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Saturday, June 28, 2014
In April I visited Champagne again. I couldn’t help noticing that prices on grower Champagne are on the rise. Yet the increasing price curve on the most innovative growers in Champagne are not a singular phenomenon. Prices on quality wines are in general increasing and it rarely helps when the production is low. Just think of Burgundy, where some of the most prestigious names are separating themselves to an exclusive club of consumers.
Overall I don’t like to talk about prices on wines. “Numbers” is what I do for a living and wine has always acted as a contrast to my work life. I like to keep it that way. Money is a weird thing really – we know it matters, but to start a debate about what’s the right way to use them is more about moralizing. What people do with their own money is their choice. Wine is good example. All passionate wine lovers, knows it’s a form of madness to spend a ridiculous amount money on fermented grape juice. You might have done a great investment, but at the end of the day you are willing to “destroy” that investment by drinking it. Yet we (us wine geeks) know that there is more to it than just grape juice with alcohol.
I often see people complain about price developments on wine. I am no different and guilty as sinned. In fact it happened in Champagne. Some of my favourite producers are starting to be in a price range, where I have to think twice. If I decide to buy expensive wine I just don’t buy a six-pack without blinking. But owing just one or two bottles of a very expensive wine is actually another dilemma. You just don’t serve these wines on a Tuesday evening with a Spaghetti Bolognese. No! You save them for a special occasion. This is okay to some degree, as we have always split wines into different categories and somehow we find wines that suit that Tuesday evening. However when you put the wine on an exclusive price pedestal you build high expectations. You even make sure it’s served with the right people, as you rarely drink such expensive wines alone – or do you? I think most want to share a potential big experience with other people and this is one of the beauties with wines; friendship and the social element. Yet it’s also a bit weird, because you will probably only get one or two glasses. You even make sure the wine is matched with the right food, chose the right day - where “equivalent” wines are present. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking forward to taste a special wine. Not at all – I embrace this myself. However I have never felt comfortable of tasting wines, where I somehow beforehand are almost nervous on the outcome. Tasting wines naked, being relaxed and just interact with the wine and having a good natural flow appeals far more to me.
Yet the spike in prices also have a positive flip side for me. When a wine breaches your own price limits the initial thought is: DAMN! Now I can’t buy Soldera or Jacques Selosse anymore and this is not so easy to digest. For me it helps thinking that if I die tomorrow I won’t die thirsty of either Soldera or Selosse. Yet somehow I just forget about them. They kind of slip my mind and the reason is simple. Wine-Life goes on. It’s like my consumer behaviour automatically guides me in a different direction and my curiosity likes that. It says something about how many talented winemakers there are out there and how many I haven’t even tasted yet. I live for curiosity and taking a stance on prices helps me stay alert.
You might already have guessed this introduction is leading up to a wine, where I will touch upon its price tag. This wine is the result of being curious and of course having good wine dealers, who buys the good stuff and knows your palate. The price here is low – but the quality is outrageous. I couldn’t help to speculate if this wine was served blind to me. I would have compared it with some of the best white wines I have tasted from Burgundy, which are easily +150€. But this one is roughly €23…if you can find it that is.
2012 Jean-Marie Berrux “La Petite Têtu”
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Location: Burgundy, Corpeau, Slightly south of Puligny.
Vineyard: 1,5 ha
Vinification: Oak (20% new) + only indigenous yeats.
Other: No sulphur during vinification – only at bottling (approx 18mg/l)
Production: 7-8.000 bottles
Glass: Tasted two times – One time from Zalto Burgundy and second time from a Spiegelau Burgundy glass in a restaurant). Zalto was miles better (no surprise) and lifted the wines freshness and minerality, whereas in Spiegelau it was a bit oilier and heavier in style.
I didn’t write any notes on it…I never do that anymore, but I remember it very well. I also remember my wife and I drank if faster than we normally do. My wife even said, that she was tired and not so much into wine this evening. She changed her mind. The wine is utterly sensual. It has a mind-blowing elastic feel as soon as you stick your nose into the glass. On one hand its oily and buttery, which sometimes can go deadly wrong with these white Burgundy and not something I favour. Yet it has a combo of wild yeast flavours, honey, brioche and lots of fresh tickly fruit with sensual apple cider associations, which creates the most divine balance. The touch of oak is also there, yet only secondary with sensuality and so well balanced. The taste is round and lush – just like the nose, yet filled with enormous minerality, life and bite. What a wine. Hunt it if you can find it.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
When spring arrives here in the upper part of the northern hemisphere it has an almost hypnotic-like affect. Winter is over – the hell of darkness has come to and end. Life can start again and when you fill the air with 25 degrees, blue skies there is form a madness emerging. On top - set the scene with some of the most leading, innovative bio/”Nature” winemakers play some great jazz music and serve the crowd tasty food. The result was pure bliss.
Fri Vin 2014 was one of the best wine festivals I have ever participated in. I never attend such events to taste in great detail and take away 200 useful tasting notes. No! it’s more about inspiration. Sure I hope discover my next big wine love affair, but seeing the winemakers and just being in a place with likewise passionate people, is far more appealing to me.
There was a phenomenal atmosphere at the event. Of course helped by the weather showing the best spring setting Copenhagen can offer in late April. You also sensed the relationship among the winemakers and how they were proud to be part of something extraordinary.
I think these types of wines and their frivolous appeal showed what they are all about on such a day. The four wine importers behind the event; Petillant, Lieu-dit, Wine Wise and Rosforth & Rosforth are all aware of what these wines can do and did a very intelligent manoeuvre by illustrating the common analog character of both wine, music and food.
Big applause – Bravo!!!!.....so when is the next Fri Vin?
Enjoy the images - they are all clickable and will open a larger and better resolution.
(Olivier Horiot - Champagne)
(Gabrio Bini - Insane wines from Azienda Agricola Serragghia)
(The one and only Sune Rosforth)
(We have beautiful women here in Denmark)
(Ronald Regan…well almost)
(Breathtaking Sinne Eeg - Danish Jazz vovalist)
(More Sinne Eeg)
(Let the party begin)
(Let the party begin)
(Christian Nedergård - Mr. Ved Stranden 10 Vinhandel & Bar - owner of Copenhagen's finest beard)
(Gabrio Bini again)
(Guy Breton - Morgon)
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Initially I wanted to do a presentation of Ruppert-Leroy – an exiting new Champagne producer from the Aube region. However, when I was in Champagne (where I have just returned from) I tasted a very exiting white wine – which I actually have in glass right now. It’s the 2012 “Clos du Rouge Gorge” from a producer called Cyril Fhal.
I tasted these wines a day apart and thought it gave good meaning to present them in the same post, as they represent a contrast – yet individually something interesting.
Let’s get aquatinted with the wines:
2011 Ruppert-Leroy “Martin-Fontaine” Brut Nature
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Teroir: Clay and limestone
Age of vines: 70 years old
Dosage: 0 g/l
Glass used: Zalto White Wine
A very joyful Champagne, where you immediately feel in a good mood. There is a lot of sensorial sweetness, with ripe fruit, candied citrus, juicy sweet pear/apple and a crystal clear fruit. All together it’s floral attraction and the adorable factor is high. The taste has a precise linear style with a vibrant and precise acidity, which keeps the keynotes uplifted. However there is a fine line of the role of the sensorial sweetness, which keeps adding rather sweet notes, like elderflower and adding what seems to be residual sugar to the back of the palate. On one hand, it’s a part of this joyful style, which you can’t really resist, but you can't help to take notice. For me it’s slightly annoying. Having said that – I had no problems enjoying it. If I turn to Mr. analytic I really miss some sort of soil bite, which could have shifted its focus away from only fruit. So what’s the verdict? Well – this is young Champagne and it’s indeed very healthy and well made. It’s even extremely easy to drink. It could very well be all about baby-fat and a completely different breed in 2-3 years time. To me this is a very good Champagne, but if to turn really great, it will have to attract more soil nerve with cellaring. However I suspect it will have many fans and for sure a producer I look forward to follow.
2012 Cyril Fhal “Clos du Rouge Gorge (Blanc)”
Grape: 100% Macabbeu
Terroir: Sandy, silty soil (150-200m above sea level)
Vinification: Oak (2-3 years old) – No sulphur before Vinification.
Viticulture: Since Cyril Fhal took over in 2002 he converted to Bio (Demeter)
Location: We are in Latour de France (Roussillon)
Glass used: Zalto Universal
This is completely different kind of wine. Obviously we are comparing bubbles against a still wine, but as you will see it’s a wine, with an entire different setting. Here the fruit tonality is very shy and not something that would pull your pants down in a blind tasting. It’s however filled with energy – tons of it. It’s that energy, which keeps you turning back to the glass and despite the subdued bouquet, it was actually a wine I spent a lot of time “sniffing”. It’s simply the fascination of not exposing everything at once and a wine, which is constantly changing shape in the glass. The taste is not the kind of wine, which wraps a mouth coating cashmere orgy on you. No! Here its minerals all over – ranging from wet crushed stones, to warm slate. On day two the wine was even better. Thrilling intense, challenging and very reflective to the mind. Loved it and definitely not the last time I taste this producer.
To compare these two wines is not to pick a winner – or a loser. Personally I fell more attracted to wines with high soil energy. However if you have been reading this blog for some time you also know I like to illustrate diversity and how wines should pair with both food, occasions, your own mood and the lust for wine on the day you pull/pop the cork.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Gueux!. Doesn’t really ring a bell in relation to wine does it? But I’ll give you a clue. We are in Champagne country - 15km west of Reims. No?
Anyway - Gueux is a small cosy town – to a degree of romantic with lovely houses, clean pavements and an almost obligatory magnolia tree in the front gardens. Even the café here is nicer and made in a more chick look. The town is quite, which is something I am use to, when I drive around in Champagne. Despite Champagnes exuberant and festive reputation, the regions and its towns are somewhat sleepy towns. On the outside that is, because as soon as you get inside – down to those dark cellars, a huge hospitality awaits - and damn good wine to.
We arrived from the south a day in April and had been driving through endless landscapes of vineyards. But as you cross the town sign of Gueux, the vineyard setting comes to an end. You sense you are closer to Reims and a more common landscape of approaching roads and suburbs neighbourhood.
(The tractor - go home Ferrari)
Yet in Gueux resides a Champagne producer. Jérôme Prévost is his name and I suspect that bell rang?
Yet upon arrival at his house, he is not home. A where is the cellar? Instead I can see a cedar wood looking barn. It’s a little bit open. I am even more curious now. We find out that he is in the vineyard, which should be located 6-700 meters up the road. After turning left we start to sense that there are in fact vineyards in Gueux. The vineyards here are not your romantic notion of sloping hills, where a sparkling sunlight warms up the soil from hilltop in the distance. No! – Here the land is flat as a pancake. It’s not exactly screaming for attention and Jérôme’s vineyard " Les Béguines” are here with 5-6 other parcels. We see Jérôme in the distance – all alone and on a behemoth of a tractor.
He jumps of and greets a handful of passionate wine people from Denmark. “It’s a good day to plow – such an occasion should not be missed, he says”. It’s already the fourth time he plows this year and it doesn’t take you long to see his vineyard looks a bit more healthy that it’s neighbours. The “other” parcels here sadly look like a lot of other vineyards in Champagne. Depleted soils, sprayed with small blue plastic pieces and other metals parts ranging from nails, glass to batteries. The small blue plastic pieces are a shameful chapter in Champagne. In the 1970s the Parisians cleverly disposed of a composting of household waste. “When the soil is so poor of life, the roots seek upwards to find nutrition and this is really not good”.
