Saturday, April 14, 2007

Okay, Now for My Case

I bet all of you read Eric Asimov's column on Wednesday where he talks about learning about wine at home by having your local wine salesperson pick out a case, taste through it, etc. There are as of this moment, 96 comments on the companion piece in his blog. That's pretty intense. I guess people had a strong reaction to reading about Lyle's and Joy's cases. Probably because they would have arranged their cases differently.

So for all of you who want to poke your toe in the waters of the Loire, here is my case. Not a case from all over the world like Lyle's and Joy's, but Brooklynguy's case of Loire wine, a case that I believe will make anyone who likes wine a Loire lover. All of the wines I included are available as current releases, although production is not as large as in many other wine regions. That means you should go get yours now if you're interested in tasting. Most are from 2005, a wonderful vintage. I tried to include a variety of appellations and styles.

My case clocks in at almost $300, so it's not cheap at all. I don't imagine that any one will actually buy the entire case though. Pick what sounds interesting to you, if you don't feel like shelling out 300 clams for a case of wine you've never before tried.

One thing I should mention - I did not include red grapes other than Cabernet Franc - no Pinot Noir from Menetou Salon or Sancerre, no Gamay from Anjou...I did that because I think they are interesting, but not unless you develop a taste for Loire wine first. And I think these wines are a great way to develop a taste for Loire wine, if you are among the unlucky ones who have not yet done so.

White:

2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine, $10 (so far, my case is the same as Lyle's). Muscadet is inexpensive, but complex in the hands of a solid producer. Marc Ollivier is a wonderful producer. Best from Sevre et Maine and when aged sur lie (on the lees). Citrus, brine, wonderful with seafood - famous pairing with Oysters.

2005 Thomas-Labaille Sancerre les Monts Damnees, $21 (Our cases diverge here). Sancerre, the darling of wine bars everywhere a few years ago, is made from Sauvignon Blanc. Grassy and floral, fresh fruit, quite different from its white Bordeaux cousin. Clean and pure, usually sees little or no oak. Classic pairing with goat cheese. High end Sancerre can run you $40 a bottle, but great bottles can be had, like this one, for $20 or so.

2005 Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Clos Habert, $26. Montlouis is across the river from the more well known Vouvray, with whom it shares two important characteristics: 1) the wines are all white and made from Chenin Blanc, and 2) there is a lot of plonk floating around that gives these appellations a bad name. Sad, because the good stuff is enchanting and reasonably priced, a steal when you consider the silly prices of white Burgundy, for example. Chidaine is the real deal, and this cuvee is only slightly off-dry. Crystalline in its purity, great melon and stone fruit, very mineral. This drinks beautifully now with a half hour of air time, and it will age really well.

2005 Domaine du Closel Savennieres La Jalousie, $20. Savennieres is a half hour or 45 minutes by car west of Vouvray. Also the site of tremendous sweet wines such as Chaume, Quarts de Chaume, and Coteaux de Layon, Savennieres is famous for intense, dry, mineral wines. Not as big as Vouvray, but probably more consistent, with several world class producers. This is Closel's approachable young drinking wine from 2005, a classic vintage. You will be hooked on this stuff if your try it.

2005 Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos Naudin
, $33. Many producers say that demi-sec (off dry) is the best expression of Chenin Blanc. I don't know, I love sec (dry) Vouvray too. In fact, the sec version of this wine is just incredible too. This wine is a study in tension - fresh vibrant fruit and acidity, sweet flowers and honey, all pulling on each other, vying for prominence, but compromising beautifully. If you were to buy only one white from this case, buy this one.

2004 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance, $17. Made from the obscure Romorontin grape in a tiny appellation created in order to showcase this grape. Cour-Cheverny whites are a great value in dry white wine, bracing and fresh with great melon and citrus fruit. The grapes used for this wine, though, are allowed to ripen longer and the wine is sweeter, demi-sec at least in my opinion. Delicious as an aperitif, with cheese, or with lighter desserts like pound cake or almond cookies. Will rival far more expensive Riesling if aged properly. And $17 - c'mon.

Red:

2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Cepage Cabernet, $10. Amazing value in young drinking Cabernet Franc. And yess, the same guy who makes the Muscadet makes this wine. Chill it a little, open it, try it, love it...

2005 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny, $15. Thierry Germain's "entry-level" wine. Dark, fragrant, delicious. You can sip this one alone, or enjoy it with food as rich as beef stew. You will want a case of this lying around the house, trust me.

