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Champagne Thienot

The more Champagne one drinks the more one really recognises the range of styles available. Unfortunately Champagne suffers through its association with celebration. Whilst the producers themselves may be thankful of the price premium it is possible to enjoy as a result of this, it does mean that the majority of glasses downed act as a vehicle for emotion rather than being the cause of it. If only we would pay more attention. I say this having drunk more Champagne in the last two months than I have ever managed before in such a similar time frame. Such sacrifice has engendered in me a much greater appreciation of the Champenois and their offerings as well as a surprising shift in my bubble brightened preferences.

I remember the first time I had Krug Grand Cuvee and Bollinger’s RD, two wines whose depth and richness sparked in me the realisation of what Champagne was capable. This was back in early 2004 and although my financial limitations prevented me from drinking either of these wines with any frequency they became the benchmarks against which other Champagnes came to be judged. These two wines have many things in common, they are both wallet witheringly expensive, they both spend some time in oak, they both have a backbone of Pinot Noir rather than Chardonnay and they are both very ‘winey’ Champagnes (rather than the lighter, aperitif style) and therefore demand your attention and a certain coherence. Yet as time has passed I have found my tongue turning to Champagnes that are less obviously rich and powerful. If current consumption is to believed, I have been enjoying the work of Veuve Fourny et Fils, Bruno Paillard, Taittinger and the half way houses that operate between these two extremes of delicacy and density, namely Larmandier Bernier, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon.

As of last week I have been able to add another Champagne to this list having been introduced to Champagne Thienot. This relatively new house was started in 1985 by Champagne broker Alain Thienot and last week his son, Stanislas, was in Taipei hosting a tasting that revealed wines with the fresh and exuberant style that are currently en vogue in my household. What was crystal clear was the lack of any oxidative characteristics. These were whistle clean without being boring, polished but not prim and extremely enjoyable. Below are a few notes about my favourites. 

Thienot Brut NV
45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 20% Meunier, 9g/RS, 4yrs on lees. 45% Reserve wine. Fruit from 65 different villages.
Elegant and gently yeasty nose with a touch of hazelnut, with crisp but ripe apple fruit and a persistent fine mousse that makes this a real palate enlivener. Chalky, sherbert-like mouth-feel drags its way across the palate leaving a minerally reminder of its presence once swallowed. The dosage is perfect balancing the brisk acidity whilst adding nothing that might get in the way of the style.
17/20

Thienot Brut Rose
45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Meunier. 10g/RS, 7% Red wine, 2-3 yrs on lees, 45% reserve wines.
Salmon pink, and with aromas of redcurrant, and some fresh cherry pie. Delicious but perhaps not quite as persistent or fine as the Brut NV?
16/20

Thienot Brut 2006
57% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, 8.5g/RS. 6 yrs on lees
Expressive nose, with the heady and alluring aroma of a bakery at work. Powerful, firm of structure and with Chardonnay’s mineral grip, lots of stewed/preserved fruits whilst still very elegant. Delicious.
17/20

Cuvee Stanislas 2005
Blanc de Blancs (100% Cote des Blancs), 9g/RS, 6 years on lees.
Showing some maturity with a touch of fennel, jasmine tea, very floral, stewed apple fruit, pear and grapefruit. Lovely tension without being testing or remotely hard work. Fine, persistent and worthy.
17.5+/20

Cuvee Garance 2007
Blanc de Noirs , 100% Pinot Noir (100% Montagne de Reims), 10g/RS, 7 yrs on lees
More yellow fruit here plus a little wet wool and orange peel accompanied by some toastiness and has again a pink grapefruit finish that leaves a persistent impression.
17.5/20 

Cuvee Alain Thienot 2002
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 9g/RS, 10yrs on lees
Lovely mature nose of savouriness with mushroom, dried fruit and dried flowers (almost pot pourri like) but with that touch of ripe grapefruit that haunts these wines. Persistent, rich and mouthcoating with weight but also elegance and finesse. Very fine.
18/20

席諾香檳品飲會

喝的香檳愈多,愈能發現香檳風格之廣,只可惜,香檳總是被拿來與歡慶的場合做聯想,因此,當香檳業者們一方面因酒款的超高價位而感到欣慰之時,一方面又得面對一個無奈的現實:即絕大多數消費者在享受香檳時,其實多半出自於香檳被賦予的感性意涵,而非酒款本身。如果我們能多注意酒質本身的表現就好了。我會這麼說,是因為這兩個月以來,我品嚐香檳的頻繁程度,前所未即。而這也讓我對於香檳人和他們所端出的酒款,激出更多欣賞之情,並驚訝地發現香檳整體風格的美好改變。

