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Meet the Winemaker: One on One With Morgon and Pouilly-Fuissé Vintners

February 10, 2014 7 comments

Talking to the people who make magic is always an experience (yes, I’m comparing winemaking to the magic). I met the winemakers a number of times, but for the most of the cases, they were “in between” of some other important tasks (like harvest, for instance), so the idea of inundating them with questions never crossed my mind.

This time around it was a different experience – the winemakers where actually there to talk to me (feel special and scared at the same time), so I could (and rather was supposed to) to ask a lot of questions.

I met with two winemaking couples –  Robert and Jeanine Béranger from Pouilly-Fuissé and Nicole and Pierre Descombes-Savoye from Morgon, both closely working with Georges Duboeuf, the famous French negociant, whose portfolio consists of about 400 different wines, mostly from Beaujolais (I met Georges and Frank Duboeuf a few years back, here is my post talking about it).

So I had an opportunity to ask the questions and then to taste the wines (each family produces only one wine!). Here are my questions with the answers (side note: really despise myself for thinking for the past 10-12 years “must learn French, must learn French” – and really not doing anything about it… The interview was done with the help of Heloise Pepin, brand ambassador for Georges Duboeuf wines).

Of course we started with the white wine, so my questions were directed first at Robert and Jeanine Béranger, whose family produces Domaine Béranger Pouilly-Fuissé wine for more than 200 years. The Domaine Béranger includes about 12 acres of Chardonnay, the only grape used in production of Pouilly-Fuissé wines. The vines at the domaine on average are 55 years old. All the harvesting is done by hand (you typically want to preserve clusters when harvesting the Chardonnay, this is why hand is the best instrument to use). Those 12 acres are split into 32 (!) different parcels, which are vinified separately and blended for the final release. Total production at the Domaine is about 26,000 bottles a year.

For what it worth, here are the questions I asked, together with the answers.

Q: What was most favorite vintage of your wines?

A: 1983 and 2003. 2003 was particularly interesting, as it was a very difficult vintage, and making of the wine was very challenging. 1976 was the exceptional year for the white wines.

Q: What was the oldest wine from your vineyards which you ever tasted?

A: 1969.

Q: For how long your wines can age?

A: In the exceptional vintage, the wines can easily age for 30 years, but generally they age well for about 15 years.

Q: When you are not drinking Pouilly-Fuissé wine, what are the other wines you like to drink?

A: Meursault, Chablis, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

DSC_0563

Next we tasted the wine, and here are my tasting notes.

2011 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (13% ABV, retail at about $26, 10% of the wine aged in 5 different types of oak barrels, then 14 month in the bottle before release)  – pale yellow color in the glass. Hint of apples on the nose. On the palate there is a touch of butter, plump and creamy feeling. The wine is very round, roll-of-your-tongue, perfect acidity and perfect balance. A beautiful wine. Drinkability: 8+

Time to talk about the red wine, Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes from Morgon, so I directed my questions at Nicole and Pierre Descombes-Savoye. Domaine’s property includes 30 acres of the vineyards, all planted with Gamay grape, with three quarters of the vines been more than 50 years old. On average, the yearly production is 100,000 bottles. The grapes are harvested by hand to preserve the full clusters.

Here are some of my questions, along the same lines as the questions above.

Q. What was your favorite vintage of your wine?

A. 1973, as this was the year when our son was born.

Q. And how was that 1973 wine?

A. The wines were opened recently at the big party, and they were put against the 1973 Vosne-Romanée in the format of the blind tasting. Most of the guests at the party preferred the 1973 Morgon over the 1973 Vosne-Romanée. It is also interesting to note that as Gamay wine is aging, the freshness of Gamay grape is evolving into the complexity of Pinot Noir, so the results of the tasting are not surprising.

Q. For how long Morgon wines can last?

A. In the good vintage, the wines can easily last for 40 years or even longer.

Q. What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

A. Burgundy and Bordeaux, especially the Saint-Émilion had been the favorite as of late. But we also like California wine.

Q: How would you compare the 2011 vintage with 2009?

A: Well, the vintage such as 2009, simply can’t happen again ( I’m sure mother nature has its own view on that), it was simply exceptional – and it is literally impossible to beat the 2009 vintage. But 2011 was a good year, and the wines from 2011 will easily last for 10-12 years or longer.

DSC_0561And then it was the time to taste the wine.

2011 Domaine Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon AOC (12.9% ABV, aged for 6-8 month in cement tanks, $16.99 suggested retail) had bright ruby color in the glass. On the nose, the aroma of raspberries and cherries. Perfectly fresh on the palate, with more raspberry notes, clean, simple, with invigorating acidity and good balance. Drinkability: 8-

And that concludes my first sit down interview with the winemakers. It was fun, and I hope to be able to do more in the future. Cheers!

