Sunday, November 4, 2012

More wines from my back pocket notebooks....

More wines from my back pocket notebooks....

Everybody knows my penchant for Champagne. I even possess an extensive collection of Champagne capsules that I have been gathering for the past 20 years. My father bought me my first books to put them into and I still go from time to time to Reims, in the 2 shops the closest to the cathedral, to buy some limited edition and old and rare caps. Champagne is festive, bubbly, delicious and refreshing and usually should put a smile back on your face. Here is a few that are sure to please you, followed by a few wines from my current back pocket notebook. 

NV Billecart Salmon Brut Réserve Champagne France

Founded in 1818, Billecart-Salmon is a champagne house located in Mareuil-sur-Ay, France. The house was born from the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. It is one of the few remaining family owned house. 

Frankly, Billecart-Salmon has always been one of my favorite Champagne houses and I love their Rosé, which is also one of my top 3 Rosés with Laurent-Perrier Rosé and Marc Hebrart Rosé (a great small producer also located in Mareuil-sur-Ay).

Although it does not have, in my opinion, the appeal of their Rosé, Brut Réserve is still a sure value. Light, bright, a touch yeasty and toasted, nothing overwhelming but always very decent, enjoyable, balanced, quite long and lovely overall. (But I still think their Rosé is way above in quality). (Tasted last on 18.7.2012)

NV Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne France

Founded in 1584, Gosset is one of the oldest Champagne houses of the Champagne region in north-eastern France, located in Ay. No need to say that I love Gosset Brut Excellence, which is definitely my Champagne Brut of choice, hands down, for any occasion. 

Light, crisp, fragrant, very feminine and elegant, Gosset Excellence Brut is like a ballerina dancing on your palate, stimulating your taste buds and whetting your appetite. Balanced and refreshing, every sip is so enjoyable, the first glass is never enough. Far from the fat and the rich, vinous Brut out-there, Gosset Excellence is simply too good to be missed, especially for the price, which remains somewhat of a bargain compared to a lot more expensive and commercial champagnes on the market. (Tasted last in February 2012)      

1990 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne France 

No need to introduce Louis Roederer Champagne house that has been the Champagne of the Queens and Kings of Europe and Tsars of Russia since its the late 19th century. Or even Cristal, their prestige cuvee, available commercially since 1945, which, along with Dom Perignon and Krug, has been considered as the standard of high quality and luxurious Champagne.

Founded in 1776 under the name of Dubois Pere et Fils, it was renamed Louis Roederer in 1883 by its new eponymous owner, who inherirated the Champagne House from his uncle.

The 1990 Cristal possesses a lovely texture and a long finish, enhanced by yeasty, bready toasted notes, which mingle with aromas of yellow fruits, hay and elderflower. The balance and acidity don't fell to impress as well. Really  nice experience in the glass. I love it. (Tasted last on 18.7.2012)

2000 Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2eme Grand Cru Classe Saint Estephe Bordeaux France

Flagship of the Saint-Estephe appellation, the most northern fief of classified growth in the Haut-Medoc region, Cos d'Estournel has had an essential role on keeping the public interest on the appellation; which somewhat always seems in the shadows of other appellations.  

Despite the tremendous efforts from such classic as Montrose, Calon Segur and Cos, which, over the last decade worked hard to change that reputation and restore the public image of the appellation, producing fleshier, more opulent wines with riper fruit and richer texture, the wines from Saint Estephe still don't seem to have the appeal of those coming from the neighboring appellations to the south.

For this 2000, that I tasted many times, and specifically for this particular bottle: Nose is discreet and slightly woody. The palate is unfortunately to young and a bit tight at present. The tannins and the oak predominate overall, challenging the balance and harmony of the palate and masking the fruit. Otherwise the texture is fairly complex and rich, and the wine presents very good potential, yet for now it is too tight, tannic and closed. Not ready in my opinion, the tannins need to settle down and integrate. We will have to get to this one in a few more years. (Tasted last on 29.10.2012)

The finish is also quite dry; yet it is not surprising though as Saint Estephe wines are usually drier and more austere than most of their counterparts from the Haut-Medoc region, which may explains why consumers favor other appellations. Saint Julien, which offers the best compromise in terms of overall balance, fruit and structure, are usually fruitier; Margaux are more feminine and subtle; and Pauillac are the richest in texture and strongest in structure; while Moulis Listrac can be rustic and earthy.

1990 Chateau L'Evangile Pomerol Bordeaux France

The nose is rich of wild aromas mingling with underbrush, mushrooms, venison, game, very autumnal. The palate is rich, complex, with nice weight and length, well framed by integrated yet present tannins. Although still a bit young, it showed nice potential and decanting was needed. Let it rest for at least 45 minutes before serving. Very nice overall but still a touch too tight and chewy for my taste. The tannins may not please everybody at this time, yet the wine showed very good potential, texture and structure. We will definitely have to go back to this one within the next few years to observe the evolution. (Tasted last on 29.10.2012)

1982 Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2eme Grand Cru Classe Saint Julien Bordeaux France

As it is one of the usual suspect wines on my boss table, I had the chance to open and taste quite a few bottles and I must say that this wine is a bit temperamental. The cork is quite fragile and happens to break often. An Ah-So opener is indispensable, yet careful of not to push the cork in the bottle (Ah-So opener is normally called a twin prong cork puller). 

For this particular bottle, I didn't have my usual tools and evidently, even with the utmost care and years of experience, the cork happened to break at the very bottom. The remain part in the neck was immediately sucked in, splashing some drops all around, including my shirt, tie and my suit (fortunately dark as usual, to be used as a shied, very efficient when opening and tasting wines. Trust my experience, darker cloths are highly suggested in trade tasting and long gourmet dinners). 

