Sunday, April 24, 2022

Georges DuBoeuf Cru Beaujolais 2019 and 2020 Add to Growing Luster of Region

Living in the shadow of some of the world's most revered vineyards is something that may feel like a bit of a hardship, but the Beaujolais wines of Georges DuBoeuf are getting along just fine, thank you. In fact, the proximity to Burgundy's Cote d'Or is even garnering the region some accolades as a value choice from the area. 

Tasting through a number of 2020 and 2019 bottles from DuBoeuf's cru Beaujolais wines, I was pleased to note that they were a pleasure in their own right - and no comparison to other regions or styles was necessary. These are wines that are thoughtfully made and not trying to be anything other than terrific renderings of tangy, fresh, fruity Gamay.

It's always a pleasure to see Romain Teyteau, Export Director, North America for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. Romain was in New York to show a selection of current releases at Benjamin Prime Steakhouse. 

I was thrilled that we began with the Domaine Beranger Pouilly-Fuisse 2019. Pouilly-Fuisse has always been one of my favorite whites, and this one was drinking beautifully with aromatic white flowers and honey on the nose and a round mouthfeel with yellow apples and cream on the palate. 

With an assortment of appetizers, we sampled the 2020 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages. The 2020 vintage has been characterized as "warm and clean" and this Villages wine was a reflection of that - tart raspberry on the nose and palate with an easy appeal and no perceptible tannin. 

Moving on to our main courses (steaks all around) we began to explore the Cru Beaujolais wines of Georges DuBoeuf. 

The Chateau de Saint-Amour 2020 had more black fruit character than is often found. Romain explained that the winemaking involves both whole cluster and destemmed fruit, which produces wines of intensity while keeping the texture silky. 

Clos des Quatre Ventes Fleurie 2020 offered attractive aromas of tobacco and dried cherry. The fruit here is from a historic vineyard of 80-120 year old vines. The palate was full of tart cranberry and raspberry with bright acidity and low tannin. 

Domaine de Javernieres Cote du Py Morgon had a delicate nose of violets and raspberries. The soil here is a cumbly schist that encourages vines to root deeply bringing minerality to the wine. On the palate, raspberries and blackberries with a touch of balsamic are balanced by light spice. The wine has good length. 

Chateau des Capitans Julienas 2020 is full of ripe black cherry aromas and delivers the same on the palate, along with a hint of white pepper. Romain explained that the wine is made with some parcels going through carbonic maceration and others not. In addition, parts of the harvest are destemmed while others are whole cluster. The resulting wine has power and length while still maintaining elegance and low tannin. 

Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-A-Vent 2019 had delicious cherry and spice aromas that paid off on the palate. Cassis notes added to the lushness. This is a wine of depth that will age, defying the idea that Beaujolais should only be drunk young. 

It's always an education to drink through a number of the Cru Beaujolais villages. Each has its own special characteristics - some bolder, others more delicate, yet all quite special. These wines of Georges DuBoeuf reflect the pleasures that the 2019 and 2020 vintages have to offer and bring credit to the region. 



Saturday, April 23, 2022

Cultivating Time at Chateau Palmer Champagne

Chateau Palmer, a very English-sounding Champagne house, was in fact founded in 1947 by seven French grape growers. The owners had set their sights on the British market and chose what they considered to be a classy English name for their venture: "Palmer." Today the house is esteemed for the consistency and elegance of its cuvees. More than 50 percent of vineyards used by the Chateau are designated as Grand and Premier Cru vineyards located in the Montagne de Reims area which lies between the Marne and Vesle rivers. 

Today the house is dedicated to sustainability and has committed to providing sustainable protection of the vineyards for the sake of the wine, the grape growers and winemakers, the environment, and its customers. 

At a media dinner at Scarpetta, Raymond Ringeval, Export Director of Champagne Palmer & Co., led a small group through a tasting of some current releases as well as some rarer bottles. 

We began with the Brut Reserve NV which, according to Raymond, always has at least 50% Chardonnay. He told us that it is rare to have this much Chardonnay in this kind of blend, but that this "queen of grapes" is one of the signatures of Chateau Palmer, as they source from two of the Grand Cru villages where Chardonnay thrives. The Brut Reserve was crisp with fresh citrus notes as well as toasty brioche. It is aged four years on lees before bottling. 

Next we sampled the award-winning Blanc de Blanc made from 100% Chardonnay sourced from Premier Cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims as well as from the Cote De Sezanne. Raymond explained that this was one of their most renowned Champagnes. Of special note is the aging these wines see; magnum bottles of the Blanc de Blanc spend 10 years on lees. The 750 ml bottle had 6 years on lees and had notes of crisp lemon, toast, and hazlenuts.  

These non-vintage Champagnes spend more time on lees than many, contributing to their complexity and roundness. In addition to the grapes and winemaking techniques, aging is another important factor in what makes these Champagnes special. According to Raymond, "We're cultivating time." 

The Rose Solera NV Champagne has 42% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, and there is the addition of 8% of Solera of Pinot Noir.  The solera was begun 40 years ago, and every year new wine is added to it. This unexpected addition is the source of extra richness and complexity. Of all the Rose Champagne I've had, none have made such an impression on me. There is a power to this wine, along with finesse. On the palate, straweberries, baking spice, and cream.  

The Vintage 2012 Champagne was very aromatic with notes of ripe pear and marzipan. On the palate there was great complexity and layers of marzipan, pear, and toasted almonds. The wine also had minerality and bright acidity. Raymond explained that the house only creates a vintage wine every 5-6 years. 

