Sunday, December 21, 2008

Corton rouge announces it's coming out party

Long overlooked and underrated, the red wines made from the hill of Corton are about to receive a major boost. Domaine Romanee Conti has announced that it will be leasing vineyards on Corton from the Domaine Prince Florent de Merode. The grand crus Les Renardes, Les Bressandes and Clos du Roi will be exploited by DRC beginning with the 2009 vintage. DRC co-director Aubert de Villaine cited the prime location of the plots and the old vines they contain as the primary reasons for the domaine's interest. The Prince and Princess Merode recently died within six months of each other and, according to Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator, the heirs of the estate contacted DRC about the possible lease.

This arrangement is big news. DRC has long prided itself in only producing grand cru wines from the best appellations. Excluding a little Vosne Romanee premier cru that is bottled every few years, the only red wines made by the estate are from grand cru sites in Vosne Romanee and Flagey-Echezaux. When the domaine decided to make some white wine it bought a plot in Le Montrachet. Oh yeah, DRC are also produces two barrels of Batard-Montrachet, but they choose not to release it. Instead the Batard is drunk in-house and given away as gifts. The fact that Domaine Romanee Conti is interested in making and bottling wines from the hill of Corton speaks volumes about the potential quality of this appellation. While many collectors ignore the reds from Corton, the management of DRC obviously sees their potential.

Many consumers are of the mind set that red Cortons are not worthy of their grand cru status, but this notion is disputed by some of the leading critics. Clive Coates places Corton Clos du Roi, along with Le Musigny, La Tache, Chambetin and Romanee Conti, in the highest classificaion of Burgundy's vineyards. The Burghound himself, Allen Meadows, has said that reds from Corton are indeed grand cru wines, but they usually need a good twenty years to reach maturity. I have found that Cortons are often hard and firm when young. The charmless/coarse nature of many young Cortons is most likely the main reason why many Burdgundy drinkers do not hold them in high esteem. Despite the critical acclaim, the prices charged for Corton rouge have remained well below that of the Cote de Nuits grand crus. The Cortons bottled by DRC, however, will surely be outrageously expensive and highly sought after by collectors. The attention DRC is going to bring to the appellation will benefit all the growers who bottle wines from the hill. Perhaps reds from Corton will finally receive the prestige that has eluded them for so long.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A true kabinett

Eric Asimov, wine writer for The New York Times, recently posted about a bottle of 2001, Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Kabinett on his blog The Pour. The main point of Mr. Asimov's piece was that this bottle actually tasted like a kabinett, unlike many wines bearing that label today. Germany's warming climate has resulted in Kabinetts that have the weight and richness of spatlese or even auslese. While delicious in their own right, these wines do not have the profile of classic kabinetts. The Asimov post reminded me of a few Prum 2001s that lay buried in my cellar and I decided to crack one open late in the day on Thanksgiving. When first released, the Prum 2001's showed strong sulphur-like aromas, but this is typical of the young wines released by this estate. Sulphur aromas are said to disappear after several years and sure enough, my bottle had a nose that was fresh and full of flowers. The wine was elegant in the mouth and nearly dry. I have been shying away from German wines lately due to the sweetness that many possess, but I was thrilled to see that the wine had become drier with age (yet not tired). As Mr. Asimov points out, it is a shame that this style of kabinett has been missing in recent vintages. The German winemakers like to say that the kabinetts made in recent vintages provide more bang for the buck. While it is true the wines are richer and more intense then one expects for their level, it does not make them a better kabinett. I enjoyed the light body and beautiful texture of the 2001 Prum and I would have been disappointed if the wine was very ripe and sweet. Some professionals have tasted the 2007's from Prum and they claim that they are similar the 2001s in style. That would be refreshing.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gloomy mood at the Hospices de Beaune

Each morning, while listening to the radio, I am bombarded with reports detailing the horrible state of our economy. The constant onslaught of negative financial news can be very depressing, but there may be a silver lining for Burgundy fans. In Beaune, the annual Hospices de Beaune auction was recently held and the Wine Spectator is reporting that wine prices have decreased dramatically. 450 barrels of 2008 red Burgundy were sold at prices 31.5% lower from those fetched by the 2007s last year. Likewise, 94 barrels of white Burgundy sold at prices that were also down from last year, but by only 2.45%. While the region no longer sets their prices based on the results of the auction, it is certainly an indicator of the interest in the vintage. Most reports coming from Burgundy consider 2008 to be a strong year for white wine, but spotty for the reds. The vintage may turn out to be very good for some producers, but it is generating little buzz from the press. Although the growers are always reluctant to go in reverse with thier pricing, perhaps the global economic crisis will bring a bit of sanity to the region. There are most likely sizeable quantities of 2006's piling up in the cellars of many domaines and this will only put more pressure on the prices of the subsequent vintages. Good deals should be abundant for the U.S. consumer in the coming year, assuming some have the money to spend.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving day at Chez Bobo

This was the first Thanksgiving day hosted at Chez Bobo and it proved to be more work than expected. Granted, my wife awoke at 5am to begin the cooking, but I am in charge of the dish cleaning and this proved to be a momumental task. I underestimated the number of dishes that would be involved in preparing the feast and spent a good portion of the afternoon cleaning up. The great food and wine made it all worth it, however. A nice sparkling Vouvray Brut from Domaine Aubuisieres got the festivities off to a good start. Next up, a rich and creamy Jean Velut, Champagne, Blanc de Blanc, NV that was very good.

I love the rieslings from the Wachau region of Austria, but I also enjoy the gruner veltliners made in the Federspiel style (12.5% maximum alcohol). Their are four producers in the Wachau that are often sited as the best and we tasted Federspiels from three of these estates. Due to the difficulty in obtaining their wines, Knoll was not included. The Hirtzberger, Gruner Veltliner, Federpiel, Rotes Tor, 2006 was nice, but seemed hard and bitter next to the competition. Richer and rounder on the palate was the Prager, Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, Hinter der Burg, 2006. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this wine, because in the past I found those from Prager to be little too clean and soulless. On this day, the Prager tasted delicous and showed great balance. The company I work for distributes the wine, so I may seem biaised, but I found the F.X. Pichler, Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel, Klostersatz, 2006 to be the best of the flight. Typical of the wines from this estate, the Pichler had a seemless texture that gave it a greater sense of elegance. Hirtzberger and Prager are terrific producers, but the wines from F.X. Pichler show the touch of a truly gifted winemaker.

Ironically, after my earlier post declaring that gamay based wines work best on Thanksgiving, I did not open a single Beaujolais. I had every intention of cracking open a couple cru bottlings, but my brother in-law showed up with two grand cru wines from the Cote d'Or. What would you expect the Burgschnauzer to do? The Jacky Truchot, Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru, 2003 was an obvious "leaker," but the wine still showed pretty well. Although it appeared rather advanced for its age, the wine was complex and elegant. The Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays, Grand Cru, 2003 was a perfect bottle and showed well, but I was a little disappointed with the roasted flavor it displayed. The more Burgundies I drink from 2003, the less I like the vintage.

Despite this being the first Thanksgiving at Chez Bobo, the turkey turned out great and the entire meal was a success. The next night, we attempted to plough through some of the leftovers and this time we drank a Beaujolais. Confirming my earlier claims, a bottle of Domaine Vissoux, Fleurie, Poncie, 2007 was a perfect match for the meal. The wine washed down the various foods without any conflict. Next year, I will be sure to crack open some cru Beaujolais. Although, I might be persauded otherwise if someone shows with up with a couple grand cru Burgundies.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Great Food and Wine Pairing Disaster

Thanksgiving should be declared a national food and wine pairing disaster. I thought about calling FEMA, but that would probably make the situation worse. Many people choose to serve big, tannic wines (i.e. CA cabernets & Bordeaux) which can be transformed into bitter, sour swill by foods such as cranberry sauce. It may not be a perfect match, but gamay based wines are able to wash down such culinary landmines without major difficulty. With that in mind, I would like to officially endorse cru Beaujolais as the perfect wine for this long day of eating. The forward, fruity nature of the gamay grape pairs wonderfully with lean meats such as turkey and also works well with traditional side dishes. The best Beaujolais are serious wines that keep the drinker engaged and eager to consume more. Some people feel that Americans should drink wines that are native to the U.S. on this national holiday. Zinfandel is often cited by the press as the best wine to be served on Thanksgiving. While that maybe patriotic, I like to be awake when the pumpkin pie is served. Then again, if the in-laws are really difficult to deal with, a nice, big 17% Zin might be the perfect choice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Champagne Sunday - 11/23

" Milk chaser please."

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Reinhard Lowenstein, located in the lower Mosel town Winningen, is an extremely passionate winemaker who has attracted a cult following in Germany. In the US, however, his wines are virtually unknown. Some members of the American press have recently begun reviewing Lowenstein's wines, labeled Heymann-Lowenstein, but they remain off the radar of most German wine aficionados here. Mr. Lowenstein is obsessed with the notion of terroir and he bottles his cuvees according to the type of soil they originate from. As a winemaker, Lowenstein emphasizes minimal intervention. The 2005 Heymann-Lowenstein, Riesling, Schieferterrassen showed a deep yellow color and a nose infused with petrol. While not uncommon in older bottles, it is unusual to find petrol aromas in a young riesling. It appears that Lowenstein exposes his wines to a good amount of oxygen during the elevage which might explain the advanced nature of the wine's color and aroma. In the mouth, the wine was medium bodied, dry and lively. Schieferterrasen is the estate's basic bottling and is a blend of several vineyards consisting of various soil types.

The one aspect that separates the dry wines made by Lowenstein from those of other growers in Germany is their beautiful texture. Most of the trocken style wines that I have tasted seem coarse, hard and overly intense. In contrast, Lowenstein's wines caress the palate and appear to be almost weightless. While drinking the Schieferterrasen, it occurred to me that this style of wine might be a flash back to what good German Riesling tasted like prior to the invention of the Pradikat classification system (i.e. Kabinett, Spatlese, etc.). Before the growers began haulting the fermentation and intentionally leaving sugar in the wines, I suspect that most were dry/off dry. The best wines of Germany were highly sought after in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, but from what I have read, they were considered dry table wines. The Mosel region is cold, and it is probable that in some of the past vintages not all the sugar would have converted to alcohol. These cooler vintages would have resulted in wines with some perceivable sweetness, but they were most likely drier and fuller bodied those made today. The estate of Reinhard Lowenstein may seem like a new exciting discovery, but his wines might have felt right at home a century ago.