Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By the Glass - Unusual Wines Edition

This past month I made a point of opening a few bottles that we don't normally drink. And you know what - we really liked them. Here's the problem - I can only open one bottle of wine a night (usually), and I'm actually trying to scale that back to 5 nights each week. I read somewhere that there should be two nights every week when your body does not have to process any alcohol. Anyway, I feel torn between opening wine from regions I know and love, and opening bottles from places I don't usually go. Mostly I stay with what I know. Here are a few notes on wines we don't usually drink:

2006
Thomas-Labaille Sancerre Cuvée Buster Les Monts Damnés, $32, Louis/Dressner Selections. Sancerre might as well be in another wine region, for all of the attention it gets in our Loire Valley-lovin' house. Pouilly Fumé too. They're both as far away and as different from Savennières, for example, as Champagne is from Beaune. Les Monts Damnés is probably the finest terroir in Sancerre, with well exposed incredibly steep slopes that must be harvested by hand. Cuvée Buster is a title created by the Dressners to indicate a particularly fine cuvée by a certain producer in a certain year. Read the amusing story of the creation of Cuvée Buster here. This wine is incredibly delicate, yet focused and intense, with clean citrus fruit, floral, and mineral aromas and flavors. It has excellent acidity and great length, leaving a lovely perfume in the mouth. So well balanced, so great with food, such a beautiful wine. It will probably age well, but why bother? It's so good right now.

2004 Audrey & Christian Binner Riesling Katzenthal
, $18, Jenny & Francois Selections.
This is simply excellent wine. Full of orchard fruit and bitter honey, and intensely mineral, this wine calls out for food (hot dogs with kraut and mustard?). Apples, peach pits, herbs, and bitter honey on the nose, very clean and pure. The palate is aglow with minerals, but there is good balance with acids and ripe fruit too. There is a slightly oily texture, which is very pleasant. We enjoyed this wine with grilled fresh ham steak and spring onions. Why don't I drink more wine from the Alsace? Or more Riesling? Because I'm a complete ignoramus on both counts, that's why.

2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese **, $27 (375 ml). Two Rieslings in one month - that might be a record for me. This one came at the end of a great meal, and it was very nice, although not as moving as the Binner Riesling. Silly comparison though, as this is a much sweeter wine. Is it correct to call this a dessert wine? And whassup with the two asterisks after the name of the wine? Who can understand what's really going on with German wine? Not me. The nose was surprising with cinnamon, dried golden raisins, peaches, and pure spring water. Viscous on the palate, but still feels light, even though this is sweet wine. Maybe you're supposed to have this with dessert, but we had it as dessert, and really enjoyed it.

N.V. Gaspar Florido Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda Manzanilla Pleamar, $12 (375 ml), VOS Selections. You read it too - Eric Asimov recently wrote a compelling article about Sherry, and his tasting panel sampled 25 of them. That same Wednesday I grabbed this bottle, and that very evening, after several hours in the refrigerator, we drank it with hors d'oeuvre of fresh fava bean purée on toast. BrooklynLady didn't like it. "I've tried Sherry, I don't like it," she proclaimed. Too bad for her. I loved it. What a pairing - the fresh greenness of the beans, a bit of garlic, mint, fruity olive oil, sea salt...and this interesting wine. I loved its oxidized personality, the way the power of the flavors contrasted with the lightness of mouth feel. Savory, food friendly, and quite refreshing. Makes me want more Sherry, especially since I can try them for less than $15 a bottle. May I take this opportunity to ask this: does Sherry store well in the fridge, or should it be consumed shortly after opening?

18 comments:

Dr. Debs said...

Great post, Neil. For what it's worth, when I was in Spain everybody kept their Fino and Manzanilla sherries in the fridge. Then they pulled them out, stuck them in an ice bucket, and if (!) they had leftovers, they tightly capped them and put them back in the fridge. They do keep for about 7 days in there (enough for a week of sipping??) although there may be some drop off in terms of freshness. Also in Spain, the winemaker at Osborne said that if you tightly reclosed any of their Oloroso sherries, they could be kept 10-15 years. Seemed incredible to me, but I suppose he must know.

