Friday, December 30, 2011

Oxidation and minerality


Is oxidation increasing the minerality in wine? First time I heard this statement was from Anselme Selosse.

I don’t think many people think of oxidation and minerality to be closely tied together. We often associate minerality with a flinty, chalky or stony expression in wine and often we think of minerality as an element bringing a bright, frisky or fresh touch to wine. However there are also darker scented formations of minerality that can be notes of clay, sand, wet rocks or slate.

According to Peter Liem (Champagneguide; article on minerality (subscribers only) there is a lot of laziness connected by using the term, as we aren’t specific enough on what specific type of minerality we are talking about? 
I have to agree and I am guilty as sinned. I have even discovered – often at tasting events – the presences of a poised high acidity can confuse people what’s in fact the driver behind the freshness of the wine – is it minerality or acidity?
With this in the back of my mind I decided to open a wine, which plays with a rather oxidized profile.

2010 Nicolas Carmarans “Selves”
Blend: 100% Chenin blanc
Terroir: Granit and sand
Vineyards: Terrace - 500m above sea level
Location: We are in Aveyron – which is located in Massif Central
Sulphur: 2 mg/l at bottling
Other: Nicolas Carmarans has since 1994 been the owner of Café de la Nouvelle Mairie in Paris. Today he doesn’t run it – but focuses entirely on making wine.
Glass: Zalto Burgundy

I couldn’t help to compare this a little bit with “Chez Charles” from Noëlla Morantin – although we are far from Loire and it’s a different grape and terroir. The resemblance it’s the aromatic notes – which shapes like; late harvest honey, wet hay, caramel, hazelnuts, quince and exotic evening perfume. However “Selves” goes a step deeper and it’s also quit a bit more oxidized. As soon as it hits the mouth you also sense something different is going on – its texture is oilier, elastic – spanning a lush and luxurious mouth-watering wave across the palate. It’s a kind of wine, which is pretty seductive, but also a tense and rich wine, which aromatic and texture-wise easily could fall out of balance. However it’s on the last meters, were it sets full sail with a long sandy and elastic feel keeping a high intense nerve in the wine. When returning for the next sniff and taste – and knowing how the circle ends, you are pretty hooked to drink more. Also a good food wine I think – I could imagine scallops with some hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichokes could work great here – or cheese. Great wine – loved it.
So did I found the answer to my initial question? Maybe I did. Minerality is definitely a far more complex thing in wine and here it certainly seemed like there was a backbone holding on to these intense aromatic notes, which I couldn’t tie directly to a penetrating intense acidity – but something else.
There is only one way to find out if this is true – taste more, be less lazy and pay more attention to the terroir before you open the bottle.
Happy New Year everyone…drink something decent, something real, something that will make you feel more alive, something that matters, something that you can drink more of and kiss your loved ones and hope for the best ;-).
Cheers!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Champagne tasting – including a L’Apôtre Vertical

Saturday the 17th of December it was finally time for a Champagne tasting. The location was my favourite wine pushers shop, aka SKÅL.

All wines tasted once – then re-tasted after the official end of the tasting with some bread, ham & cheese….and some good jazz music.

Let’s just get going.

Chapter 1

0. NV Benoît Lahaye “Brut Nature” (Base-2009)

Zippy fresh and ultra clear Champagne with lovely sessions of currant perfumes, citrus and high-pitched apple and lime zest. Taste has lots of brightness, high acidity and super fresh attack. Good start

1. 2008 David Léclapart “L’Amateur”

I recently wrote a post called “Don’t forget L’Artiste” – maybe I should have called it “Don’t forget L’Artiste and “L’Amateur”. This is the best “L’Amateur” I have ever tasted. It has an unbelievable clarity and energy with a floating fruit core, which on one side consist of rather rich and ripe note of pear juice, but on the other side it also captures an breathtaking slim and frozen character. The taste is so fine – which combines the same aspects from the nose, which in this case is a silky, slim and elastic long mineral finish. Brilliant Champagne and if this is the level of David’s ’08 I think his L’Artiste and L’Apôtre will be out of this world.

2. 2008 Vouette et Sorbée “Blanc d’Argile”

The fact that “L’Amateur” is made in steel and “Blanc d’Argile” is made in oak – makes a huge difference, when getting them served in this order. “Blanc d’Argile” is almost too dense when you smell it for the first time. It requires some time to balance and my impression is more or less the same as the first time I tasted it (TN here) – but I now think it’s in need of some cellaring to gain more linear balance.