我記得自己第一次喝到深度與豐裕度均佳的庫克陳年香檳(Krug Grand Cuvee)與伯蘭爵RD年份香檳(Bollinger RD)時,徹底發現了香檳驚人的實力;那已經是2004年的事了。即便我的荷包沒深到可以時常品嚐它們,這兩款酒依舊成為我日後品評香檳時的最高標準。事實上,這兩款香檳有許多相似之處:首先是它們的價格都貴到令人掉淚;再者是它們均於橡木桶中陳年,並都以黑皮諾(Pinot Noir)為組成架構,而非夏多內(Chardonnay);最後,這兩款酒其實都非常近似於一般非香檳的葡萄酒,風格不走輕巧或開胃酒路線,但也因為如此,它們總是能抓住飲者的注意力。然而,隨著時間的推移,我發現自己愈來愈偏好較不濃郁或展現勁道的香檳。如果要以我現在的品飲做為喜好標準,Veuve Fourny et Fils、布魯諾・百漾(Bruno Paillard)、泰廷爵(Taittinger)等其實是我目前更偏愛的類型,還有介於細緻和濃郁兩個極端的中間類型香檳,如浪夢迪-貝荷尼香檳(Larmandier-Bernier)、保羅傑(Pol Roger)與香檳王(Dom Perignon)等酒廠。

上週,當我第一次品嚐到席諾香檳(Champagne Thienot)時,我發現自己又能為偏愛的香檳品牌多添了一家。這家歷史較短的酒廠,是由香檳酒商Alain Thienot於1985年成立。上週,莊主的兒子Stanislas來臺舉辦品酒會,並展示了一系列風味新鮮、豐富的香檳,正是我目前所愛的風格。這些酒款都沒有展現出任何氧化風格,嚐來雖乾淨,卻一點也不無趣,精雕細琢但不呆板,而且非常可口。以下簡介幾款我最愛的香檳。(編譯 / 艾蜜・emily) 

席諾干型無年份香檳
品種資訊:45%夏多內、35%黑皮諾、20%皮諾莫尼耶(Pinot Meunier)
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升9克;瓶中二次發酵四年;45%為陳年酒(Reserve wine);葡萄來自65個不同的村莊
品飲筆記:高雅、細緻的酵母氣息,綴以些許臻果香。口感爽脆,展現成熟蘋果味與細緻綿密的泡泡質地,嚐來相當鮮活。口中如同白堊土或雪泥冰砂般的質地,在口中緩慢延伸,留下礦物味餘韻。這款酒的補液(Dosage)恰如其分,既不至於更改酒款風格,又保留了活潑的酸度。17/20分)

席諾干型無年份粉紅香檳
品種資訊:45%黑皮諾、35%夏多內、20%皮諾莫尼耶
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升10克;使用7%紅酒;瓶中二次發酵2~3年;45%為陳年酒
品飲筆記:酒色呈鮭魚粉,香氣帶有紅醋栗與一些新鮮櫻桃派。這款酒雖然可口,但以無年份干型香檳而言,餘韻長度與細緻度似乎略嫌不足?16/20分)

席諾干型年份香檳2006
品種資訊:57%夏多內、28%黑皮諾、15%皮諾莫尼耶
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升8.5克;瓶中二次發酵6年
品飲筆記:香氣表現豐富,滿是令人陶醉且引人入勝的烘焙坊新鮮香氣。口感勁道十足,架構紮實,有夏多內所帶來的礦物緊緻度,以及相當多燉煮水果和蜜餞的風味,同時維持高雅特性。非常可口。17/20分)

Cuvee Stanislas年份香檳2005
品種資訊:100%夏多內(白中白香檳)
其它資訊:葡萄100%來自白丘(Cote des Blancs);殘糖量每公升9克;瓶中二次發酵6年
品飲筆記:展現出些許成熟風味,帶有一絲茴香與茉莉花茶等花香,以及燉蘋果、梨,和葡萄柚風味。口感展現出恰如其分的張力,很是怡人,質地細緻,餘韻綿長,物有所值。17.5+/20分) 

Cuvee Garance年份香檳2007
品種資訊:100%黑皮諾(黑中白香檳)
其它資訊:葡萄100%來自漢斯山脈(Montagne de Reims);殘糖量每公升10克;瓶中二次發酵7年
品飲筆記:這款年份香檳展現較多黃色水果香氣,以及些許濕羊毛和橘子皮氣息,另有一些吐司風味,餘韻綿長而令人印象深刻,同樣以葡萄柚香氣作結。17.5/20分)

Cuvee Alain Thienot年份香檳2002
品種資訊:60%黑皮諾、40%夏多內
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升9克;瓶中二次發酵10年
品飲筆記:怡人的成熟香氣中,帶有如蘑菇、果乾和乾燥花(幾乎有如乾燥百花香一般)等鹹鮮風味與成熟葡萄柚香。風味持久不散,豐富而滿覆口腔,在展現酒體份量之餘,也不乏優雅與細緻特性。非常精美的一款酒。18/20分)

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England vs. France: Part 1, 2016

At the weekend I enjoyed an excellent bottle of Champagne from Larmandier Bernier. This wine, their Terre de Vertus, was everything I want in a glass of fizz; it was invigorating and salivating yet also winey and delicately yeasty, a fine wine in its own right, with or without the bubbles. Such vinous pleasure made me think of the wines we make in England and particularly the award winning nature of many of our sparkling wines. Although it may not be very patriotic to say, I have not, as of yet, had an English fizz that has exhibited the same completeness or complexity of the very best Champagne. But that does not mean that they are not often very good. Led by the likes of Taittinger, the Champenois, clearly enamoured with what they are tasting from this side of La Manche, are increasingly making the trip to England in search of prime vineyard land.