"Les Béguines” is the story about this very flat vineyard. 2ha of very sandy soils, planted with Pinot Meunier, which by now are about 50 years of age. Pinot Meunier is like most of you probably know Champagnes rustic cousin and often not so highly praised. It’s paradoxically the most planted in Champagne. Yet it’s actually because it’s seldom seen as a mono grape release, but often blended to give some growling baseline. Before I got introduce to these grower Champagnes, I often perceived Pinot Meunier as being pretty baroque and often a very clumsy grape. But for sure in blends –like Krug Vintage, it acts as a good trio partner, giving opposition to the refine tonality of Chardonnay and the aristocratic Pinot Noir.
”Les Béguines” is for sure filled with sand – but also lots of fossils. It can be a little hard to imagine, when you stand here in present time – and with 350km to the nearest coastline - that about 45million years ago the seabed was here in Gueux. The seas erosion has created massive layers of calcareous sand formations and fossils with tiny crustaceans. It’s not exactly hurting the quality of the terroir.
At the end of the vineyard you see a small white house and this is Jérôme 's childhood home. So you would think that he was born to make wine and walk the footsteps of his parents? But it was not like that. His parents didn’t even make wine and the vineyards belonged to his grandmother. She even leased the land out. Jérôme 's interest in life, took a different path towards a more artistic angle, with painting, philosophy, and photography. When he got the offer to take over " Les Beguines " it was not something he just jumped into with open arms. But in 1987 he decide to give it a go and Domaine "La Closerie" is born. The first period is all about bringing the vineyard back to balance by working with respect for nature and no use of pesticides. The juice is initially sold to negociants, while Jérôme seeks inspiration and knowledge. But it ‘s as if he is constantly struggling with the prejudice that you can not make great wine in Gueux and certainly not on such a flat and sandy vineyard, planted with dull Pinot Meunier. Perhaps that why, he in 1995/96 takes a journey to Jura. Jura was about seeking inspiration, but he was also on the verge of obtaining a vineyard there. Today, he looks back and says:” It was a great adventure with Jura, but it was ultimately too difficult for me to leave my home ."
Instead he starts as an apprentice of Anselme Selosse. He tells us how he learned more about making wine the first day with Anselme, than he had ever learned before. Anselme gives Jérôme a task of pumping wine from a cask to another. Jérôme had never tried this before and Anselme begin to explain how to use the pump, but can see that Jerome is a little bit lost in all the technical information. Anselme stops and says to Jérôme "When you are dealing with wine making, both in the cellar and in the vineyard you are using your body and soul. You constantly need to ask yourself - why am I doing this? What is the meaning of this? Is it necessary?”
Personally I don’t know Jérôme very well, but hearing his story and spending some time with him, you begin to understand why this winemaker is so curious - why he constantly seeks inspiration (you will see later) and ask questions. When you combine it with a man of great intellect, humour and his artistic background, you begin to understand why the outcome is a pretty personal wine.
Jérôme spends 5 years with Anselme and it’s also him, who helps him to make the first vintages at his address in Avize. ‘1998 is the first official release with Jérôme Prévost on the label. In 2003 he leaves Anselme to make wine in Gueux. He starts of with one wine: "Les Beguines”. In 2000 and 2003 vintage he makes a wine called " d' Ailleurs “, which is limited cuvée, which have spent +one year more in barrel. I remember tasting the ’03 in London some four years ago and it was truly an eye-opener. In 2007 a rosé sees the daylight, which goes by the name “Fac – Simile”. We are again at Pinot Menier frequency and this is a very juicy cousin. Yet I think many underestimate it’s potential due to its slightly polish candy like feel. But as I see it “Fac – Simile” age very well and right now the ’07s fruit core are starting to feel a little dryer, saltier and obtaining that beautiful verbena note I adore in a rosé Champagne.
With time Jérôme have obtained more land and planted these with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. The age of the vines are still very young and when he finally decided to release some cuvée(s) it will be a very limited number of bottles.
