Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wine of the Week - Bernard Baudry's Rosé

Bay Area wine blogger Cory Cartwright is celebrating the 1st anniversary of his blog Saignée by hosting an event that he calls "31 Days of Natural Wine." Cory writes passionately about the wines he loves, and about his life in the Bay Area and beyond. His blog is always interesting to read and his writing style is off-beat and truly hilarious. I am honored and happy that Cory asked me to participate, and this post also appears on Saignée as the Day 8 post in "31 Days of Natural Wine."

I'll never forget our visit to Domaine Bernard Baudry in Cravant les Coteaux, right outside of the town of Chinon. It was November of 2005, BrooklynLady and I went to France together for the first time. A day or two in Paris, but most of our time was spent exploring Vouvray, Montlouis, Tours, Saumur, Savennières, and Chinon. Our visit to Baudry began with a bit of an adventure. I drove our tiny jittery rental car from the hotel in Chinon to the estate, but via the bumpiest of unpaved back roads surrounded by forest, passing no one and nothing, unsure of the proper route. We eventually arrived a half hour later, but only after some treacherous driving and several stops to ask directions. Upon arriving we were warmly welcomed by Bernard's son Matthieu who told us that Baudry's house and estate can easily be reached via one of the main roads out of Chinon, perhaps a 10 minute drive. My wife looked at me with what has become a familiar facial expression, a crooked smile that says "You sometimes amuse me in your ineptitude and dorkiness, dear husband."

Matthieu showed us cement vats full of fermenting juice - we saw and smelled the glorious 2005's as they bubbled away, turning sugar into alcohol. I climbed a tall wooden ladder and stuck my head in one of the vats. Pungent, and also not easy to breathe - not a lot of oxygen. Everything was immaculate, even the antique tools hanging from the wall. We saw the vineyards surrounding the house, and then joined Matthieu in the house's tasting room where we sampled everything from the most recent Croix Boisée Blanc to the new lineup of reds to a 1996 Les Grezeaux, a gorgeous wine.

Matthieu Baudry is in his mid thirties, married with two kids, properly schooled and internationally experienced in wine making, and now working with his father at the family estate. He is an absolutely lovely person, so warm and friendly, and genuinely interested in sharing his wines. I've had the pleasure of meeting him several times since that visit, at tastings in New York, and he continues to embody the good things about being a wine maker.

The Baudry wines are in my opinion, the very finest in Chinon. They are transparent in the truest sense of the word - the fruit is exceptionally pure and clean, the sense of soil is prominent, and changes in character with each cuvée, reflecting the specific terroir. You can smell and taste the gravelly soil in Les Granges, the richness of the clay in Les Grezeaux. But the Baudry wines also offer beautiful concentration and richness - these are not light wines. The marriage of transparency and concentration is what makes these such special wines, for me.

Baudry's wines feature a striking absence of anything that might impede the delivery of soil via fruit. Herbicides are never used, and all chemical treatments are widely avoided. Everything is done by hand, from yield-control debudding to harvest, and all wines ferment via naturally occurring yeasts.

As much as I adore the Baudry red wines, the rose has a special place in my heart too. The 2008 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections, is 100% Cabernet Franc from two different parcels, one with flinty clay soils, and the other sandy gravel. The grapes are macerated in the press for a short time, technically making this a Rose de Pressurage (Pressed Rosé or Pressed-out Rosé). The wine then ferments in vat for as long as it takes to fully digest the sugars, a few weeks, sometimes months. "The vinification is quite similar to that of a white wine, as we want the wine to be dry (less than 3 grams of sugar/liter). That way, we can bottle the wine with just a very light filtration and very small doses of sulfites," Matthieu Baudry wrote in an email. This wine was bottled in mid-April 2009, and is more widely available this year then I remember in years past. Which is a good thing.

This is a very special rosé with an entirely different aroma and flavor profile from what you're used to if you drink Provence and similarly styled rosés. Drinking it blind I defy you to guess it a rosé - it smells kind of rosé, but drinks like a white wine. The nose offers vibrant and pure strawberry fruit and summer melon, spicy white peppercorns, and with a little bit of air, roses. It is a gorgeous nose, robust and delicate at the same time. The wine is superbly balanced on the palate with fresh orchard fruit, a primary white grapiness, perky but gentle acidity, and a fragrant finish that really lingers. This is a rosé of great presence and distinction. It compliments anything that you would normally eat with a crisp white wine, and also typical rosé summer BBQ and picnic foods. I haven't tried this pairing yet, but something tells me that this wine will be beautiful with fresh goat cheese.

Thanks again Cory for including me in your celebration of natural wine.


Wicker Parker said...

I'm a Baudry man myself, though I've never had the privilege of tasting his rosé. Given his unique wines, it seems appropriate that you took the road less traveled to the Baudry house. I'm sure it was more interesting than the main road!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the post BG. Baudry feels the love over at saignee, but we haven't yet drank anything but his reds. Hopefully this comes out our way soon.

David McDuff said...

Make it three. I've yet to try Baudry's rosé, a situation that clearly must soon be rectified. Lovely write-up as always, Neil.

ned said...

A month or so ago, I managed to get a couple of these
sent from Chambers before the summer heat came on. I wish I knew enough to get more than two! I haven't seen it in the Bay Area. I much prefer northern rosés, usually the pinot noir versions from Sancerre and Marsannay. This is very much like the best of those. Very vivid, delicate and fine. This delivers an experience that beats countless wines costing far more.

Anonymous said...