Also, at first, just after opening the bottle, although the cork smell usually really good, some bottles may be slightly closed or tight on delivering their full palette aromatic, or I should say their Bouquet at this age. So the first thing that comes to mind is decanting, it needs to breath to fully express itself (what will you do after nearly 30 years stock in a bottle?). It usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes for this wine to wake up and bit more to start settling down and open up. "Patience is mother of virtue" becomes an unavoidable reality with this wine. Yet, waiting for this late bloomer is often rewarding. The drops were just a way to protest against the unjustified way to open such a bottle with a lame bottle opener. (Tasted last on 29.10.2012)

1982 Chateau Palmer 3eme Grand Cru Classe Margaux Bordeaux France 

No need to say that Palmer has always been one of Margaux most recognized offsprings. I never really tasted a bad bottle of Palmer in more than 20 years, even with older vintages going back to the 40's. They were not all great, don't get me wrong and that can be said for all Chateaux depending on the vintage; yet they were very consistent and in most case offering a really pleasant experience. 

But I'm a bit buyist as Palmer brings back to my mind very good memories of all the countless occasions I had the opportunity the be at the Chateaux or tasting the wines. Bernard  de Laage de Meux,  Palmer's marketing and communication director, has seen me under most of the roles and positions I had in the last 12 years, meeting him at the Chateau and many other places around the world: Sommelier, Maitre d'Hotel for private dinners and events working with a caterer friend of mine; Sommelier, Wine Buyer and Wine Director for established Wine & Spirits retail stores in New York; occasionally also as a guests and buyer during the 10+ years of En Primeur campaign before I stopped going because prices became way too high; Sommelier, wine buyer for restaurant while working in London and more recently Hong Kong.

Palmer is an excellent wine, and I know some people who do not like it but I do, and I can not understand what is not to like about this wine.

This 1982 was bright and light, with lovely red fruit enhanced by crisp acidity. Youthful, very gentle, smooth and refreshing, the palate is also quite versatile as it could even be nicely paired with fish. I just loved the acidity of this well balanced, very integrated and so easy to drink wine. While for most people Bordeaux is the expression of full bodied and tannic wines, this wine is the complete opposite of this image, which is one more reason for me to love it.  Highly recommended. (Tasted last on 29.10.2012)

2004 Jacques Frederic Mugnier Chambolle Musigny Burgundy 

Light, bright red showing unripe cherry aromas mingling with earthy, smoky, mineral notes on the nose. Slightly tight, it needs to open up. The palate is also light with green notes, sign of lack of ripress. Yet nothing major or even unusual for the vintage, as 2004 was not a very good vintage in Burgundy, more like a do-your-home-work-then-pick-and-choose type of vintage.

However, this 2004 nice, subtle refreshing and juicy red cherry flavors occupying the mid-palate somewhat help to forget the first impression. And the spicy, peppery nuances mixed with the mineral touch in the finish, allowed me to conclude that in the end, it is a fine example of a good wine for an ok vintage. (Tasted last on 18.07.2012)

1992 Chateau Cheval Blanc 1er Grand Cru Classe A Saint Emilion Bordeaux France

Nice surprise overall for a wine from such an odd and bad vintage as 1992 in Bordeaux. But, as they say, it is during the odd and bad vintages that one can recognize the value and quality of great producers, and more especially gifted winemakers: as it is more difficult to make good wines on bad vintages, than bad wines in good vintages. That said Cheval Blanc is never really bad, even the worst vintages always seem to deliver something more than average or mediocre.

Not everybody can pretend to be a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe A. And despite what some people may think about Bordeaux classification and especially the controversial right bank, most Chateaux were classified depending on their respective qualities, the price they fetched at that time, but also their reputation and the consumer's demand (i.e. the more demands, the higher the price and the value, hence a confirmation of the quality).

And that fact still hold strong even today. Some producers, Chateaux owners and wine trade professionals as well as wine critics may want to see certain things changing. And it is true that the tremendous efforts and quality achieved by some estates should be rewarded. Yet, the Bordelais hate changes and love the comforting idea that things will never change and things will continue routinely as they have been for the past 30 years.

In short, as long as interested buyers will be able to speculate on quality and prices before the release of the wines and continue to source and buy wines as a lucrative investment instead of for their own consumption and as long as there will be people rich enough to pay for them, then everything will be fine. 15 years ago London was strong, then New York became stronger for a while, and a few emerging countries like Brazil showed great potential and now Hong Kong and Beijing are the place to sell for Bordelais negociants who litterally turned their back or even abandoned their previous clients to concentrate on the Asian world where most of the world money has been for the past 4 years (although, it is now slightly decreasing and slowing down, but this is an entirely other subject....).

Coming back to that 1992 Cheval Blanc, I was quite impressed and it was a nice surprise as I said earlier. It lacked a bit of concentration and felt slightly diluted but it is normal for a bad vintage compared to a regular or even a good one. However, it was still focus and balanced and pretty expressive, with interesting fruit flavors, good acidity and tannic structure. Spicy, earthy, underbrush, smoky finish. Lovely and interesting overall. (Could it be a fake??? I do not think so, as we inspect the wines that we buy for the company about 3 times before buying, especially when we buy from Auction houses like Chistie's, Sotheby's, Zachy's, Acker Merrall & Condit, Spectrum, amongst others).

That's all for today, I have plenty more short tasting notes in my tasting books, so it is not good bye but to be continued with the next post.....


LeDom du Vin


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