3. 2008 Vouette et Sorbée “Fidéle”

Exotic glass of Chamapagne, with lots of oxidative notes and flavours flying towards buttery sensations’, walnuts, banana and dark lush fruits. The taste is big, juicy and with an oily/waxy texture. It’s the best “Fidéle” I have tasted so far – no doubt about it and I could easily find a place for it to pair with food - but I have to say it’s overall style doesn’t appeal that much to me.

P.S. I actually have “2008 Fidéle in the glass right now as I write these notes. It’s a bit better when you have it alone. It’s still quite bold, but I really like the high acidity, which I didn’t notice that much at the tasting.

4. (2007) Ulysse Collin “BdB”

Again the serving order could have made a difference, because I normally see this Champagne being made in a similar oxidative style as Vouette et Sorbée. But here – at least when it comes to the nose – it feels much tighter, with some grassy notes, flowers and apples. When tasting it, the oak flavours suddenly appear with a creamy, yet highly balanced tone with room for a fine tuned chalky feel. Good Champagne.

5. Joker

Lovely nose, which has started to open a oxidative window and captures a weightless feeling and notes which shapes like; ripe peaches, candied citrus, lime, hyacinths and hay. The taste is really vivid, elegant, but ahhhrrrrrggg falls a bit too short on the last meters. There were also some bitter mineral flavours, which very well could be linked to the character of Chablis. So what was it? Well – no other than: 2004 Cédric Bouchard “La Haut-Lamblee BdB”. It’s lovely Champagne, but this bottle seemed a bit more evolved than the version I served in June-2011 and lacked a bit in final bite on the palate.

Chapter 2 (Pinot Meunier)

6. 2009 Jérôme Prévost “La Closerie Les Béguines”

Striking good and the sort of Champagne, which is just so pleasing and easy to drink. Prévost has an utterly sensational balance over the oxidative style, oak and these sophisticated spices, which spans in a spectrum of deeper honey aromas all the way up to fresh oranges blossoms. The taste is filled with magnificent; sleekness, tallness and clarity. Beautiful Champagne.

7. 2007 Bérèche “Valée de la Marne Rive Gauche”

Also a Champagne which plays the spice game – but here the expression is different with a more enclosed style, giving the spices a more herbal character and a reductive feel. However it has splendid brightness, driven from an intense and poised acidity bite. A Champagne, which needs more time.

8. 2007 Laherte “Vignes d’Autrefois”

Again spices – or so it seemed. Thing is – when tasting it, these spices are rooted in a penetrating minerality, which creates these bitter notes, but it’s also pushing the Champagne to a higher nerve and tallness, which is even assisted by a biting high acidity smack. Very good.

9. Joker

This Champagne took a path of denser and deeper scented flavours with oxidations coming back and a waxy melted butter feel. The spice section are technical here as well – shaping more like the style of Prèvost – but they are showing less sophistication, yet playing a mindful game of citrus fiddling in the background. The taste is really concentrated and has a beautiful expansion feel, putting on several layers of complexity. Yet – despite being somewhat oxidative, it’s still holding back a bit. I tried to guess its identity – but missed it several times. Champagne No. 9 was: 2006 Chartogne-Taillet “Les Barres”. Knowing this – this bottle felt much more evolved than my last bottle in June-11, yet still it oddly it also feels pretty young still. Lovely Champagne and a very complex Champagne.

10. 2006 Georges Laval “Meuiners de la Butte”

This one of release from Laval is insane. The nose is so exotic with notes of pineapple, mango, hay and really ripe biodynamic driven fruit. When I smelled it, I thought it would simple collapse in the glass – being too much of everything – but it didn’t. The balance is being held checkmate by an outrageous amount of energy and a poised high acidity, which keeps everything in place. The price tag here is about 200€, which for a Pinot Meunier is kind of ridiculous, but I am still tempted just to buy a bottle, because it’s one of a kind. Seriously good bottle of Champagne.

11. Joker

So far all-previous Champagnes had been incredible pure but this Champagnes breaks that spell with some odd flavours of burned hazelnuts, rotten potatoes and old thyme. It shapes the character of a very rustic breed and even on the palate it feels pretty baroque. What was it? – Well Prévost again, but in 2005 vintage, which confirms that this vintage can be quite challenging.

Chapter 3 (L’Apôptre vertical)

12. 2005 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

As we just saw, with Jérôme Prévost the 2005 vintage can be rather difficult. With this in the back of my mind, I think David has made a solid ‘05 L’Apôtre. It lacks some of the ultra clear distinctiveness it can hold in spectacular vintages and takes onboard darker phrasings and some rather raw smoked meaty notes. However its core is rather deep and seemed somewhat sealed and I can’t rule out it could enter a more flourishing phase with the release of more diverse nuances. For now it’s a bit rustic and I would recommend some cellaring.