If we assume that the soil is the same (chalk) and that an already similar climate will only become more so with a soupçon of global warming, then perhaps Sussex really can begin to challenge the best of the Cote des Blancs? The problem with this argument is that it does not take into account our differing cultures and whether a Frenchman or woman has a greater affinity for the crafting of such wines by the very virtue of being imbued with a certain Frenchness, almost from birth.

The one year that I spent living in France, the torrid 2003 vintage, I existed in a state of constant appreciation. This was caused by three things that the French are extraordinarily good at:

  1. Bread
  2. Wine
  3. Lingerie

Any small provincial French ‘town’ worth its sel can be guaranteed to have at least three good bun shops, a couple of ‘caves’ or wine vendors and a shrine to the bra and knicker.

In Britain the same sized village/town has a:

  1. Co-op (other chains of convenience stores do exist)
  2. A Charity shop
  3. Post Office

This is why so many of us find the French an incomprehensible bunch. Whilst they are thinking ‘food, drink, sex’ (a simple but enjoyable formula for life based on the feeding of one’s sensuous appetites) we’re thinking ‘convenience, cheap, stamps’.

If we, the English, can let go of our prosaic disposition and instead view life through the lens of our more romantic neighbours to the South, then perhaps English Wine will become the world’s best and Champagne will be relegated to an also ran? The conclusion or ‘Part 2’ to this article will be available in 2050 when, assuming I’m not dead, we’ll assess again which country’s wine is in the ascendency. In the meantime below are a couple of excellent wines from both sides of the channel which I am sure will be more greatly appreciated by your inner monkey than any banana.

Happy New Year!

Larmandier-Bernier, Terre de Vertus 1er cru, 2009, Blanc de Blancs, 12%, (Biodynamic)
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Traditional method, 48 months on lees, zero dosage
Note: Rich, savoury and biscuity. This had the purity of fruit expression one expects from zero dosage wines without the mouth puckering and enamel cracking acidity that can leave some examples of this sugar regime, gaunt and hollow. Fine stuff and at this price a true bargain.
Price: Bought for 2000NT, regular retail price is 2450NT (2010 now available). Or 39.50GBP in the UK
Score: 17+/20
Available from: New Century (ncw.tw), leaandsandeman.co.uk

Gusbourne Estate, Brut Blanc de Blancs, 2010, 12%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Traditional method, 36 months on lees, 9g dosage
Note: The sugar balances the acid tang and adds richness to the delicious baked apple aromas. Firm and well mannered, this has enough guts and class to be drinking very well until 2020.
Price: 38.95GBP in UK
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Handford Wines (handford.net)

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Louis Jadot: Return of the Gagey

It is the nervy nature of great Chardonnay from Burgundy that makes it more thrilling than the majority elsewhere. With Thibault Gagey back in Taipei for the second time this year the opportunity to taste through another raft of Jadot wines was too good an opportunity to miss. Having started with vineyards based round the town of Beaune it is of little surprise that however impressed I can be by their reds it is their whites that I find have the power to move. Not that this tasting was necessarily a fair reflection. In classic regions where vintage variation is often quite marked, the whites were better placed to demonstrate their class being from the distinctly superior vintages of 2013 and, in particular, 2012. The majority of the reds were from the high acid 2008 vintage whose saliva inducing nature was a hallmark that some wines managed to carry off better than others. These were accompanied by wines from 2007 whose overall structure was pleasing as long as there was enough fruit concentration to add flesh to the sinew rippling beneath the surface.

There are more detailed notes below but it is worth pointing out the consistently high quality of the village wines on show. Whatever the global demand for Burgundy, any justification of high prices for insipid Burgundies that flaunt their famous labels whilst being miserable little buggers once the cork is drawn simply won’t wash. Jadot like to remind everyone (and Thibault was sticking to the script) that they often declassify/sacrifice a portion of their wines that are entitled to 1er Cru status to help bolster the quality of the village wines. Here the rhetoric was proved to be true by the pleasure exhibited in the glass. Whether it was the Chambolle, Puligny or Chassagne, these wines were deliciously representative and whilst not remotely inexpensive they waved the flag for their appellations’ without necessitating the need for a loan.

 All wines listed below are from Louis Jadot and St. Finesse in Taiwan.

Oaking for village through to Grand Cru wines is more or less the same: One third new, one third one year old and one third two years old French oak barrels. 

The Prices listed include some exceptional offer prices on the 1er Crus but there are limited stocks. 

