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January 19, 2007

95 Jean Vesselle, Champagne Bouzy Brut Prestige

I've never seen bubbly pinot noir age this well. While many go grapey or limp, Vesselle's prestige cuvee--actually a blend of two parts pinot noir to one part chardonnay--has gotten oily and rich, as silky as browned butter or lardo melting on the bottom lip. So oily, in fact, that the cool, measured stride of bubbles barely breaks the surface. It's the vines of Bouzy dressed in linen for the flabby heat of 95. Were it chardonnay, a wine that seemed this old would have gone to sherry by now, but Vesselle's--though seemingly dead with its bronze color and faint carbonation--has all the vigor one expects from big Bouzy. To be frank, I was nervous the bottle had passed when I opened it, the cork sliding out like a spirit from the room. But, instead, its nutty yeast cake aroma, sweet tarte tatin, sourdough, and lemon curd taste, and finish of raspberry and tangerine trifle is one of Champagne's great surprises.

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January 15, 2007

02 Sierra Cantabria, Rioja Crianza

Were it not for the year or two the Cantabria spends in oak to satisfy its Crianza labeling, this might have just been classified out to be "red wine" from "Europe." That age gives it just enough nuance to let us taste how good Cantabria can be--enough body to lift the ripe fruit out of the floods and turn, quite effectively, the murky Spanish waters into wine. With a gamey smell of well-seasoned, turned earth and budding tastes of blueberries and preciously pinot-kissed dried cherries, tar, tobacco, and maybe even a little plummy Belgian cocoa, there's enough to keep us going. But the wine just feels so... slow... tannins lumbering onto the palate, zipped like a tight fly by the tangy, bitter, lettuce-like acid. It's an erratic bottling that speaks to an erratic vintage in Rioja--one that saw both excessive rain and sun, and one that Cantabria tries hard to overcome.

5 Comments:

Blogger jens at cincinnati wine said...

I've been scouring the warehouses for the leftover 2001 Rioja's as I am underwhelmed by the 2002's. Might have to jump to the 2003's.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

The 2001 was spectacular, but I have avoided Spanish 2002s like the plague. I finished all of my Crianza, and have started on the Cuvee Especial. I love your site - nice diversity - can't believe I missed it. Cheers!

7:40 PM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

Last night, this wine showed great elegance, a coolness on the palate, and nice freshness in its flavors.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I know the 2001 was extremely elegant. Why do you think it was so different the second time around? Did you serve it with something different, perhaps? Decant vs. no decant? A different temperature? Or perhaps you were in a different state of mind?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Nilay Gandhi said...

I see a fair amount of bottle variation in such wines. The winery's elegance--and subtlety with oak when used--allows the wines to shine through. You can have a pair of twins; if one wakes up in the morning with a pimple, it doesn't mean the other will have a pimple, too. Same thing with these wines, I think. But no matter how well the 2002 shows, there's absolutely no comparison to 2001. It was a great vintage that Cantabria took great advantage of.

8:30 PM  

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January 10, 2007

04 Maison Champy, Bourgogne

Earthier, fruitier, and, frankly, more "Burgundian" than the 2002, this is the kind of pinot noir that drives California winemakers up a wall. Sweet, yet elegant, it has a ruddy core that pales out at the edges of the tongue--showing macerated tart cherries and fennel against the sweet herb of its duxelle- and kriek-like aroma. This is decadent for declassified pinot noir, but in terms that all Old World wine lovers could enjoy--like the 2000 and 2002 Voillots. What it lacks? Duck.

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January 08, 2007

NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Mareuil-Sur-Ay Brut Reserve

At some point, a wine just can't have any more body. Painful, at times, and exhausting, it's a loud, constantly-popping bottle of pinot noir and pinot meunier that uses the chardonnay grape the way a great steak takes salt. The white mixer's tartness of golden and granny smith apples somehow only accentuates the dense, meaty flavors of waxy blueberries and honey that are at this wine's core, lifted by boisterous bubbles and a bold, woody aroma. It's a live wire charging through me, a complex circuitry of perfectly underripened fruit and steely terroir.... What is that ringing in my ears?

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