13. 2004 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

We all aim to pick the peaks of the wines we have in our cellar to avoid those annoying shy phases. I wish I could do the same, but my level of thirst and patience often collide. But sometimes there is wisdom to be found in those phases and I think you sometimes appreciate them even more, when you learn about a wines volatility and it's band between its highs and lows.

I have tasted this Champagne maybe 6 times now. This is the shyest phase I have seen it in, but it’s still a fascinating study. It deals with a lot of bitter components and lots of grassy tones, which prevents the fruit to expand. However it’s build with a crystal clear linearity and brings an enormous amount of energy forward and the oak is so well integrated here. I have no clue how long to wait before this phase is over – but I have faith in it.

14. 2003 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

To succeed in 2003 is an accomplishment in itself. David has more than just succeeded and the ’03 are a miraculous effort. It’s of course not as linear as the 2004 – but on the other hand not marked by any kind of ’03-heat or lack of nerve. It’s shooting out of the glass with an intense self-confidence and notes of; melted butter, smoked meats and a honey charming fruit core. The taste is intense, intimidating and expressive – yet driving safely home with lots of focus. It was discussed whether this Champagne needs another 1-3 years more before you could say it’s entering a prime drinking window? Well maybe, I wouldn’t argument against it – but damn it’s irresistible right now.

15. 2002 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

In theory this Champagne is also closed – like many other ‘02s out there. However, I have seen it shyer than this and if I should outline it’s maturity curve, I would say it should come out of this phase in a year or two….but don’t sue me please. Anyway – when I say closed – it’s not the way the ’04 is closed – which is almost a hermetic shield. No! – The 2002 have entered a new phase - and a fascinating one I might add, turning the fruit luxuriant and actually putting on more baby fat. Or it feels like this – as it flows like an elastic liquid in the glass, which is constantly bringing extra dimension and layers of complexity. The nose consist of fat overripe peaches, smoke and pear zest, and in the back a “whisper” of mint is tickling your senses to a state of goose bumps. The taste might be holding back in terms of what awaits in future, but it’s still a very expressive mineral attached Champagne wrapped in a sleek corset. WOW!!!

16. 2001 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

I didn’t have high expectations here, as the 2001 vintage is probably one of the most difficult in the last 20 years. The nose is a bit infused in smoke, which I associated to the fingerprint of the oak. It prevents real clarity to come forward and overall its lack of complex layers makes it a bit hollow. However the taste is fair as it brings a light, yet pleasing style with a good bite.

17. 2000 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

I have only tasted this Champagne once, when I visited David in 2009. I didn’t remember it like this and it was debated whether it was off or not? I couldn’t say for sure – we would have to taste another bottle….so who has one ;-) ?

Thing was – it’s was a rather nice Champagne, but it had very little resemblance to the other vintages. First signs were a rather blurry Champagne in the glass. Secondly the aromas are very vivid, light weighted and with notes of dried banana, freshly ground butter and limestone quarry. On top it deals with signs of residual sugar, which might have been the driver behind this very delicate and floating style, but I missed the normal soil intensity and overall focus. Good – but not great.

18. 1999 David Leclapart “L’Apôtre”

The ’99 is Officially the real debut of “L’Apôtre”– and what a debut. A seriously intense Champagne with ravishing notes of hazelnuts, smoke, citrus and clementines. Here I for the first time sensed some sort of entrance to secondary aromas and what I usually understand with aged Champagne. When it comes to the taste I almost forgot to take some notes and just wrote; wonderful, seductive and pleasing. Fantastic Champagne.

The offical tasting ended here – but 4 ringers entered:

A:

Earlier, I tried to nail the 3 previous jokers – but I couldn’t. When it comes to blind guessing – I am not that good, even with Champagne. Often – especially if it’s good Champagne being served I search “my system” for patterns. Often I end up with too many possibilities, which statistic is not the way to nail a wine. When it comes to the first ringer here I did something similar, but with a different angel. This time I search “my system” for some of the worst Champagnes I could think of – and nailed it, both name and vintage. This Champagne oozes of sulphur and a tacky sweet and flabby toasted style, providing a synthetic vanilla perfume. Taste is horrible, appalling sweet and taste like some chemical compound with absolutely no energy at all. A catastrophic Champagne and totally undrinkable to me. No one liked it. Ringer A was: 1999 Tattinger “Comtes de Champagne”

B:

