Neuchâtel, Caves du Château d’Auvernier 2005
Caves du Château D’Auvernier seems to dominate the export market for Swiss wines, simply by observation of what few other wines from Switzerland appear with any regularity on the shelves in shops throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. Oddly enough, though I’ve eyed this bottling many, many times over the years, I’d never actually tried it until recently. Perhaps it’s natural that I’d always given the wine a pass based on its relatively high price point, an issue it seems with just about all Swiss wine that finds its way to the US market. As it turns out, I hadn’t been missing much. This is a typically neutral expression of Chasselas, or Chasselas Fendant Roux as the locals call it in the Valais. A slightly lactic, yogurty nose leads to a somewhat dilute, nutty, mineral and lime tinged flavor profile. Though theoretically viable as an aperitif and a decent choice for sharp cheese, fresh water fish or fondue, its practical application is severely hampered by poor QPR. At a little over $20 per bottle, there’s just way too much better, cheaper wine out there to make this anything more than a passing curiosity or a comfort wine for homesick Swiss expatriates. $21. 11.5% alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Dreyfus Ashby, New York, NY.
Arbois Chardonnay “En Chante-Merle,” Régine and Jean Rijckaert 2005
If we’d tasted blind, I’d never have guessed varietal Chardonnay. Cool climate, yes. Perhaps Cour-Cheverny or maybe even regular Cheverny Blanc, but definitely not varietal Chardonnay. The first note hit on the palate was of slight oxidation. Then came hay along with racy lemon, lime and papaya fruit. Nervy acidity blew away the oxidative tone of the wine, keeping it fresh in spite of the up-front suggestion of evolution. Add to all that a limestone streaked nose and solid persistence and you’ve got a pretty cool little wine that’s loaded with character. I’d happily enjoy it with the same range of foods suggested above for the Neuchâtel, though it’s definitely more demanding of being served with food. $16. 13% alcohol. Synthetic cork. Imported by Dionysus Imports, Lorton, VA.
Montlouis Sec “Les Petits Boulay,” Domaine Deletang 1999
Finding an older vintage on the shelves of a shop that’s not particularly renowned for buying library releases straight from producers’ caves can always be a risky gamble. When an older vintage is selling for closeout prices, the odds get stacked even more heavily against the buyer. Chances are that the wine has been lost and forgotten in the nether reaches of a distributor’s warehouse or, worse yet, returned to a distributor after collecting dust and more serious forms of abuse at a corner liquor store somewhere in Podunkville. But at $6 for a 1999 Montlouis, the risks are more than worth the potential rewards. The odds landed in our favor on this occasion, delivering not a profound example of Montlouis at its best but a wine that was fairly compelling and a sound example of mid-life, mid-range Chenin Blanc. The oxidative theme continued into this last wine of our tasting. Dry Loire Chenins often show oxidation at mid-life, even at early stages, yet can continue to live on and develop into things of beauty for many, many years. Boiled wool, almond butter, asparagus water and beeswax all turned up on the nose, with good purity of structure following on the tongue. Not a terribly giving wine, but intriguing for its stony, crackly finish. It could easily have passed for a Savennières from the same era if not for its richer touch of dried honey more typical to Chenin from the Touraine. $6. 11.5% alcohol. Natural cork. Imported by Vignobles LVDH, Woodstock, MD.