In which the Wine Curmudgeon enjoyed two reasonably priced wines from Burgundy, a red and a white, that didn ?t taste like they were made with the wrong grapes or came from California. In this case, old-fashioned does not mean outdated or not worth drinking. More, after the jump:
The Big Guy was on the phone. ?I ?ve got a wine you need to try. ? Given The Big Guy ?s fondness for white Burgundy, the Wine Curmudgeon ?s guilty pleasure, who was I to argue with him?
Though, when he brought the bottle over, it didn ?t look promising, The wine was a closeout, stuffed on a back shelf in one of Dallas ? local chain stores which would soon go out of business. It looked like it had seen better days ? worn label, lots of dust ? but The Big Guy and I are nothing if not brave.
I broke out the glasses, and poured. We sipped. We sipped some more. And then, at more or less the same time, we smiled that goofy wine drinker ?s smile that means we had found something very nice.
The wine was a Fran ois Raquillet Mercurey La Brigadi re 2005 ($30, purchased ? thanks, Big Guy) and don ?t worry if you ?ve never heard of it. Neither did the three wine people I asked ? the woman who knows more about wine than anyone I know, the master sommelier, and the guy studying to be a master sommelier.
Which made the Raquillet that much more fun. It ?s a white wine from Mercurey, a part of Burgundy better known for its reds, and how it ended up on a store shelf in Dallas is a mystery. Our best guess, as we drank the bottle, is that someone ordered a case and never picked it up, so the wine sat on the shelf for five years until The Big Guy came along.
The Raquillet had classy green apple fruit, as well as a spicy, white pepper sort of thing going on. It was a bit richer than I expected (probably from oak aging), and had a long, subtle finish with some limestone. It was more sophisticated than Chablis, which it sort of resembled. But it was unique and a wonderful wine.
And a wonderful value, assuming you can find it. I know you can ?t in Dallas, because The Big Guy went back and bought the four or five bottles that were left. In this, I ?m breaking one of the blog ?s rules, which is not to review wines people can ?t buy. But I ?m doing it because the wine ?s story is as good as the wine.
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:
? Ch teau Malescot St. Exup ry 2005 ($28, purchased): This cabernet sauvingon blend from Bordeaux is exceedingly capable wine, and given that it comes from one of the vintages of the century, it's practically a steal. Having said that, it doesn't taste especially French, but more California — a plummy, peppery aroma, lots of red fruit, chalky tannins and a long finish. My brother, who sometimes contributes his thoughts on pricier wines for the blog, would probably enjoy this as a birthday present.
? Hess Collection Sauvignon Blanc Allomi Vineyard ($18, sample): Interesting and solid white wine from Napa Valley, which doesn't taste like too many other sauvignon blancs. That means a touch of oak that gives the wine a little more richness to go with with California grassiness and some citrus.
? LangeTwins Moscato 2010 ($13, sample): This sweet white California wine is clean and fresh, with aromas of orange blossoms and lime. But there isn't much in the middle, and the finish is short — it leaves a sweet aftertaste without any acid to compensate.
? Domaine Henri Perrusset M con-Villages ($20, purchased): Yes, $20 is a lot to pay for a French villages wine, but this comes with the Kermit Lynch imprimatur. So it's worth it. This chardonnay from the Macon region of Burgundy is almost elegant, which is very surprising for a basic level bottle. It has lots of apple and citrus zest, but also an underlying layer of richness that is not often seen on villages wines.
One of the myths about the wine business is that wine needs to age. Most wine doesn't, of course. Buy it and drink it and neither the drinker nor the wine will be worse off. That's something that most people, and even those who drink a lot of wine, are often confused about.
Hence it's always a treat to taste wine where aging is part of the wine's makeup. Generally, these are expensive, Old World wines; California high-end producers have a love-hate relationship with aging wine, though there are certainly some California wines that age well and producers who care about it.
The Boillot ($30, purchased) is a good example of how aging works (and comes from a solid, if lesser known, producer in Burgundy). It's chardonnay that is ready to drink now, and doesn't seem tight or jumbled the way younger wines that are made to age sometimes do. In other words, you can taste all the flavors — they're distinct and one doesn't dominate the mix. In this case, that means pears and some apples, even a little honey, and the minerality that is so crucial to these wines. There was a little more oak than I expected, but it still had all of Puligny's rich and lush fruit and character.
The other thing about aging? Wines can fade, and get worse, not better. The Boillot is ready to drink now. Hold it for much longer, and the fruit will go away and the wine will, literally, lose flavor. Now, though? A great gift or something to serve for a fancy holiday dinner where you pull out all of the stops. Cream sauce, even.
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.
The French may have many faults as a wine-producing nation, be it genuflecting in Robert Parker’s direction or refusing to acknowledge the 21st century. But they still make the world’s best chardonnay — even grocery store chardonnay.
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.