“The appellation of Corton is one of the greatest in Burgundy, even if its reputation is not quite the same as it was in the 19th century.” – Aubert de Villaine
How much longer do you think the appellation of Corton will be under-appreciated? My guess is not long given the star power of de Villaine and DRC. In 2008 a long-term lease agreement was reached with Domaine Prince Florent de Merode under which DRC was given control of 2.27 hectares of vineyard land on the hill of Corton. Due to various constraints such as total vineyard size, vine age within those vineyards, an exacting standard of quality and the commercial impossibility of bottling ‘single climat’ wines from Corton, the decision was made to make a blend. The blend of Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Renard (arguably the 3 best red Grand Crus on Corton) serves, as de Villaine explains, “to make one Corton [with] each parcel bringing its own qualities.” The result is a wine that is earthy and deeply concentrated. De Villaine says of the Corton, “we like the tannic concentration which makes it a very different wine from the more aerial and feminine Vosne-Romanée wines.”
Corton rouge will be a worthy edition to the DRC collection. Related to but dissimilar from the stable of unspeakably beautiful Vosne wines, the tie that holds the family together is the magic produced by de Villaine and Henry-Frederic Roch. As respectful stewards of their hallowed terroir these two venerable Burgundians have striven for and achieved unmatched ‘harmony’ at Domaine Romanee-Conti through tireless application of Biodynamic principles. Harmony between man and nature, land and wine.
Though the Chave family draws from large and diverse land-holdings on the Hill of Hermitage, they do not bottle single climat wines or special “Hermitage crus” because of their belief in the magic of blending. The meticulously farmed plots of Syrah are planted in Bessards, L’Hermite, Peleat, Meal, Beaume, Diognieres and Vercandiered. Bessards is considered to be the backbone and soul of the Chave reds.
The Cuvee Cathelin is an “alternate cuvee” identified during blending and made only when it will not detract from the production of the flagship Hermitage. Made from the same parts as the Hermitage but in different proportions, the Cuvee Cathelin is a rarity in the world of wine as a second look at a given vintage through the eyes, palate and nose of a historic producer/master blender. In 2009 it receives a 3-digit score. Less than 200 cases were produced.
In the months since my original July 31st post, renaissance man Greg Lambrecht has been busy testing and showing off his impressive Coravin Wine Access System. In her recent Financial Times article, respected MW and wine writer Jancis Robinson describes her meeting with Lambrecht and the blind trial of his Coravin. Long story short, it works to the full satisfaction of one of the world’s preeminent palates.
The trial consisted of two bottles each from two different producers/regions, one of which had been “accessed” by Lambrecht in 2010 and the other that was freshly opened for the occasion. According to Jancis, the wines from 2010 were indistinguishable from their freshly opened counterparts. At the risk of overstating things, this is a HUGE win for the Coravin and a HUGE moment in the world of fine wine that will shift drinking habits, shorten the learning curve for fine wine education and change how old & rare wines are authenticated, sold and collected.
Jancis’s final paragraph is telling of the immediate social impact of the Coravin:
But as Lambrecht explained that when he entertains, he takes guests to his cellar and [suggests] “they choose which bottles they want to taste”, my heart slightly sank. I see wine drinking as a truly social activity, with an essential part of its enjoyment the sharing of a whole bottle with friends, seeing how it and they change as glasses and bottles are drained.
I must say, I couldn’t agree more with Jancis. The socially spirited occasions that great wine affords are the result of a shared experience.
This Will Lyons article serves as a reminder that “practice makes perfect.” As he notes “our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses. But unlike our eyes, which automatically recognize color, and our ears, which are attuned to detect sounds, our nose needs to be trained.” Whether you are a casual drinker, a wine professional or someone in-between, the sensory pleasures of wine are equally accessible with some basic training. The results of accurately identifying and naming aromas will vary person-to-person but the tools required are the same, a sense of smell and command of some basic wine language. Otherwise practice practice practice. As you begin to develop and build your olfactory memory the wine in your glass will present itself differently and may even greet you with familiarity. For those who concentrate, olfactory recognition of familiarity in a wine can be nearly as intoxicating as the alcohol itself, it is evidence of personal progress and a pat on the back for having done so much work (drinking). While there is no point at which practice and learning should cease, once wines begin to express themselves as old friends you have reached a tipping point. Beyond this tipping point, no longer can you be scolded for drinking alone. For who can be said to be drinking alone when an old friend is present.
Basic (but important) Aroma-Related Wine Language:
Primary Aroma: aromas that result directly from the varietal (i.e. any fruit)
Secondary Aroma: aromas that result from wine-making and aging (i.e. vanilla/spice from oak)
Tertiary Aroma: aromas that develop from bottle aging and the slow march of maturity (i.e. forest floor, mushroom)
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 20% Sangiovese
Youthful after all these years. A subtly sweet, elegant nose. Beautifully soft tannins greet the palate, escorted by lovely acid that makes that mouth water; these two components create a structural balance responsible for this wine’s luxurious texture. Furthering the harmonious mouthful are the wonderful flavors that straddle the old and new world, pulling earthy notes of terroir together with bolder, more forward notes of dark chocolate and dark red/black fruit. I credit Antinori for putting what I am trying to say most appropriately, the 1997 Solaia “displays unmistakable varietal flavor while retaining strong regional character.” And it certainly does so in style. This wine is an athletic, nimble heavyweight.
It’s hard to know how to feel about this story. Loosely wine related but thoroughly government shutdown related, the articles below offer poignant insight into the pathetically contradictory workings of our government.
The final week of the fiscal year is referred to by those “inside the Beltway” as “use it or lose it week.” During this week each year government officials place pricey orders for non-essential goods with the express intent of emptying their coffers and proving that the same budget is necessary for the coming year. After all, no one wants their budget cut because someone forgot to buy $5 million worth of custom glassware right? Fortunately for our embassies around the world, the U.S. Office of Acquisitions keeps a close eye on this type of thing and was able to “finalize the order for custom stemware on September 30th, just hours before nearly one million federal workers were put on unpaid leave as a result of the on-going budget dispute in Congress.”
While sustained patronage of American business and support of domestic manufacturing is essential to our national economic health, it is hard to imagine that one domestic product, fancy glassware, could impress foreign dignitaries enough to make up for the ongoing bastardization of our most American domestic product, Democracy.
Use it or Lose it Highlights:
-$5 million order for custom crystal glassware and bar accessories from Vermont-based Simon Pearce (glasses ranging from $65-$100 per stem)
-$500,000 spent by the Department of Veteran Affairs for artwork
-$178,000 spent by the Coast Guard repairing cubicle furniture
-A six-figure order was placed by the Department of Agriculture on toner cartridges