The next wine was a special cuvee known as Amazone. The name hearkens to the mythical race of women warriors and reflects the strength and elegance in the wine. The current release of Amazone is a blend of three top vintages - in this case 2012, 2009 and 2010 - as well as a solera Chardonnay. It spent 8 years on lees. The wine was dense with flavors of apple compote, baking spice, and marzipan. A delicious and unique cuvee. 

We ended the evening with the Vintage 1999 Chauteau Palmer Champagne. Raymond told us that vintage Champagne is part of the Palmer DNA.  This wine had aromas of dried fruits and toffee, which continued on the palate, along with minerality and a freshness that belied the wine's 23 years.  

Among the world of Champagne, Chateau Palmer is making wines that are distinct due to their high concentration of excellent Chardonnay in the cuvees as well for their penchant for long aging. I was impressed by the line, which had excellent choices for many moods and occasions - from parties to noteworthy anniversaries.    

Friday, April 22, 2022

Famille Bouey Celebrates Two Centuries in Bordeaux with Fresh Approach

Few wine regions are as steeped in tradition as Bordeaux. While this has had many benefits – being world-renowned for high quality wine is an enviable position—it has also created challenges for wineries wishing to create a new path in the region. For Famille Bouey, the answer is to respect the past while innovating for today’s wine consumers who want drinkable, fresh wines at value prices.

The Bouey family has been growing grapes and winemaking in Bordeaux’s Medoc region for two centuries, starting when Jean Bouey first planted vines there in 1821.  In recent years, the winery committed to an environmental management system, which shifted the vineyards away from artificial chemical treatments and towards biodiversity on their lands.

I had the opportunity to taste through much of the current Famille Bouey portfolio at a media dinner at the Capital Grille in midtown.  

Our introduction to the winery was an entry level wine called Oh la Vache! (holy cow!) 2020. Fun labeling and a fresh, accessible palate make this a crowd-pleasing red. It’s comprised of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and has a fruit-forward character and no perceptible tannins.

Famille Bouey Cuvee 11 2019 is a wine made from 100% Merlot. 2019 was a good growing season that produced a wine redolent of blackberry, black plums, and raspberry flavors, as well as low tannin and fresh acidity. This wine is a great value at $12.99  The number eleven in the name is a nod to Jean Bouey’s first 11 hectares that he planted in 1821.

Famille Bouey Cuvee 20 2020 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The number twenty in the name references when the fourth generation of the Bouey family joined the business in 2020.  This wine had fresh blackberries and balsamic notes on the nose and palate and well-integrated tannins. This young Cabernet could certainly age, and at $12.99 it would be great to see how it developed.

Family Bouey Cuvee 58 2019 is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine had a more complex aroma with blackberries and balsamic notes on the nose and a layered palate with black fruit and a hint of white pepper. It had considerable length and well-integrated tannin. I found this wine delicious – and what a great value at $14.99. The 58 in the name honors the year 1958 when Roger Bouey founded Maison Bouey.

Famille Bouey Les Parcelles No. 8 2020 is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. This wine had more structure with red fruit and cloves on the palate and silky tannins. The “parcelles” are single vineyard plots that have distinctive soils, from clay to chalky limestone. Ready to drink --or suitable to put away--it sells for $19.99.

Maison Blanche Merlot Cabernet 2020 blends the two most iconic grapes of the Bordeaux region. The wine has a nose of cherries and chocolate with firm tannins and nice length.  

I found that all the wines from Famille Bouey were fresh, with low tannins, and all seemed to have a straightforward approach that showcased the traditional grapes of Bordeaux. They are all priced well,  and I encourage wine lovers who may have shied away from Bordeaux in the past to definitely give them a try.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Lugana Wines Shine at Il Gattopardo

Lugana wines are produced in northern Italy from the indigenous Turbiana grape. More specifically, the vineyards are located on the southern reaches of Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake. The lake helps to regulate temperature in the vineyards and provides a steady breeze that assists with grape health. The mineral-rich soil and numerous old vine vineyards contribute to the wines' unique flavor profiles. At a recent media event at Manhatan's Il Gattopardo, Lugana wines paired beautifully with an array of northern Italian dishes. 

Our exploration of the region began with a flavorful sparkling wine, made in the traditional method,  Sguardi di Terra. Its golden color and persistent bubbles made for an inviting sparkling wine. 

For our first course of casconcelli, we sampled two whites from 2020 - the Citari Lugana Sorgente, which was aromatic with notes of pear and sage. The La Meridiana Lugana Organic was more floral in aroma with yellow plum flavors and salinity. 

With the second course of capu' ripiene di carne, we had the Tenuta Roveglia Limne, a wine of freshness, salinity and bright acidity. The Colli Vaibo Lugana 2019 had a more creamy texture with fresh acidity.  The third wine with this course was the Zeni Lugana Doc Vigne Alte 2019   - a delicious wine with riper notes of sweet green melon on the midpalate. 

With our third coruse of trota del Garda, we enjoyed the Seiterre Lugana Superiore 2018, a lean, focused wine with herbal notes of sage and chamomile as well as salinity and fresh acidity.  The meal ended with Zenato Riserva from 2016 - with six years of age, this wine was more golden in color, an aromatic, rich wine that felt reminiscient of young Burgundy. 

Throughout the luncheon, the strength of these northern Italian white wines clearly shone through. While every producer and every microterroir bring differences to each wine, they all are food friendly, fresh, and a welcome change from the workaday white wines that most consumers are more familiar with. 

As summer approaches and more seafood and lighter fare are served, Lugana wines make the perfect accompaniment to the fresher dining options of warm weather.