This was my tribute. It was a fair Champagne – far better than Comtes de Champagne (how could it have been worse?), but I think it has too much oak. However it’s a seductive and creamy Champagne – which is fairly pleasing to drink. However it’s troubled with a little lack of nerve when it comes to tallness and acidity. I don’t think it has much potential. Ringer B was: 1999 Vilmart “Couer de Cuvée”

C:

A Champagne marked by more age and first I didn’t like it that much as it seems a bit too evolved and tired. However it firmed up in the glass, providing deeper notes of walnuts, honey and really nice growling bass rhythms. It might have lacked some intensity by having a bit too much oily character on the palate – but then again, really pleasing to drink. Really nice. Ringer C was: 1985 Philipponnat “Clos des Goisses”

D:

Rosé – but a wicked one. I didn’t take many notes, but remember a rather salty style, with cranberry and sherry tones. Taste is rather austere and tannic, but there were some interesting rosehip perfumes on the last meters. Still a Champagne, which took some time to get used to, especially when served as the last and the only rosé of the night. Ringer D was: 2001 David Léclapart “L’Alchimiste”

Marilyn Monroe’s heart belonged to daddy – my heart belongs to my family….and a small part belongs to Champagne ;-).


(1999 L'Apôtre - the old label)

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Re-thinking wine

Jean-Yves Péron

What is wine? How is it supposed to taste and what is right and wrong?

I sometimes need to ask myself these questions – especially when I encounter wines, which automatically challenge me on these points.

The answer I seek, is not a solution – a final statement in order to paint a black & white image of wine. But I seek to push myself to the limit and not always take the secure consensus road. As I see it, you can always go back to your comfort zone – no one will force you, but at least you tried it, you had an opinion about it and you had an open mind towards it – or did you?

You can probably guess I am about to present you with a wine (in fact two), who bended the wheel to a point, where I had to surrender myself and just sit back and smile.

To believe wines of such character actually exist makes me thrilled – to find they are sold out makes me annoyed…or at least impatient before the next vintage arrives.

First - let us first find out were these two ladies lives. We are in Savoie – the region all good students have plotted into their vocabulary of wine knowledge. You are lost again – and I don’t blame you, but we are here:


Show big map

2009 Jean-Yves Péron “.Vers La Maison Rouge”

Blend: 100% la Mondeuse
Terroir: Slate
Age of wines: 80 years old
Method: Macération carbonique
Exposure: South (and extremely steep slopes – se link to video below)
Other: We are 400-600m above sea level
Sulphur: Zero
Glass: Zalto Universal

There is a lot of sediment in this wine and as I took it directly out of the wine fridge it’s was pretty blurred in the glass. You also can’t help to notice a very light coloured liquid in the glass. You have a good feeling it’s not your everyday bonanza wine you are about to taste.

The nose is like being kissed for the first time. Blessed with the purest scents of strawberry, rhubarb and sweet liquorice. It’s so light with it’s 11% of alcohol, yet so intriguing to sniff, as the fruit is so unbelievable fresh. The taste is zippy pure fruit – no tannins at all, but yet so intense, energetic and frisky. In addition you have a solid baseline of underneath mineral brushings.

The drinking pleasure was more than splendid – and the bottle almost empty before I got the chance to take some real notes. Simply stunning wine.

2009 Jean-Yves Péron "Côtillon des Dames"

Blend: 100% Jacquères
Terroir: Mica/schists
Age of wines: +100 years old
Exposure: South
Production: 600-800 bottles
Sulphur: Zero
Glass: Zalto Universal

The white wine also has lots of sediment, so I had it upright for two days before I tasted it. Still it’s rather blurred and looks like unfiltered apple juice. The nose is insane…WOW!!!! Outrageously fresh with some degrees of oxidation (but very subtle) and the most incredible notes of late harvest ripe apples, olive oil, orange blossoms and creamy wheat beer. The taste…. can it keep up with the nose??…Oh yes. FANTASTIC!!!....Mind-blowing intense and ladies and gentlemen it’s holding 11,5% of alcohol and the finish just keeps on going. The wine has an extremely elastic structure, exploding on the palate with so much life and particles of minerals flying all across the mouth. The elastic structure get’s companionship of poised acidity taken its curl to a beautiful silky mouth feel.

I tasted it over two hours – well almost…there was a small portion in the bottle and I noticed that after four hours the wine was completely oxidized and dead. But who cares and what is wine???....For me it’s one of my most memorable white wines of the year. BRAVO!!!!

