Thomas-Labaille 2006 Sancerre Rouge “Authentique” (Loire) – High-toned rose hips and red licorice. Fruity and supple, easy to like. Too many red Sancerres choose between rough rusticity and an over-polished international sheen; this sits nicely in-between, with none of the excesses at the wings. (1/08)
Hippolyte Reverdy 2005 Sancerre (Loire) – Dull and one-note, with vague suggestions of grassy-green fruit and rather obvious alcohol. This is heavy without being intense, and things get worse with food. (7/07)
Jolivet 2005 Sancerre Les Caillottes (Loire) – Thin, watery flavors combined with spiky alcohol and a flat, lifeless texture. What the heck went wrong here? (7/07)
Pascal Cotat 2002 Sancerre La Grande Côte (Sancerre) – Perfumed hazelnuts and anise with molten quartz seething down the sides and then rising up again through the core. Very insistent, with strong acidity and a long finish. Gorgeous. (6/07)
Thomas-Labaille 2005 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés (Loire) – As solid a young effort as I’ve tasted here, but showing its hand much more easily than in the past. Grey, dusty earth and freshly-smelted aluminum vie with sculpted grass and drying citrus skins for prominence, all enveloped by a firm, masculine structure that refuses to reveal weakness despite a lingering finish. Really, really good, though I wonder if the approachability means that it will have a shorter lifespan than normal. (My instincts are that it will be just fine.) (3/07)
Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. These were difficult tasting conditions, where speed and distraction were the norm rather than the exception. Thus, notes are brief at best, somewhat superficial, and cannot in truth be otherwise.
Luneau-Papin 2002 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Terroir de Schistes” Clos des Noëlles “Semper Excelsior” (Loire) – All rocks and seashells, with a piercing gaze and stunning poise. Absolutely beautiful. More, please. (2/07)
Baumard Crémant de Loire “Carte Turquoise” (Loire) – Lemongrass, aspirin and herbal dust. Soft and simple, with a clumsy froth…more of a foam than an actual sparkle. (2/07)
Baumard Crémant de Loire “Carte Corail” (Loire) – Strawberry, lemon and bold anise notes. Deeper and much more interesting than the Turquoise, with some leesiness on the finish. (2/07)
Baumard 2002 Savennières (Loire) – Big white asparagus and sea salt with chalky minerality, then slate, then molten steel with…this sounds strange…a dry, watery grip. The finish brings out more asparagus alongside ripe grapefruit. There’s more future than present here. (2/07)
Baumard 2001 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Tight, crystalline, and hollow. The finish is a long tube of chalked iron and leafy aluminum. Very disappointing. (2/07)
Baumard Côteaux du Layon “La Cuvée Ancienne” (Loire) – A blend of stocks going from 1966 to 1988, if I remember correctly. The point is to prove the ageability of Côteaux du Layon. Unfortunately, the wine tastes more tired than mature, showing pine needles, dessert spice, old golden apples, and some cider notes. (2/07)
Baumard 1991 Côteaux du Layon Clos de Sainte Catherine (Loire) – An apple wrapped with a thin sheet of metal, then re-wrapped with banana leaves, and finally drizzled with smooth, sweet vegetable syrup. Clean, upfront and fully mature. (2/07)
Baumard 2002 Quarts de Chaume (Loire) – One expects this to be terrific, and it is. Big tropical fruit well-balanced by crisp, apple-tone acids, leaves and quinine. Concentrated and very intense, yet never losing that flawless balance. Absolutely delicious. (2/07)
F. Cotat 2005 Sancerre “Les Culs de Beaujeu” (Loire) – Sulfur and quartz, with an intense, almost tingly palate. Fine and precise, with very good balance and a long finish. It’s very young, however. (2/07)
Vatan “Château du Hureau” 2004 Saumur-Champigny (Loire) – Herbs, black cherry skins and bitter licorice. The balance starts off OK, but eventually tannin overwhelms this wine. Worrisome. (2/07)
Joly 2004 Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Loire) – Wax, chalk and slate with an intense, smoky note that veers towards creosote, then writhes back from the precipice, eventually to be overcome by a patina of ultra-flavorful pâte brisée (that’s pastry dough for the unpretentious among us). A skin-like note adds a tannic accent to the finish. This is really nicely done, with a good future. (2/07)