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 80% Gamay & 20% Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in steel
Note: Red cherry and red currant nose, brisk and bright with just a touch of spice. Ideal lunch time wine as it requires little cogitation. Gentle tannins leave your mouth feeling refreshed rather than assaulted.
Price: 900NT
Score: 15/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Rouge 2012, 12.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in both oak barrels and vats
Note: Proper Burgundy Pinot nose that is red fruit driven but with a touch of clove spice. Shows the ripe fruit style of the vintage whilst also having just enough grip to fix the memory of the wine on your tongue.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 2008, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: The beginnings of some earthiness and proper Pinot perfume that adds complexity to the subtly spiced red fruit. Has the juiciness of the vintage with the bright acidity the dominant structural element. Yet the fruit is no shrinking violet lending a strong voice, that makes up for its relative lack of volume with an elegance that is classic Chambolle.
Price: 2,770NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Delicate and perfumed nose and the palate is brisk with more sinew than the village but the pronounced acidity is a little strident for the fruit making it a less obvious pleasure than the village Jadot.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Sentiers, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Bright but with enough fruit concentration to balance. Classic Chambolle that has the prettiness associated with the AOP but with the requisite spine.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2008, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking:18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed and floral with concentrated fruit and a depth that marks this out as a prime site. Deliciously virile and appetising with the ability to age gracefully for another 5-8 years.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Earthy and more closed than the Les Baudes but still with some subtle floral quality percolating through. On the palate this has the sinewy nature and precision that we associate with this part of Chambolle but I prefer this premier cru in warmer and less ‘classic’ vintages when its obvious refinement is supported with a little more fat.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Baudes, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Interesting to compare my favourite 2008 in this flight with the 2007. This has less concentration and therefore finishes a little short. Remains a decent effort however.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Almost transparent so delicate and precise is this wine. Yet lurking beneath the layer of chiffon is a toned physique that manages to persuade you to forgive the lack of density (a result of the vintage) and instead focus on the pretty.
Price: 2,090NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: A little dumb but there is no masking the muscle that makes itself felt immediately on first sip. This feels Grand Cru-ish; dense and tannic with good (for 2011) levels of fruit concentration.
Price: 3,545NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw) 

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed, brisk and sinewy. This amount of structure requires time…the only caveat being whether the acid will always sit a little above the fruit rather than knitting harmoniously together. Time will tell.
Price: 3,795NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2001
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Lovely nose showing some of the leafy, spiced complexity of mature Pinot. The tannins retain some of Vougeot’s chewiness and there is a lack of fruit concentration that may come to haunt this as it ages further. Still good but is it Grand Cru good?
Price: 4,260NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Whites

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 55% Chardonnay, 45% Aligote
Winemaking: Fermented and matured in steel.
Note: Crisp and whistle like in its cleanliness. A simple but satisfying wine with which to wet your appetite for the region.
Price: 1,030NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Eight months ageing in both wood and steel
Note: Simple but with good levels of intensity and concentration that lifts this above more insipid and gutless examples from this basic Burgundy AOP. Good value.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Pouilly Fuisse 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Both vat and barrel
Note: Ripe apple & citrus sits alongside something a little more savoury. There is a richness that betrays its provenance as being from the best part of Macon whilst retaining enough acid giving freshness to suggest this will continue to age for up to another five years.
Price: 1,620NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny Montrachet, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in barrel
Note: A sudden jump in aromatic presence and complexity with a mealy, nutty character accompanying the toasty oak, citrus and physalis style fruit. Firm but not oppressively so, this again shows the quality to be had from Jadot at village level.
Price: 2,825NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013, 135
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18 months in oak
Note: More closed and will benefit from another year or two before broaching. Dense, rich and with good length, this Chassagne amply illustrates its pedigree whilst not having quite the same drive/precision of the village Puligny. This though again is an excellent example.
Price: 2,870NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru La Garenne, 2012, 13.5% (High altitude over 300m)
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Mealy, toasty and tangerine like. Brilliant acidity gives the wine great line and poise on the palate. A long finish completes the picture of a fine wine fit for a further decade in the cellar…if you can wait.
Price: 2,030NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: Another excellent lesson in Puligny precision. This Folatières has the struck match character, the chiselled structure and tongue tingling acidity that makes Puligny so popular and unfortunately expensive. Delicious.
Price: 2,400NT
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:12-15 months in oak
Note: Slightly riper style after the precision of the two Puligny 1er Crus but the little extra fat on show here is supported by a grapefruit style pithiness that helps balance the extra girth. Very good.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Mersault, 1er Cru Les Genevrières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Dense and delicious with a complex interplay between citrus (grapefruit), oak, nut, power and precision. Impressive stuff.
Price: 2,560NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:18 months in barrel
Note: Smoky and powerful, creamy, full bodied chardonnay but with that grapefruit finish that provides freshness. Whilst being a long way from disappointing this clearly needs time to morph from its somewhat gauche teenage temperament to a more considered young adult. Try again in five years.
Price: Price on request
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Montrachet, Grand Cru, 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak
Note: Mealy, rich, nutty and mushroom like aromatics are accompanied by an apricot skin like perfume that suggests ones nose is not in the company of everyday Chardonnay. This is not an easy wine to appreciate with plenty of restrained power growling beneath a serene exterior but as yet it is not in the mood to give too much away. Give it another ten years and it may begin to repay the ransom that you will have paid for ownership.
Price: 13,300NT
Score:? If you drink it now then 16/20. If you wait a decade perhaps 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

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A Second Date with Louis Jadot

There are no histrionics with Thibault Gagey the deputy general manager of this Burgundian stalwart. He may be young but he carries the weight of his family name (he is the third generation of the Gagey family tasked with the day to day running of the ‘Maison’) and the importance of his role with a lightness and grace that seems to mirror some of Jadot’s best Beaunes.

