Sat 10 Mar 2007
You know, if you haunt retail wine and liquor stores the way I do, you inevitably come across hidden treasures, wines on sale, a case or two of something over in a corner that might be worth taking a risk on, meaning shelling out some dollars in hopes that the wine will turn out swell.
Here are some successful examples, all white, three from France and one from Australia.
*Domaine Bruno Clavelier Bourgogne AligotÃ© 2004. AligotÃ© is inevitably referred to as Burgundy’s “other white grape,” counting far less on the scale of importance and acreage than chardonnay and relegated to nameless vineyards in the Burgundian uplands or lowlands Still, the grape can make crisp, racy and even sometimes stylish wines, as this model is. Spicy citrus and pear flavors are permeated by limestone and steel and ringing acid that takes the notion of crispness to empyrean reaches. Despite this austere nature, the wine is almost pretty and offers a texture that’s soft and appealing, almost talc-like. After 45 minutes or so — we were drinking this at dinner, with our standard cod, potato, leek and chorizo stew — the wine took on winsome notes of floral astringency and muscadine. Very Good+ and definitely worth tracking down at about $15. Imported by Martine’s Wines, Novato, California.
*Domaine Prieur-Brunet Bourgogne CuvÃ©e Ste-Jehanne de Chantal 2003. This “generic” chardonnay from Burgundy, now a bit more than three years old, sports a beautiful golden-yellow color and an alluring bouquet of green apples, roasted lemons, baking spice and camellia. It’s very dry, forcefully earthy and minerally, and offers tremendous body, dense and chewy and almost powdery in texture, knit with layers of lemon-lime and grapefruit flavors. Though the wine dries out a bit on the finish, it generally delivers lovely tone and complexity for the price, about $15. Very Good+. It needs grilled trout or pike quenelles. Imported by International Gourmet Corp, Tucker, Georgia.
*Henschke Coralinga Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, Australia. This is beautiful. It’s fresh, lively, grassy, dry and crisp, quite Sancerre-like in its earthy limestone and chalk qualities and its scintillating lime and grapefruit scents and flavors, but it slowly ravels a skein of jasmine and lemon curd, shifting from its initial hayfield nature to wild meadowy elements wrapped around a succulent core of gooseberry, lanolin and licorice and a hint of some astringent white flower. The current release of this wine in the 2006, but don’t neglect to search out the slightly older cousin. Bottled with a screw-cap for easy opening. Excellent. About $28 to $32. Imported by Negociants USA, Napa, California.
*Clos de la CoulÃ©e de Serrant 2000, SavenniÃ¨res, Loire Valley. Nicolas Joly is the Lord High Honcho and out-spoken advocate of the biodynamic method of farming in the vineyard, and while I won’t go into my usual, intemperate tirade against bio-dy at this moment (except to say that it’s nonsense), I will say that Joly makes superb wines, probably the world’s greatest wines, from chenin blanc grapes. Of course he would most likely be doing the same thing without the benefit of burying “dynamized” manure in cows’ horns in his vineyards. Anyway, Clos de la CoulÃ©e de Serrant is a tiny, separate appellation within SavenniÃ¨res. At a bit more than six years old, this example bursts with quince, peach and pear, spice-cake, mango and orange rind that gets smokier and more roasted as the minutes pass, all nestled in a plush texture cut by vibrant acid. The wine tastes like honey, but it’s completely dry, so dry, in fact, that the finish is austere, offering the slight bitterness of grapefruit rind tempered by lanolin and a touch of jasmine. Exceptional, and under-priced at $36 to $40. Long life ahead; drink now through 2010 to ’14 (well-stored).