Sunday, November 30, 2008

Still More Benefits From Red Wine

A new study has confirmed that red wine yields even more benefits than previously thought, per this article in The Onion.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving and CRB Gamay

Clos Roche Blanche Cuvee Gamay 2007The 2007 Clos Roche Blanche Cuvée Gamay took me over the moon on Thanksgiving. I roasted a boneless turkey breast (adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe, of all things) and reduced the crap out of some apple juice for the gravy, while my friends made black eyed peas with mushrooms, scalloped corn, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes. Excepting the sweet potatoes, which were loaded with brown sugar and marshmallows, the CRB was brilliant with everything.

The wine was able to express its personality clearly without overshadowing, or being overshadowed by, the food. The dishes were earthy, peppery, and naturally sweet, and so was the wine. Just as importantly, the Cuvée Gamay had the structure and body to stand up to all that rich food and the acidity to refresh the palate and power me toward the next bite — it was so easy to keep going without feeling blurry or loaded down. Think of running hand in hand with someone who's running barely faster than you: you're in sync and pulled forward simultaneously.

Beyond its energy, what really got me were the subtle wood smoke tones, which rung as clearly on the palate as they did on the nose, and they ultimately made the experience great rather than simply appropriate and delicious. I'm guessing that the smokiness arrives courtesy of Clos Roche Blanche's flint and limestone soil, but what I don't have to guess is what I'll be serving with Christmas dinner.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Second Best Wishes to Joe Dressner

Per Brooklynguy, I am hoping the best for Joe Dressner, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

This has been a crazy year for cancer; so many of my friends parents have been treated for cancer. And my best friend has been in labor for the last 36+ hours. What the hell is going on???

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Note I said "a" perfect Thanksgiving wine, not "the" perfect Thanksgiving wine. There are so many wines, especially white wines, that are great for a meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, yada yada. Off the top of my head, a lightly oaked white Burgundy, say, or a Vouvray vin tendre, or a leesy Chablis, or a lithe (neither rich nor sweet) Alsatian pinot blanc. You get the idea: wines that marry ballast and body with mineral-driven clarity. I hate the grandma stank of gewurztraminer, typically, and contra Eric Asimov I personally find that sauvignon blanc rarely fits with Thanksgiving fare, unless we're talking about the classic white Bordeaux blend of sémillon and sauv blanc.

Ah, but I babble. To the subject! On a lark last night I picked up the 2003 Vega de Ribes Penedès Sasserra Malvasia de Sitges to bring to a friend's house for dinner. Whereas a high proportion of malvasia is made into sweet wine, the Sasserra is dry, and despite its high alcohol content (14.5%) I hoped it would pair well with nibbles before the hunks of steak landed on our plates.

We actually got much more than we bargained for, which was immediately apparent when a complex yet nuanced array of yellow characters — flowers, lemon, honey, peach, almond slivers, and minerals — hit my nose. It's equally nuanced on the palate, assertive but not aggressive, and the creamy, slightly soapy body is balanced by grippy acidity, herbal tones, and a clean mineral energy that broadens on the finish. At $35 this isn't for everyday sipping, but on the other hand it's not an everyday sipper.

Malvasia de sitges is a very rare subvariety of Malvasia that is identical to malvasia delle lipari and a handful of other (also rare) subvarieties, and its name comes from its "hometown" of Sitges, the cosmopolitan Catalonian beach resort city — although I've no idea where within the Penedès region the grapes for the Sasserra actually come from.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Re: Our Lini So Nice!

Lini LambruscoMy experience with Lambrusco comes mostly from watching Riunite commercials as a young'un, so you'll pardon me if I was confused by the word "Labrusca" used for the NV Lini Lambrusco Bianco Labrusca. The Oxford Companion says that vitis labrusca is a Latin name for certain American grapes, and I was nonplussed by the idea of any Italian producer using such discredited grapes, even in a region as (overly) scorned as Lambrusco.

As it turns out, labrusca is, according to Lini importer Domenico Valentino, "the Etruscan name for Lambrusco which comes from the Latin labrum, meaning 'edge,'" as the Lambrusco grapes historically grew at the edges of the Etruscans' cultivated crops. And indeed, Lini uses only indigenous grapes, here 80% lambrusco salamino (the grape bunches apparently look like small salami) and 20% lambrusco sorbara, which is reputedly the finest of the 60 subvarieties of lambrusco. No contact with the grapes' red skins is allowed during fermentation and the bubbles are derived from the Charmat process.

Knowing all the above beforehand, I still would not have expected such an unusual and terrific wine. Seriously, I've never had anything like it. The Labrusca is creamy and fresh and gentle, with a sublime mousse, but most exciting is the barely-sweet and quite savory nuttiness, which recalls fino sherry in that regard. I associate nuttiness with age and/or oxidative wine making, but this wine is totally fresh, and while I do not believe that Lini is a natural wine maker, there's nothing confected about this wine. If Hugh Johnson himself came for dinner I'd proudly serve this as an aperitif, but as it has the cut and presence for prosciutto and fresh egg pasta, I could pop this open for dinner — as I indeed did, sans HJ.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Beaujolais, Is Not Beaujolais

The esteemed Marcel Lapierre raises a plush and beautiful Morgon that you and I both love. The 2007 Marcel Lapierre Vin de Pays de Gaules is a quaffable gamay from grapes grown (I think) just outside the Beaujolais appellation — hence the Vin de Pays label. I was disappointed after I first unscrewed the cap, as it came off as simple cherry juice, but as with any well-made Beaujolais it just needed a bit of time, for by night two some savory notes of clove, cinnamon, and cardamom join the cherry fruit. I would even go so far as to say this light-bodied wine is seductively light-hearted, charming me with silly jokes and looking at me straight in the eyes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chéreau Carré's 2002 Le Clos Muscadet

I have good news and bad news about Chéreau Carré's 2002 Le Clos Muscadet.

The good news is abundant. Any wine imported by De Maison Selections is no less than good, and this one is undeniably terrific. Bernard Chéreau has crafted a concentrated, elegant wine that's everything a great Muscadet should be. The grapes are grown on the schist and orthogneiss soils of the Chateau l'Oisiliniere, fermented solely with indigenous yeasts, and aged on the lees for 31 months. Six years after harvest I have the privilege of drinking this with a pan-fried halibut filet, with which it's perfect. Smoky minerals hit my nose and on the palate Muscadet's hallmark lemon zest and lemon fruit notes are in perfect proportion to the salt, the acidity, and the smoky minerals. The touch of creaminess on the palate makes this truly elegant.

The bad news is the price. I paid $30, and the suggested retail is $40. Most of you reading this will know that Ollivier's Clos de Briords is priced in the mid-teens and I'd put them toe to toe. And the Granite de Clisson ($20) is even better than the Le Clos. I would love to experience this wine again and again, but alas, the price.

I should mention that Chéreau's Comte Leloup de Chasseloir comes from 100+ year old pre-phylloxera vines planted on limesone and is supposed to cost $20. If I find it at a touch less the price, I'll definitely check it out.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Campaign Promise Fulfilled

I promised that I would drink the 2002 Huët Vouvray Petillant Brut on election night. In fact, I'd been saving it for a year for just that night. But I didn't follow through. Instead, capital-H History called, and I celebrated with 150,000 of my fellow Chicagoans at the Barack Obama rally in Grant Park.

I opened the Huët the following night instead. So let's just call the promise fulfilled.

This is an uncommon wine of uncommon beauty, an expression of chenin blanc I've never quite had. I could spend a lot more time with many more bottles to fathom its depths. That night, and the next, I found an aroma that reminds me of mustard seeds sauteed in clarified butter. The nose also showed deep honey wax and spiced apples. The mousse was fine and luscious, the yin to the precise acidity's yang. An astonishing depth unfolded over the long finish: the round texture gave way first to subtle bready notes and then to layers of salty minerals, zingy ginger, and at its core, a platonic ideal of green apple.

The Petillant Brut was everything I wanted it to be and everything I expected it would be. But until I actually experienced it, I couldn't really know it or feel it.

It's like the moment when Obama officially won Virginia. Yes, I expected the victory, but only when he had actually won the former capital of the Confederacy did the full weight of history press down upon me. Days later, it is still pressing.