Charly Thévenet 2014 Régnié “Grain & Granit” (Beaujolais) — Bright, brittle red fruit laden with petal icicles. Warms as it finishes, leaving behind a flood of flowers and fresh-faced innocence. (11/16)
Burgaud 2008 Régnié Vallières (Beaujolais) – Burly, as is more or less the Burgaud house style, with its darkish minerality really showing amidst a violet-hued brew of moderately spiky fruit. As much about structure as forwardness, which is a combination of Burgaud and of age-since-release; normally I’d say this is just closing a bit, but my longer-term experiences with this bottling in other vintages lead me to think it’s just going to sit on this spot for a good number of years, then fade, scowling, into the sunset. So I’m drinking mine. (12/11)
Descombes 2006 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Smoothed out and thoroughly liquid. By which I mean there’s not a solid left to be found here. Just pure flowing red fruit in steady-state volume. Drink up, in other words. (10/11)
Cinquin “Domaine des Braves” 2007 Régnié (Beaujolais) – Corked. (2/10)
JM Burgaud 2007 Régnié Vallières (Beaujolais) – Tart strawberry, vivid and crisp. There’s some salty ferric stuff, as well, but mostly this is about incisive – or perhaps incising – fruit. (7/09)
JM Burgaud 2006 Régnié Vallières (Beaujolais) – Straightforward gamayness, light and red-pink-purple-fruited, with an engaging appeal. There’s not really much more to say. It’s good. It’s tasty. It’s highly drinkable. It’s no more than that, though. (1/09)
JM Burgaud 2005 Régnié “Vallières” (Beaujolais) – A solid, almost beefy (though lighter than that; call it “veally”?) block of red fruit and structure. There are very mild floral notes, but they’re distant and unapproachable. This is about as primary a Beaujolais as I’ve tasted, though it’s certainly in line with a lot of other 2005s. There could be great things in the offing here, but for immediate pleasure open something else. (12/06)
Domaine Aucœur 1999 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Like a previous experience with the 2002 version, this is definitely dominated by its acid, but unlike that bottle the generously-matured raspberry and tart cherry fruit here is both spicy and rich, if unquestionably thin. It needs the right food (something that can battle back the acid), but it has rewarded aging better than the younger ’02…though that said, it is true that the wine was more complete and balanced in its youth.
Domaine du Dragon 2004 Côtes de Provence “Hautes Vignes” (Provence) – Dull as invisible toast, with anonymous kinda-sorta red berry aromas and a faded, weak-kneed structure supporting the slightest of bodies. The only thing that’s not dull is a kick of volatility.
A blend of syrah and grenache, from a domaine that seems to do better as a venue for self-contained holiday apartments than as a winery, with…oh, heck, who cares? The wine’s just not interesting enough to deserve further analysis. Alcohol: 13%. Importer: Arborway. Web: http://www.domainedudragon.com/.
Aucœur 2002 Régnié “Cuvée de Vernus” (Beaujolais) – Tart raspberry, underripe red cherry and apple with acid-spiked sheets of rusty iron. This is starting its downslope, and giving way to the powerful acidities within, but it was fun while it lasted.
Régnié is one of the ten crus of Beaujolais, and according to most observers I’ve talked to one of the least definable; the wines have to be taken on a bottle-by-bottle basis. This is a wine I’ve liked a great deal, and I admit to surprise at the downturn; it was never a blockbuster gamay, but it was fairly solid and balanced, and three years isn’t that old. Serve it with tart food, however, and things should be OK.
Alcohol: 14%. Importer: Violette.
Beaumont 2004 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Stone fruit: the cocktail version. It doesn’t require a colorful paper umbrella, because everything’s fairly restrained rather than fruit salad-y, but this texturally sticky-silk wine is rather a mélange of varied fruits uncomplexed by more interesting characteristics. As with many Southern (and Northern) Rhône whites, interest may develop with age, but I’m not sure this wine has the structure to support much aging.
