine would get.

Because if the Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve ($44, purchased, 12%) is an 88-point wine, I’m Robert Parker.

This is an exquisite bottle of Champagne, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. It has layers and layers of flavor, including some of the yeasty creaminess that most high-end bubbly drinkers require of Champagne. But it’s so much more than than: A completely unexpected burst of crisp, wonderfully ripe red apple fruit followed by an almost spicy finish and tiny, tight bubbles popping to the top of the glass. In this, it’s bone dry and certainly not your grandfather’s Champagne, and I’m almost certain that accounts for the crummy scores.

Highly recommended, and as enjoyable with food (eggs at brunch, certainly, but also roast chicken) as it is for celebrations. Which is how I drank it – honoring my long-time pal and colleague James MacFayden, who is returning to his native Britain after more than two decades in the U..S. James will be much missed – not only for his fine palate, but for his bounty of Monty Python references.

Imported by North Berkeley Imports