Huet 2002 Vouvray Le Mont “Demi-Sec” (Loire) – Stunning balance – just absolutely breathtaking, and perhaps among the finest I’ve ever experienced – between crisp apple, honeydew melon, chalk-dusted wax, and fine acidity. Piercing, with intensity and clarity, and a wine that cannot help but gain one’s full attention. Wow. Simply: wow. (2/07)
Thomas-Labaille 2005 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés “Cuvée Buster” (Loire) – Strong, silty minerality with grass and hay, softened by light residual sugar. The gorgeous texture – like a sheet of creamed granite – doesn’t quite make up for a general lifelessness. Perhaps the wine’s just youthfully indecisive, because given the length and quality of the finish there certainly could be an upside here. (2/07)
JP Balland 2001 Sancerre (Loire) – Mature, showing grass and crystallized limestone aromas and a pleasant, medium-high acid structure. This sits in the glass all shy and delicate, but in response to food it wrestles and amplifies until it’s quite a substantial beverage. Drink up, for sure, but this is a fine middle-of-the-road Sancerre in the prime of its adulthood. (12/06)
JP Balland 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Sludgy, thick gooseberry and saccharine (not to imply the wine’s sweet; it’s a textural thing). The flavors are there, but nothing else that differentiates wine from de-acidified fruit juice is, and in the glass it just sits there, overweight and lifeless. This is the very definition of a “dead fruit” wine. (12/06)
Like all wine lovers, I have my likes and dislikes, and the wines I choose to buy reflect those choices. And like most wine lovers, I don’t much care for drinking bad wines. What’s fun, though, is crossing over to the “other side,” and tasting (mostly) well-made wines that fit the preferences of those with decidedly different tastes.
A recent holiday party gave me the opportunity to do just that. Below are some quick takes — I didn’t take formal notes at the event — on a lineup of wines that, with one or two exceptions, aren’t likely to make regular appearances in my glass.
Lafond 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Reedy green citrus and grassy notes, though with the skin bitterness and lowish acidity characteristic of the vintage. In the context of many truly awful 2003 Sancerres, this one is actually half-decent.
la Poussie 2003 Sancerre (Loire) – Heavy, green, bitter, and acid free. See above.
Ladoucette 2003 Pouilly-Fumé (Loire) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Paul Hobbs 2003 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) – Simple and spicy peach, pear, citrus and white fig-like fruit with moderate oak spice and a reasonable dollop of acidity. Pretty decent, though chardonnay’s still not exactly my favorite grape in the world.
Belle Pente 2002 Pinot Noir Belle Pente (Willamette Valley) – Gorgeous, silky fruit with earthy elegance and the first stirrings of complexity. Beautifully balanced and long. I could drink this all night.
Relic 2002 Pinot Noir Alder Springs (Mendocino County) – Forceful pinot noir, dense and throbbing with heavy, leaden black and red fruit, plus streaks of plummy orange rind that make me think of an especially heavy Central Otago pinot. This will be very popular with some, and it’s not a bad wine, but I much prefer the Belle Pente.
Fanti 1998 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Luscious, clove-spiced baked berries with not-insignificant oak and a relatively balanced finish. There could be less technology and wood thrown at this, and it would improve, but it’s a nice drink in its present form.
Brancaia 2003 “Il Blu” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – The sangiovese is, as usual, overwhelmed by cabernet and merlot, but that said there’s merit to the wine; internationalized it is, indeed, but there’s plenty of juicy and fun fruit here.
Gaja 2001 “Magari” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – Weedy bell pepper and seed pepper dust. There are interestingly floral aromatics, but the palate is disappointing, and a long finish doesn’t mean much when the flavors aren’t that pleasant.
Thomas Fogarty 2001 “Skyline” (California) – Massively overwooded and underripe at the same time. Horrid.
Tor 2003 Syrah Durell “Clone No. 1” (Carneros) – Incredibly thick and dense…a sort of chocolate-and-oak shake…and varietally anonymous. Kind of a waste of the raw materials, but certainly destined for popularity amongst the bigger-is-better crowd.