Despite being right next door to Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, Lirac is – along with its west-of-Avignon partners Tavel and the villages of Chusclan and Laudun (the latter duo more north than west) – somewhat of a forgotten stepsister. Despite sharing with its neighbors a healthy grenache component, the reds from this appellation always seem more like syrah and/or mourvèdre to me. I’ve had very few rosés, and I believe this is one of the first domaine-bottled whites I’ve tasted. The grapes may include clairette, bourboulenc, grenache blanc, ugni blanc, picpoul, and the usual trio of Rhônish white grapes: viognier, marsanne, and roussanne. While I don’t know the specific cépage of this wine, I suspect the lack of greater complexity is due to the blend being dominated by the grapes at the former end of that list (which is required by law), rather than the latter. Or maybe it’s just not an ideal terroir for whites. More research is needed.
Alcohol: 13.5%. Importer: Vineyard Research.
Dashe 2002 Zinfandel (Sonoma County) – Unlike another recently-consumed bottle, this one has chosen to cower under a tight sheen of coconutty oak. There’s big, generous zinberry fruit underneath it all, but the performance of this wine is a touch inexplicable. Finishes with the expected blackberry liqueur and black pepper residue, though it’s important to note that this wine isn’t hot or boozy.
Mike Dashe used to make wine at Ridge. That should be enough to convince anyone of the potential quality of his zins (which make up the majority of his portfolio). If not, try this: Mike and his wife Anne are dedicated Francophiles; even with zinfandel, the monster truck of wine grapes, they do work to achieve balance in all that they do. (NB: Anne should be a Francophile, since she’s French…) Finally, they’re friends of mine. OK, maybe the last isn’t exactly a selling point, but I thought I’d throw it out there. It may help explain my enthusiasm for these wines, which are as big and bold as anyone could want, but rarely over the top (note: “rarely,” not “never”), and my confusion as to why Dashe isn’t more popular. Anyway, what we’ve got here is a lower-cost blend from some of the single-site wines the Dashes work with, designed for earlier drinking but – surprise, surprise – built for a little aging as well.
Alcohol: 14.1%. Web: http://www.dashecellars.com/.
Zusslin Crémant d’Alsace Brut “Prestige” (Alsace) – Tight and unyielding, showing the barest hints of tart fruit and a featureless grey wall of industrial steel.
Valentin Zusselin et fils is a producer in Orschwihr about which I don’t know a lot, though I have tasted the wines both in Alsace and in the States, at their local importer’s tastings. This is not my favorite of their various wines, but I do encourage seeking out the others.
The Alsatian biodynamic crew’s wines share a restrained, difficult quality that with every passing year becomes ever more undoubtedly an outgrowth of the methodologies, and the argument that these issues are resolved by superior aging seems to me to only be borne out about half the time. I have no idea why biodynamics might be less successful in Alsace than elsewhere, though from both theoretical and practical standpoints it is difficult to fault the viticultural practices, and biodynamics are rarely paired with poor or abusive vinification. Elsewhere, I have heard theories (upon which I personally have no opinion as yet) that already-stressed vines don’t respond well to biodynamics, yet except on certain truly difficult sites, it’s not my impression that the grapes of Alsace are particularly stressed; in point of fact, the range of Germanic and Burgundian transplants seem often to have a fairly cushy lifestyle in the hills, slops and plains of the region. All of this summarizes to a big “I don’t know what’s wrong,” I agree, but I don’t know, and I’d love to. Any theories?
Alcohol: 12.5%. Biodynamic. Importer: Violette. Web: http://www.valentin-zusslin.com/.
Granger 2002 Juliénas (Beaujolais) – Dense and tannic. Dark berries land with a militaristic thud on the palate, and only some vividly floral aromatics and backpalate acidity mark this as Beaujolais at all. An ager, though I wonder if there’s enough fruit to meld with the structure.
This is another producer with which I don’t have much experience. After tasting this wine, I’m a little surprised, though I suspect the constant focus by local gamay fans on the wines brought by Kermit Lynch and Louis/Dressner may obscure the consistently good work done by Rosenthal in my market. Anyway, there’s much here worthy of deeper study, and I will attempt to sock a few of these away to continue the “research.”
Alcohol: 13%. Importer: Rosenthal.