Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Buddha In the Loire

Writers often describe wines as beautiful or deep. The following two wines may be that, but to me, they more specifically embody wisdom and enlightenment. It's no surprise to me, anyway, that both come from the Loire and are imported by Louis/Dressner.

François Pinon Cuvée Tradition Vouvray 2006
Can François Pinon do any wrong? 2006 was a difficult vintage in the Loire — warm rain plagued the region beginning in mid-August and abundant grey rot tested nerves — but Pinon's organically-grown, naturally-vinified, lees-aged Cuvée Tradition is practically the equal of his 2005 and 2004 releases. It may not be quite as full and creamy as those vintages, not so reubenesque yet sleek, but it's equally fresh and clean. And while I don't get figs from this vintage, this vin tendre (tender wine — between off-dry and bone-dry) has the telltale Chenin Blanc note of honeydew and a zippy, clean spice on the finish. Pinon proves as much as anyone that a good producer, an intelligent and wise and opportunistic producer, can usher excellence through less-than-excellent conditions.

Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux Chinon 2003
Loire reds usually hit me on an intellectual rather than atavistic level. They may say interesting things, but soon enough I'm thinking about picking up cat food.

Baudry's Les Grezeaux says the right things. It's hand-harvested at 40 hl/ha, fermented in cement, and aged in used rather than new barriques. On the first day, the complimentary aromas of black olive, black currant jelly and asparagus were well-integrated and the flavors were simultaneously concentrated and light and pure (the 12.5% abv is remarkably low for such a hot vintage). The acidity was robust and the tannins were gripping but very smooth, and the clean, minerally finish brought to mind well-filtered glacier water. All these compliments said, I admired it rather than loved it.

On day three, though, I was felled by a love bomb. In the first place, all those distinct aromas had stitched together more completely and a soft sandalwood note emerged. Second, the flavors, minerality, and acidity were likewise better integrated. Most impressive to my pleasure center, the mouthfeel became smoother, richer, almost velvety, without compromising the structure or the fresh, clean finish. The net effect is that this wine is completely itself. It rubs my third eye; and if I haven't quite seen Nirvana, Baudry's Cabernet Franc amply demonstrates its good karma.


David McDuff said...

Excellent notes, Mike. The Vouvrays of Pinon have the added virtue of being excellent values relative to some of their peers. I only wish they were easier to come by in the Philadelphia area.


Wicker Parker said...

Thanks, David. The Tradition really is a terrific Sunday-through-Saturday wine! It rewards the Loire partisan's furrowed-brow inspection but easily puts a smile on my face, and those of my friends, at very casual get-togethers.

Really dug your Chidaine notes; thanks for posting those.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

This is your Finnish acquaintance writing to you. I was looking for your email here, because I would like to get in touch with you, but could not find it here. Is there a way i could contact you?

with kind regards,
Antti V.

Wicker Parker said...

Hello Antti! I would love to talk to you -- leave your e-mail address in another comment, and I will send you an e-mail. I will also delete your comment so your e-mail address doesn't get picked up by spammers (which is why I don't publish my e-mail address). Talk to you soon!