Jack said...

Some German producers label their wines, say, Auslese, Auslese*, Auslese** and even Auslese***. The more stars, the more special the cuvee (barrel selection), and the higher the price, of course. Many two-star Auslese's could be classified as stickies, but some are dry, too, and therefore, not-a-stickie.

Jac said...

To make your head explode, here's Selbach Oster's CT listing. See the stars?! Yeah.

But also note names with #'s after them...that's the short part of the AP#. There will be two idenitically labeled but different wines; the only way you can tell is the different AP#s. Yes, an insane practice (for consumers). I'm still waiting for Chateau Margaux to implement such a labeling method (and to have lots of cuvees).

Jack said...

Actual link:

http://www.cellartracker.com/pickproducer.asp?szSearch=Selbach-Oster&Sort=&Method=&PickWine=on

J David Harden said...

Is the Riesling from Michael Skurnick/Terry Theise?

Jesse said...

I agree with your thoughts on the Labaille Sancerre - totally delicate. Do the minerals get any better than in Chavignol??? Sheesh. Good post!

Brooklynguy said...

wow - thanks for these comments. i heard exactly the same thing, that fino and manzanilla sherries will keep for about a week in the fridge after opening. thanks for the stars clarification Jack. i guess mine was two stars special, and that's pretty special. JD - it is, in fact, a Thiese selection, thanks for pointing that out. thanks jesse, and welcome to the site. do you own september wines?

Beau Rapier said...

I had a bottle of the more basic '05 Auslese from Selbach-Oster and found it a bit flabby. I assumed this was a vintage issue but was wondering about the acidity on yours. Do you get a bit more pep in your step for the extra stars (money)?

Jesse said...

Thanks!
No, no, no, not the owner, I'm one of the managers. The owners are an amazing husband and wife team who love their wine and are very sensitive to the small production, organic, biodynamic, stuff. It's a great place, you know it well?

Anonymous said...

My grandma had the same bottle of sweet sherry on her sideboard for all the years i wenta visiting and when we stole a sip in what must have been its 10th year, i'm sure it tasted even better than when it was bought!

Brooklynguy said...

not sure about it compared with others beau, as this is the only 05 i've had. but no, it wasn't as acidic as i might have liked.

never been there jesse, but i will drop in and say hi next time im in the area.

stealing sips from your own dear grandma...shame on you!

Cliff said...

I'm no expert on German labels, but I believe the stars are a reaction on the part of growers to the 1971 overhaul of German wine law that abolished the three traditional distinctions within the Auslese category (fine, finest, and awesome, to translate loosely). A few producers started using stars, to clue in those in the know. But then things got fuzzy, as producers can use them to mean what they want. For some, it designates parcels; for others, I believe, it has more to do with botrytis. Bottom line, you need to know the producer, though, as a general rule, I think you can expect more stars to be sweeter and probably have more botrytis.

I agree about Sancerre. I find it supremely uninteresting. But then there is Thomas-Labaille, the Cotats, and Vatan.

Brooklynguy said...

i've enjoyed cotats also. never had a vatan.

Cliff said...

It is very expensive, esp. for a Sancerre. But I thought the 2006 was spectacular -- in an unforced, fresh, subtle sort of way.

Gene said...

Try Gerard Boulay. His 2005 Comtessa was ridiculous. Get some microgreens, fennel, crottin de chavignol, and baby beets. Utterly unbelievable pairing.

Tracie B. said...

i love manzanilla sherry...there is hardly anything better than having an aperitvo of cold, briny manzanilla on a hot afternoon, after a long day of work.

i can only find lustau (mediocre) and la gitana (good) around here. i love the latter, though i've found some inconsistency in the freshness of the various bottles that i've opened.

a good manz is a delicate little treasure--glad you liked it!

Cliff said...

In the NY area, check out PJ's for a good selection of sherry.

Cliff said...

Sorry, my attempt at a snazzy hyperlink failed:

http://www.pjwine.com/