Showing posts with label Henri Prudhon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henri Prudhon. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

December Wines - a Laundry List

December tends to be a good month for wine drinking. Everyone reaches into the cellar for the good bottles to help celebrate the passing of another year. Here are the wines I drank in December that have not, even in passing, appeared recently on this blog. Usually I put them into groups - excellent, very good, and so on, but I had so many great wines in December that I will simply list my favorites without any qualification.

1993 Chateau Laville Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan Blanc, price unknown, Chateau & Estate Wines. My generous friend Adam shared this treasure with me over his tasty braised veal shanks. First of all, I've had maybe two or three white Bordeaux wines in my life before this one, and none of them were terribly exciting. This one, however, was thrilling. The Wine Doctor profiles the estate here, so you can read up on the details if you like. In short, Laville Haut-Brion is owned by the same people who own Haut-Brion, but the Laville vineyards and wines are distinct. They are made from old vines, mostly Semillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc. Pungent and still very graceful aromas of orange peel, wax, menthol, and honey. A mesmerizing nose, and one that grew in detail and breadth over the hour or so in which we drank it. Youthful acidity on the palate and perfectly balanced at only 12% alcohol (!), with a dazzling combination of richness and delicacy to the flavors. Memorable wine, and I suspect that it is a wine that might not exist in this style these days.

(2000) Tarlant Champagne La Vigne d'Antan Extra Brut Non-Grefée Chardonnay, $65, was imported by Jon-David Headrick Selections, not sure who imports it now. As described by Peter Liem on, this wine comes from un-grafted French rootstock in the sandy phylloxera-resistant soils of a vineyard called Les Sables. This is just the second release of this wine (Benoit Tarlant began making it in 1999) and already it is one of my favorite Champagnes. It expresses with incredible clarity the sandy brown tones of the soil. The fruit is piercingly clear, although the fruit plays a secondary role. The fruit and the soil work together so harmoniously, and the wine is both fascinating to think about while drinking, and also just plain delicious.Well worth seeking out.

2002 Domaine Huet Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos du Bourg, $33, Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections. Such an incredibly beautiful wine, and so accessibly priced. Crystalline purity, elegance and energy, rocks, herbs, honey, and stone fruit are all in perfect balance. The wine is delicious now although it is probably showing only a little of itself. It started to show a spearmint kind of herbal complexity on the finish only after an hour open, and the texture became more energetic and almost grippy after that hour. I'm sure this will last forever but it will be delicious at any point between now and forever.

1981 López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia, price unknown (but you'd have to pay over $100 in NYC to buy this now), imported by Polaner Selections. A very generous host at a holiday party opened this and also the 1985 and 1991 Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. They were all great wines and it was interesting to drink them next to one another. The 1991 was just too young, I thought. The 1985 was utterly lovely, but the star of the show was this wine, and it was all class and grace, with deeply complex aromas and flavors, an incredibly elegant mouth feel, and a finish that just didn't quit. Awesome wine, and it's the same price as a newly released 1er cru red Burgundy from a good terroir. One of the best ways to spend $100 on wine, in my opinion.

2004 Henri Prudhon Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes, $47, Imported by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant. White Burgundy is tough to buy, I think. I want to buy good bottles, but there have been oxidation problems so it's a dicey proposition to cellar them. But the really good bottles take time to fully express themselves. Prudhon's wines are a safe bet, I would say. The range includes some very good terroirs and the wines are made in a classic understated style. Perhaps not the very finest that Burgundy has to offer in white wine, but delicious and expressive of place, and accessibly priced. This bottle was very good when we opened it, but it was day two when it really shined. Slightly smokey and marine inflected aromas that mostly feature stones and rocks. The palate is all elegance and finesse, with good intensity and a grippy finish that smacks of the ripe raw material. And the thing is, this wine is completely light in texture and weight, almost sheer - you have to pay attention to get it. Very impressive.