2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses, $17. Raffault's top cuvee from one of the big gun vineyards of Chinon. Lighter and more elegant than the Roches Neuves, more funk and earth. This one requires your attention and a plate of roast lamb with herbs. This wine can improve with age for at least a decade too, although I challenge you not to just drink it up.

2002 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrieres, $26. The Bretons are quite famous now, and properly so. They make many wines, some for drinking young, some for cellaring, like this one from the great Perrieres vineyard in Bourgueil. You can drink it now, and you'll find rich dark plums and some red fruit too, an intense nose that also includes some earth and some herbs, plenty of iron and minerals. You will see that the structure will allow for cellaring though. Shouldn't your case have a bottle or two for aging?

2002 Clos Rougeard Les Poyeaux, $55. That's right - $55, for a bottle of red wine from the Loire Valley. Do you have to spend that much to get a great bottle of red? Absolutely not. But if you did spend that much on one bottle, this is the one. Burgundian in its elegance, in the complex intertwining of fruit, floral, and earth characteristics. You will love this if you open it, decant, and drink now. But if you can wait 5 or more years, you will thank yourself.

Sweet:

Dessert wines cost a lot, so don't get upset here. Many more resources per usable grape are required. The Loire is the most under-appreciated source for sweet wines, in my opinion. Wines of comparable quality in Bordeaux can cost more than double the price. These wines have an incredible play between sweet honeyed floral fruit and vibrant acidity. They are thick but not heavy. Here is one that you will find on the shelves now.

2003 Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1er Trie, $55. Moelleux (mellow) is the word to look for on Vouvray bottles to know that they are dessert wines. The grapes for this one are picked by hand in individual passes through the Haut Lieu vineyard, selecting only the grapes that are properly ripe, and that are affected with the noble rot. This is the first pass (1er Trie), grapes of the highest quality. 2003 was not so great in general in the Loire, but the sweet wines fared well and don't require as much time to show interesting secondary aroma and flavor characteristics.You can drink this now, this honey-gold nectar, and you will love it. But again, if you give it a few more years in the cellar you will be well rewarded.

So that's it, my Loire case for the uninitiated. Enjoy!

10 comments:

Dr. Debs said...

FANTASTIC. Great shopping list to have on hand, and the tasting notes are superb. Thanks, Neil. And I know what you mean about the Asimov comments section. I likened it to a monster car rally, with wine.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks Doc. Who knew that many people had "case" opinions that were so strong, right? I hope you taste a couple Loire wines and let us know what you think.

Anonymous said...

From one Brooklyn guy to another: Excellent work!

Defintely going to check out some of your selections.

Any suggestions for a retail source?

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Anon,
thanks for your comments. In Brooklyn I like Prospect Wine Shop on 9th street and 7th Avenue. They will have some, but not all of these wines. Best Loire source in NYC is Chamber Street Wines in Manhattan.

Happy hunting

Steve L. said...

That has got to be the most interesting and intriguing sampler case to have been assembled in the wake of the Asimov article. I certainly haven't tasted them all, but I don't believe there's a dog among them. The Bretons will be tasting their wines at a wine bar here in San Francisco next week and I hope I'll be able to make it. If you aren't familiar with it already, you would be interested in Jacqueline Friedrich's blog--she wrote the book on Loire Valley wines. (Her recent guide to French wines is also something you would find very useful.) Cheers!

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks so much for your comments. It was hard to do this,a ctually, because there are som many great wines that I couldn't include, particularly in the white section. Current releases are just so good! I will look for Jacqueline's blog, what is it called, by the way?

Thanks again, see you around.

Steve L. said...

Just google her name and hit 'I'm feeling lucky.'

Lyle Fass said...

Nice case! I think I love Loire Wine now!

Lyle Fass said...

FWIW Friedrich is a bee-yotch. I just finished her latest book on The Wines of France and it's terrible for exclusion of certain wines (going to Krug and not tastign Mesnil) and there is an angry tones about many wines and wineries. She just wrote that book so she could get free samples of wine.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Lyle - I imagine that you would love Loire wine. Seems like it would be up your alley. So lame how people can read those books and walk away thinking that things are a certain way. They are not necessarily that way at all, they just reflect the experience of that person, and if she is a bee-yotch with weird hang ups and social skills, then you're not going to get the full picture.

Great to see you around these parts - I love that your first comment is on a post from like 6 months ago...I do that too.