This morning we visited our Northern Rhône producers, tasting wines from Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Côte Rôtie. Winemakers here are basking in the glow of the 2015 vintage, said to be the best in 55 years. We don’t have quite that long a memory, but from this morning’s tastings we can confirm that this is an extraordinary vintage.
Northward along the Rhône...
There’s something exceptionally pleasant about the pace of life in the South of France. Since arriving Sunday afternoon we have eaten five of our six meals outside, under clear blue Provencal skies and a gentle, refreshing breeze. Winemakers greet us with quick smiles and warm welcomes. Even the often sullen waiters seem a bit more at ease (as long as you don’t need your check fast).
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Four Ways
In 1895, at age 56 impressionist painter Paul Cezanne had his first solo show in Paris. His 150 paintings were a revelation to artists and collectors, and the show secured his place as a leading artist of his time. But despite his first real commercial success, Cezanne returned south to live out his final decade in his beloved Provence.
We don’t import much Bordeaux. We’ve always taken more readily to the scale and culture of Burgundy, where the estates are much smaller and the atmosphere less formal. But it’s no secret that Bordeaux makes some extraordinary wines, and we like having some in our portfolio.
Spend even a few days tasting Burgundy, and the power of terroir is hard to miss. From a single grape, planted across a 30 mile collection of towns, comes an astonishing array of wines. Cellar work, weather, harvest times, and other factors play a role in the final product, but in Burgundy, location (terroir) is king.
Vintages play an important role in the style of wine. Each vintage has its own character, a result of weather patterns, harvest dates, and temperature swings. Some are difficult, requiring regular intervention to from the winemaker. Others are easy, where everything seems to go right.
Our focus on Burgundy means we taste a lot of Pinot Noir. From simple regional wines to ageworthy Grand Cru, the spectrum of that single grape is impressive. But a few of our Pinot Noirs come from outside even Burgundy’s wide range. Though it’s grown all over France, our favorite non-Burgundian expressions of the grape are Alsatian.
When most people think French sauvignon blanc, they think Sancerre. But the grape also thrives in Bordeaux. Loire Valley Sauvignon blanc (known as simply “Sauvignon” in France) is exuberant and fruit forward, showing the friendly, outgoing side of the grape. It's not that Bordeaux’s version is unfriendly, just perhaps a bit cooler and more intellectual.
After a long and snowy winter, it seems Spring has at last arrived in the northeast. We avoid rigid rules for seasonal drinking -- sometimes the moment calls for Chablis in December, or a Châteauenuf in June. But with the arrival of warm, sunny days, we find ourselves reaching for a certain style of wine.
We have heard it said that there aren't bad vintages in Burgundy any more. Modern technology and techniques mean that even in difficult years winemakers are able to craft well-made wines. But undoubtedly some years are better than others, and 2015 is one of the best.
We don’t know about you, but the warmer weather this weekend felt pretty nice to us. With green shoots emerging from the soggy ground and baseball back in season, we seem to have turned a corner towards spring. Rosé season is not quite here, but it’s not far off either.
The city of Beaune is the beating heart of Burgundy. Set at the midpoint of the Côte d’Or, this ancient town has been a viticultural hub for thousands of years. Though it’s surrounded by vines, the wines of the Beaune appellation have never been as famous as neighbors Pommard and Volnay to the south or Corton to the north.