Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Silver Burgundy Dinner - WBW 39 Preview

Wine Blogging Wednesday is now only a week away now. Many people (I hope) will be tasting the affordable and interesting wines of the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais, and will share their thoughts in blog posts and emails, and I will gather and post them here. As a little preview, I want to share a bit about three interesting Silver Burgundy wines that we sampled with dinner the other night.

Thévenet is a pretty famous name in the Mâconnais. Thévenets have been growing grapes and making wine for four generations, and sometimes coming into conflict with the local governing body while doing so. One story I heard is that when the two villages Viré and Clessé in the north of the Mâconnais were granted joint appellation status, this new appellation Viré-Clessé included among its rules that wines can have extremely little residual sugar. There are all sorts of seemingly arbitrary rules for wine in France, so this is just another one right?

But it is not arbitrary at all, as it turns out. Apparently this rule prevents Jean-Claude
Thévenet, at Domaine de la Bongran, from using Viré-Clessé appellation status for his magnificent sweet wines, a sought-after and highly regarded wine. Instead they are called Mâcon-Clessé Cuvee Botrytis du 04 Octobre, for example, if that was the date the grapes were picked. Did they make this rule only to exclude this wine, and if so, why? Who knows the politics of the area. But clearly the name Thévenet is an important and provocative one in the Mâconnais.

Jean-Claude is the third generation vigneron and his impressive stable of Chardonnay wines includes St Veran, a Mâcon-Pierreclos, and several other village wines, some under the name Domaine de la Bongran. Thévenet makes a sparkling wine too, a Blanc de Blancs (a sparkling wine made entirely of white grapes, usually Chardonnay).

We enjoyed the NV Jean-Claude Thévenet Blanc de Blancs, ($20 at Astor Wines) as an aperitif, and then with a salad that included fresh sorrel, radiccio, golden beets, and fresh goat cheese. Good thing too about the sorrel, as its intense lemony flavor was a good foil for the wine. When we first opened the wine, BrooklynLady was the one to break the silence - "it smells like a ripe barnyard," she said. And this was an understatement. This wine was all about the poop smell. And it never really blew off. It was tamed a bit with 15 minutes of air, joined by strong sea air and focused lemon aromas, that carried over onto the intensely, almost painfully mineral palate.

I will be honest here - I did not like this wine during our dinner, or afterwards when I snuck in another taste. But
the leftover third of a bottle the next day...BEAUTIFUL. So weird when that happens, but this wine just needed lots of exposure to oxygen I suppose. Maybe it was aged in a completely reductive environment (hence the poop smell). Turns out that I've thought a lot about this wine since finishing it, and I think I must have it again.

We had another Mâconnais white with our main course, seared sea scallops with kale custard and watermelon radishes. This was the 2004 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé, ($20 at Chambers Street Wines) made by Jean-Claude's son Gautier. This wine was a stunner from beginning to end. The color was deep golden yellow, like a sweet wine. I decanted it about four hours before serving following David Lillie's (co-owner of Chambers Street Wines) advice. David says that the wine ferments for a year, and this provides great complexity. It was fat and rich, full of floral perfume when I first opened it. Very exciting! But it's personality completely changed when we had it with dinner several hours later. Still rich and mouth coating, but now so dry and mineral that it almost hurt. There are floral notes on the nose, a bit of lemon peel, but this is wet rocks and quinine, and this is the dominant flavor on the palate too. Very focused and angular, with lemony and quinine mouth aromas after swallowing. This was really good with the scallops and kale custard. BrooklynLady's favorite of the evening.

We popped and poured a mature Pinot Noir with our cheese course, the 1998 Hugues et Yves de Suremain Mercurey 1er Cru La Bondue, ($19, Chambers Street Wines). 1998 was a year that produced a lighter style of wines in Burgundy. It is always a treat to taste a mature Burgundy, and this was certainly no exception. To my taste, it perfectly complimented our cheeses, expecially the pungeant (read: stinky) Pont L'Eveque. The color was light rose red with no signs of rustiness. At first the nose was a bit sea-weedy, with something like rotting garbage. This toned down with a few minutes of air and the nose grew to include enticing cooked cherries and orange pith with hints of prune, mint, and toffee. Ah, the complexity of a mature Burgundy! And for under $20 - is this some sort of a joke?!? The palate was light but quite intense, echoing the nose. Broad and mouth coating, and the tannins do not seem to have fully resolved yet - this could even go a bit longer. Why bother though - it's drinking beautifully now and it's wise and gracious in its old age.

Think of this: I paid less than $60 before taxes (and before case discount) for these wines, three interesting and high quality wines of character and substance, each offering lots of pleasure. And this is Burgundy folks, where one bottle can easily cost $60. But this is Silver Burgundy, and hence the savings. I hope this whets your appetite, and that you will get it in gear and participate in WBW #39.


David McDuff said...

Hey Neil,
Sounds like I missed a good dinner and tasting opportunity, not to mention a great chance to meet you guys. Sorry I couldn't make it up there. Looking forward to popping a few corks for your WBW episode.

Brooklynguy said...

hi david - this is not what you missed, although we would have enjoyed hanging out with you on sunday night. we changed the plans a bit...looking forward to reading your post. digging your Chitry and other Burg posts lately very much.

Marcus said...

Was wondering where the Joe mention went! Hope you guys get uncorking soon!

Brooklynguy said...

hey marcus - this was not sunday - we scrapped tha in favor of dinner out at AOC Bedford. Info soon, and i'm sure from Joe as well..

Marcus said...

AOC Bedford! Awesome. I remember going there the day I met Jancis Robinson and then blogging about it -- almost exactly a year ago.

Hope you brought some of your own wine to mix it up. Can't wait to hear the details.

Brooklynguy said...

Notes coming soon.