Sunday, September 19, 2010

Highlights from the Jenny and François Portfolio Tasting, Fall 2010: Take Two

My previous post, which covered roughly half of the wines that left me most impressed at the fall Jenny & François Selections portfolio tasting, wound down with my promise to keep the Loire reportage to a minimum. I should have known — hell, even you should have known — I wouldn't be able to keep it to just one producer. There's only a little more Loire, though, before we move further afield. So, let's launch back into action, right about where I left things in part one....

Strangest Taste Sensation:
Under usual circumstances, tops in this category may have gone to the 2009 Touraine Amboise "Ad Libitum" from Domaine la Grange Tiphaine, in which the primary flavor signature was a dead ringer for cherry Sucrets®. (Had to check to see if they even make those any more. They do.) But then I tasted the 2006 Coteaux du Loir "Gravot" from La Grapperie, a blend of Pineau d'Aunis, Côt and Gamay. Sticking my nose in the glass immediately evoked one of those scent memories that was totally singular yet that I couldn't quite nail down.... Was it the aroma of freshly broken open milkweed? Maybe poke? (Both things I remember, albeit cloudily, from my childhood.) Mentioned it to the young lady from Uva Wines who was working the Grapperie table and she said it reminded her of horseradish. Damned if that wasn't it! Horseradish, on the nose and on the palate. Only the watering eyes and head rush were missing. Crazy or not, "Gravot" is now on my shopping list.

A Few Gems from the Rhône:
I managed to sidle up to the main Rhône table just in time to score one of the last pours from a magnum of Eric Pfifferling's 2006 Domaine de L'Anglore Vin de Table "Comeyre," a Carignan dominated red with a dash each of Grenache (presumably Noir) and Clairette. A really lovely example of Carignan-driven wine — barky, dark berry fruit with chocolate and spice accents. Rustic but simultaneously classy.

My real faves from the Rhône, though, were the reds from Hervé Souhaut at Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet. Actually, Souhaut's 2008 Vin de Pays Syrah did nothing for me, but the rest of his line-up more than made up for that. His 2009 "La Souteronne," a varietal expression of Gamay stemming from 60-80 year-old vines, was dense, taut and darkly mineral; couldn't help but get a kick out of it being labeled as 12.34% alcohol, either. Souhaut's 2009 Saint-Joseph was a little on the lean and mean side but nonetheless a really fine example of St. Joe, firmly tannic and bristling with black olive and violet aromatics. The '09 Saint-Joseph "Saint Epine," from 100 year-old Syrah vines, was the real star, bringing the extra meat that its little brother was lacking, not just in terms of body but also in the aromatic sense. This had that dark, brooding, meaty aromatic character I love in the Northern Rhône, almost like bresaola in this case, along with an assertive streak of cracked pepper and spice. Really solid wine that I'd love to have around for the cooler weather and a nice roast leg of lamb.

Ass Has Never Tasted So Good:
If there's an area where the Jenny & François portfolio reaches greater breadth than in the Loire, it's unquestionably the big melting pot of the south of France. There are a surprising number of artisan Bordeaux estates and a handful of little gems in the greater Southwest — such as Clos Siguier, whose 2007 Cahors was showing quite nicely — but the real strength, at least numerically, is in the Languedoc-Roussillon. As with Sablonnettes in the Loire, though, there was one estate whose wines really stood out for me: Domaine des 2 Ânes.

You'll forgive me the almost unforgivably bad inter-language pun of this section's heading (I hope). Hey, I expect it got your attention. If it made you cringe, too, so be it. An Âne, you see, is a donkey (aka, an ass), two of which (more now, as you'll see below) are used as beasts of burden at the wine farm of Magali and Dominique Terrier. I'm sure there's a wink and a nod in there somewhere, some awareness of double-entendre, but there's certainly no relationship to a rather unfortunate American expression sometimes used to describe things that, well, don't taste good.

And then there were three.
As you may already have figured out from the borrowed photos in Friday's post, I couldn't bring myself to break out my camera at the tasting.... But I also can't bring myself to post this reasonably lengthy second chapter without throwing in at least an image or two. So, here's a shot of Magali Terrier of
Domaine des 2 Ânes with the farm's, ahem, 3 ânes.
(Photo courtesy of Jenny & François.)

Magali and Dominique's entry level 2008 Corbières "Premiers Pas" ("first steps") was delicious — juicy, fresh, dark-fruited but light on its feet, and very pleasantly spicy. Their 2008 Corbières "Fontanilles," the next step up, was earthier and more tannic, coupled with much more profound aromatics and greater structure, yet still utterly enjoyable. I'd love to pair it, right now in fact, with grilled lamb chops. As so often seems the case with line-ups from this part of the world, I liked their top wine, the 2007 Corbières "L'Enclos," less; it was just as well made as the others but beginning to step a little too far into the realm of the big, boisterous and intentionally impressive to suit my current preferences. All three wines represent seriously good value.

It Wasn't an All French Affair:
It should be glaringly obvious by now that the J&F portfolio focuses overwhelmingly on the wines of France. In the last couple of years, though, they've begun to branch out more and more into other European countries. They've even made a small inroad into distribution of American wine. The single American producer with whom they're currently working, California's Tony Coturri, just happened to be the only producer on hand at the tasting, where he quite convivially poured his big, bold, honest wines — a style that matches the man — for the relatively euro-centric crowd. I won't go into any greater detail than that for now, but you'll find a nice write-up on a few of the entries from Tony's line-up over at Karen Ulrich's blog, Imbibe New York.

I've been hearing/reading a good bit about the wines from the Tuscany estate Colombaia but had not gotten around to trying them until this tasting. I particularly enjoyed Colombaia's 2008 Toscano IGT Bianco, a 50/50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia, for its charming aromas of sweet cereal grains, and flavors of blanched hazelnuts and delicate minerality (11.5% alcohol didn't hurt, either). From a simple quaffability perspective, I liked their Sangiovese-dominated 2007 Toscano IGT Rosso as well, though I found that its very forward expression of natural wine making practices somewhat obscured the wine's sense of place.

It was one of the last wines I tasted on the day that really stopped me in my tracks — a Spanish red called Els Jelipins. It was the 2005 vintage and the only wine, so far as I know, produced each year by Glòria Garriga and Oriol Illa, with a little help from their daughter Berta, at their winery that is also known as Els Jelipins, located about 75k to the west of Barcelona. Another first experience for me, so, rather than me trying to tell you about its background, I'd suggest you check out the piece that Linda Milagros Violago wrote for 31 Days of Natural Wine back in '09. Let's just say the wine was warm, plush and sexy (not a word I use often or lightly), beautifully balanced and startlingly, delicately nuanced for a wine of such hot climate richness. Drinking it made me feel good. A bottle will set you back a pretty penny but, if you can lay hands on one from their tiny annual production, methinks you'll find it worth the splurge.

I couldn't help but like the artwork on the rather minimalistic Els Jelipins website — bike, hearts and all.

And Finally, The Wine I'd Most Like to Have Cases of for Daily Enjoyment:
Certainly I'm not the only person who gets asked on a regular basis, "So, what's your favorite wine?" For me, it's an unanswerable question. There are just too many great wines and too many variables that go into the experience of each and every one. On this occasion there were some show stoppers, like the Saint-Joseph "Saint Epines" from Hervé Souhaut, like Jacques Lassaigne's rosé Champagne, and like the '05 from Els Jelipins that I've just finished waxing rapturous over. Of all the wines in the room though, the one I'd most like to have a stack of in the cellar is one of a much easier nature: the 2009 Arbois "L'Uva Arbosiana," produced by Evelyne and Pascal Clairet at Domaine de la Tournelle.

Actually, I really liked Tournelle's lineup across the board. The 2007 Arbois Trousseau des Corvées was in a tough spot — two of the three bottles I tasted from were quite reductive — but I expect it will come around with time; the other bottle was quite fine. The 2006 Arbois Ploussard de Monteiller hasn't yet found the elegance and grace of the 2004 but it's already very pretty, both delicate and racy. Their 2002 Vin Jaune and 2004 Vin de Paille were both crazy delicious; that Vin de Paille had one of the most incredibly savory noses of the day, erupting with scents of chicken broth, golden raisins, yellow curry, pears and hazelnut cream.

Yet it was what could safely be described as Domaine de la Tournelle's simplest wine, "L'Uva Arbosiana," Ploussard fermented via carbonic maceration then aged for just a few months in old casks prior to bottling, that I could most easily envision myself drinking — and immensely enjoying — day in and day out. Fun and freakin' delicious. C'est tout!


Hank said...

Thanks for the great write up. Now I just have to find some of these wines!

David McDuff said...

Hank! Good to see you here.

A small number of selections from J&F's portfolio may be available in California via their distributor in that part of the world, Terrell Wines.

For a broader selection, though, your best bet might be to order directly from New York. Astor Wines & Spirits carries a large proportion of the portfolio and Chambers Street carries a decent number as well (including Tournelle, Souhaut and Els Jelipins).

Unknown said...

Great picks from the tasting, David. I wish I could have joined you there, maybe next time. I'm looking forward to trying a lot of these over the next few months.

Karen said...

Great Post David! What a fabulous event. Thanks for the link! Cheers.

David McDuff said...

@John - Thanks, and sorry you couldn't make it to the tasting. I hope you do get to enjoy trying some of these.

@Karen - You bet! Sorry to have missed you there. We probably bumped into each other without even realizing it.

Joe Manekin said...

Thanks for the good notes, David. Which Bdx estates do J&F rep?

I'd agree with your enthusiastic response towards the Tournelles.

Els Jelipins I only know from a tiny pour tasted in between lots of other stuff at dinner. I'd like to get to know it better.


David McDuff said...

Apologies for taking so long to respond to your question re: Bordeaux estates in the J&F camp. I don't know that this is the total lineup, but at the tasting they were pouring wines from:

- Chateau Pimpine and Chateau le Puy (same ownership, 1er Cotes de Bordeaux)
- Chateau Tire Pé said...

Having just discovered your site, I'm a bit late to the party with this comment/question. I adored Tournelle's "Fleur de Savagnin" 2007. I would love to know where I could purchase the Tournelle Vin de Paille. Any idea? All the best.

David McDuff said...

Welcome. I'm not seeing the Vin de Paille at any of the shops I'd expect might carry it, which leads me to guess/believe that it's a direct import/special order item only. I'll do my best to find out from Jenny and will report back.

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