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March 24, 2007
Maybe it's the taste of chalkboard and mint-eucalyptus cough drops, but I feel like I'm back in school, sitting by the back window on a breezy fall day. Proving that terroir absolutely exists, the 01 Chevalier tastes first like Bordeaux--before we even consider the sauvignon blanc (70%) and semillon (30%) varietals that grow widely in this region of France. From the heavy drainage and gravel terraces of Pessac-Leognan, comes this striking white--smelling of warm brick, flint, smoke, hot beeswax, and Burberry cologne--more aptly described as "grey" or "taupe." It opens, but in the way the region's reds do, growing earthier and picking up wood spice and more minerality. When the fruit shows, it's in the form of smoked banana and carosene on the nose and a hint of gooseberry on the palate--some would liken it to Meursault-Charmes and, in any case, it more closely resembles the neighboring Bourgogne chardonnays than anything related to the often tart, zippy lexicon of trans-American-Loire-New Zealand sauvignon blanc. In several years time, this will be one of the world's great wines.
March 17, 2007
01 Luis Pato, Baga
Here's yet another bad bottle of Pato's (young vines?) Baga. While I have a rule to not write up spoiled bottles, it seems relevant to talk about this one because more the half the bottles I've had have been off. Though never particularly complex--a dumb cousin, in fact, of the legendary old vines version--it's at least plush and fruity when it's right. It's just a crapshoot, though, and I'm sick of rolling snake eyes. The evil serpent of volatile acidity renders this wine, more often than not, lightly sparkling. It's a miserable sensation on the tongue, tacky and acerbic like a grape Jolly Rancher rendered in a bottle of Zima. I caught this bottle before it turned to vinegar, so the fruit's actually still pretty nice. Just lightly floral from the touriga nacional that's blended in with a decent amount of raspberry on the finish. Even off, it's drinkable, especially once the fizz blows off. But it makes me very suspicious of the winery--one of my favorite wineries on the planet. Instead of noticing and calling back the bottles, Pato officially released an actual sparkling version (one that was meant to be sparkling). I don't mean to suggest that they took their VA batches of baga and staged a cover-up by releasing the fizz (the bubbly red is actually very good), but it does make one wonder.
March 09, 2007
01 Chateau Montus, Madiran
It's like the start of a snowball fight. All the flurry and excitement keeping you warm, while the ice seeps slowly into your shoe. That's what's going on here--a gorgeous, powerful showing of 80% tannat and 20% cabernet from southern France that tastes of every speck of dirt these grapes grow in. On first taste and smell, I'd swear there was a pig's leg pickled inside the bottle (in my vernacular, this is a glowing compliment). And the bits of Concord grape, raspberry, and mocha essences, only make that smoky meat taste all the more appealing. But then reality hits--the snow cakes down to the heel--and all is frozen. Tannat becomes tannat again--tannin covered in tannin inside of a tannin shell. An hour later, some fleshy kalamata olive flushes in. This could even be from the Rhone. The cab goes from chocolate and Bordelais mud to a minty nose and a green, balmy aftertaste. If you get hit early, you might be able to numb yourself enough to get through the storm. Me? I'm waiting 'til the summer to come out again.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi