The big holiday feast this year was on Christmas Eve, thanks to the hospitality of our dear friends Bill and Kelly. Is there a better way to come together with loved ones than by sharing in some great food and wine?
Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut, François Chidaine NV. $23. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed some pretty distinct bottle variation with Chidaine’s Montlouis Brut. I’m not sure what to chalk it up to, though my gut is that it’s mainly a function of disgorgement date vs. consumption date. As the bottle is not marked, at least not obviously, with any lot or disgorgement information, I can base this only on my non-scientific observations of cork behavior. I tend to have preferred the bottles with some spring left in their stoppers – suggesting a younger wine with less time on the cork. Whatever the case may be, this was a particularly good bottle. Signature Chenin aromas of clover honey and green fig were in force, accentuated by scents of freshly toasted white bread. Bone dry but with an enchantingly soft, lingering mouthfeel.
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Domaine des Trois Toits (Hubert Rousseau) 2007. $16. 12% alcohol. Nomacorc. Importer: Rosenthal Wine Merchants, New York, NY.
This was my first encounter with the Muscadet of Hubert Rousseau, a relatively new addition to importer Neal Rosenthal’s portfolio. The Domaine des Trois Toits (“house of the three roofs”) is located in La Nicollière, just south of the city of Nantes. This is flinty yet fleshy, yeast enriched Muscadet that finishes with a mouthwatering twist of bitter lemon oil. Young and tasty, with exceptional length. It not only paired beautifully with oysters but also revealed an extra layer of salinity and savor when matched with a simple appetizer of oil-poached Spanish tuna belly.
Sancerre “Clos la Néore,” Edmond Vatan 2007. $55. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Cellars Ltd., Briarcliff Manor, NY.
The answer to Saturday's bonus point question. Pungently mineral and painfully young Sancerre, brimming with lime pith and chalky aromas. Maybe the most complete bottle of Vatan’s “Clos la Néore” I’ve yet to drink, displaying really fine flavor and structural delineation with less funk and greater purity than in the past few vintages. I’d love to revisit it in five and ten years (and two, seven, three, eight…). Wines that provide this clear an expression of place, of terroir, are all too few and far between.
A little East Coast/West Coast Oyster Mash-Up. Which wine worked best…? Sometimes there’s merit to a cliché. All of the first four wines worked in their own way but the Muscadet stole the day. A phenomenal pairing.
Champagne Brut “Réserve,” Bérèche et Fils NV. $45. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
We now interrupt this broadcast for a brief Champagne interlude. I’ve really been digging the Champagnes of Bérèche et Fils of late. The 10-hectare estate is based near Ludes, on the Montagne de Reims. Young Raphael Bérèche, who worked his first harvest at his family’s estate in 2000 and took responsibility for winemaking in 2004, appears to have great things in store. He’s converting the property to biodynamic farming and fermenting his wines on their native yeasts, with all cuvées seeing at least partial oak elevation. The Brut Réserve is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier (I don’t know the percentages), which includes about 25% reserve wine. It opens with a lush frontal assault, contrasted in fine balance by an incredibly dry attack on the finish. Rich notes of brioche and fresh hazelnuts dominate the nose, while notes of ripe melon and citrus confit emerge from the wine’s sweet, generous mid-palate.
Savennières, Domaine des Baumard 1996. $25. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Ex-Cellars, Solvang, CA.
A bit of a shock after a flight of young wines and not a little weird. Funk covered rocks come to mind – what “eau de toad” might taste like if someone were to bottle such a thing. All of that said, this is still enticing wine, sour and rich at once. Savennières may just be capable of producing the broadest aromatic range in the wine world, or at least the most unusual range. In this bottle I found baked gooseberries, almond paste and lavender, along with something – that sour/rich component – that I can only describe as caramelized yuzu. This is starting to show some oxidative development but still suggests further potential to come. I’m dying to put together a horizontal tasting of ’96 Loire Chenins….
Vin de Table Mousseux “Le Vinsans Ricard,” Domaine Ricard NV. $22. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Though perhaps not as exuberant as when I last wrote this up (tasted with the same group of friends and family, by the way), this is still damn tasty stuff. Varietal Gamay – at least in this rendition of Vincent Ricard's “Le Vinsans Ricard” – made in the méthode l'ancienne. Juicy, crackling and refreshing, loaded with lively cranberry and raspberry fruit; it seemed tailor made to our pulled pork and slaw sandwiches.
Côtes du Forez “La Volcanique,” Verdier-Logel (Odile Verdier & Jacky Logel) 2007. $13. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, VA.
More Loire Gamay and another very cool wine, even if a little less friendly to the sweetness of the pork than Ricard’s bubbly. This is explosively mineral, black fruited Gamay – crunchy, rustic, viscerally fresh and laced with the scent of black pepper. Produced, as the name of this cuvée suggests, on volcanic soils in the Côtes du Forez, an area in the foothills of the Massif Central in the far reaches of the Upper Loire, where Verdier-Logel is considered the leading estate.
Vouvray “Clos du Bourg” Sec, Domaine Huet 2005. $40. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Robert Chadderdon Selections, NY, NY.
By far the tightest wine of the night. This showed earthy mineral character in spades, with a muted core of beeswax and pear-driven fruit. Already subtly delicious, but barely hinting at what’s to come. If you’re holding any, stash it away for a rainy day a few (or many) years down the road.