Thanks for your most thoughtful and often quite challenging questions throughout 2022. They certainly were a mixed bag of queries concerning both food but mainly wine. Your scribe always likes to hear from you and appreciates your interest & participation in this popular Wednesday feature. Award best question of the year to Jenny C for her recent most specific topical question (actually 4) on Champagne recommendations for the festive season. One of the great benefits of our interest in food & wine is that all of us continue to regularly learn and educate ourselves on this fascinating topic. Please keep it going with more in 2023!
Your scribe tries to give you insight into a broad selection of quality wines (and sometimes food) every Monday in his weekly Blog. More emphasis is placed on older bottles because generally there already is a plethora of views out there on the social media about the currently released vintages. Less information on choice cellared bottles. Perhaps too much focus is placed on Bordeaux & Burgundy (including Chablis) but most IWFS members have a keen interest in and collection from those regions. It is noted that your Top Ten for 2022 lists 3 articles about Burgundy & Bordeaux – including your #1 Pichon Lalande. Lots of other ones would make my top 10 including the IWFS Wine Pairings as a valuable new resource, the 3 part IWFS Vancouver Branch tour of the popular South Okanagan, and the spotlight on the 3 Leovilles from St. Julien with Bill Blatch. Thanks for your wonderful support and hope you continue to follow us during 2023.
Question: Just starting to study the Chablis region and wonder which are the best upcoming vintages I should buy and drink. Please help.
Answer: Yes, not that easy. 2017 wines are most worthy well-balanced examples (but not as intense as those outstanding 2014s). Both softer 2018 & concentrated 2019 are drinking forwardly but felt the effect of heat spikes from global warming showing less vigour. 2020 is the best bet with early picking and better resulting vibrancy in a more classic style. Your scribe has already purchased 2020 Butteaux 1er cru Domaine Servin & Les Clos Grand Cru from Christian Moreau. 2021 is a more difficult variable year that required careful attention in the vineyard & winery and again a smaller crop because of the frost issues. Generally less lively but some are showing fine quality. Shop carefully. Surprisingly, the 2022 presently in the pipeline may have survived the frosts, heat waves, and drought to produce higher quantities (good news) with livelier better quality than expected. Check out the value of improving Petit Chablis & Chablis AC. Perhaps try these last 3 vintages and compare some distinctive terroirs from this wonderful unique wine region.
One of the joys and frustrations of collecting and drinking quality wine that requires some cellaring is knowing when best to open that bottle. General consensus is that these top wines eventually reach a plateau of optimum drinking and stay there to enjoy for quite a while. As an example, certainly many red Bordeaux classified growths and nebbiolo based Barolo & Barbaresco will surprise you with their amazing longevity that goes on for a lifetime and beyond. However that doesn’t take into consideration bottle variation and other contingencies that can affect the bottle you actually open. A favourite oenophile expression is “there is no consistent great old wine but only great old bottles”.
The same long life applies to many whites, especially those with some sweetness including Sauternes & Riesling among others, but even to white Burgundy – a favourite of your scribe. Just opened last night two 2010 Meursault 1er cru from Bouchard Pere of Genevrieres & Perrières. Both delightful and vibrantly impressive now (G more open developed complex nose + P with palate minerality) but not yet IMHO at their peak performance. Develop with decanting and airing. The 2010 vintage is a classic year of intensity with purity plus richness for white Burgundy that just are starting to come around. These benefit here by the wise earlier picking strategy (before this practice became the norm) of producer Bouchard Pere providing freshness and wonderful balanced acidity plus helped from any worrisome pre-mox issues by long Diam corks. Recommend waiting for these and your incomparable great 2014s (including Chablis) and enjoying the other surrounding vintages that presently are showing more forwardly. Outstanding wines but didn’t quite catch both these 2010 at apogee!
The 1988 red Burgundy vintage always seemed to be behind the seductive 1985s, generous underrated 1989s, and rich deep 1990s. Monitoring 1988 for many decades always found them to be with bright acidity plus harder tannins hiding the firm underlying fruit. Recently, we have opened several of the 1988 Faiveley Grand Cru conscientiously “mis en bouteille a la main sans filtration”. Firstly Clos de Vougeot but found it slightly disappointing as rather light lacking in fruit drying out and was better drinking earlier on. Waited too long. Therefore, we were keen to try the Latricieres-Chambertin which proved to be completely different, so sensational as one of my cherished wines tasted in the 2022 year. Perfect point in the orbit, it had come around with charming delicate mature fruit emerging over that fresh underlying acidity and softening tannins. What a wine. Hard to find but at apogee climax!
Encouraged by this spectacular showing of L-C we decided to open together at a dinner party this last week 1988 Mazis-Chambertin & Chambertin Clos de Beze. Wrong decision because both were packed with intense powerful fruit but not yet softened sufficiently to come together for this palate. Too early for that desired apogee. Decided to compare those to another Faiveley Corton Clos des Cortons from the more celebrated deep big fruit 1990 vintage. Same result as too early and probably even more so. Crazy I know but your scribe is confident that these three 30+ year wines all will develop further complexity as patience is still required to have the acid, fruit and tannins hopefully meld together in a perfect balance – like the L-C. Yes, it can be hard to capture that elusive apogee but this is all part of the fun of wine collecting and learning to enjoy wines at various levels of maturity so keep on trying!
Question: 1. Your favourite vintages of Champagne in this century?
Your Champagne recommendations from the BC Liquor inventory:
2. To be cellared for a long time for a very special milestone occasion
3. For New Year’s Eve to be shared with the family, and
4. To be gifted to the festive season gathering hosts
Answer: Four specific key questions all on Champagne by you Jenny C. Most topical and well asked. Thanks. Lots of current information out there on social media. I admire the thorough most skilled job done by Treve Ring on www.gismondionwine.com with 90 Champagnes reviewed on December 8, 2022. Check it out. Your scribe will try to give some personal guidance to a subjective most difficult question:
1. My favourite is 2008 closely followed by 2002 & 2012. All three produced good balanced bubbles that will age well.
2. Many choices (prefer Magnum size for aging) including my fav of Krug in any vintage and the multi-vintage Grande Cuvee. Also Dom Perignon 2008 or Bollinger La Grande Annee 2012 if you still can find some bottles. New Louis Roederer Collection 242 for $83 is a good value. Special mention to a new exciting listing 398622 just arriving this month Philippe Gonet 2008 (also 2007 arriving) Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs en Magnum $194.99 from Le Mesnil Sur Oger (or old vines mainly planted in 1929 in their 2009 Belemnita $279.99). Another Salon?
3. Fresh lively Champagne that currently shows well even in flutes (rather than my preferred tulip shaped) like Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut or Pol Roger Reserve Brut.
4. Lots of wonderful choices for gifts. I would recommend NV Charles Heidsieck Brut regularly $74 on sale (until December 31) for $69 to introduce your host to a beautifully complex drinking treat that adds 50% Reserve wines to the current vintage the results of which is enjoying an expensive full white Burgundy with bubbles.
Don’t forget that private stores have other interesting selections not carried by the BCLDB. Check out Marquis Wine Cellars for an outstanding emphasis on Grower Champagnes including newly arrived Paul Bara 2014 (variable vintage) Grand Millesime $99.91.