All of his Champagnes are non-vintage btw – despite they are never blended. So we deal with vintage juice, but officially non-vintage Champagne, as it falls short of the AOC-rules of 36 months on lees. This is quit common when it comes to the small growers. They simple don’t have economy of scale like the big houses, nor do they have the required space in their cellars. Jérôme’s Champagnes taste damn fine when released – especially his trademark of insanely sophisticated spices. Yet! – I have to say, I feel confident they will improve even more after 5-6 years after disgorgement.
Back in the vineyard, Jérôme have really warmed up and a talking about sugar strings, enzymes, proteins, and how you must ensure oxygen in the soils to pump energy into the vines. It’s not your everyday talk for a number idiot like me and you really have to concentrate. But Jérôme explains it really well. Basically he is trying to tell us what nature can do over modern winemaking. If you only leave the sugar addition (Chaptalisation) and enzyme treatment for modern techniques in the cellar you are only extracting one chord to the wine's perfect symphony. But if you provide nature with the right growth conditions - to form sugar naturally, you get endless strings of DNA and it creates a much higher energy and complexity. It’s also one of the reasons why Jérôme never do Chaptalisation to his Champagnes. Instead he harvest with ripe maturity and about 10.5% natural alcohol. Only the natural indigenous yeast is used in the winemaking process.
One hour later we are back in the cellar…sorry barn…. Finally the Vikings can get something to drink.
We kick of with 2012 Vins clairs. 2012 was on an extreme year. A rough winter, with temperatures hitting lows of -20 degrees Celsius in late February. Spring was wet as hell and even includes a devastating hailstorm. The summer was nothing to write about either, before a 10-day heat wave window opens in August and produces temperatures of 40 Celsius. The August window was sent from heaven and saves the harvest. Yet 2012 will still be marked by the rough winter condition and almost everyone reports of a very small harvest. This also goes for Jérôme Prévost, who normally produces 13.000 bottles, but in 2012-vintage he will only release about 6.000. The quality is however really promising.
Hereafter awaits an interesting experiment. Two Champagnes are in play in our Zalto White Wine glasses. The first is lively, light and flowery. Elegant, delicate, yet also a bit short on the last meters. Such a Champagne would be perfect as an aperitif. The second one is more brutal, direct with higher energy and structure. Here you sense the trademark of Prévost, those sophisticated spices, which is really why this guy masters the Pinot Meunier like no other. This is a Champagne to drink with food.
Jérôme looks around and is curious to know our opinions’.
The verdict is the same – we all prefer Champagne no. 2.
It’s the same wine – same vintage – both the challenging 2010 vintage.
What! – This can’t be, they are so different? But there is a reason. One of them is a “mistake”. An accident. The accidental wine is No.2. You see, Jérôme’s cellar employee by mistake forgot to add Bentonite. And what is Bentonite? It’s first of all a clay species, which is added to Champagne, securing the dead yeast residuals will petrify and slowly be transported to the neck of the bottle under remuage. If Bentonite is not added, the yeast residuals will not petrify and turn into a small blurry substance inside the bottle and make the juice unclear. “Think about it – Jérôme says, in Champagne we are obsessed with the clarity. Why do you think we call it Vins Clairs?”. Jérôme discovers the ”mistake” after 300 bottles – yet he doesn’t really look sad. Once again, this is a curious winemaker, not following a straight line and all the traditions. And maybe – Bentonite is not added to some bottles on purpose in the future. Who knows?
From here a bombardment of vintage floats at a steady pace. Both rosé and ”Les Béguines”. Jérôme is eager to hear what he think and takes notice off everything being said. As you know I have tasted many of these wines before and if I should chose a favourite it would have to be the ’08. It’s simply magic. Jérôme nods – “I am pretty satisfied with my ’08s he says” with a warm twinkle in his eye.
We finish, outside. It’s crisp April weather. Jérôme has a tradition of serving wines from other producers, who inspires him. A myriad of wines awaits us, with producers like Frederic Cossard, Ganevat, Philippe Pacalet etc. I am in heaven.
This is one those visits you just don’t forget. Thank you Jérôme and see you soon.
You can find another report on Jérôme Prévost here.