Friday, February 12, 2010

Domaine de la Tournelle's Ploussard de Monteiller

Here's a wine I've been wanting to try ever since reading of its vanquishing a small but stellar field in Brooklynguy's roundup of a blind tasting of Arbois Ploussards. I finally did, just the other night. Popped the cork and poured it to go with one of my favorite Poulsard pairings: poultry pot pie (and no, it's not just about the alliteration). Truth is, I didn't love it, at least not right away.

Arbois Ploussard de Monteiller, Domaine de la Tournelle (Evelyne et Pascal Clairet) 2004
$24. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Jenny & François Selections, World Wide Wine, New York, NY.
First, a little techno-background info. Monteiller is a lieu-dit vineyard with gray marl soils and southwest exposure, farmed to yields of about 40 hl/ha. The Ploussard is hand-harvested from the Clairets' naturally farmed vines and is completely destemmed before being lightly crushed. The wine ferments on its natural yeasts in open-top vats for 10-20 days depending on vintage character. It's then put in cuves for the malolactic fermentation, followed by aging in old oak foudres for anywhere from 8-18 months, again depending on the traits of the growing season. The finished wine is bottled without filtration and with no added sulfur dioxide (a small amount of sulfites do occur naturally via the wine's fermentation process).

The resulting wine is extraordinarily pale, pale even by Poulsard standards, like an orange-tinged tea of rose petals. It's so pale you can read through it. The burnished, slightly reductive aromas when first opened blew off after about fifteen minutes, letting the wine's more delicate purity emerge. There's at best a whisper of tannin; instead, the naturally uplifting acidity of Arbois Ploussard is all that's really needed to give balance to the wine's ethereal structure. The fruit, too, is very delicate and restrained. Think of wild cherries and baked orange but more of the sense of taste you get from smelling them, not from eating them. Again, think in whispers and you'll get a sense of the wine.

Twenty-four hours later, not surprisingly, the wine showed even subtler intensity. I noticed a lean wood influence, or at least a woodsy flavor, that I hadn't registered a day earlier. There was even a sneaky little suggestion of sweetness near the rear palate, just beofre the wine finished with a cascade of sour minerals. There was something vaguely metallic, too, though I don't believe it was Brett. What I do believe is that this is really puzzling, really provocative wine. It's not the type of wine that scores hedonism points or that screams out for attention, more the type that you overlook at first sip but are then drawn back to, full of mystery, raiser of questions. In the end, I still didn't love it. But I am looking forward to the next bottle.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

You'll find a beautiful set of pictures from a day spent at Domaine de la Tournelle at the increasingly photo-centric site of The Wine Digger.

The Wine Digger has gone into hiding and eviscerated his blog since this was originally posted; his photos are no longer publicly available.


Hank said...

I am with you on this one. I had a 2005 not long ago with similar experience. It was quite puzzling until the end of the bottle, by which time I wished I had a magnum! Very quietly seductive.

David McDuff said...


Welcome, and thanks for commenting. I haven't come across the '05 yet but, like my remaining bottles of the '04, I look forward to it.

I checked out your farm's site and it looks like you're doing some interesting work across the boards. A couple of questions for you in the hopes that you'll stop back:

- Is phylloxera not an issue in your area and/or for your soil type(s)?

- What made you choose the Vinolok closure?

- Will you send me some wine? Just kidding, of course... but seriously, I'd love to try the Syrah or anything else you've bottled. Sounds like you're doing good work.

Anonymous said...

"So pale you can read through it"


Thanks for the post!

- wolfgang

David McDuff said...

Thanks, Wolfgang. Just something I noticed while enjoying the wine and taking notes, not a new MFWT protocol for measuring opacity.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin