Sunday, January 11, 2009

B-Sides: Some Recent Hits, Misses and Outtakes

B-Sides. Sometimes neglected, almost always overshadowed by their siblings on the up-side of the disc; sometimes plain bad, but just as often every bit as interesting, if not more so, than the tracks that get more airplay. Here at MFWT, “B-Sides” will be a new series of posts that I’ll run periodically (as long as the content moves me in any way). The B-Sides are quick notes about wines that didn’t get the full attention, by way of individual or more detailed posts, they may have deserved.

The hits – wines that made my palate stand up and take notice….

Pfalz Pinot Noir, Becker Estate (Friedrich Becker) 2006
$20. 12.5% alcohol. Screwcap. Importer: A Rudi Wiest Selection, Cellars International, San Marcos, CA.
I’ve read good things about Friedrich Becker’s Spätburgunders at both Barry’s Wine and Rockss and Fruit. So I didn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle of Becker’s Estate Pinot Noir when I found it on the shelves at, of all places, a local outlet of the PLCB. Very nice wine, with fresh acidity, minimal tannins and clear fruit expression. A classic unoaked Spätburgunder nose of black cherries, smoke, a little pepper and clove, and a twinge of green herbaceousness. Reductive when first opened – perhaps a side-effect of its screwcap closure – but that blew off quickly.

Chénas, Domaine des Pierres (Jean-François Trichard) 2007
$17. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
A solid example of fruity-style Beaujolais, showing much better than when last tasted a couple of months ago. It’s shed its earlier baby fat and is starting to lean-out and take on more herbal interest in its bright, raspberry driven flavor profile. Jean-François has taken over charge of the estate from his father Georges. They're apparently still working through their batch of old labels, so you may see this version of this wine labeled with Georges' name as well as with that of Jean-François.

Vouvray “Cuvée de Silex,” Domaine des Aubisières (Bernard Fouquet) 2007
$15. 13% alcohol. Screwcap. Importer: Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA.
I don’t have much more to say about this than last time other than that it’s showing drier than it was just three months ago. At an average retail price of $16 – and I’ve seen it lower in some spots – this is a great value in Vouvray that’s both serious and quaffable.

The misses – wines that left me wanting a little (or a lot) more….

Jasnières “Clos des Longues Vignes,” Domaine le Briseau (Nathalie & Christian Chaussard) 2004
$28. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
The Chaussards’ wines continue to leave me scratching my head. This is a fully dry Jasnières that showed some Chenin typicity, with pear fruit, good acidity and aromas of flowering herbs. But it was bitter on the finish, hollow on the mid-palate and short on the end. Though fresh on day one, it darkened in color and oxidized more quickly than normal by day two. Too low-sulfur for its own good? I’m not ready to give up yet but it will take some convincing showings to change my impression of this estate’s wines.

Barbera d’Asti “Tre Vigne,” Vietti 2006
$26. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Remy Cointreau USA, New York, NY.
I have a love/hate relationship with Barbera. This one fell in the grey area, with not enough depth in the fruit and textural departments to balance its tangy, borderline sour acidity. I have no problem with high acidity – it’s one of Barbera’s hallmarks – but it has to be in balance to work. Vietti is a consistently reliable producer but this vintage of “Tre Vigne” didn’t do it for me.

Marlborough Pinot Noir, Churton 2005
$10. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Allied Beverage Group, Carlstadt, NJ.
Every once in a while, I get the urge to explore a thing or two from Down Under and, for whatever reason, New Zealand Pinot Noir has recently piqued my curiosity. I had an off chance to pick this up for $10 on an importer’s close-out deal; it usually retails for $20-25. I wouldn’t buy it again even at $10. Like sweet and sour tomato paste. I forced myself to stick with it for not one but two nights – for educational purposes, mind you. I had a hard time squelching it past my tongue on both evenings.

The outtakes – wines that might have been hits if consumed at the right time or if handled with better care….

Bourgogne Aligoté, Domaine Diconne (Jean-Pierre Diconne) 2002
$13. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
As I enjoyed this wine when it was released back in 2004, I know it to have been a solid example of textbook Aligoté from a producer whose wines I generally enjoy. This one just got away from me in the cellar. Once I realized that, sometime in ’07 I believe, I decided to make an experiment of it, intentionally keeping it past its expected prime. The results of said experiment turned out as anticipated. Not entirely uninteresting but it was more volatile than anything else, smelling and tasting not unlike the vapor of Lemon Pledge.