Crus of Beaujolais, Year 2011 – Part 2

July 16, 2012 8 comments

I like sequels, Well, in the movies – sometimes, not so much. But when it comes to the writing, whatever you forgot to say in the first part, you can say in the second, and feel good about it, claiming that this was the intent from the get go.

What I didn’t mention in the first post about great tasting of Georges Duboeuf 2011 Beaujolais portfolio is that red Beaujolais make one of the best red wines for summer – they are typically light in alcohol (if you noticed, 13% ABV was the most for all wines mentioned in the first post), and they also taste the best when they are slightly chilled. Considering how hot this summer is across pretty much the whole US territory, I hope this will help you to find a good red wine for the hot day, because sometimes it just have to be red.

In the first post, I described a self-guided part of tasting. That tasting was followed by the lunch, both of which (tasting and the lunch) taking place at db Bistro Modern, one of the restaurants of the famous chef Daniel Boulud.

Georges Duboeuf opened the event with presentation of 2011 vintage. Here is my best effort transcript of what he said (remember, I’m not a professional journalist, I’m only pretending): “2011 was a great year. Budding started in April, then flowering started in June, and then harvest started August 22nd and lasted for two weeks. Some areas experienced periods of drought. Overall, grapes reached very good level of ripeness. 2005 and 2009 (considered best in a very long time) were good, but 2011 might be even a little bit better than 2009. Throughout the vintage, there are lots of black cherry and earthy notes.”

After Georges Duboeuf’s presentation, the first dish was served – “Legumes du Marche” – Young Garden Vegetables, Fromage Blanc Dressing, Lavender Honey Vinaigarette.

This dish was paired with 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, and it worked together very well by wine complementing soft and earthy flavors of the vegetables.

Next, Frank Duboeuf presented two white wines, Macon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuisse (please see detailed note below). He said that 2011 was equally good year for both whites and the reds, which is a very rare situation. I didn’t take the detailed notes though, as I was preoccupied with parallel discussion at the table and delicious pairing of wine and food ( bad journalism : ( )

White wines were served with the next course, Seafood Risotto – Black Sea Bass, Scallops, Squids, Cockles, Fennel, Tomato Confit “Fumet” Emulsion.

Pouilly-Fuisse worked perfectly well with risotto, which was a unique experience for me. Creaminess of risotto cancelled out some sharpness of the chardonnay, creating next level of experience.

For the next course, Georges Duboeuf presented two red wines, Morgon and Julienas. He described Morgon as having “violet, cassis, kirsch on the nose, same flavors on the palate. A lot of structure. This wine will age very well”. Regarding Julienas, he said that “it is a very special wine, it has great personality. 2011 was a lot like 2009. This particular wine had the biggest success over the last 5-6 years. It was very critical to expand the vineyard (by 4 acres) for the success of this wine. This is a very noble wine with great aging potential. The wine was bottled a week before, right before the event”.

These two reds accompanied the last course of the meal – Duo of Beef – Braised Short Ribs, Beef Tenderloin, Spring Vegetables, Sauce Bordelaise.

I have to tell that while both food and wine were delicious in its own right, they didn’t work together, so the pairing was not successful by not elevating the whole meal to the next level. But I also have to admit that both food and wine really didn’t bother each other too much – they were really two absolutely parallel experiences without a merge or a collision (which is often the case when wine and food don’t work together).

And then…there was a dessert, which was delicious and not paired with any wines (I also have no idea how this little cookies should be called, but it was very hard to stop eating them).

Here are the detailed notes for the wines:

2011 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages Domaine Les Chenevieres, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $13.99, 12.5% ABV, 5000 cases produced) – Very nice, hint of hazelnut and citrus on the nose, good fruit, good balance, good acidity, hint of white apples, touch of vanilla and touch of oak on the palate. (Drinkability: 7+)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuisse Domaine Beranger, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $17.99, 13% ABV, 3500 cases produced, 1200 imported) – this wine comes from the best area, the actual town of Pouilly-Fuisse. This wine had more pronounced chardonnay qualities than the previous wine – vanilla, touch of citrus and oak notes, excellent balance. (Drinkability: 8- )

2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $9.99, 12.5% ABV) – very nice, good balance, a little tartness on the palate, but good overall. (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Morgon, Domaine Jean Descombes, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV) – good acidity, fresh fruit, light, soft, a bit too grapey to be great – but should improve with time. (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Julienas Chateau des Capitans, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $18.99, 14% ABV) – excellent depth, good power, good body, excellent balance. (Drinkability: 8)

All in all, it was one great event, both in the information and experience. Summer is still on, my friends – go find a bottle of Beaujolais to kick it off after a long day. And make an extra effort to find one of Georges Duboeuf wines – it will well worth it. Cheers!

Crus of Beaujolais, Year 2011

July 10, 2012 3 comments

(this self-rant doesn’t belong to this blog post, but I have to let it out of the system. I don’t understand how this works – this post was supposed to be out more than a month ago – the event was great, and the content was very clear in my head – nevertheless, it took soooo long to actually write it. Sometimes, the road from the head to the paper medium is all so twisty, not straight at all. The things are not what they appear… But I think we can proceed now.)

