This spring in New York, we’ve partnered with the French Institute Alliance Francaise to present a series of panels and wine tastings celebrating Art de Vivre and the intersection of French and American culture.
Anyone in the NY area and inclined to buy Bordeaux might want to check out the Union des Grands Crus tasting tomorrow, held at The Four Seasons restaurant, a few blocks away from Sherry-Lehmann, which is presenting the event (tickets $75/$125). I stopped by today at the trade version of the same tasting to get a read on the 2007 Bordeaux vintage, which seems to be neither as dire as some reports would have nor as wonderful as the chateau owners might prefer we all thought.
Basically, the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac are lovely in '07, with layers of nectar-like flavors and distinct botrytis character (that distinctive honeysuckle-to-bitter-honey note). Standouts at the tasting included Chateau Coutet, Rayne-Vigneau, and Doise-Daëne.
The white wines of Pessac-Leognan also show well in '07, at least more consistently than the reds. Standouts at the tasting included Domaine de Chevalier, Château de Fieuzal, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Château Smith Haut-Lafitte.
The '07 Bordeaux reds that I tasted were a mixed bag. The best—Domaine de Chevalier and de Fieuzal again, Pape Clément, Pontet-Canet, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages—weren't flashy, but were balanced, appealing wines supported by ripe tannins, with a kind of sneaky depth to their flavors; the not-so-good were marred by green notes and an hollowness in the midpalate that isn't particularly pleasant now and seems unlikely to improve with age, too. Of course, I tasted only a percentage of a percentage of the '07 Bordeauxs as a whole, so take any broad generalizations cautiously. Or, even better, go to the tasting and see what you think.
On Jan. 23 in New York City, Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, presents the Union Des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting. This is a rare opportunity to sample the 2006 and 2007 Vintages from more than 80 of Bordeaux's greatest châteaux. Winemakers and châteaux proprietors themselves will be pouring the wines. VIP ticket holders will be entered into a Special Raffle in which 6 Signed Magnums from a selection of featured Châteaux will be awarded to 6 lucky winners (Raffle Commences at 2:30pm). For VIP tickets ($125pp before Jan. 20; $150 after) and Grand Tasting tickets ($75pp before Jan. 20; $95 after); sold online at: http://www.sherry-lehmann.com/events; 212-838-7500. Event takes place at 583 Park Avenue in NYC.
After a morning spent with New Zealand wines, I hustled off in the afternoon to a Sauternes-Barsac tasting. Sauternes and Barsac, locate in the southwestern corner of Bordeaux, are known for producing sweet wines made with the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and (sometimes) Muscadelle grape varieties. These wines develop their sweetness due to botrytis, or "noble rot," a fungus that pierces the skin of the grapes, letting some water out and as a result concentrating all the good sugar inside. The best of these wines have a terrific honeyed quality, but also brightness and acidity so as not to be cloying.
At this particular tasting, the producers were pouring one recent vintage wine and one older one and, remarkably, in some cases the older vintages had more freshness than the more recently released ones.
The two I tasted from Château Doisy Daëne were strikingly different. The 2005 (find this wine) was upfront with fresh grapefruit and grapefruit zest aromas. The flavors tended more to bitter citrus than sweet. The 1991 bottling, however, oozed with honey and butter and orange marmalade flavors alongside a lovely citrus acidity.
Both wines from Château Guiraud were standout, too. The 2005 vintage (find this wine) was lighter and more mellow, with orange blossom flavor and a long finish, whereas the 2002 was lively and crisp with orange notes.
The contrast between the two wines from Château Suduiraut was just as stark. The 2003 vintage (find this wine), which was a very hot year, was big and brawny with rich ripe fruit that suggested nectarines and tangelos. The 1999, on the other hand, was a bit more restrained with a perfumed nose and citrus peel notes.
Overall, it was an interesting investigation into wines that I don't normally have access to, and by the end of the tasting, my palate was surprisingly not overwhelmed, thanks to the accompanying acidity-a great thing, because I was headed back to the office to taste yet more wines, this time from Tuscany. More on that on Monday.
Alberto Antonini is one of the world's most influential winemakers, consulting on wines everywhere from his native Italy to Uruguay, California and Portugal. I recently sat down with Alberto to taste through a selection of wines he's consulting on for Bodegas Nieto Senetiner in Argentina's Mendoza region. We had a fascinating conversation about the importance that he places on making each wine specific to the place it's from, rather than aiming for a broad international style. As winemakers become more international, this ongoing discussion of terroir will become increasingly interesting.
Philosophies aside, the Bodegas Nieto Senetiner wines are standouts, with gorgeous, concentrated flavors thanks to the grapes' growing conditions: very warm days and cool nights. Here's what we tasted.
2008 Reserva Torrontes ($11, find this wine) Argentina's top white, Torrontes, has inherent floral notes, but this bottling has a tremendous white-flower aroma of orange blossoms, jasmine and magnolia alongside bright citrus flavors. This is the perfect wine for these hot summer days. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.
2007 Reserva Bonarda ($30, find this wine) Alberto told me that Bonarda has a particularly long growing season and needs lots of sunlight. Extra time on the vine gives this soft, rustic red its spicy black fruit.
2007 Reserva Malbec ($11, find this wine) Alberto ferments this juicy, cherry-scented Malbec in concrete tanks, because he thinks it gives the wine fuller flavor.
2006 Don Nicanor Malbec ($17, find this wine) This deeply colored Malbec is loaded with black cherry and blackberry, plus a refreshing menthol note that keeps it from overloading the palate.
2005 Cadus Malbec ($45, find this wine) This single-vineyard Malbec is surprisingly fresh, even though it's also quite structured. It's long and elegant with pretty, spiced-cherry flavors.