Thibault was in town to oversee three days of Jadot based festivities with their long-time partner here in Taiwan, Finesse Wines. Having had the good fortune to spend some time with him, opening bottles and checking the wine in return for the opportunity to taste over 40 of them, it became clear that Master Gagey is both refreshingly humble and an enlightened custodian. It would be all too easy for him to revel in the spiralling demand for his and for Burgundy wines in general and celebrate the profits but Thibault prefers the long-term view. When his grandfather was in charge the wines of Burgundy, though respected, were not revered in quite the same way as today. The cost of the grandest of grand crus partly explains this reverence but Thibault is clearly troubled by these often prohibitive prices, and the prices of many of the basic wines too. He is passionate about Burgundy but also sanguine and realises that in another twenty years the wine buying public may have found a new region to worship. With this in mind he takes his role very seriously, the extensive range of wines he wanted to show demonstrated this better than anything he could have chosen to say.

Below is a list of tasting notes for Jadot’s whites and our next post will feature the reds. For obvious reasons the notes are somewhat slimmer than usual with less headings. All of the wines are from Jadot, all the wines are available from finessewines.com.tw, all the whites are made from Chardonnay and all the reds from Pinot Noir. Jadot also use very similar wine-making techniques for all their wines from village level to Grand Cru. This involves approximately 25% new French oak. Due to the vagaries of vintage and the individual vineyard, time spent in these barrels will vary, but overall the message is simple; the homogeneity of the wine-making should allow the terroir and the vintage to speak.

The Whites were all tasted on the 12th and 13th of May.

Chablis 2013, 12.5%
Note: Green apple, lemon peel, mineral and with a delicious mouth-watering salinity, this was not just benchmark Chablis but the best vintage I have tried from Jadot. Excellent!
Cost: 1,400NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chablis 1er Cru ‘Fourchaume’ 2012, 12.5%
Note: 2012 is in most cases better for reds than for whites and you can see that with this Fourchaume. This is a well crafted wine, varietally pure and very representative of its home but the extra weight of the vintage means this hasn’t quite got the nerve tingling acidity evident in cooler more ‘classic’ years.
Cost: 2,570NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chablis Grand Cru ‘Preuses’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: Still very young with the toasty richness of the oak sitting on top of the fruit at present. This has the precision I want in my Chablis and I expect this to evolve into a very fine wine given another five years of integration.
Cost: 4,210NT
Score: 16.5-17/20 

Pernand Vergelesses ‘Clos de la Croix de Pierre’ 2012, 13%
Note: Toasty, limey and precise. I love the reds from this vineyard but had never had the white before and it did not disappoint. Arguably the best value white here and obvious 1er Cru quality even if it is officially only at ‘village’ level. I would buy a case while you can.
Cost: 1,930NT
Score: 17/20 

Mersault 1er Cru ‘Genevrieres’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Broad and rich but also focused makes this Genevrieres my kind of Mersault. Nutty and nectarine like with a little toastiness this is just beginning to drink well but will reward a further few years patience.
Cost: 4,550NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Folatieres’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Of the 2011’s this received my lowest score but that is more about how it compared on the night with its neighbours. The taut and tensile nature promises more to come as these structural elements begin to loosen their grip on the fruit. Given another few years in your cellar this could well prove to be the best of these 2011’s.
Cost: 4,950NT
Score: 16+/20 

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Abbaye de Morgeot’ 2011, 13.5%
Note: Generous and precise this was delicious although it will continue to improve over the medium term.
Cost: 3,950NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Guettes’ 2010, 13.5%
Note: I have always been a fan of this wine that delivers a lot of Puligny like finesse in cooler vintages or in warmer years a Mersault like richness. Of course the benefit to the drinker is that Savigny is often half the price and it is more precocious meaning it is perfect for drinking now.
Cost: 1,930NT
Score: 16/20 

Beaune 1er Cru, 2010, 13.5%
Note: Similar to the Savigny but less precise and a little blowsier (this could almost have been Pouilly Fuisse) and will appeal to those who like their Burgundy broad and easy.
Cost: 2,010NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Mersault 1er Cru ‘Les Charmes’ 2010, 13.5%
Note: Great aromatics; nutty, spicy and savoury with a lemon oil fruitiness that helps preserves a sense of freshness. Rich and powerful, this is classic Mersault and a fine wine but is just a little heavy for my palate.
Cost: 4,300NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008, 13.5%
Note: A little reticent at present on the nose but on the palate this unfolds to reveal a full, rich yet decidedly elegant wine that has great line and persistence. The best white wine here by some distance.
Cost: 7,300NT
Score: 18/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatieres’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Has the richness and slightly mushroomy nature of mature Burgundy that is reminiscent of good Champagne. Generous and complex but it could do with just a touch more fruit to make it perfect. Drink in the next couple of years.
Cost: 4,750NT
Score: 16/20 

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Referts’ 2007, 13%
Note: Another beautiful smelling 2007, all buttered nut with a lemony savouriness. Less broad than its neighbour ‘Les Folatieres’, it is more precise but also slightly less persistent. A wine to be consumed sooner rather than later.
Cost: 4,300NT
Score: 16/20 

Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Grandes Ruchottes’ 2007, 13%
Note: Long and broad but with a seam of acidity that lends this wine a greater poise than the two from Puligny and suggests that this might be the longer lived.
Cost: 4,600NT
Score: 16.5/20

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Italy: More than pizza and pasta

Italy’s cuisine, founded on pasta, pizza and the concept of ‘cucina povera’ (simple but quality food), has seen Italian food garner global fame. It is rare to arrive in any town or city in the developed world without seeing the tricolore proudly displayed in the signage of the local trattoria, but what about Italian wine?

