Saturday, September 20, 2008

Boutique Wine Collection Portfolio Tasting, Part Three

This shall be the third and final installment of my tasting reports from Boutique Wine Collection’s portfolio tasting held earlier this week along the parkway in Philadelphia. How to handle a big, broad tasting like this is always a challenge. Nine tables, in this case, with an average of fifteen wines at each. Four hours from start to finish. I suppose it would be possible to taste everything, but not for me. I’m not a power taster. I prefer to spend at least a little time with and give at least a little thought to each wine, even if it is with just an ounce or two in my tasting glass, a spit bucket always close at hand.

I suppose if I were an egalitarian, blank slate kind of taster, I’d try to focus on the areas where I’ve a lot to learn – Argentina or South Africa, for instance. But I’m not out to build an intentionally multinational wine list or to stock a price-point driven, one-stop liquor mart. So, after years of tasting like this, my approach is usually to focus on my areas of strength, always looking for new discoveries, and then to dabble a little in the realm of the lesser known. When it comes to wine, I really don’t believe there’s such a thing as an expert, certainly not in the widest sense. For my own purposes, I’d much rather know a lot about a little than a little about a lot.

This is all, in my typically long-winded fashion, to explain that, when it came to working my way through the core of Boutique’s direct imports at the tasting, I focused on their offerings from France, Austria and Germany and just dabbled a little in the New World and Spain.

Sandrine DuPouy, the French Portfolio Manager for Boutique Wine Collection, is originally from Toulouse but is now based in South Africa – an unusual commuting arrangement, to be sure.

From my perspective, Sandrine was pouring the strongest line-up, from start to finish, of the event. Maybe not the most impressive – that title would have to go to the grower Champagne part of the array at the Terry Theise table – but certainly the most consistent. There really weren’t any lowlights at her table, so I’ll just run through what was on offer.
  • Huber Traisental Grüner Veltliner “Hugo” 2007: Very clean, crisp GV. Simple but with all the right stuff in all the right places. A really good value in entry-level Austrian wine. For more info on the estate, check out my notes from a tasting with Markus Huber earlier this year.

  • Huber Traisental Grüner Veltliner “Obere Steigen” 2007: Broad, prickly texture. Very typical, in the good sense, expression, with white grape, pepper and five spice aromas.

  • Huber Traisental Grüner Veltliner “Alte Setzen” 2007: Riper texture, more powerful and dark fruited. Redolent of fresh peach preserves.

  • Huber Traisental Zweigelt 2006: Plummy, supple and food friendly. Easy-going Zweigelt.

  • Rolly-Gassmann Rorschwihr Moenchreben Auxerrois 2001: Rolly-Gassmann farms and makes wines in the old way. Their methods are largely biodynamic and the wines are not released for sale until deemed ready to drink. 2001 is the current release for their Auxerrois, which is relatively low acid, deeply perfumed, a bit earthy and touched by a little botrytis. Tasty even if a tad awkward.

  • Rolly-Gassmann Alsace Pinot Gris 2004: Excellent acidity, pure fruit and a dab of RS. The star of the line-up.

  • Rolly-Gassmann Alsace Riesling 2006: Concentrated, slightly rustic and quite vinous. Not a finesse Riesling, but quite savory.

  • Rolly-Gassmann Alsace Gewürztraminer 2004: Classic profile of exotic fruits, lychee and yellow flowers. Full-flavored but not at all over-the-top. I don’t drink much Gewürztraminer but I’d be happy to find a place in the fold for this one.

  • Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2007: Direct and fruity, with classic Mosel delicacy. Cleansing acids.

  • Dr. Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2007: Denser than Treppchen, red fruits and spiced, baked apples. Good nerve.

  • Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese 2006: Consistent expression of terroir, even across the two very different vintages. Darker peach fruit, with the expected extra degree of richness relative to the Kabinett.

  • Dr. Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2006: Much showier than Treppchen. Decadently spicy – the vineyard site is appropriately named (Würzgarten means spice garden) – and quite well balanced.

  • Le Signal Côtes de Roussillon Villages “Vieilles Vignes” 2005: From an estate based in St. Paul de Fenouillet, not far from Maury. The odd man out in the lineup but it rounded out Boutique’s entire European portfolio. Soft up front but with more interesting sensations on the finish. Garrigue-driven aromas and mineral-laced fruit. A Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend from 80-100 year-old vines. Not the greatest value but a very solid effort.

John Toler, pictured at right, is Wholesale Sales Manager for Boutique Wine Collection. John was pouring wines from a Friulian producer, Scarbolo, brought in by Dark Star Imports. To my chagrin, I never managed to taste them. Next time, I hope. John was setup next to Boutique’s National Sales Manager, Jeff Morgenthal (pictured at left).

A couple I liked from Boutique’s Spanish and South African portfolio:
  • Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2008: Commercial style, squeaky clean but a good quaffer. I won’t rush out to buy it but I wouldn’t shun it as a by-the-glass pour.

  • Gratavinum Priorat “2πr” 2005: That's "Two-Pi-R." Modern style blend of the “traditional” Priorat varieties: Cariñena and Garnatxa. Super ripe cassis fruit. Minty nose. Solid tannin/fruit balance.

And a couple on the dark side:
  • De Trafford Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2006: Over the top nose of tropical fruit, followed-up hard by overwhelmingly green, aggressive oakiness. 100% barrel fermented. 15% alcohol, plus residual sugar. There’s a suggestion of good fruit but the winemaking is way too heavy-handed for the Chenin to stand a chance.

  • Ardevol Priorat “Coma d’en Romeu” 2005: Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Savagely tannic, oak dominated and just plain unpleasant.

That's all, folks. Unless, that is, you missed the first two installments:

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