Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dominique Piron , AOC Morgon, Cote du Py, cru Beaujolais

Wouldn't it be great if someone came along and made your life easier?

   It wouldn't have to be in an extreme way, at least not for me, just any old thing that made my day easier then the one before would be much appreciated. Well then, what if someone helped you organize your life, how would that make you feel?

   "God-bless-you" I would say, and mean it.

   Someone has done that for all of us, and that someone is the INAO or Institut National des Appellations d'Origine. What did they do for us? They organized all of the wines of France. Yeah... and just for you (and me).

   France is an amazing country, with more diverse regions then almost anywhere else on earth; several hundred. And of those several hundred exactly delineated areas, Burgundy (Bourgogne) has more then anywhere else in France. In fact, they have so many that although the wines of southern Burgundy and northern Beaujolais can be incredibly similar, they are noted as being from different regions.

   Ahhh Beaujolais; the one-time stomping ground (pardon the atrocious pun) of Beaujolais-Nouveau; candied juice of the grape. Well, much as I said in my previous article on AOC Morgon (http://astudentofwine.blogspot.ca/2012/01/jean-foillard-beaujolais-morgon-cote-du.html ), if that's what you think of Gamay Noir/Beaujolais then you have alot to learn.

   Cru Beaujolais is divided into 10 AOC's, which range in quality from cheap, cheerful and best consumed whilst young to rich, nuanced, and capable of Burgundian levels of quality as they mature. In fact, in Beaujolais there is a local word to describe what happens to these wines "Il Morgone" = "It Morgin-isizes". These winemakers are saying that when Gamay Noir approaches it's fifth, or seventh, or 12th year with dignity, grace, finesse and puissance, then it can say that it has Morgoned. (In local dialect it is sometimes called Pinoter ,or, to develop Pinot Noir like qualities)

   Wow, that's a huge compliment but also alot to live up to.

Dominique and his delivery van
   14th generation winemaker Dominique Piron (http://www.domaines-piron.fr/) is more then capable. He and his wife Kristine have more the 60 hectares of cultivated vineyard in Beaujolais; running the gambit of levels of finesse. One of their most prized parcels is in the afore-mentioned AOC Morgon. Morgon lies in the north of Beaujolais, and has a large hill in it know as the Mont de Py, which winemakers yearn to plant with vines on the southern and south-eastern exposures know as the Cote de Py. It is here that Dominique coaxes exacting quality at approachable prices.

   And so, around the commune of Villie-Morgon (twin hamlets that joined together long ago), over 250 producers work much like Dominique does. It is not a new story, in this part of southern France... working with ancient schistous-granitic soil which is so weathered and tamed by millenia that it is called "rotten rock" for its appearance. They are firm believers in organic and bio-dynamic principles, and have been doing so in some cases (like Dominique) for centuries. Perhaps they aren't certified, but many growers in the region don't see the need to spend money on certifications for practices that have been passed down for generations.

   Regardless, the proof is in the glass, n'est-pas? And Morgon has built a reputation for being one of (if not the) the foremost examples of greatness in Gamay Noir and the Beaujolais. Care to dispute it? You'll have to try them first~! And if you were curious, it's not just Gamay Noir in Morgon (accounts for 85% of all blendings), they also grow Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon (for the remaining 15% of all blendings).

2009 Morgon Cote du Py
by Dominique Piron
$30         92 points

*** Best of Show: Vancouver Magazine top 100 value wines, 2012 ***
  • visual:   clear; fully intense plum-garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:    clean; fully intense and youthful bouquet of red cherries, red currants, bright strawberries, an explosion of red floral notes, candy background with an undercurrent of savory earth
  • palate:    clean; dry, moderate+ to fully intense (red currant) acids, moderate+ (slightly grippy) tannins, moderate body, moderate ABV (13.5%), moderate+ intense and youthful flavors mimicking well the nose; sultry earth and floral notes are first, followed by red berries and then the lingering earthy notes return. Stunning balance, excellent structure and long length
  • conclusion:   A stunning wine, this is still in it's infancy. Drinks best 2015-2018 and keeps to 2020 I would imagine but will not improve after 2017/18
  • FOOD PAIRINGS: as young as this wine is, best not to complicate matters; venison carpaccio on toasted rye with caramelized onion compote. Let the venison play off the fresh red berry notes and the rye will warm to the earthiness whilst the sweet onion will bring the slightly acidic berries in the wine back in-line

   The proof is in the glass I say. Why then, since AOC Beaujolais was recognized in 1936, do people pay hundreds of dollars a bottle for wine from one side of the border and balk at $50 for a great Morgon? Why? Well perhaps we can lay it down to marketing and brand-awareness; many of you know that I am a fierce proponent of using the brand-awareness against itself...

