As I post we are on vacation in Ireland. As usual there are many gatherings with friends and family, and of course opportunities to explore the available wine selections. One wonderful discovery was the availability of slightly older vintages of more everyday European wines, not something that I often come across in my local New York wine stores. This is a pity, because when stored correctly, even simple country wines can evolve and improve for 3 to 5 years.
In general the wines that currently populate the retail shelves in the United States are the most recent vintages released. Typically this means 2009 or even the 2010 vintage for whites, and the 2009 vintage for reds. Obviously there are exceptions when the current vintage is older due to specific appellation regulations, or when the producer has a philosophy of releasing wines later then most.
From a business perspective it is in everyone’s interest to get the wine through the distribution channel and into the hands of the consumer in the shortest time possible. It is costly for producers, distributors and retailers to hold stock for late release. Additionally, given that most wines are consumed within 24 hours of purchase and that most consumers do not have proper cellaring environments to store wine, it is likely that most of us don’t taste everyday wines that are four or five years old.
So you can imagine my delight when I came across this wonderful wine store called Le Caveau in the beautiful medieval city of Kilkenny. It was awash with delightful French whites and reds from the 2007 and 2008 vintages. Not just Bordeaux and Burgundy, but particularly from the Loire and other lesser known areas and designations. Needless to say I stocked up. I also tried to keep my average per bottle price below Euro 15. Note that quoted prices include VAT of 21%.
As Le Caveau is a highly respected wine merchant I had no concerns about how the wines might have been stored. I was not disappointed with my selection – and neither were our family or friends.
What delighted me in particular across all the wines was how integrated and minerally they were. Overly exuberant youthful edginess had been replaced by a more obvious balance, a well-defined sense of place, and a distinctive lingering deliciousness. I would not say that the wines were incredibly complex or for long term cellaring, but each was more than amply layered with flavor, personality and a desire for a second glass.
Here are some of my notes:
• 2008 Chateau du Coing de St. Fiacre, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, Loire Valley France, Euro 12.65 – Minerality defined this wine. The typical Muscadet acidity being beautifully balanced by notes of mature orchard fruit and the over-riding minerality. I was sorry I had only bought one bottle.
• 2007 Tour des Gendres ‘Cuvée des Conti’, Bergerac Sec, Southwest France, Euro 14.00 – Thoroughly delightful. More golden in color and showing distinct developed notes of honey, dried apricot and an enticing earthy minerality. A lovely, honest, country wine.
• 2007 Chauvenet-Chopin Bourgogne Aligoté, Burgundy, France, Euro 13.85 – Another wine defined by its minerality, taut structure and tamed racy acidty. Distinctive sense of place. Certainly shows what Aligoté is capable of, being constantly in white Burgundy’s shadow.
• 2007 Les Pensées de Pallus, Chinon, Loire Valley, France, Euro 18.50 – Thankfully I bought two bottle sof this Chinon (but should have bought even more). Earthy, layered, complex, minerally. Wonderful bright fruit in harmony with earthy minerality, leather, hint of game and spice.
• 2009 Cèdre Héritage Malbec, Cahors, Southwest France, Euro 12.75 – Interesting to see that some Cahors wines are being labeled ‘Malbec’ such is the grape’s popularity. Delicious, earthy, packed with mature, but fresh bramble fruit, some pepper, spice, leather, roasted meats. Supple but well-defined structure.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
Related: Summer of Riesling 2011
(Images: Mary Gorman-McAdams)