2007 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. This is one of baudry's two "entry level" wines, and it can be simply fantastic. I love it in 2007, and it's drinking better than ever. Showing a mineral pungency and lovely floral tones that weren't there earlier in its life, a bit musky too on the nose. The fruit is a bit less pronounced and the dry leathery earth components are more prominent. Well balanced and great wine and year in, year out, one of the finest red wines that can be purchased for under $20. Yup, I said that.

2002 Louis Boillot et Fils Pommard 1er Cru Les Fremiers, $52, Imported by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant. Louis Boillot is Ghislaine Barthod's husband and they will star together in a new MTV reality based mini-series on wine making spouses, their trials and tribulations. Keep an eye out for it. This wine is still young, but certainly showing good detail in aroma and flavor and the minerality is prominent. The fruit aromas are dark and brambly and with air, completely infused with wood smoke. Plenty of extraction here, but the palate is still balanced and lively and with air the minerality takes on a pungency that for me, defines the wine. Very lovely.

NV Jacques Lassaigne Champagne Cuvée Le Cotet Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, $70, Jenny & François Selections. 45 year old vines planted in 10 centimeters of topsoil over chalk in an east-facing vineyard in Montgueux. This is a laser beam of chalky Chardonnay, and because it is farmed so well and grown in such a ripe climate, you'd never guess that it is dosed at merely 2 grams and is technically an extra brut wine. So good, and with an hour of air, terrific.

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, $75, T. Edward Wines. So silky and refined, such finesse. This wine has earned its reputation as one of the finest NV rosés in Champagne.

1997 Chateau Pibarnon Bandol, about $25 on release, but $54 a few years ago, Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Absolutely classic Bandol, with lots of animale inflected tobacco and earth. Offers a lot of pleasure, and it is perhaps just approaching middle age. Very well balanced and the acidity is strong. The tannins are dusty and pretty fine, and the whole package is very attractive and typical of the place. Very strong wine.

2009 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling Kabinett, $23, Mosel Wine Merchant. I'm just beginning to start attempting to engage in trying to begin learning about Riesling. This is one of my favorites so far. I love how it is almost extreme in its focus, but its also so pretty and generous in its flavors. At first it's all orchard fruit but with air time the earthy notes emerge. There are fleeting sponti whiffs, the palate is very mineral, and the wine is well balanced and expressive. Hard to argue with that.

Thanks for indulging me in this very long laundry list post. December was a good month and I wanted to share...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blind Tasting and Scoring 2004 White Burgundy

A friend recently hosted his tasting group and invited me as a stand-in. They were blind tasting 2004 white Burgundies, a great theme in and of itself. A difficult year in most of Burgundy, particularly for red wines. How would the whites show five years on? But the group added a fascinating wrinkle to this tasting. In addition to writing notes about each wine, we would also assign each wine a point score using a version of the 100 point scale. The idea was to test the notion that wine can be numerically rated in a reliable and sensible manner when tasting many of them somewhat quickly. There were 7 of us participating, we each brought one wine, all of the wines were served blind. Would the "best" wines get the best scores? Or would our diverse palates and preferences lead to unpredictable or inconclusive results?

We first spent some time discussing how to rank the wines. We agreed on the following method: 96-100 is a wine that is the very best of its class, and therefore quite rare. 90-95 is a wine that is exceptional, worth seeking out and buying. 85-89 is a very good wine, 80-84 is a good wine, and 79 or below is not good. We agreed not to discuss during the tasting, and we got to work. I tasted in reverse order, and I'll share my notes before revealing the wines.

Wine 7) Creamy leesy lemon cake icing, smoky. This is super extracted and huge, not a style that I care for. But it's not bad wine, there is a mineral character, and it is actually somewhat balanced considering that it seems to be going mostly for power and muscle. Showy, not elegant, but well made, and within that style it is very good wine. I scored it an 88.

Wine 6) Mushroomy earth, smoky, very mineral, delicate citrus on the nose - a gorgeously expressive nose, airy and elegant. Great texture - ample and tactile, graceful. Purity, ripe fruit, great length, piercing flavors and acidity with a perfumed finish of herbs and flowers. This wine has great core intensity without being overly extracted or ripe. I thought it was beautiful and exceptional wine, something I wanted to seek out and buy. Not at the top of that category, but not at the bottom either, so I scored it a 92.

