Valdinera 2004 Roero Arneis (Piedmont) – Like especially vivid seltzer, this grabs one’s attention not with weight or concentration, but with a vivacious, dancing palate presence. But other than some light floral and citrus aromas, there’s not a whole lot of tactile substance here, rendering the wine more exciting than satisfying. It’s refreshing enough with restrained cuisine…but just don’t expect too much, otherwise. (6/06)
There’s just not much arneis on wine shelves in the States (usually one sees Giacosa or Vietti), so a new label is often welcome. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the grape almost died out a few decades ago (and, admittedly, probably fell victim to the international misconception that all Italian white wines are identically thin and uninteresting). Its resurrection is a good thing, as even in thinner conceptions (as here), it offers an aromatic presence unlike most other whites. The aforementioned producers do a denser, heavier version of the grape, if that’s your thing, and remain acceptably-priced (not, unfortunately, inexpensively-priced anymore). Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: John Given. Web: http://www.valdinera.com/.
Ernest/JF Burn 2002 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – Sweet, spiced pear and a thick, crystalline liquid syrup structure. If you think that sounds like a dessert wine, you’re not wrong; while there’s some acidity here, the wine’s just too sweet to be served with most food. Drink it as a refreshing summer dessert, or drink it as an apéritif (that’s what the French tend to do with sweet wines anyway, so you can feel all multicultural while you do it), but be very careful about serving it with savory food. (6/06)
Burn’s a domaine I used to love, especially for their Clos St-Imer bottlings (the “La Chapelle” bottlings, allegedly superior, were often a bit too out of balance towards the sugary side), but things have gotten completely out of control there in recent years. I’m not sure if it’s the high ratings from sugar-loving critics, or global warming, or what, but when a even a basic pinot blanc become a dessert wine, something’s askew. And, of course, there’s no exterior indication on the label that this is the case, something that’s endemic to Alsace (though recent legislation will allow a change, if producers other than Zind-Humbrecht are willing to make the effort to inform their customers about the amount of residual sugar in their wines). Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Arborway.
Château Lavergne-Dulong 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux) – Dense, forward blackberry and black cherry with the suggestion of cassis and some ripe, velvety tannin. Eminently drinkable and quite tasty, albeit highly suggestive of a New World style. (6/06)
50% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 10% cabernet franc. Dulong is a négociant, and a big one, and this fits into what seems like a vast ocean of labels (check out their web site and marvel at the portfolio). Obviously, then, this isn’t artisanal winemaking at it most hands-on. What it is, however, is a poster child for the benefits and ills of modernized, international-style winemaking. 2003’s heat wave helps in this regard, of course, but this is a wine with a striking amount of fruit and a particularly soft, approachable texture; everything one might want from inexpensive Bordeaux (which is far too often over-structured and under-fruited), right? Well, opinions differ. I poured this blind for a wine-loving French friend, who pronounced it “too heavy for the food” (we were having aggressive cheeses at the time) and was flabbergasted that it was a Bordeaux. While I didn’t necessarily agree with him on its proportional weight (no doubt because I’m more accustomed to riper, bigger New World wines than he is), I did agree on one key point: there’s very little here to suggest that the wine is from Bordeaux. Of all the potential sins of the internationalized wine style, this is the biggest: the muting or even obliteration of regional or varietal typicity. None of which is to say that the result is a “bad wine” – rather, it’s quite a good wine for the price – but that it very well might be “bad Bordeaux.” To some people, that matters. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Dulong/Elite. Web: http://www.dulong.com/.