Tag Archives: white Burgundy

Mini-reviews 126: White Burgundy, albarino, Estancia, petit verdot

white burgundyReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Jean-Jacques Vincent Bourgogne Blanc 2017 ($20, purchased, 13%): This is the second time I bought this chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, which shows that even those of us who do this for a living make mistakes. Bland, boring, and overpriced. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

Raimat Saira Albarino 2016 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is cheaply made, watery, and doesn’t much taste like albarino. It apparently exists for no other reason than to cost $10. Imported by Aveniu Brands

Estancia Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Estancia was once a dependable cheap wine producer. Now, it’s just another Big Wine brand. This California white is green and unripe and tastes very little like sauvignon blanc.

Cameron Hughes ‘Lot 638’ Petit Verdot 2016 ($15, sample, 14.4%): VinePair’s reviewer loved this Washington state red wine, raving about its “concentrated dark-berry fruit, especially blackberry and black currant.” That’s the exact reason I didn’t care for it – too ripe and too overdone, especially given the grapes involved.

Photo: “Lancers” by Rochelle Ramos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

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 115: Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015

benoit droin chablisThe Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montmains shows why aging matters in wine, and why we should appreciate it

Perhaps the most important difference between truly great wine and the stuff most of us drink most of the time – and price, sadly, doesn’t much matter here – is that truly great wine ages and changes as it ages. And, like the Benoit Droin Chablis, it usually changes for the better.

The Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015 ($47, purchased, 13%) is chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy in France, which makes it white Burgundy. But unlike most white Burgundy, Chablis isn’t oaked. This difference gives it a character of its own – sort of like the Puligny that is my guilty pleasure, but different enough to be a pleasure all its own.

Which brings us to the aging. The Benoit Droin Chablis is still quite young, and it may take 10 more years before it really tastes like Chablis, with the telltale minerality and limestone and almost steely green fruit. But that’s one of the great joys of Chablis, that you can drink it now and sort of see how that will happen to the wine. That this is almost a $50 wine makes it difficult to buy two, wait a couple of years, and see if you’re right. But one learns to live with that.

Having said that, the wine is delicious even without the aging – certainly worth what it costs, and especially for anyone who appreciates white Burgundy (and if you need a last-minute holiday gift). Look for green apple, minerality, and a certain softness that you usually don’t find in Chablis. Until, of course, the wine ages.

Imported by European Cellars/Eric Solomon

Christmas wine 2017

christmas wine 2017Four choices for Christmas wine 2017 to help you enjoy the holiday

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2017, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:

Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Top-notch South African pink from one of my favorite producers. More in the Loire style, even though it uses Rhone grapes (grenache and a little viognier), so less fruit (unripe strawberry) and more stoniness and minerality. Highly recommended. Imported by USA Wine Imports.

Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet 2013 ($79, purchased, 13%): My favorite white Burgundy, and perhaps my favorite chardonnay in the word. This vintage is more tropical than I expected (lime and almost banana fruit), but still crisp, minerally, and white Burgundy-like. And the oak, with hints of pecan and caramel, is a revelation, a master class in how to age wine. A tip o’ the WC fedora to the Big Guy, who brought it to a recent wine lunch. Highly recommended, and especially as a gift for someone who loves wine. Imported by Vineyard Brands.

Bervini Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($18, sample, 11%): Old-fashioned Italian bubbly, the kind we drank in the 1960s and ’70s — more fizzy than sparkling, a touch sweet, and balanced with raspberry fruit. It’s well made and fun to drink, but price might turn some people off. Imported by WineTrees USA.

Silver Totem Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($16, sample, 13.5%): An amazing Washington state red wine that comes from Big Wine producer Banfi, but tastes like Washington state cabernet. Everything is where it is supposed to be — some heft, some rich dark fruit but not too ripe, and enough acidity so the wine is more than smooth. Highly recommended.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2016
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Expensive wine 101: Franco-Espanolas Bordon Gran Reserva 2005
Expensive wine 104: Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese 2014

Expensive wine 98: Domaine Bruno Clair Marsannay Blanc 2012

bruno clair marsannayThe Bruno Clair Marsannay is white Burgundy with an unexpected — and enjoyable — twist

One of the great joys of wine is tasting something that you’ve never tasted before, and especially when that wine is even more than you thought it could be. Which is the Bruno Clair Marsannay ($28, sample, 13%) in every way, shape, and form.

This is a chardonnay from Marsannay, a less well known part of Burgundy and especially for chardonnay. For one thing, the chardonnay is blended with 15 percent pinot blanc, which is unheard of in most of Burgundy. For another, many of the producers in Marsannay aren’t as serious about what they’re doing as Clair is.

All of which means it’s not what I expected from a white Burgundy (which, of course, is the Wine Curmudgeon’s guilty pleasure). The wine is not as elegant or as regal as a Montrachet; rather, it’s like the little brother with a sly grin, the one no one takes seriously, but who does so at their own peril.

Look for a subtle and engaging use of oak to round out the wine, as well as the green apple and pear that is key to so much white Burgundy. The pinot blanc take some of the edge of the chardonnay’s acidity, while complementing the spiciness, also a characteristic of white Burgundy.

Highly recommended, and a fine value at this price.


Christmas wine 2016

Christmas wine 2016Four choices for Christmas wine 2016 to help you enjoy the holiday

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2016 – either for a last-minute gift for a wine person, or to drink with all those upcoming holiday dinners and leftovers. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:

Farnese Fantini Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): An Italian pink wine that is fruity (very red cherry) and fresh. It’s not quite in the New World style, but it’s not quite Provencal, either. Very nicely done, and the sort of wine to enjoy at a holiday party and marvel at its cost and quality.

Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 2013 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Top-quality white Burgundy (made with chardonnay) at a remarkable price and that has all the things it should have — apple fruit, white pepper, that certain amount of oak. This wine is still young and a little tight, making it a fine value if you want to buy a couple of bottles to hold, either as a gift or for yourself.

Campo Viejo Cava Gran Brut Rosé NV ($10, sample, 12%): This grocery store Spanish sparkler can be inconsistent, but this bottle was everything I hoped for – varietally correct, tight bubbles, and fresh, cherryish fruit. A nice value, whether you want an aperitif or something to toast with.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2012 ($45, purchased, 13.5%): This California Rhone-style blend from the irrepressible Randall Grahm shows why his wines are so interesting. It’s both earthy and refined, for one thing, with a wonderful foresty aroma and dark but not forbidding fruit. Plus, it will age for at least another decade, and get even more intriguing as it does. Highly recommended. If you know someone who wants to venture outside of their California cabernet sauvignon comfort zone, give them this.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Christmas wine 2013
Expensive wine 88: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004

$300 of wine after 108 years of waiting

$300 of wineTwo $150 bottles of wine to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series victory

A $150 bottle of white Burgundy and a $150 bottle of red Burgundy – what better way to celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years than with $300 worth of wine?

The Big Guy brought the white, a 2014 Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Champ-Canet Premier Cru, and I bought the red, a 2012 Chateau de Meursault Clos des Epenots Premier Cru. Neither were in my original Cubs wine post, but those wines — and which were $20 to $50 cheaper — were sold out.

Needless to say, we had never paid that much for a bottle of wine, which was the point. “It’s OK if you’re going to do this once every century,” said The Big Guy, and who was I to argue?

My other goal? Make sure the food was up to the wine, and it’s not being immodest to say that it was (or so the others at the dinner, including Lynne Kleinpeter and Kathy Turner, told me):

• A goat cheese and salmon timbale with the Sauzet, a chardonnay. The wine was young and fresh enough to handle the richness of the goat cheese, and it complemented the food exactly as I had hoped.

Chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms duxelles with the Epenots, a pinot noir. This was one of those pairings that shows why pairings matter – the wine made the food taste better and the food made the wine taste better. The Epenots, though still young, had some of that Burgundian mushroom and forest floor, and the bright red fruit did the chicken proud.

• An apple tart with a Fonseca 10-year-old tawny port ($32, purchased, 20%), a bonus because I like port. This is a more traditional style port – less fruit and more nuttiness, and not hot at all.

So were the Burgundies worth $150 a bottle? As delicious as they were, probably not. For one thing, both were still too young, and will need at least a decade before they’re going to taste the way they should taste. The Sauzet, in particular, was angular and disjointed (or at least as much as a classic white Burgundy can be), and only time will smooth out those rough edges.

That they weren’t worth what they cost isn’t so much a criticism of the wines, but of the wine business and how foolish high-end wine prices have become. The Big Guy remembers paying $50 in a restaurant for the Sauzet in the 1990s; that means the retail price has increased 10-fold in the past two decades. In other words, paying $20 for a cup of Starbucks coffee today. The best value of the evening was the port, given how much crappy port costs $20 and $30, and I’ll buy another bottle when this one is gone.

Hopefully, when Cubs manager Joe Maddon – a wine guy of no small repute – celebrates the World Series, he’ll have as much fun as we did on Saturday night.