Wine 5) Nose is mute, perhaps some minerals are hiding somewhere in there. Kind of flat on the palate too. Certainly correct wine, some citrus, some minerals, austere, good balance. But unexciting. I got involved in conversation and sat there swirling this wine for a few minutes, and this is why this whole point thing is precarious, at best. What if the critic stops here and doesn't re-visit the wine, moving instead through the remaining 35 glasses that require tasting? Five minutes later this wine was beautiful and very expressive, with deliciously clean and pure notes of citrus, stones, and flowers. Great understated acidity, great balance, and a lovely lingering perfume, this is great wine, absolutely delicious, and with an elegant and understated character. I preferred Wine 6, but if money were not a factor I would eagerly buy this wine also. I scored it a 91.

Wine 4) Reductive nose that required serious aeration, and then there is a whole lot of oak. This is not an appealing nose to me. The palate is better, with some citrus and mineral flavors, but there is nothing complex about this wine and it is kind of thin in the mid-palate. It is perfectly good wine, but I found it hard to get by the nose. I scored it an 84.

Wine 3) Reduction on the nose, again lots of aeration needed, but then reveals a lovely and focused nose of minerals, very clean and pure, with ripe but delicate citrus fruit. Good balance, a soft and almost plush texture that is lifted by good acidity, lovely herbal notes on the finish. Excellent wine, worth seeking out and buying. Without the same intensity of Wines 6 and 5, and with a bit more fat, but excellent nonetheless. I scored it a 90.

Wine 2) I thought this was flawed. Not corked, but completely wrong. Heat damaged maybe? I got nothing but resin and rubber tires on the nose, some rotting leaves. And it tasted awful too. I wasn't sure how to score flawed wine, so I gave it a 79.

Wine 1) Reductive nose, took longer than seemed reasonable to blow off - I had almost given up. But it did blow off, and revealed elegant airy mineral and herbal aromas. An intense core of lemon on the palate, good length. This is very good wine, but it is not entirely harmonious, it seems kind of herky-jerky to me. I scored it an 88.

As we discussed the wines we realized pretty quickly that everyone has their own understanding of "exceptional" and "very good," and that some tasters are extreme in their scoring, others more even-handed. We decided to drop the highest and lowest scores when calculating the average, in order to do away with some of the random noise generated by very high or very low scores. Okay, now to reveal the wines and calculate the average scores:

Wine 7) - Hubert Lignier Fixin - 86.2 avg., 88 my score.
Wine 6) - Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ-Canet - 92 avg., 92 my score
Wine 5) - Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières - 87.8 avg., 91 my score
Wine 4) - Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée des Forgets - 88.4 avg., 84 my score
Wine 3) - Henri Prudhon Saint-Aubin 1er Cru le Sentier de Clou - 91.4 avg., 90 my score
Wine 2) - Génot-Boulanger Savigny-lès-Beaune - 82.2 avg., 79 my score
Wine 1) - Hubert Lignier St. Romain Sous le Château - 88.6 avg., 88 my score

Interesting results, I think. The wines showed very well overall, I would say. I was secretly gratified that my scores were in line with the relative nobility of the various terroir - I scored the Pulignys the highest, then the 1er Cru from Saint-Aubin, and so on, the Bourgogne lowest. Not that this should always be the case, but it felt right to me looking over the wines. It is also clear that subtle wines can be underrated in tastings like this - the Pernot wine is a good example. Also, to my astonishment, some people liked Wine 2! Half of us thought it was flawed, and some liked it, and that shows how fallible point scoring can be. If one critic is responsible for assigning a score, that person might like wines that I don't, or vice-versa.

I don't think our experiment broke any new ground, but it reminded me that the only way I find point scores useful is when I know and trust the scorer, and when I know the details about where our palates intersect and where they do not.