Archive for July, 2018

Corton-Charlemagne: A Versatile Spectacular Burgundy With Food

July 30th, 2018

cote de nuits Burgundy wine

Corton-Charlemagne has an intriguing history going way back to Charlemagne the Roman Emperor who was instrumental in converting the then all red Corton vineyards to some white on the upper slopes “en Charlemagne”. It turned out to be a brilliant move as Chardonnay really suits that superb limestone base covered by a clay-marl soil there with differences noted between both the Pernand and Aloxe slopes. Today the Corton property has a surface area of around 160 hectares of which roughly 50+ is Corton-Charlemagne white. The largest proprietors at just under 10 hectares each are Louis Latour and the historic Bonneau du Martray (Stan Kroenke of Screaming Eagle, Arsenal football, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Avalanche last year purchased majority ownership still partnering with the longtime Le Bault de la Moriniere family) followed by Bouchard Pere at just over three and many others. Of course these limited production wines in demand are becoming even more expensive these days but some of them from smaller growers like Jean-Francois Coche-Dury and Leroy are amazingly so. This Grand Cru shows quite a unique terroir when compared with other white Burgundies usually combining a very good acidity balance to that steely mineral structure plus intense fruit concentration that improves to rounder complexity with some bottle age. IMHO except for the usual pre-mox concerns Corton-Charlemagne (together with some Grand Cru Chablis – especially Le Clos, Chevalier-Montrachet, and Meursault-Perrieres) has the best cellaring record of all the Burgundy whites.

A dinner was held this month at the Cactus Club Coal Harbour to see how some vintages would show and especially when paired with accompanying food courses. In Partners the IWFS Guide to the Game of Wine & Food Match-Making by Andre L. Simon he recommended Corton-Charlemagne with Sole Bonne Femme – an admirable choice! However as this Menu sets out Chef Rob Feenie and his brigade successfully used instead Flatbread, Calamari, Prawn Ravioli, Sablefish and even Duck Confit to advantage. Some brief comments:

2014 Corton-Charlemagne Louis Latour & Louis Jadot: This first flight followed our aperitif of an excellent forwardly drinking 2002 Bollinger RD Champagne disgorged November 19, 2015 after 13 years on the lees. The Latour style usually has fairly prominent lees character but seemed less so after that. It was full rich and concentrated but the style definitely is evolving towards earlier picking and less new oak. Classy and balanced but needs more time. Jadot shows a lot of sulphur on the nose presently so controversial but lovely elegant fruit underneath it that should develop nicely. The caramelized onions on the “pizza” were divine with the young wines from an outstanding vintage for Burgundy whites!

2010 Corton-Charlemagne Louis Latour & Vincent Girardin: Hot fried spicy dill squid worked well here with the classic 2010 quality year from reduced yields with impeccable balance. Latour had some initial sulphur aromas but cleared off with airing to become a delicious full complex wine just approaching the best plateau of drinking. No rush. Girardin had bottle variation with one showing maderization and the other mature but soft for the year and forwardly drinking already.

2008 Corton-Charlemagne Remoissenet & Bouchard Pere: Better flight with more interest. Remoissenet Diamond Jubilee with their signature open aromas of cabbage-sauerkraut (in a good way) bouquet and rich pure flavours while Bouchard Pere more closed in yet so elegantly structured and going through a rather funky offbeat stage but impressive so optimistic it will blossom out soon. Food matching of creamy pasta almost ideal.

2006 Corton-Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray & Chateau de Corton Andre: What a big difference between the two bottles of the Bonneau du Martray! One has bad pre-mox undrinkable but the other is brilliant in the fresh minerality you seek. Already excellent in this leaner style but expect it to climb to even greater complexity with more age if it can avoid pre-mox. Pierre Andre is in a richer sweeter caramel profile with a specific intriguing ginger note. Goes well with the rich buttery flaky earthy black cod that was a delicious matching – the modern day fish with cream & mushrooms as enjoyed by Andre Simon.

The smoky duck confit too actually worked OK with the remains of 8 Corton-Charlemagnes but a preference was shown for a Burgundy red and especially a mystery wine that turned out to be the formidable fragrant sophisticated 1991 Musigny from Comte de Vogue. What a treat. What a pairing. Finishing up with 1986 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes doesn’t hurt either.

Your thoughts please on Corton-Charlemagne age ability and their best matching with different foods.


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Ask Sid: What is Selection de Grains Noble?

July 25th, 2018
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wine Selection de Grains Noble?

Question: What is selection de grains noble?

