And just like that, thanks to the folks at Air France, it’s back to San Francisco and here I am at the keyboard with another ramble. The Bordeaux En Primeurs trip to taste barrel samples of the 2015 (among other wines) was a great success! The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux did something new this year, and though I heard differing opinions about it, it certainly made my schedule easier to handle. On Monday, April 4, a day that is usually spent at chateaux appointments, they held a grand tasting at the new Stade Matmut Atlantique at which all 8 UGC appellations poured their wines. It was there that I was able to taste from 3 of these, and that freed up my schedule for the following three days to taste a whole lot of other wines. I’ve got a lot to say about the trip and the wines I tasted, and I plan to do so very soon, but tonight I’ll try to keep it light and general.
The 2015 Bordeaux vintage is a very good one for red wines. There, I said it. Was it the vintage of the century? No. Was it the vintage of the decade? No. Was it a great vintage? No. Were there some great barrel samples with the potential to become great wines? Yes. Were there disappointments? Yes. What appellations’ samples showed the best? Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan, and Margaux in general terms. Will there be some great, affordable, high-quality petits chateaux wines? Yes, but here we must be very selective. It was a challenging vintage for those kind of wines.
After compiling my schedule prior to departure, I already knew that I would probably taste more wine this year that I ever had on the annual Bordeaux trip. After I returned last Monday, I put off going back through my notes and actually counting how many wines I tasted. Earlier today, I counted them. The tally: 599 wines in all; 439 barrel samples from 2015, 136 bottled wines from recent vintages, and 24 bottles that I actually got to drink from. Funny, it should have been 600, but there was one sample that earned this note in my tasting book, “Something’s wrong here; I’m not tasting this.” I am occasionally asked how I can possibly taste so many wines without suffering from palate fatigue. I can’t. I get palate fatigue all the time. When all of the sensations, acidity, and tannins begin to run into each other, I just take a time out. Sometimes I can recover by just smelling my notebook, sometimes I carry around a piece of bread and smell it from time to time to keep the olfactory fresh. Other times, I’ll take a full time out and eat some bread and cheese and drink some water. I am aware that there are others who taste way more wine than I do and I can only imagine their techniques to get back in the saddle and finish their respective jobs. Hats off to them.
So here I was, it was my last appointment on my last working day. Tasting wine at this particular appointment is a challenge to say the least, as they are all usually very modern, fully extracted barrel samples with loads of concentration and tannins. So I approached it expecting to suffer from lack of refreshment. Upon my arrival, I waded through the various rooms and salons of this complex that was not only showing off 2015 barrel samples, but finished wines from other parts of France. It was a bit maze-like, and I went through, then doubled back, and then through again when something caught my eye – MEURSAULT! Do you want to put a smile on the face of someone who has tasted a boatload of tannic, acidic barrel samples and who is bracing himself for one final purple assault? Offer them Meursault. That will do the trick. Every time.
Meursault has quite a following. It enjoys a fine reputation of being one of the “Big Three” white Burgundy appellations, and its Premier Crus are famous enough to cause Pavlovian salivation from its fans at the mere mention of its hallowed name, Meursault. We’ve been importing the wines from Paul Pernot’s grandson Philippe for several vintages now, and we continue to be happy with his wines which sport the Pernot-Belicard label. His 2013 Meursault Vieilles Vignes is an amazing wine with superb fruit definition, the classic Meursault soft mid-palate, and a fresh, crisp finish showcasing its complexity harmoniously. In a word, it is refreshing. Thinking of all of the pairing ideas that come with a wine like this is enough to make my head spin. The vines are in excess of 70 years old, and the complexity that you get from vines like this is impressive. The 2010 was stunning enough to get Anya to pen this write-up a couple of years ago. The 2013 is every bit as good with lively freshness. The sub $40 per bottle case price is as good a white Burgundy deal as we’re likely to find.
I am happy to report that the Bordeaux trip went very well. I met with several good friends, made some new friends, and was even handed a guitar in a restaurant at one point and played a song. Part of the exercise was to look out for some “under the radar” wines that are long on character and short on price. I found more than a handful of these kind of wines that I’m anxious to see here on our sales floor sometime later this year. They will be coming. The 2015 barrel samples? There were many successes; and they will be coming too. They’re just going to take a little longer. What to drink now? MEURSAULT! – Peter Zavialoff