Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pink Love in January

I tend to forget about the rosé category in general. What about you? How often have you said to yourself (in comparison with red and white) – I need more “pink” in my cellar? It’s a shame really, because they are in some ways unique, not only by colour, but also on aromatic profiles and food matching abilities.

Maybe the category occasionally slips our minds, because it’s season based, making sense as the refreshing thirst-quenching drink on a hot summer day. But of course the wine geek knows better and the pink song has a B-side, which contains much other than Tutti Frutti bonbon beats. Often the flip side leads to Champagne, where another dilemma awaits. The simple equation of the supply and demand curve, with deadly high price tags, as the en vouge pink sparkling version often is microscopically part of a producer’s entire portfolio. 

Yesterday I found myself in mood for some rosé. Or should I say – I was in the mood for some Jérôme Prévost. The weather was dead awful. Grey with a mixture of sleet and snow, so not your average sunny rosé day. But what the hell, I had prepared some pearl barley with pumpkin seeds, which I made like a risotto and served with guinea fowl. I thought a Rosé could work and it did – really well in fact. I knew the fat structure from the risotto look-alike dish could be an issue. And for sure, it was of some concern, but then again the refreshing bubbles did a good job cleansing the palate.

But let’s turn to the Champagne.

2011 Jérôme Prévost “La Closerie Fac-Simile Rosé”

100% Pinot Meunier
Dosage: 0-2 g/l
Terroir: Massive layers of calcareous sand formations and fossils with tiny crustaceans
Aging: Oak
Method: Assemblage
Production: 3.128 bottles
Glass: Zalto white wine

Some would say that Jérôme Prévost rosé version always have been in the shadow of his standard Champagne: “La Closerie”. Of course it makes sense to do the A vs B battle here, as Jérôme currently only makes two cuvèe’s. However I think it’s wrong and like to see them as two different persons, with two different personalities. I also believe that Jérôme have improved his rosé enormously since release, and it’s something you need to drink over an entire evening – both with and without food. You also need to let it breath and warm up in temperature (which I did).

Let me emphasize, what I like about a rosé (and forgive me for repeating myself). I love a when a rosé sort of “dries out”. When the primary fruit settles down and removes the worst candy like associations. With the saignée method (maceration – not the case here), time is also necessary for me, to take away both the slightly more aggressive style and in some cases lower the potential tannins. In both cases, cellaring will bring a saltier and far more interesting Champagne IMHO. But also on the aromatic barometer, there awaits beauty with patience… you are probably thinking….so why the hell are you telling us all this stuff, when you have just popped the cork of a relative young 2011 Champagne? Good question and I have no good answer, other than I always like to check out (if I have enough stock) a Champagne when it’s potentially too young. But here comes the good part – this rosé had already gained some of that “dried out style”, which provided some of the most fascinating aromatic notes of verbena, currant, dried thyme and other mind-blowing sophisticated spices. These notes will come fully alive half way through the bottle and when you raise the temperature to 13-15 degrees. You simply can’t let go of the glass – the nose is seriously intoxicating. The taste is not bad either – really light on its toes, very graceful, yet persisting enough with enormous bite. I think some would argue, that it has a slightly greenish style, which is also the case for the ’11 vintage in Burgundy. But I really this, because it becomes so understated by this. What rosé Champagne – WOW!!....and just to let you know – the day before I drank 2004 “Venus” from Agrapart, which was also mind-blowing good, so I came from a high calibrated level and this Rosé didn’t suffer one bit at all.

BRAVO Jérôme!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vintage hysteria, high expectations and 2008 “L’Apôtre”

(David Léclapart)

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”Alexander Pope

I think we have all been there, right? Expecting too much and ending up disappointed. With a colleague, your company, your best friend, your spouse or maybe even a bottle of wine. Expectations are the result of looking ahead, thinking solution orientated and imagine (maybe even dreaming) of a happy end. When failure arrives at our doorstep, we obviously ask ourselves why? Did we overlook something? Or were unexpected variables responsible for the negative outcome and can we actually blame someone other than ourselves?

Wine is indeed exposed to high expectations and holds a complex field of variables, which sets complex scenarios.

One of the most expectation adding variables is vintage hyping. The declaring of a great vintage will obviously raise the bar and expectations.

Vintage has always been a key driver for wine lovers. If you get caught inside the wine universe, you have also learned to pay attention to details. We constantly search for wines, which can enlighten our sense hungry minds a little more than our last experience and provide us with those unforgettable moments.

So we plan well ahead to be in our comfort zone. We look for a bulletproof plan, by cherry picking the best vintages and carefully (unless your are a billionaire) plan our future wine purchases. Why shouldn’t we? Wine education tells you to be selective; otherwise your finances will run dry

Paying attention to vintage is logical – but also a blind alley and not a guarantee.  Especially because wine journalists often compose the declaration of a vintage, which tends to follow a framework, which might not take into account how you drink wine. I mean, how many speak about the simple drinking pleasure and how food diverse the wine or vintage may be? I couldn’t care less about +60 second finishes and only hearing praise for vintages with the highest testosterone.

I find myself split on vintage and high expectations. It really depends, how much I pay attention to vintage. When I get my yearly allocation on producers like Ganevat, Cossard or Cédric Bouchard, I don’t really care about the vintage. I just buy them (if I can afford them), because I know they will have something to offer. And what if it’s on paper not a great vintage? Maybe it will just taste better young? Cellar the big vintage and drink the smaller vintages. Great plan as I see it. I think there is almost nothing worse than seeing tasters obviously disappointed with a wine in a “great vintage”, trying to prove for themselves that the wine was still fantastic.

So even if I find the whole vintage thing one big mass psychoses I would be lying to you if I said that vintage didn’t matter to me and I never tried to find an alibi for a wine, which didn’t live up to my expectations.

It actually happened a couple of days ago.   

2008 David Léclapart “L’Apôtre”

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l
Vines: Planted in 1946 
Vineyard:0,31ha Lieu-dit “La Pierre St-Martin”
Fermentation: Oak-barrels. 
Other: Biodynamic stuff
Glass: Zalto White wine

Oh yes I had high expectations. Why not? I have a thing with David and his wines and there is always something in the air, when I taste his Champagnes. 

I even tasted the 2008 “in the “L’Apôtre” Vertical 1999 >>> 2009” back in Nov-2013 with David and was blown away by its intensity. It certainly lived up to the hype about the 2008 vintage in Champagne. Vertical tasting are really educational, as you can almost outline the younger wines path and imaging their potential Sure, having tasted almost all releases of L’Apôtre from youth, I knew there was a risk of it being simple too young. I even knew that L’Apôtre would be slow starter.

Day one – Friday. A leaf day btw - So not a good day to drink wine, according to the biodynamic lunar calendar. I think I have never tasted a Champagne this shy and 110% completely closed. There was simply nothing to gain from the nose other than the sense of something very clean. The taste had an insane acidity, which felt like a thousand citrus fruits being crushed on your tongue. I would be lying, if I said it was good. More a study than actually pleasure. If I had to conclude something from this day I would have no idea what to write other than I had too high expectations. Did I hype it too much or what had happened since Nov-2013. I found myself making the same excuses that I somehow find rather pathetic; when a taster just can’t get himself to say it’s not a good wine, but feverishly try to argue their way out of the problem. My wife and I drank half of the bottle and I decided to leave the other half for the next day, where I had the entire half for myself.

Day two – Saturday. A fruit day and even if I don’t have that great success with the bio-calendar, I still found myself in this search for meaning (and still hoping) over my Friday disappointment. Mama-Mia – WOW!!! I wouldn’t say that the wine was actually open now and a flowering fruit bomb. But what revealed itself was one hell of an insane electric Champagne, setting the bar for energy higher than I have ever seen before. The aromatic notes are still very primary with tons of ripe citrus tonality, soil intensity and this nerve wrecking acidity still cuts all the way through the wine. With vintages like 2002 and 2004 “L’Apôtre”, which has occasionally also shut down, especially shortly after release I would obviously recommend seriously cellaring here. However “L’Apôtre” is known to open up again before heading for a more mature window. When that is – I have no clue. But damn – what a Champagne it will be, when it unfolds.