Saturday, March 12, 2011

NV, Tarlant "Cuvée Louis", Champagne

Blend: 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir
Vintages: 1998, 1997, 1996
Vineyard: "Les Crayons" in Oeuilly (Marne valley). Chalk. 60-yrs old vines.
Dosage : 3 g/l
Other : No malolactic fermantation
Glass: Spiegelau Adina “Red wine”

This is an updated TN

It’s been about 9 months since I have tasted this wine. Looking at my TN back from June-2010, it’s clear some evolvement has occurred.

The most dominant change is the presence of more autolysis character. It tends to raise the complexity, which is also the case here. The citrus notes have taken a step back, but the wonderful flowery character is still here, providing grace to a Champagne, which is already so approachable and drinkable.

Last time I wrote about soil spiciness, the note is still there, but the aging has caused the note to be a little more subdued as everything is now turning more amble and softer on the palate. But still you have a firm and vibrant acidity.

Last time, I said, such a Champagne can only make you smile and after this bottle, I am still smiling.

1996 Zind Humbrecht "Clos Jebsal"

100% Pinot Gris
Glass: Zalto Universal

"You gotta buy Zind Humbrecht if you want to taste the best of the best in Alsace".

That was the recommendation; I received when I started to have an interest in wine. The advice even had the ultimate approval stamp, with soaring high scores from Robert Parker. After having tasted a wide range of Zinds, I realized that my palate liked the Pinot Gris better than his Riesling (except his "Brand", but that was too expensive for me).

Back then; the wines delivered what I was looking for. It didn’t haven to be an everlasting relationship, as there was so much to try - but give me a wet kiss I'll dance with you. So we did and there aren't much more to it, than a flashback in time and a period with an overwhelming curiosity.

But my palate changed. It was German Riesling who altered the game plan. If to generalize, Alsace seemed a bit clumsy in comparison with their German cousins. German Riesling simply had a higher level of clarity, lightness and just much more class and finesse in my humble opinion.

But on this Friday (home alone) I did exactly what I did 17 years ago. I sat down with my favourite Zind Humbrecht / Clos Jebsal and served myself Terrine de foie gras with elderflower jelly and toasted bread on the side. Later I had a comté cheese with candied walnuts ready.

So let's pour the wine....

Insane nose and lot's of curiosity at first, but I was to learn that it was just a matter of time, before it spread to bizarre. You can't help to notice it's a wine with a massive thick viscosity and it should be fair to say it's loaded with flavours. There is also some residual sugar involved. Here are some of the notes, which came to my mind; acacia honey, elderflower, burned caramel, resin, birch trees and a wicked note of dates. The latter note is a real dilemma, as it opens a tricky spicy window and kills off both freshness and purity. Taste is incredible wild, opulent and too heavy loaded. It worked fairly okay, when I had the foie gras, but without food it was a disaster and slowly killing my appetite to continue. I rested half of the bottle for day two, where it hadn't improved.

An afterthought comes to my mind, whether it’s in fact too old? It’s certainly on the verge of tilting over. I have a 2001 Clos Jebsal left - think I will taste it sooner than later.

Ps. I have heard Zind Humbrecht in recent years shifted from this opulent type of wines to a more elegant style. Anyone out there with knowledge about this is more than welcome to chime in. Thank you.

2005 Dönnhoff Riesling Spätlese "Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube"

100% Riesling – but of course.
Decanted 2 hours and tasted over 3 days.
Glass: Zalto Universal

In my sad wine life I had a window - where I stocked up in German Spätlese. That obsession ended abrupt and became Champagne.

But returning to Spätlese land reminds me how incredible delicious they are. However the sweetness is tricky for me to handle. You can bend the wine in any shape you can think of, but it will always circle around some degree of residual sugar. This is becoming a dilemma for me, as I tend to favour dryer wines - both Riesling and Champagne for that matter. Why? For many reasons, but one main factor is to fully feel all the soil components, where the sweetness can acts as a small membrane and takes you a few meters away from the action.

These Spätlese are even so low in alcohol, so you can flush a bottle down, like it was lemonade and not really pay much attention what you where drinking. So we are dealing with a wine, which is on one hand captures; pure laid back drinking, but on the other hand the sweetness is taking it some notches down in complexity. Well at least for my palate.

So I thought and so I assumed. The Spätlese category was nailed. Been there, done that. Then this wine comes along and I guess the wine-gods, or maybe it was Herr. Helmut Dönnhoff, which had other plans for me. Fact is, after having drunk this wine over 3 days, I realized that taking notice of some of the worlds most subtle wines, is not a lap dance, it actually requires training and you as a taster to focus and level with the wine. Do that and I promise you, magic appears.

This wine has unbelievable clarity and so many delicious flavours. It’s like the sun on a crisp spring day, with mild winds and bird singing (I am such a romantic). There is still a lot of baby fat on day 1, but it’s always a secondary indicator, as the fruit has such lush, subtle and vivid electricity. Notes may sound like so many other spätlese; honey, peach, lemon, pineapple and small fractions of petrol notes - but it’s underneath brushings of soil components, which gives so much backbone and tallness. Taste is nerve wrecking nice, with laser sharp acidity, crystallized minerals and the sweetness is like turbo boosters, which spins the aromas and quadruples them – not in flavours, but in electricity. The aftertaste is so overwhelming, but yet so weightless.

It feels like the wine wants’ to let you know; “less is always more”.

Sensational wine, Bravo.