Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who is Henri Milan?

In October I went to the Domaine Select Wine Estates Grand Portfolio Tasting. Although I wasn't thrilled with the bulk of what was on display, I enjoyed tasting some great wines that were new to me. Champagne by Leclaire-Gaspard and Bruno Gobillard...excellent. J. Hofstätter's delicious wines from Alto Adige...excellent. The full lineup of Movia wines...excellent (and I witnessed a surreal moment at that table too).

But the wine that most impressed me, the wine that I was most intent on finding and drinking at home was a wine from the hills of Avignon in St. Remy de Provence. I had never heard of this town or of this producer, and I don't usually love Grenache wines, so imagine my surprise when the 2004 Domaine Henri Milan Clos Milan simply stopped me in my tracks. Light in color and completely translucent, yet there are potent floral and mineral aromas - it is a deep perfume with a core of rugged elegance, like those photos in Gourmet Magazine of peasants who are really models enjoying picnics on a country hillside. The flavors are clean and pure, with rich herb-infused dark fruit and a meaty presence that belies its feathery light texture. I loved this wine! And it had plenty of acidity and structure to age well.

I went back for two more tastes before talking to the guy behind the table and reading the pamphlet to get a sense of what I was drinking (I try to taste "blind" at these events so as to remain as unbiased as possible). Here's what I learned, some of which you can read here. Milan's estate is farmed using biodynamic practices. This wine is 80% old vines Grenache and 20% Syrah from gravel and yellow sandstone soils that Milan is fond of comparing to that of Château Rayas.

I looked around and searched the interweb and no one in my area seems to sell this wine, or any other Henri Milan wine. And maybe that's okay, because at about $55, the Clos Milan is pretty expensive for a Provence wine. So I let the matter drop.

But last week I participated in a Wine and Spirits tasting of wines from the South of France. I like these wines very much, especially when they are not overly extracted, when they retain some lightness and energy. There are some great values in this part of the wine world. And I think that Bandol is quietly one of the finest sources for big meaty red wines in the world, but that's another conversation altogether.

So we tasted through 3 flights of white wines, 2 flights of rosé, and 8 flights of red wines, 35 wines in all. Some nonsense in there, but I was truly impressed with some of the wines. There was one white in particular that I loved, a slightly oxidized wine that rang out with oranges and flowers and rocky minerals. Some at the table disliked it, this was a polarizing wine. But it was without question my favorite white wine of the tasting. And lo and behold, it turned out to be the 2007 Domaine Henri Milan Baux de Provence Les Grand Blanc (about $30). Coincidence? I think not.

One of my favorite red wines had pretty berry fruit that was so clean and layered so gracefully on a bed of earthy soil. It was a contrast of delicate fruit and taut structure. And this wine turned out to be the 2005 Domaine Henri Milan Baux de Provence Saint Remy de Provence red blend (about $25). Another coincidence? I sincerely doubt it, my good friend. It's funny though, I wasn't as crazy about the 2004 Clos Milan this time. I liked it, but there were raisiny flavors that I thought detracted from the freshness. No matter, Henri Milan is clearly making wines that I quite like. And I'd still love to drink a mature bottle of Clos Milan in the comfort of my own home with a bowl of herty lamb stew.

And then I read that Henri Milan is part of the Nicolas Joly Return to Terroir group that held a tasting this week in New York. More coincidence? I keep trying to forget, but Henri Milan comes at me from all directions. So let me ask you this, readers and wine lovers: who is this Henri Milan? Why do his wines appear on none of your blogs, in none of your retail shops, and why have I never heard you talk about him? Am I the only one who likes these wines? What's going on here? C'mon...speak up.

10 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

this sounds like a question only the inimitable Alice "right-this-way-your-table-is-waiting" Feiring could answer!

Thought of you yesterday, Brooklynguy, at the Rosenthal tasting in Houston.

Jack Everitt said...

Ha, I thought you would be impressed with Alfred Gratien Champagnes. Perhaps they weren't pouring one.

michelecolline said...

They seem to have a lot of good producers,looking at the importer's site, so I guess some weren't represented(it is a large portfolio). This is the St. Remy on the north side of Les Alphilles(sp?)? You should check out that appellation.....Les Baux de Provence...

Brooklynguy said...

how was Rosenthal, DoBi?

Jack - they were pouring and I did like some of the wines. Nothing that made me want to chase though. Hard in a tasting like that to appreciate a delicate Champs though.

Michele - I'd love to check out more. It's hard though because very few shops carry these wines. Any recommendations as far as producers?

Kevin McKinney said...

Brooklyn Guy,
I am an importer in Minneapolis and completely share your appreciation of Henri Milan's work. I bought all of his '06 white and won "Best Imported White" with Domaine Milan, at our local Food & Wine convention's blind tasting event.

Milan stands out!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the Milan wines, very unique, specially the Grand Blanc closer in style to the wines from Oslavia.
As we are the importer in the US for the Domaine Milan, I wanted to rectify one of your notes. The wine is called Le Grand Blanc and is a vin de table as Baux de Provence does not have any AOC white.
Geoffroy

Plamen said...

Hienri Milan is the best kep secret in the world of fine wine. We sell his wines for the UK market.
http://www.zelas.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=henri+milan&x=0&y=0

Dagan said...

We are having Henri Milan at Terroir tonight he and his wines in all their anger and splendor...

Anonymous said...

This wine producer is rarely available through wine clubs etc. Gordon Ramsay has this wine label in many of his restaurants. It's hard to get hold of thus remaining fairly exclusive.

Anonymous said...

just bought my first bottle in Paris. Milan 2007. very very excited to open it....with many biodynamic wines, they say to leave it open for a full day, which i've found actually helps enormously. would you suggest the same for Milan's wines?