Savor each season's offerings from reliable wine producers
Drink wine long enough and, inevitably, you'll pick up a clutch of favorite, reliable producers. Tasting the producers' wines from each successive vintage becomes an anticipated treat filled with heightened curiosity.
The wines need not be expensive. Discovering modestly priced wines that deliver with each vintage enhances the pleasure.
Nor must the wines carry high numerical ratings in wine publications. Such wines might make a splash at fancy, staged wine tastings, but numerical ratings have nothing to do with appreciating a well-made wine's sheer, unpretentious pleasures.
Consider wines from France's 2011 vintage now in wide release. Following on the heels of the much ballyhooed 2009 and 2010 vintages, France's 2011s created little enthusiasm from the press — especially with respect to wines from Burgundy and the Rhône.
Dependable wine merchants gave more upbeat reports. London's Berry Bros. & Rudd, for example, rated 2011 as a perfectly fine year for white Burgundy, Chablis and southern Rhône.
Tasting the following 2011s from my personal “go to” producers of everyday drinking wines confirms the latter assessment. Try:
The 2011 La Vieille Ferme Blanc, Luberon, France (3445; $9.99) comes from the Perrin family, producers of the famed Château de Beaucastel from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This white wine hails from nearby vineyards featuring important differences according to Pierre Perrin.
“The Luberon vineyards' higher altitude gives the fruit added freshness,” he notes. “We're not trying to make another Côtes du Rhône white.”
Unlike classic Côtes du Rhône whites, this terrific, little wine uses grenache blanc for depth and body, ugni blanc for freshness, vermentino for flavor, and a splash of bourboulenc.
Fermentation primarily in neutral vats captures aromatic complexity and freshness. Yet, fermentation of 10 percent of the wine in oak barrels with stirring of the lees — spent yeast cells — adds creaminess and subtle spiciness.
The wine offers fresh peach, grapefruit and light, floral aromas. Mouth-filling apricot and citrus flavors balance with fresh acidity. The full, fruity flavors carry through the dry finish. Pair it with classic pissaladière, thin-crust pizza topped with crushed tomatoes, black and green olives, capers, chopped onions and anchovies. Highly recommended.
Maison Louis Jadot, a merchant négociant based in Burgundy's de facto winemaking capital of Beaune, produces scores of outstanding whites and reds. The wines typically deliver faithful and delicious examples of their respective terroirs. The 2011 Louis Jadot Chardonnay Bourgogne Blanc, France (6406; on sale: $15.99) does not disappoint.
The wine incorporates fruit from three of Burgundy's chardonnay regions. The Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise fruit lend complex aromas and rich flavors, while chardonnay from the Mâconnais delivers delicate notes and fresh acidity. Partially fermenting the grapes in oak barrels added complex layers and vanilla notes.
The wine's golden color offers fresh apple and vanilla aromas with earthy hints. Vibrant apple and citrus flavors balance beautifully with firm acidity through the dry, yet fruity, finish. Enjoy this glimpse of white Burgundy's myriad pleasures for a fraction of the price. Pair it with roasted chicken with garlic reduction. Highly recommended.
The2011 Joseph Drouhin Vaudon Chablis, France (3623; $24.99) provides a terrific representation of far northern Burgundy's distinctive chardonnay based wines. Chablis' decidedly fickle climate and unique Kimmeridgian and Portlandian limestone soils make the difference.
Grapes ripen on a razor's edge in Chablis. Spring frosts and summertime hail storms always lurk with potential disaster. A relatively shorter and often relatively cool growing season enables the chardonnay to mature adequately but typically without the opulence of warmer climes.
Adding to the mix, the soils create distinctive smoky aromas likened to gun flint. Plus, the fruit delivers refreshing mineral notes, vibrant acidity and even subtle saline tastes from tiny embedded marine-life fossils. A vast sea covered Chablis millions of years ago.
To combat the difficult climate, Drouhin's vineyard teams each fall practice buttage, the plowing up of protective mounds around the vines, followed by spring débuttage to uncover the root stocks. After low-yielding harvest, fermentation occurs in older French-oak barrels to impart complexity without imposing woody traits.
The wine offers pleasant floral and apple aromas with subtle smokiness. Refreshing apple and mineral flavors balance exquisitely with vibrant acidity. Pair it with fresh oysters. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.