Answer: Vendanges Tardivea (VT) & Selection de Grains Nobles (SGN) are terms used in Alsace pioneered first by Hugel (the indomitable late Johnny Hugel) back in 1976 for late harvest wines. Grapes for SGN have reached even higher sugar levels than for VT resulting in a special wine made by successive picking selection of individual over-ripe grapes affected by noble rot (botrytis cinerea) and is only produced in the best years where favourable conditions allow it. The single grape varieties that are possibly able to  achieve this level are usually Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, or sometimes Muscat d’Alsace. Wines produced with a SGN label are usually sweeter intense powerfully structured complex treasures with a long finish on the palate that seem to age forever. In my IWFS Blog earlier this week you will see reference to 3 bottles of this spectacular first SGN in 1976 from Gewurztraminer grapes. What a joy to taste!  Seek them out.


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Memorable “Drink or the Sink” Tasting of Old Reds

July 23rd, 2018

Sunday July 15 was the final of the World Cup with so many of us watching France defeat Croatia 4-2. It was more memorable for your scribe because of an exciting tasting of old red wines held by Alice & David Spurrell at their home. They are an amazing couple longtime contributors to the Vancouver Branch of IWFS but also to the overall thriving local wine and food scene in so many ways. Alice is a talented cook who started a catering business that evolved into the successful cheese shop Les Amis Du Fromage. Dave is a keen insightful wine taster who has been at it since the seventies with his ground breaking Vancouver Wine Club bringing in special imports especially from Germany & Bordeaux not available through the Government’s still limited selection. They came up with a wonderful idea to share some of their oldest red wines in a themed “Drink or the Sink” tasting. You will see the list of 38 wines (actually have notes on 40 with 2 more of old style less clean only 14 degree alcohol 1974 Viccarie Amarone & still big fruit 1978 Taltarni Cab from Pyrenees western Victoria Australia by Dominque Portet) which featured reds mainly from Bordeaux and California during the seventies with some sixties as well. Concerned because the first wine tasted of Italian Cabernet Piave was badly corked – for the sink! However the next 39 were a marvellous tasting experience and definitely drinkable. As we all know when wines reach this age they are no longer consistent and bottles will vary – sometimes amazingly so. The service was so admirable with decanting and a walk around format. Some highlights among many:

California: Seventies produced some pioneering cabs led by Mondavi. Their 1975 Reserve not the complex 1974 but lovely smooth balanced elegant tobacco. Even Freemark 1975 holding on in a more herbal style. 1978 Mt. Eden from Santa Cruz & 1975 Mt. Veeder both much more big ripe concentrated fruit but the former had some brett issues. Two that surprised were first vintage lovely 1978 Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot (2014 was Wine Spectator #1 wine last year in Top 100) looks young and is lively though drying & 1979 Villa Mt. Eden by admired winemaker Nils Venge is still impressive. Some spoke highly for 1979s from BV Georges de Latour (great in 1968 & 1970) and simpler Alexander Valley Vineyards as well as rustic 1980 Inglenook at 12.5 & browning 1978 Ritchie Creek.

Bordeaux: So many brilliant bottles here still on useful drinking plateau in the older classic style winemaking. My three favourites were 1975 Lafite (can be bottle variable but this one exquisite open cedar cigar classy bouquet and pure balanced exceptional complexity!) Domaines Woltner 1975 La Mission Haut Brion (still concentrated but seems less tannic now and much more aristocratic more deserving of that once 100 points) and Alexis Lichine Selection by Wine Imports in San Francisco bottle of 1961 Ausone (remember it port styled previously but another well stored bottle here shows merlot/cab franc blend of delicate intensity rather than concentration). 1961 Beychevelle showed extra full richness from that outstanding vintage against their more typical styled greener but easy drinking 1979. Actually all 1975s showed well at 40+ especially an excellent smooth delicious La Lagune though have had better bottles of slower aging more sturdy vibrant Branaire Ducru. 1978 La Tour Haut Brion was another winner solid grand Graves from Woltner over other 1978 late miracle greener year shown typically in Figeac, Gloria and Leoville Barton (not clean some brett). Good comparison of the preferred 1966 against 1967. Showed the difference clearly with Pontet-Canet 1966 Pauillac nose and even some charm. 1966 Calon Segur the heart of St Estephe & St. Julien 1966 Talbot (but not Gruaud Larose depth) though 1967 La Mission does have classy text book Graves tobacco plus turned earth and Ducru Beaucaillou delightfully elegant. Four right bank 1970s were holding on well with L’Angelus (price tag on bottle only $11.85 but compare Paarl Roodeberg says a real bargain of $3.20) best over other two St Emilions of Carbonnieux and Le Pape and Pomerol Clos Rene.

