Saturday, November 30, 2019

Holiday season starts with vivacious Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges Duboeuf

With Thanksgiving weekend here, the U.S. has entered the holiday season, and that means a new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau - the young Gamay wine from Beaujolais, France.

Georges Duboeuf, founder of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, is the acknowledged father of this world-wide phenomenon in which Beaujolais wine is released just weeks after harvest.  Because it's bottled quickly after fermentation, the wine has great freshness and the fruit notes are far more present than in aged wine.  But Beaujolais Nouveau is more than a novelty; in fact, over the course of many vintages, it seems to have evolved into a refreshing, light-bodied wine with delightful fruit character that is worthy of wine lovers' consideration.

Georges' son Franck Duboeuf, who manages the winery, and his wife Anne, who runs the tourism park known as Le Hameau Duboeuf, were in New York City last week to open their new releases.  They joined a group of New York-based wine media at Brasserie Ruhlmann.

Georges told the group that the growing conditions in 2019 were not ideal, with severe summer storms pummeling vines and diminishing yield.  But, as harvest approached, he said the weather was "fantastic" and turned sunny.  Franck said that 2019 is "a Beaujolais vintage" and a "vintage of pleasure," stating it has "much more vivacity" than 2018.  He also noted the freshness and good acidity in this year's young wines.

Maison Duboeuf produces three styles for the new wines: Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Nouveau Village, and Beaujolais Nouveau Rose.  Franck proudly shared that his 22-year-old son, who has been studying oenology, vinified the rose wine.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 - With a lush pomegranate nose, the wine had rich flavors of blackberries and mulberries, with a light to medium body.  A delicious rendition of the Nouveau style.  $12.99

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2019 - This wine was created with grapes from the 38 designated Beaujolais AOC Villages. The 2019 had a sweet bing cherry nose, and on the palate there was tart red fruits, noticeable acidity, and a light, fresh finish. $14.99

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rose 2019 - What a joy to know there is a rose for Beaujolais Nouveau season now! Introduced last year to wide popularity, the rose version of this young wine continues.  The 2019 had a nose of strawberries and white carnations.  The flavors of strawberries, raspberries, and a sweep of cloves played on the palate with a light touch and refreshing acidity. $12.99

At the event, we also tasted some of the other fine wines from the house, including:

Domaine Bois Rosier Pouilly-Fuisse 2018 - An intense white wine from Chardonnay grapes, it had a creamy texture and generous flavors of ripe yellow apples and creme Anglaise. $44.99

Les Vins Georges Duboeuf Chateau des Capitans Julienas 2018 - This Cru Beaujolais had a nose of wild blackberries, with dense blackcurrant and raspberry flavors, good acidity, and fairly light body. $21.99

Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-A-Vent 2018 - Another Cru Beaujolais, this had a spicier nose of blackberry and pink peppercorns.  The flavor profile included ripe black and blueberries and a touch of minerality with light tannins and good finish.  $26.99

The wines of Georges Duboeuf are widely available, so no matter which style Beaujolais you wish to pour over the holidays, there's a broad range ready for your table.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Kay Brothers’ Precise Vineyard Management Reaps Rewards in McLaren Vale

Kay Brothers Winery is renowned in Australia for being the oldest McLaren Vale winery still owned by the original family.  Yet although the operation dates back to 1890, this is a winery that is decidedly not resting on its past laurels. 

Duncan Kennedy, Chief Winemaker of Kay Brothers Winery, visited New York City this fall to attend a media dinner with some of his current releases.  Duncan is a seasoned winemaker who began apprenticing in Padthaway vineyards as he studied for his viticulture degree. After a few years of consulting in South Australia, he shifted focus and locales, beginning to make wine in Okanagan Valley, Bordeaux, and Napa.  That was followed by post-graduate studies in Oenology and then working in cellars in McLaren Vale. 

Duncan stepped up to chief winemaker and viticulturalist at Kay Brothers in 2015.  In describing the region, he told us that it’s 50 kilometers south of Adelaide and has a Mediterranean climate, with breezy hills and nooks and valleys. 

It’s clear his start in viticulture is reflected in his careful vineyard management.  He shared that he “spends most of my time in the vineyard.”  He’s always checking on the vines and the grapes to ensure “that they’re in a happy place.”

The wines Duncan brought with him included Shiraz as well as – unexpectedly – Grenache.  In the McLaren Vale, 50% of plantings are Shiraz, 15% are Cabernet Sauvignon, and a modest 5% are Grenache.  Yet the grape is clearly one of Duncan’s passions, as he admitted, “I’m a bit obsessed with Grenache.”   He conveyed his pride in the results, stating, “We’re definitely making some very exciting wine.”

The wines tasted that night were uniformly impressive, and included:

Kay Brothers Amery Basket Pressed Grenache 2017 – The basket press is used for crushing grapes in a less rough way. Duncan told us the soil for this wine is sandy and produces a more perfumed wine.  The basket pressed wines have soft tannins and the gentle treatment is aimed at preserving that freshness.  I found that this lively wine offered rosemary and blackberry on the nose with sour cherry on the midpalate and a long finish.  $39.99

Kay Brothers Amery Basket Pressed Shiraz 2016 – A well-balanced wine with spicy pepper and ripe black cherries on the nose and palate.  The tannins are well integrated and the length is good.  $39.99

Kay Brothers Amery Hillside Shiraz 2015 – Grown on the Hillside vineyard that was originally planted in 1892, this wine was held back for two years, aging in American and French oak, and was bottled in 2017.  Duncan regards this wine as a more traditional McClaren Vale-style Shiraz.  A big Shiraz, this had black cherry and blackberry fruit character with a perfumed nose of cherries and herbs.  $59.99

Kay Brothers Amery Griffon’s Key Grenache 2017 -  A big wine, which offered flavors of black pepper, thick skinned-black plums, and ripe raspberries. It had a plush mouthfeel, with elegant smoothness.  Duncan sources this wine from two different parts (top and bottom) of the same sloped vineyard.  A terrific expression of Grenache.  $59.99

Kay Brothers Amery Cuthbert Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – Named for one of the family owners of a past generation, this was a complex, big wine with blackberry, plums, balsamic, and black olives mingling on the palate. Duncan shared, “Cabernet doesn’t like to be too stressed,” and told us that these vines are shaded by timber.  A beautiful, expressive wine with a long finish.  $119

Kay Brothers Amery Block 6 Shiraz 2015 –  Duncan told us that this wine was grown in “a dryer year.”  While the resulting crop was small, the grapes offered intensity.  The 2015 Block 6 Shiraz had a spicy nose with black fruit.  On the palate, there was huge black fruit flavor as well as pepper and spiciness.  Fine tannins were well integrated and the wine had huge length as well as a touch of minerality. $119

Kay Brothers Amery Block 6 Shiraz 2017 – In contrast to the 2015, this vintage was during a wet year with thriving canopies.  The wine was full-bodied, with gorgeous blackberry and mulberry fruit, herbal notes of rosemary.  It was elegant and smooth with good length.  As we complimented the Block 6, Duncan told us it “reflects the giving nature of the vintage.”  $119

Tasting through a few vintages that had such different weather conditions is a real test of a winery’s ability to produce quality wine consistently.  These Kay Brothers releases are all solid, delicious wines that are a testament to the care both in the vineyard and the cellar.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Reinvention Down Under – Kim Longbottom’s Next Act

Kim Longbottom has been successfully leading Henry’s Drive Vignerons, a winery she began with her late husband, for a number of years. Now Kim has embarked on a new winemaking journey with the creation of Vintage Longbottom.   The fresh venture welcomes Kim’s daughter Margo to the family business.  With Vintage Longbottom, Kim has moved her winemaking ambitions from the Padthaway area to two of Australia’s revered wine regions: McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills. 

I had the opportunity to catch up with Kim at a media dinner in New York this fall. We started with three wines from the H line.  The labels are distinctive, with an oversized, patchwork letter that hints of handcrafted quality. To this point, Kim stated, “I hope my wines look like they taste.” It was true that the restraint on the packaging reflected the elegance these wines showed in the glass. 
The “H” wines we tasted, all sourced from Adelaide Hills, included:

Vintage Longbottom H Sauvignon Blanc 2018 – This wine was round, with ripe tangerine notes and a nice amount of acidity to keep the wine lifted.  I found it a surprisingly luscious Sauv Blanc.  I was most impressed because this was Kim’s first attempt at working with the grape. $29.99

Vintage Longbottom H Chardonnay 2018 -  This chardonnay presented an assortment of rich aromas including butterscotch and white flowers.  The wine had good weight, and the gentle less stirring produced a level of complexity the wine.  $29.99

Vintage Longbottom H Syrah 2017 – With black pepper and blackberry on nose, this spicy Syrah had delicious red and black fruit and spice on the palate.  The deep fruit flavors are in part a result of a portion of the fruit (10%) being fermented in whole bunches.  Those tannins were softened by ageing in new and used larger format barrels. $29.99

As we moved to the second line of wines, Henry’s Drive, Kim shared that with this line she is making three last transitional vintages that will use grapes from Padthaway and McClaren Vale.

Vintage Longbottom Henry’s Drive Shiraz 2017 – This richly textured wine had notes of black pepper, eucalyptus, and black olive. The layers of flavor included black plum, chocolate, and spice, and the wine had well-integrated tannins and a long finish. $49.99

Vintage Longbottom Henry’s Drive Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – With a tantalizing aroma of roses and cassis, this wine with grippy tannins and big length revealed layers of raspberry, blackberry, and spice.  It's a wine that would marry well with Australian lamb.  $49.99

Vintage Longbottom Henry’s Drive Magnus Shiraz 2017 – Offering inviting aromatics of toffee, blackberry, and herbs, the wine had flavors of ripe black cherries, blackberries and a dusting of white pepper.  Another big bodied wine with considerable length.  It's fermented in open fermenters with skin contact for three weeks – creating a full bodied wine with great depth of flavor. $79.99

When it comes to Kim's approach to her new wines, she emphasized the importance of picking time, admitting that Australia has at times picked when grapes are overripe.  With Kim's oversight of harvest and selection of new vineyard sites, Vintage Longbottom is producing Australian wines that manage to be rich, but restrained, and always balanced.