A thought for the new year (and beyond)

The world’s a little less jolly without the late, legendary Len Evans, but his memory still provides some sparks, as my wife reminded me when I was being more humble than necessary about a wine last night, offering to go ahead with a rather lackluster but palatable Bordeaux, since the cork had been pulled. “I’ll poach pears in it tomorrow,” she said. “Go get the best Barolo you can find.” So I did, and we had a lovely dinner, and I was reminded of one of Len’s Rules:
       “People who say ‘You can’t drink the good stuff all the time’ are talking rubbish. You must drink the good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine, it’s like smashing a superior bottle against a wall. The pleasure is lost forever, you can’t get that bottle back. . . Wine is the key to love and laughter with friends—it rewards us far beyond its cost.”
       Happy New Year.

Wines of the week, from New Zealand

A couple of pleasant surprises last week—delicious white wines from New Zealand that weren’t Sauvignon Blanc. The first was the real surprise: full and peaches-and-creamy 2008 Chardonnay from Clos de Ste. Anne, “Naboth’s Vineyard,” near Gisborne; the forthright fruit was nicely buttressed by a fresh, persistent zip of balancing acidity. It wasn’t surprising to discover that the grapes were dry-farmed, grown on their own roots (biodynamically, actually), hand-harvested and bunch-pressed. Old-fashioned, indeed; the back label mentioned “luminosity,” and for once, that wasn’t typical back-label hyperbole.
       The other taste of serendipity was Greywacke 2009 Pinot Gris, from a single vineyard in Marlborough, the northernmost region of the South Island. Winemaker Kevin Judd is a talented perfectionist, and it shines through in all his wines (even his Sauvignon Blanc, all gooseberry and no cat pee). The wine is more in the style of the best of Friuli, well-rounded but still bracing, autumnal and savory, like baked apples with citrus zest. Half the juice was fermented in stainless steel, the other half spontaneously fermented in old oak casks, then both were left on the lees for a while before blending. There’s some more technical stuff involved, but the main thing is, it all added to the wine’s vibrant character. Considerably.

Quite a mouthful

Le nouveau Beaujolais est arrive! And it’s terrific, and it’s. . . um, 2009. The Beaujolais “Nouveau” 2010, untimely ripped from the wineskins after a scant six weeks to be peddled to gullible guzzlers fonder of alcohol and ceremony than of flavor, is perhaps another story. Meanwhile, the newly released traditional wines from last year are well worth getting your corkscrew out for.
       The vintage of 2009 was a very good one, warm, with useful rain in June and plenty of sunshine in August; the wines are rather full-bodied, fairly tannic, with acidity levels that are refreshing without making your teeth ache, and somewhat elevated (and natural) alcohol. Many will be even better with a couple of years to mature. At a recent tasting by Domaine Direct (http://www.domainedirect.co.uk/), the standard was generally high, with a couple of outstanding examples: Domaine Paul Janin et Fils Moulin-a-Vent “Clos du Tremblay” was dark and lovely, quite vibrant, and the “Vielles Vignes des Greneriers” was intense and velvety, even voluptuous (biodynamically farmed grapes, very old vines, no SO2). A trio of Fleuries from Domaine de la Madone promise great drinking now (the “Tradition”), next year (“Niagara”), and in 2012-2014 or even further (“Cuvee Speciale Vielles Vignes,” from 70- to 100-year-old vines, rich, serious, sensuous, sensational).
       Then, just to pleasantly surprise me and upend the conventional wisdom some more, a friend went to Paris and brought me back a delicious 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau, made by Pierre-Marie Chermette at Domaine du Vissoux and bottled for the venerable wine bar/shop Legrand—it's not chaptalized, barely filtered, and hearty and jolly as a peasant uncle in a Dumas novel. An augury? Things seem to be looking up after all.
copyright 2010-2015 by Brian St. Pierre