Most wine consumers will, at some point, have worked their way through a glass of Chianti or Pinot Grigio but that is just the tip of a very large ‘wineberg’ that remains relatively unknown to the majority. If you doubt my assessment of the level of consciousness that Italian wines have managed to prick, just examine the Master of Wine exams of the last three years (2012-2014). Of the 108 wines that candidates have been asked to assess: only eleven were Italian in comparison to thirty three from France. I don’t think this is evidence of some internal bias by the Institute of Masters of Wine, just a reflection of the lack of penetration in global terms for many of Italy’s offerings. This lack of recognition is partly due to what lovers of Italian wine cherish the most; namely the vast range of indigenous varieties scattered throughout the Italian peninsula. The ‘problem’ for many of these varieties is that they seem reluctant to flourish away from their homeland meaning that there is a concomitant lack of exposure. Hopefully Australia’s increasing desire to plant some of these varieties, a sensible choice considering the generally Mediterranean climate experienced in much of the wine growing South East, will help to redress this situation.

Monday saw the Gambero Rosso Italian wine tasting event arrive in Taipei. The raft of Italian producers in attendance, many as yet to find importers in this corner of Asia, provided a welcome opportunity to refamiliarise myself with the classic as well as the more esoteric offerings from this vinous heavyweight. Below are wines from four producers that I hope will have been successful in their search for representation, as I believe they have the necessary charm to delight not just me but also the increasing number of wine-drinkers here in Taiwan. Whatever the outcome for these four estates, be sure to explore Italy’s vinous heritage, it is as important and as impressive as their food and warrants your attention.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta DOCG, Brut Nature, 2011
Grape: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir
Wine-making: More than 24 months on lees and less than 3g of sugar per litre in the dosage.
Note: Buttered brioche with a little nectarine and citrus fruit, this was a decidedly precise yet still vinous glass of Franciacorta. If you like Champagne then the wines from this part of Lombardy offer similar levels of quality with a touch more generosity.
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan

Bibbiano, Chianti Classico DOCG, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Sangiovese
Wine-making: No oak
Note: Benchmark Chianti Classico, all crisp, pithy and with the scent of sour cherries gives this a thirst quenching quality that makes it alarmingly easy to drink.
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

La Raia, Gavi DOCG, ‘Pisè’, 2012, 13%
Grape: Cortese
Wine-making: 12 months on lees
Note: This shows how good Cortese can be. Leesy, firm but with apple, almond and a subtle floral quality that is almost reminiscent of a good 1er cru Chablis. Break out the oysters.
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbaresco Tradizione, 2011, 14.5%
Grape: Nebbiolo
Wine-making: Short maceration (helps retain fruitiness) and 18 months in large oak.
Note: This is as juicy and approachable as young Nebbiolo gets. Fruity, floral and generous and tame enough to enjoy without food.
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan

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Champagne: Greater than the sum of its parts

Where is Champagne? Assuming you know that it is in northern France, most fans of the world’s finest fizz would identify Epernay as the heart of the region. Journey south and any visitor would quickly find themselves in Chardonnay territory, the aptly named Cote des Blancs. Head west and Meunier production dominates in the Vallee de la Marne and if one were to look up in a northerly direction, the most famous hill for the growing of Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, would frame one’s view; the ambitiously named Montagne de Reims. Yet in the same way that London exists beyond the streets painted on a Monopoly board, Champagne encompasses much more than the three ‘vineyards’ that envelop Epernay.

Some 130km further to the south, beyond the city of Troyes and closer to Burgundy than the rest of Champagne, lies the Cote des Bar. This is Pinot country and is as significant as the more famed Montagne de Reims producing as it does 50% of Champagne’s most coveted dark skinned variety. The Champagne house and bastion of the Cote des Bar, Devaux, were in Taipei last week represented by the excellent Jean-Noel Girard. Monsieur Girard managed to do what seems beyond the reach of many of the reps that reach these shores in that he both engaged and entertained the crowd. Jean-Noel’s party trick was really no trick at all, he just informed and educated those assembled through an excellently worked tasting. This included ten samples of vin clair, ‘raw’ Champagne, bereft of bubbles, age and the mollifying effect of sugar. You cannot buy this raw wine (believe me your teeth will thank you, so high was the level of acidity) but you can buy them in assembled form and it is these Devaux Champagnes that receive attention below.