Bekaa Valley White, Château Musar (Gaston Hochar) 2000
$30. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Broadbent Selections, San Francisco, CA.
I’ve yet to have a bottle – white or red – from Musar that justifies the reverent things I’ve heard and read about the estate. I don’t doubt that such a bottle is out there. It’s just that those with which I’ve crossed paths have all been either lackluster or abused. This one fell into the latter camp, the result of heat damage I suspect. What little fruit was left was caramelized; otherwise, this mostly just showed volatile acidity.

Saint-Véran, Domaine des Valanges (Michel Paquet) 2005
$15. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Another grey area wine, this is still holding some drinkability but hasn’t developed enough in the way of bottle bouquet to offset its trip down the slippery slope. Paquet produces direct, early drinking Mâcon-Davayé and Saint-Véran that are pretty decent values. But this, after only two-plus years in the bottle, is fading faster than I would have expected. If you’re holding any, drink up while the drinking’s still satisfactory.


Nancy Deprez said...

HEY! It's the little Becker Spatburgunder!!! I represent that wine. :) I love it too. Glad you liked it.

Nice lineup and great notes - thank you for sharing.

Lyle Fass said...

Musar 1988 rocks. So does the '99. I don't mess with the whites but I hear they need lots of age or like 30 hours of decanting.

Chossard wines also leave me scratching my head. Eric Nicolas and Robinot are my guys up north.

Becker Sankt Paul GG 2005 is serious wine. But serious dollars. The introductory bottle is lovely.

Josh George said...

I purchased a bottle of 2001Domaine des Valanges St. Véran "Les Cras" from Burgundy Wine Company a few months back for $13.00. Curious to see how it stood up. Those wines have a pretty high acidity profile so I was hopeful that it still had some stuffing. I was wrong, tasted like limp melon juice.

David McDuff said...

Thanks, Nancy. Let me know if you or Rudi would like to send samples of other Becker wines my way!

Hey Lyle,
I definitely plan to give Musar further exploration, both white and red. No amount of decanting was gonna help this bottle though. I checked back in on it over the course of a few days and it just got worse and worse. Aromas and flavors of modeling cement.

I've never stashed away any of the "Les Cras," so I appreciate your note. My experience with Valanges' regular cuvées has been pretty consistent over the years -- they pretty much always show best in their first year or two in bottle.

Marcus said...

I wonder if something happened to that Churton and what the merchant would do if you said you thought you were being dumped on, if only for $10 -- I tasted a bunch of their Pinot Noirs including the 2005 two years ago and they seemed to be among the best in show. I don't know if I am unlucky but I see the bad wine coming a lot. I swear: half of all white wine priced to clear that I buy is oxidized (even when they are reasonably within their intended lifespan). I always take them back.

David McDuff said...

Hey Marcus,
That's entirely possible -- even likely. One of the downsides to screwcaps is that they yield none of the visual cues to heat damage (run-up, pistoning, leakage, etc.) that regular corks show. Not having previous experience with the Churton, I don't have a specific frame of reference. But sweet and sour tomato paste flavors would certainly be in keeping with heat damage.

I'm always careful/suspicious with closeouts but sometimes I take the chance. I won't bother returning this one but I wouldn't hesitate to in normal purchasing circumstances.

David McDuff said...

Wait a minute.... Now that I remember back a bit, that Churton was cork-sealed. And the cork and capsule showed no obvious warning signs. I still suspect you're right, though, and I'd still chalk it up to the wine being cooked somewhere along its travels.

Joe Manekin said...

With Lyle on the '99 Musar being really tasty. Fresh, crunchy, and a touch of that Musar spice. '78 showed well when I tasted it about a year ago. I don't get the whites. They remind me of Roussanne, if it were made really oxidatively and with a long skin contact (which now that I think of it often times it is). Anyway,not enough acidity for me in these whites.

As for Chaussard, I have since tasted a few good bottles in a row of the 'you are so nice' gamay-cot. Cool storage and cool serving temp seem to be key for it to drink well.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for the tips, Joe. Like I said, I haven't given up on Musar and I'll definitely be on the lookout for the '99. I've just had a hard time finding bottles in sound condition on the PA market.

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