Dinner catered by Dirty Apron delivered good wine pairing food for a unique white blend of Albarino & Verdejo and also a Viognier (last vintage in 2017) from Terra Vista. Foxtrot pinot noir 2015 is Raisin D’Etre single vineyard with 13 year old vines on clay soil using Clone 828 in a more earthy sturdy style than their superb Estate vineyard. Fun to taste 3 bottles of rich 1976 Gewurztraminer Selection Grains Noble from Hugel with 2 different Futs (barrel) all amazing in their depth but slightly different in their freshness with a preference for Fut 20 over Fut 67. Two 40 year old vintage ports showed off their 1977 year but also the house differences from drier Dow style to richer more mineral Warre.

Like this idea of a Drink or the Sink tasting. Very privileged lucky participants attended this memorable one. You should try one yourself to weed out some very old bottles that are gathering dust if you have any left. Quality red wines can age far better than you might think. They go so well with food as well. Hope you will be pleasantly surprised too.


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LeBron James: Wine & Gold

July 22nd, 2018

LeBron James wine passion interest

By Joseph Temple

Earlier this month, all of the teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference could breath a little easier when it was announced that LeBron James had signed a lucrative four-year, $154-million-dollar contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.  A three-time NBA champion as part of both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, ‘King James’ proved to be a fine wine this year as the future Hall of Famer carried his team to the finals against the Golden State Warriors.  And despite leaving the wine and gold of Cleveland for sunny California, he certainly won’t be giving up the wine part as LeBron is now less than seven hours away from America’s most prestigious vineyards.

For those who follow James on social media, it’s no secret that he LOVES wine. Confessing that he wasn’t much of a wine guy until he turned 30, LeBron has since gone on to be a passionate oenophile, posting numerous pictures on his Instagram under the hashtag #VinoChronicles.  Over the past three years, the newly signed Laker has tried many bottles including Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2013, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1990, and 2010 Colgin “IX Estate” Napa Valley Syrah. With a preference for California reds, he has also warned his followers online, “Don’t talk to me about wine like u know it if you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Seriously! Thank you!”

Judging by that statement, it shows that LeBron is truly passionate about wine, spending his hard-earned money on bottles that easily cost anywhere from $300-$500 and more. According to DLynn Proctor who was featured in the 2012 film Somm, “LeBron’s got somebody really good in his corner telling what to drink.”  Indeed, as can be seen in a story reported back in 2015 when after losing a bet with Warriors’ forward Draymond Green over who would win between Ohio and Michigan in football, James sent him two cases of 2010 Silver Oak Cabernet. “He knows a young guy like me can’t afford it yet, so he took care of me,” said Green.

“I wanted to learn about it,” said James in one courtside interview. “Everybody was telling me how great it is and the different regions not only here in America but also in Italy, in France, in so many different places.”

And it appears that while playing for the Cavaliers, he spread his cumulative knowledge to his fellow teammates. According to a fascinating article on ESPN.com highlighting NBA players growing interest in wine, Cleveland center Kevin Love said James is like “a supercomputer” when it comes to grapes while Dwyane Wade noted, “when we go out, it’s Bron, what wine we getting? You ask most of the guys on the team who orders the wine, we leave it to him to order.”

So if you live in Northern California wine country, be on the lookout as the 2018-19 season kicks off in October—especially whenever Los Angeles plays either the Warriors or the Kings! LeBron has been known to tour many wineries in Napa so you might just see the Laker (and future member of the International Wine and Food Society?) at a tasting near you.  After all, as he told the press during the 2017 NBA Finals: “I just need some food and some wine and I’ll be alright.”


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Ask Sid: Value Piedmont for cellaring?

July 18th, 2018
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piedmont wines for your wine collection

Question: Starting a wine cellar and want to add some bottles of a quality Piedmont wine at good value. Would appreciate your wise tip on what I should buy.

Answer: Good idea. Big fan of the nebbiolo grape from the Langhe and especially Barolo & Barbaresco for long aging. So many quality producers to study and collect some of their wine to get to know better the complex Piedmont terroir. One top choice is the Produttori Del Barbaresco co-op where managing director Aldo Vacca has some 50 growers producing 9 specific crus as special Riservas in only the best vintages. Right now they have released them from the classic 2013 year and all their 9 crus are most worthy of cellaring. Most of them are available at the BC LDB for $64 plus 15% tax (like the structured Montestefano) but my favourite is the fresh vibrant Paje as the best value at $59. Just bought some. Check your own local market. Highly recommend adding some bottles of the 2013 for your exciting new wine cellar.


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