Interview with Jean-Yves Péron

Monday, December 5, 2011

2009 Maxime Magnon "Rozeta"

(I hope I am the only person in my neighbourhood who takes images of empty wine bottles in threes)

Blend: 60% Carignan – rest Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret
Terroir: Limestone and schists
Vineyard: 55-60 year old wines and about 275m above sea level.
Glass: Zalto Bordeaux

Languedoc & wine. A memory, which isn’t exactly filled with laughter and joy. I explored these wines some 10 years ago on the back increasing good ratings (oh yes, I was one of those back then) and reports about know-how and talents being exported to the region. Sadly I discovered black, potent, one-dimensional and very alcoholic driven wines. A short affair and I never returned.

But here I am again – spinning the glass with Languedoc wine. To be a little more specific we are in Hautes Corbières, which is actually closer to the border of Fitou to the south. But as I understand it – Maxime Magnon has no interest in making wine under that appellation.He blends in both organic and biodynamic viticulture and dozes his wines with very little sulphur, but isn’t part of any organization. He is inspired by his mentor Didier Barral and also Jean Foillard (under whom he has studied). The wine in hand is grafted in the name of what my local importer calls: “The shitty grape” aka Carignan. The grape has indeed a bad reputation of being difficult to handle, rustic, tannic, no finesse and usually the source for high yielding industrial wines.

However - this is not your everyday Languedoc wine – in fact it’s a great wine a most importantly a wine with a really interesting character, which pleases palate, thirst, intellect and food pairing.

The first sniff; thoughts: A determination of having something very different wine in the glass – a character of something you have never had before. It’s not one of those wines, which shocks you and takes you to the edge. No – it’s more a wine with mystique. Another thought was a relief of not having been served this wine blind and trying to guess…I would have been lost.

The nose is filled with a fascinating and wicked games of spices, which blends in with wild red berries, red tea, rosehip, cranberries, white pepper, black cherries and lacquer. The latter note is more a reference to how tight these spices are knitted, given a fascinating high-pitched cool breeze. The taste is remarkable slim, cool and crushes the spices into a perfume, which exudes of mint warmth. That game – is a gift to food pairing. I have had it 3 times now and with a dish of chicken, celery, tomato, onion, horseradish, thyme, chicken stock and chickpeas It was unbelievable delicious.

In many ways - if I could pre-define the perfect wine, this wine would not – from its fragmentary notes - fit my desired preferences. However, its stringent cool and sophisticated spices open a great landscape of food matches. Highly recommended and selling around 20€.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2008 Vouette et Sorbée "Blanc d'Argile"

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Terroir: Kimmeridgian soil
Ages of vines: 11 years (planted in 2000)
Other vineyard data: Located in the town of Biaune with a Western exposure
Winemaker: Bertrand Gautherot
Production: Think around 1.500 bottles (30 hl/ha)
Disgorgement: 5th of November 2010
Dosage: 0 g/l
Glass: Spiegelau Adina Red Wine / Water Goblet

I have followed Blanc d’Argile since the debut release of the 2004 vintage. I have always liked it and seen a cuvée constantly evolving in higher and higher quality. Today it seems like Bertrand Gautherot has achieved a more intense raw material, which works far better with the fingerprint of the oak. I now consider Blanc d’Argile a Champagne with great cellar potential.

The 2008 vintage is already hyped with best vintage ever all across the Champagne landscape. However – from the signals I have picked up – the ideal conditions are more linked to the Marne area, whereas Aube is more mixed. That said – judging from another Aube resident: Cédric Bouchard - his ’08 - Inflorescence and Les Ursules are both staggering good.

With these expectations I popped the 2008 Blanc d’Argile, but immediately set it aside and rested it for 20 minutes. The reason was simple, as I remembered the 2005, 2006 and 2007 constantly improving with air. My wife and I shared 2/3 of the bottle together and 2 hours later I had the last 1/3 alone.

The 2008 Blanc d’Argile is seriously impressive Champagne. It burst out of the glass, with an enormous amount of energy. It was almost at the verge of being a bit crazy – too intense, as the oak also marked its presence with a raw toasted tone and notes of hazelnuts. However it calms down after 2 glasses showing remarkable fruit ripeness, which shapes like juicy apples, honey and lots of citrus fruits. The citrus aromas are being accelerated by an insane acidity nerve, which penetrates the entire wine from nose to palate, providing so much brightness to the Champagne. The finish it poised with this mind-blowing acidity snap and a really long mineral attached finish. The last 1/3 – as the bubbles dies down – was an exceptional study in this acidity game, turning the last perfumes into green apples, lime and some brushings of smoke from the oak. I believe these ingredients will provide the ’08 Blanc d’Argile with solid life and cellar potential.

Impressive Champagne, which has an open window. It will probably close down within a year or so – but do try a bottle now and give it 30 minutes of air in the bottle before you pour.