As the days lengthen, what are the best wines to hunt down?by Barry Smith / March 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Spring is a busy time for winemakers. In the cellars of Bordeaux and Burgundy they will finish bottling the 2009 vintage and ship it to our shores, making room for the next vintage to be transferred to barrel. For those who can’t wait to sample these vintages, there are the delicate wines of the Hautes-Côtes in Burgundy, a superb example of which is the 2009 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Clos de la Perrière, from Sébastien Magnien, a young winemaker in Meursault.
In the Loire, too, there are wines of delicacy and vigour to delight our awakening senses. In the village of Montlouis, overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, Vouvray, producers have been steadily raising standards and making white wines of outstanding beauty at affordable prices. The pale golden Chenin Blanc makes both sweet and dry wines, but it is the latter that are the real find. Notable examples from 2008 are La Négrette from Le Rocher des Violettes and Minérale + from Domaine Frantz Saumon. Both wines are richly aromatic with hints of old roses, honeysuckle and dried fruit. From La Négrette, a ripe pear fruit, lime-edged, and gloriously opulent in the mouth, reminding us that texture is important in flavour. Minérale + is its equal in purity, but with notes of green apple and wet stone it gives way to an exceptionally long finish.
For reds, it’s worth trying a slightly chilled Sancerre rouge from the same 2008 vintage. At its finest, you taste the sweet strawberry fruit of Pinot Noir giving way to light mineral tones, and a gentle liquorice finish: a foretaste of the intoxicating perfumes and ethereal fruit of Burgundy. A worthy example is La Côte Blanche from Eric Louis. And for traditionalists who seek the perfect accompaniment to spring lamb but are not lucky enough to pick a matured claret from the cellar, it is still possible to experience the miracle that transforms young tannic Bordeaux into light refreshing wines by sampling a perfectly evolved bottle of 1994 Château Fourcas Dupré. For white Bordeaux, it’s rare to see a wine of such exceptional quality as the 2008 Château Tour Léognan, made by Château Carbonnieux, so widely available at a reasonable price. The journey across the palate from the Sauvignon Blanc to Sémillon grapes is seamless, ending cleanly with a delicious tang of white grapefruit and rhubarb notes. A perfect aperitif.