Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Savennières for Labor Day

I was scrounging around in my cellar on Monday, looking for a bottle or two to take to a relaxed Labor Day get-together, when I was reminded of something I’d read recently at Rockss and Fruit. Is it a bad sign when something you’ve seen in a comment thread on someone else’s blog sticks in your head? Whatever your answer, here’s what Lyle had to say in response to a visitor’s quick note on a disappointing bottle of Savennières from Domaine des Baumard: “Baumard is not the ager in Savvy, Vaults [Domaine du Closel] is. '97 is also too ripe for long aging.”

So, out came the ’97 Baumard. Perfect wine for a Labor Day barbecue, no? Actually, I knew I had a bottle of the exact wine in question – Baumard’s “Trie Spéciale” – buried in there somewhere but I landed upon a bottle of “Clos du Papillon” first and figured that would do just fine.

Fact is, I agree with Lyle’s general summation of 1997 in Savennières. It was a hot vintage that gave broad, rich wines with less apparent acidity and nervousness than in a “classic” vintage. I wasn’t sure though – curious, but not sure – as to whether that would necessarily preclude the wines from aging well. As to his experiences regarding the age worthiness of Baumard’s wines, well, they don’t really sync with my own experiences so I was looking forward to putting the questions Lyle had raised to the test. I’m not talking about 20 or 30 year-old wines here; I just don’t have enough experience with Savennières of that age. However, I’ve had plenty of wines from Domaine des Baumard in the 10-15 year-old range that, though oxidative, have been quite wonderful. In any event, this ain’t meant to be a sucker punch; I’m just citing thought provocation where it’s due. Many thanks for the inspiration, Sir Fass.

Savennières “Clos du Papillon,” Domaine des Baumard 1997
~$25 on release. 13.8% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Ex-Cellars, Solvang, CA.
Okay, let’s check it out. Light amber in the glass, things led off with a classically oxidative nose of Sherry and apples, dead-on to my experiences with old-ish bottles of Baumard Savennières which show developed aromas early yet continue to thrive. Scents of chamomile, quince and teak wood followed. Acidity was beautifully balanced too, adding high notes to the wine’s round, vibrant mouthfeel. Sweet, haunting, Madeira-like finish. Very, very long.

Unless I had you worried earlier, I think it’s fair to say this wasn’t matched up with classic Labor Day cookout fare but rather with pan-seared scallops, served with cucumber “noodles” dressed with a sauce of tomato concassé and finished with dashes of both tomato and Sherry vinegar. The dish brought out the underlying freshness in the wine – a really wonderful pairing. The Madeira-like notes I mentioned were unmistakable – Boal, all the way – piercing, haunting and bury-your-nose-in-the-glass beautiful, oxidative but not at all oxidized in the negative sense. Strong notes of crystallized ginger and marzipan built as the wine opened. Really friggin’ delicious and, though perhaps “old” to some palates, still very much alive and kicking.

Do I think the wine has a long future ahead of it? Probably not, but if I had more bottles I’d surely sock at least one away for the sake of potentially proving myself wrong. Regardless, at twelve years of age, it’s still got plenty to say.


Lyle Fass said...

Glad I could be inspiration for a savvy post. I have tasted a good amount of greta and of course not so great bottles of Closel and e'Pire and closel ages the cleanest when they are right. Sometimes they can go very wrong. '96 regular, not cuvee speciale is dead and has been for years. But very old vintages can show fresh and vibrant with no hint of oxidation. E'pire is an oxygen lover's dream. Baumard is kind of in tghe middle when it comes to oxidative qualities and there can be bottle variation as it is done in much larger amounts than Closel.

AJ said...

I've never found Baumard to be nearly as exciting as Closel or Epire. Why Epire doesn't get more attention is beyond me. The cuvee speciale is one of the best values out there: austere, great minerality, structured, lovely tone of honey.

David McDuff said...

Do you feel the bottle variation you've encountered with Baumard is related to practices at the estate or more to the vagaries of their larger distribution chain (i.e., heat damage during shipping, warehousing, etc.)?

While I do agree that Baumard's wines can sometimes be very direct, when they're at their best I still find them exciting. As for Épiré not getting the attention they deserve, I feel the same way about Soucherie's "Clos des Perrières," which can be damn good, ages well and never seems to get much attention.

AJ said...

I've never had an aged Soucherie "Clos des Perrières," but did enjoy the one I tried. That said, I didn't love it (although the friend I opened it with did). It just didn't have that Savennières acidity and minerality, and was more "pleasant" than thrilling. I'll have to try another.

David McDuff said...

I've had very, very good bottles of both '95 and '96 Soucherie over the last year or two. One '96 left, just waiting for a little horizontal tasting I've been scheming over for a while now. In my experience, it's a delicate style, less bracing than Epire for instance, but there's still plenty of substance.

Lyle Fass said...

Baumard bottle variation is due to the industrial way the wine is manufactered IMHO. So the larger distribution chain.

Anonymous said...

May I ask what makes Baumards wine 'industrial'

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