When you hear the word “Beaujolais”, what is the first thing which comes to mind? Beaujolais Noveau? Yes, me too. At the same time, Beaujolais is a large wine producing region, in area much bigger than Burgundy which it is technically considered to be a part of. And of course there is a lot more wine produced in the Beaujolais region than just a Beaujolais Noveau, a celebratory wine of a new vintage.

At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to be invited for the tasting of the 2011 portfolio of wines of Georges Deboeuf. Georges Deboeuf is one of the largest and well-known wine merchants in France. He is credited with literally single-handily creating the Beaujolais Noveau phenomenon and often is called the “King of Beaujolais”. I also think that his success with Beaujolais Noveau, both wine and celebration of the new vintage with pleasant but very simple grapey wine, appearing in the stores all over the world always on the third Thursday in November, is also an enemy of serious Beaujolais wines, which can be absolutely fantastic – but this can be a subject for a whole different post, so let’s talk about the portfolio tasting of 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais wines.

No, wait. Before we talk about the wines presented in the tasting, let’s take a quick look at Beaujolais wine region. Beaujolais region is located to the south of Burgundy. Red wines constitute absolute majority of wine production in Beaujolais, and Gamay is pretty much the only grape used in the production of that red wine (with small plantings of Pinot Noir been phased out little by little). White wines are produced from Chardonnay with Aligote been also allowed, but overall production of white wines is miniscule. Three levels of wines are produced in Beaujolais – Beaujolais, which allows usage of the grapes from the whole appellation – these wine should generally be avoided; Beaujolais-Villages, which are better quality wines, and so called Cru wines (top level). There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais – Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. In general, Beaujolais wines are considered simple and easy (and thus work well with wide variety of food), and also have lesser aging potential than, for instance, the wines of neighboring Burgundy (however aging is usually defined by the talent of winemaker more than anything else). Now that you know all the theory of the Beaujolais wines, let’s talk about tasting.

The tasting was organized by CRT/Tanaka and I would like to thank Caroline Helper (@ForgetBurgundy) for invitation. The tasting took place at DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, and it was split into two parts – self-guided tasting of 12 different newly released wines from Georges Duboeuf portfolio (some wines on the list were denoted as barrel samples, as they were just bottled a week before the event), following by organized lunch. Little bites of food were served during the self-guided tasting, and I had an opportunity to try a famous Daniel Burger (with foie gras inside!) – and it was absolutely delicious.

Here I will share with you my notes from the self-guided tasting – description of the lunch, where both Georges and Frank Duboeuf presented their wines, will make up a separate post (ahh, I hope it will not take me another month to write it!). Of course I can’t leave you with just notes, so you will also see some pictures.

2010 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $12.99, 13% ABV) – Crisp acidity, interestingly nutty nose, hint of green apple, very mineral on the palate, with hint of limestone (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuisse, Maconnais, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $19.99, 13% ABV) – green notes on the nose, lime zest, light, effervescent and crisp on the palate, with a hint of tropical fruit, very refreshing (Drinkability: 8- )

2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $9.99, 12.5% ABV) – Fresh fruit nose, very tannic, more fruit and tannins on the palate, with tannins literally reaching Barolo levels. Needs time and may be different temperature (Drinkability: 6 at the moment, but this wine needs to be reassessed)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $13.99, 13% ABV) – plums, acidity out of balance, tamed red fruit on the nose, tannins on the second taste (Drinkability: 6+)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – tart cherries on the nose and palate, more balance than the previous wine, but still lacking a bit (Drinkability: 7- )

2011 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly Chateau de Nervers, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 12.5% ABV) – closed, not balanced, all over the place – fruit, acidity, tannins are not harmonious (Drinkability: 6+)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Morgon, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – very nice nose with open fruit, too dry on the palate, very tannic, needs more fruit (Drinkability: 7- )

2011 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV) – good fruit, ghood acidity, reasonably balanced (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $18.99, 13% ABV) – very nice! Round fruit on the nose and the palate, very good balance (Drinkability: 8- )

2011 Georges Duboeuf  Julienas, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – pleasant nose, good acidity, but fruit is closed (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV)- fresh fruit on the nose, lacks substance on the palate, needs more power – this wine is red like white (Drinkability: 7)

2011 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Domaine des Rosiers, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $17.99, 13% ABV) – very nice, beautiful color, good fruit on the nose, hint of minerality and spices, good red fruit, plums and raspberries on the palate. Best of tasting. (Drinkability: 8- )

In the end of the day, all the wines were showing very well, and if you think about QPR, all the wines were great values. Make no mistake – some of these wines are in a very limited production (especially all the Domaine-denoted wines), so you will need to make an effort to find them. But – it worth the reward!

That’s all for my first part of the report, folks. Until the next time – cheers!

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