Devaux, Ultra D, Extra Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 2g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: I’ve had too many lean and scrawny ‘ultra’ Champagnes but this is not one of those. Positively generous and vivid with great purity of fruit and a saline tang.
Price: 2,800NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

Devaux, 2006 Vintage D, Brut
Grapes: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 6g/l dosage. A minimum of seven years ageing.
Note: Still young and relatively closed, this needs a little time for the fruit to reappear, but your patience will be rewarded with a Champagne of persistence and definition.
Price: 3,600NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw 

Devaux, Cuvee D, Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 7g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% of reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: Relatively inexpensive yet decidedly cheerful, by virtue of the costly and lengthy ageing. Good aperitif style sparkler, lighter and more featherweight than the rest.
Price: 2,550NT
Score: 15.5
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

 

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The Best of British

There are few things more English than Chablis. This small town may be located on the wrong side of the channel (forgive me my French friends) but its wines are as entrenched within my notion of Britishness as a cup of tea and spaghetti bolognese. The reason for the English fondness of Chablis surely lies in the subconscious appreciation of a wine that is so very similar to our own quintessential English traits. Chablis is cool and austere, a little restrained with a focus on line and length and a structural tidiness over gobs of fruit and overt generosity. Chablis is a stiff upper lip of a wine.

It will come as no surprise therefore that when last week, La Chablisienne, paid a visit to Taipei that I was there, salivating at the thought of a taste of home. La Chablisienne is one of France’s great co-operatives with three hundred growers helping them produce a quarter of this region’s production. Although unapologetically large in scale, La Chablisienne’s wines are rarely disappointing if not necessarily the best. What they provide is a reliable benchmark against which other Chablis can be judged and they can do this because their members are represented in every single Chablis appellation. If you are not a ‘Rosbif’ then exploring the wines of Chablis with the help of this high quality co-op will provide you with the perfect introduction to this English classic.

Of the seven wines tasted I have listed just three but they provide a base from which you can explore the wines of Chablis further. 

Chablis la Pierrelee, 2012
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 10 months on lees
Note: All citrus and nervy acidity with some mouth-coating leesiness and minerality that elevates this above most basic Chablis. Nicely persistent.
Price: 1100NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com 

Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2011
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 20 months on lees and in barrel
Note: Lemon oil richness that holds hands with a mineral saltiness sees this wine screaming out for some oysters or mussels. Broad, deep and intense; the best of the 2011’s.
Price: 2800NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com

Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchot, 2012
Grapes: Chardonnay
Winemaking: : 20 months on lees and in barrel
Note: Quiet and restrained with a whiff of butter. On the palate there is plenty of power and intensity with anise and citrus balancing the mouthcoating chalkiness. Persistent.
Price: 2800NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: www.tfhow-wine.com

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The Concept of Typicity

What is typicity, how do you define the typical nature of something? Blondes are stupid, men are rampant hypochondriacs and women can’t read maps, right? Well, I’m married to a blonde head-teacher (did I mention I’ve got a sore throat?) who is more intelligent than I’ll ever be but she did once take us down the wrong side of a mountain in the Himalayas…

But what about wine, how many wines are truly typical of their place of origin? This is a particularly vexatious topic when one is trying to embed the tell-tale markers of ‘classic’ wines in one’s brain prior to sitting exams. Michael Schuster writes about the defining stylistic traits that separates one region’s wines from another as well as anybody but does that mean he can always divine the subtleties that make Margaux, Margaux and not St. Julien? Margaux is generally more fragrant, more perfumed? Well yes, except of course when it isn’t. What about the vintage, are wines more typical in say Bordeaux in a really good year such as 2010, or are they more representative in a cooler year when you can smell the pungent tang of bell peppers?

This is not just an issue with Old World wines, in fact the scale of many New World ‘appellations’ or viticultural areas is such that to expect any typicity would be foolish. But it is not just geography that has a profound impact on typicity but also that oft forgotten factor; the desire of the wine-maker. This was made abundantly clear when earlier this week I tasted three Chardonnays from Australia. The Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Margaret River are considered ‘cool’ areas of production with Yarra being the coolest of the three and Margaret River the warmest. Yet on tasting, the decisions made in the winery made these wines, however delicious, impossible to place with any surety. Typical!

Yering Station, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: No or very little malolactic influence, 9 months in barrel.
Note: Leesy with a touch of aniseed adds a little savoury complexity to the nectarine fruit. Bright but not crisp acidity gives the wine requisite line and length.
Price: 1,550NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: finessewines.com.tw 

Shaw & Smith, M3 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, 2012, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Partial malolactic, 9 months in barrel (but with a greater influence of new oak than the Yering Station)
Note: Pronounced tangerine and nectarine with some toast and yoghurt-like lees influence. Bright and crisp acidity give the wine great definition and the finish is deliciously long. Excellent value.
Price: 1,100NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: icheers.tw 

Clairault, Estate Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2010, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: No obvious malolactic. 9 months in 40% new oak.
Note: Arguably the best of the three with zesty acidity and a struck match/wet wool character that is distinctly Burgundian. Intense, concentrated and nutty, Margaret River’s answer to Mersault.
Price: 2,500NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: finewine.com.tw

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No Beefsteak but some Burgundy

Having being recently invited to lunch at Le Cocotte, a restaurant of some standing here in Taipei, I was looking forward to the food almost as much as the wine. The occasion, a gathering of the ‘Beefsteak and Burgundy [dining] Club’ meets monthly and is populated by a diverse membership whose specialisms range from robotics to removals.

On arrival I was handed a glass of ‘Champagne’ and having tasted it I looked behind the bar for the bottle. I should have expected as much but the sight of the four wines we were to be served over lunch, sitting swaddled in tin-foil, produced the very slightest of palpitations deep in my innards. I knew that it would not be long before I was asked ‘what I did for a living’ and the realisation that a wine ‘expert’ was in their midst would make the blind tasting an altogether more interesting prospect…for some.

As we took our seats, paid homage to the Queen and our respective leaders of State, all I could think about was the origin of the inch of effervescence that sat whispering from the flute before me. ‘Touch of yeastiness, chalky texture, citrus and apple fruit…ok, its traditional method, old world, more than likely French but definitely not Champagne, acidity is too low…so Cremant but which, de Loire or de Bourgogne…?’, oh the joys of drinking in public. I’ll be honest, I went for the Loire, seduced by the apple and minerally mouth-feel, ignored the bright but not whistle clean acidity and of course if you close your eyes to the obvious you end up looking foolish; it was from Burgundy.

The wines that followed were more straightforward. Firstly an excellent, aromatic and pointed dry Muscat from the Minervois, then a dough and bruised apple scented Savagnin from the Cotes du Jura, before a final sweet wine from Ste-Croix-du-Mont. This appellation being on more elevated terrain, peers down through the botrytis inducing mist onto the vineyards of Sauternes that squat on the opposite shore of the Garonne.

I do not know if I will be invited back, but tasting (even when blind), drinking and eating in good company, especially when accompanied by some less than usual wines is a rare pleasure. Below are reviews of the four tasted:

Maison Vitteau Alberti, ‘Cuvee Agnes’, Cremant de Bourgogne NV
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Traditional method
Note: As mentioned above, this has a lovely chalky texture and fine fruit. The acidity is crisp and less taut than Champagne but this makes it easier to appreciate. Good value.
Price: 1,480NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes,
www.cellierpoetes.com

Clos du Gravillas, ‘On the Rocks’ Muscat Sec, 2013
Grape: Muscat blanc a petit grains
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: This is excellent Muscat with the sweet aromas of grapes and white flowers whilst being deliciously dry, bright and minerally. Excellent value
Price: 1,080NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Cotes du Jura, 2009
Grape: Savagnin
Wine-making: Kept in old oak barrels for three years without topping up and with a veil of flor adding aromatic complexity.
Note: Not the most popular wine of the day but these strongly savoury and bone dry wines require a certain amount of practise to appreciate. If you like Fino Sherry or Amontillado you will like this.
Price: 1,680NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com 

Chateau La Rame, ‘Traditionnel’ Ste-Croix-du-Mont, 2012
Grape: 100% Semillion
Wine-making: This is botrytised sweet wine matured in tank for two years.
Note: Sweet but with good freshness this young, honeyed apricot and lemon scented wine has less obvious fat than a Sauternes but most would never notice the difference. The price for a full 750ml bottle is a bargain.
Price: 1,580NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, www.cellierpoetes.com

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Chardonnay: The Greatest of Grapes

Like people who take their Mother for granted, there are those that do not show Chardonnay the respect it deserves. If I were told I could only drink the wine of one white variety for the rest of my life, then Chardonnay would be it. Why? Because it is capable of being at once both magnificent and cosseting; I want to be bowled over but not injured in the process. I know some will trumpet the versatility and filigree fine-ness of Riesling and they are right. Riesling can and has made me cry such is the intensity and density of its best work, but it assaults rather than woos and for this reason I could not drink it daily. Chenin Blanc is another favourite of mine making some of the most thought provoking dry and sweet wines in the world, from its base in the Loire, whilst building an ever increasing body of quality work in South Africa.

Yet Chardonnay remains the one. At this point it would be easy to list the great and the good of Burgundy, quite rightly considered the apogee of what is possible with this variety but that would also be very predictable. In the New World; Australia, New Zealand and California all have producers that consistently craft wines of top 1er Cru level quality (to use Burgundy as the reference), and there is no reason to believe that in the near future, wines of ‘Grand Cru’ quality will be beyond their reach.

And so to Italy, a nation not associated with great Chardonnay. From her heel to her thigh, Italy’s reputation is for food-friendly reds not jaw-dropping whites but that is changing. In Tuscany, Isole e Olena produce an anachronistic or, if you prefer, ‘classic’ style of Chardonnay which oozes oak from every aromatically charged pore. Such is the intensity and refinement on display, the oak acts as a foil rather than obstacle and helps promise a wine capable of a decade or more of decadence. The moral of it all? Don’t dis your Mother.

Isole e Olena, Collezione Privata, IGT Toscana, 2011, 14.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Lots of new French oak
Note: Romantic I know, but this smells of a warm Tuscan summer. A little dusky peach, lemon oil and fig. Incredibly concentrated but it does not lose its charm, you will want to keep drinking this. Delicious and fine.
Price: 3,300NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: Ascent Way

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