    And this is a perfect example: buy a stunning Gamay Noir for $30 or less, hold onto it until it's 6 or 7  years old and you will have a wine the equal of a $200 Burgundian Pinot Noir. No, no, no, I'm not saying that it will be the same, but I am most certainly saying that it will have the same quality.

    And what are you really paying for when you buy a bottle of wine? Are you the person who buys a name, or buys quality?

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chablis, Beauroy Permier Cru, Lamblin et Fils

ABC: Anything But Chardonnay

   How many times have I heard that said? Far too many I think, for even hearing someone say it once makes me cringe a little... to condemn an entire varietal because once upon a time there may have been some producers in some parts of the world who, let's say, lacked for finesse.

   Well what about Chablis?? "Oh!" they say with great zeal, "we LOVE Chablis!"


   Chablis is Chardonnay. "Oh, well... that's different. It's not oaked."


   Chablis is, much like many other times in France, the name for the region and the wine that comes from the region. I have never called a Pinot Noir from the Okanagan an "Okanagan" because no one would know what I was talking about. But when I call a wine a Chablis? You know what I'm talking about.

   That's because 100% of all Chablis is Chardonnay, and it comes from one of the most northern, the most extreme, viticulture regions in the world. The climate is semi-continental (meaning hot summers, cold winters, and clearly defined seasons) with no moderation from the maritime winds. The rains still come in Spring, and sometimes a bit to heavily creating the risk of diluted flavors and unbalanced acids in the grapes, and then there is always the risk of frost. These frosts can be so extreme that in 1957, it was reported that only 11 cases of wine were produced from the entire region of about 12,000 hectares...

   And you think your job security is fragile.

   But what is it about the wine that made Chablis once a global name inspiring confidence? Perhaps above (or at least as much as) all other things it must be the soil: Kimmeridgean clay is the technical name for the rare blend of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells that stretches all the way to the east coast of England in varying degrees. It is this soil which gives Chablis Chardonnay it's unique bouquet and flavor profile. The infamous (and rightfully so) Jancis Robinson even declared that this may be the "purest expression of varietal character".

   So what about the oaking? Well tell your ABC friends that they've been mislead... some of the greatest Premier and Grand Cru wineries do, in fact, barrel age their Chablis. But? But they do it with the greatest finesse and respect for the grape, allowing Chardonnay to shine. And the proof?

   As always, my friends, it's in the glass;

 2009 Lamblin et Fils Chablis "Premier Cru"
Beauroy Premier Cru, Maligny-Chablis, France
not available in BC     $55    92 Points

maximum yield:   58 hl/ha
vinification:        stainless steel, cold-stabilized, fining with bentonite (clay)
maturation:        on fine lees in French oak barrels. Allowed to rest for 6 months in bottle before shipping
awards:             CONCOURS DES GRANDS VINS DE FRANCE DE MACON 2010 *Bronze*

visual:   clear; light gold core with pale watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; moderately intense and youthful aromas of bright citrus notes, deep/crisp steely minerality, subtle buttery-vanilla tones, some perfume of small summer flowers
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (lemon zest) acids, light body, moderate+ ABV (13%), moderately intense and youthful flavors in-line with the bouquet, the minerality is most keenly felt and the citrus tones develop on several levels. Excellent balance and structure, long length
  • conclusion:   whilst already drinking well, this wine will richly reward a patient cellaring. Drink 2016-2020
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   butter poached BC sablefish on celeriac rosti with steamed local spaghetti squash and slightly spicy plum compote.... this works on a number of levels: the butter poached sablefish will balance the young acidity, the celeriac warms to earthy tones and spaghetti squash keeps the palate clean whilst the plums embrace the light floral tones from the best Chablis

   And so what do we say about Beauroy, the afore mentioned Premier Cru of Chablis that this wine hails from? Well, out of all 12,000 hectares of vineyard planted in Chablis, only 7 vineyards have the quality to be hailed as "Grand Cru" by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) although there is an un-offical 8th (another article). Slightly less prestigious, with slightly larger yields, a bit less sunlight and warmth for full ripening of the grapes, perhaps a touch less oyster shell in the soil, well that's Premier Cru.

   That's Beauroy; verging on the greatest quality of Chardonnay in the world.

   And, yes, it's oaked.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!