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Claude Kolm/The Fine Wine Review

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  1. The rule is not across the board. For example, in red Burgundy, nothing other than Pinot Noir is allowed. For most white Burgundy appellations, the new rules require only Chardonnay to be planted, but grapes from existing vines of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris can be used (and in some cases, Aligote, also). The bans on replanting anything other than Chardonnay appear also to be somewhat loosely enforced. To some extent, my thoughts vary with the type of wine, but on the whole, I find monocepage wines, namely red Burgundies and Rieslings from Germany, Austria, and (some producers in) Alsace to be most interesting because they are the most transparent. I very much like the wines of Southern France, for example, where many different varieties are blended, but because of the variations in blend from one property to another and from one vintage to another, the wines lack some of the fascination of Burgundy or Rieslings or Cornas and Hermitage. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  2. On point number 2, I don't understand how you can say you agree with my statement if you say it doesn't matter what's on the label if what is in the bottle is good. There is a major difference of mentalities there and I am sorry if you are unable to recognize it. On the problem of adulteration, the Marquis d'Angerville, Armand Rousseau, Henri Gouges, and others pushed for the appellation controlee system back in the 1920s in order to combat the problem of wines from other regions being sold as Burgundy. Selling wine from out of the region under the label of the various Burgundy appellations has been illegal since then (and even before, but it had to be attacked by a different means). I have no idea what action you are referring to by the EU in 1973. The fact that it is illegal to sell wine that is labelled differently from what is in the bottle does not mean that the practice has ceased to exist. For example, I have come across some producers who clearly add cassis and other liqueurs to the wines. One prominent American wine critic even recommended wines to his readers that he admitted in print had been so altered. And I believe that another prominent American critic highly regards another producer who clearly was doing so when I visited his cave about seven or eight years ago. From my point of view, such wines are repulsive. As more evidence that adulteration continues, when I am in Burgundy in the fall, I have seen tankers with Italian license plates. What do you suppose they are doing there -- buying Burgundy in bulk to satisfy the tremendous demand for it in Italy? Finally, there have been a number of recent scandals in Burgundy (and other parts of France) involving prosecution of negociants selling inferior wines under more prestigious labels. For the most part, these were not major houses, but one, Chanson, had a good reputation for quality. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  3. Yes, definitely, Lizzie. I like to watch how the wine develops in the glass and also how it matches with different courses. Also, wines by the glass in restaurants may have been open for an indeterminate amount of time, which can greatly affect their freshness. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  4. The wine list is now expanded and quite laudable, although as I mentioned above, the prestige Bordeaux and Burgundy selections do not really go with much of the food there. Loire and Languedoc are the main areas to think about, Rhone also to some extent. My recollection is that Alsace is woefully underrepresented (or maybe the Alsatian selections were food unfriendly like the Zind-Humbrechts), but what else is new in Paris? One of the reasons I don't like surprise menus is because you don't know how to pair wines with the food. Restaurants try to get around this by providing a glass of wine to go with the food, but I find that such wines often are not interesting. I suppose someone less concerned/obsessed with wine than I would not notice or would be willing to overlook the wines served with the food, considering them as subordinate to the food. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  5. Except that the surprise menu at L'Astrance has been widely written up, so there is no real surprise to it. My avoidance of that menu was due to the fact that it is the one to which I had seem some negative commentary. The regular menu was far from tame, though.
  6. Plenty of power, beautifully precise definition. Given the size of Latour, one wonders, different lots?
  7. It was at a restaurant. We ordered it because another friend in the trade, whose taste I regard very highly, had been raving about the wine.
  8. Interesting, Steve. I had the 1975 Latour in Bordeaux two years ago and it was magnficent. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  9. I'm not Chris, but I'll add my two cents worth. The wines may or may not have been new world style, but I wouldn't call them old world style. The overwhelming majority were very disappointing, though, in my opinion. If indeed the wines were intended to be old world style, then the missing of the mark may have led to the problems. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  10. There's also some Pinot Gris and even Aligote (especially in and around Savigny-Pernand-Corton) in some wines.
  11. Drew -- For Saturday night , see the thread below entitled "Saturday dinner in Paris." (I'm not sure you'd feel comfortable in L'Astrance without coat and tie but the other suggestions should be no problem.) For Friday night, you have a much wider choice. Look at the thread "Paris 4th Bistros." But there are so many other possibilities! I probably would take Chez Josephine and La Regalade, but that's just a personal choice. Give us a better idea of what you are looking for and maybe we can be more specific. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  12. Jonathan -- I don't remember exactly the details from my experience at Arpege -- it took place shortly before the restaurant received its third star, so it was in November 1994, if I recall correctly. I think that the sommelier stated that the wine was not ready to drink, and I, knowing the wine, stated that it was. We went back and forth a little, but I really didn't press him. A couple of other times, I've been told that he wine is sold out -- which may or may not be the case. Speaking of that, a friend of mine was dining at a restaurant in Paris this past fall (I don't remember the name) and ordered 1988 Domaine de Chevalier. The staff came back and said that it was sold out, but would he accept 1988 Chateau Trotanoy in its place at the same price (Trotanoy sells at a multiple of Chevalier's price)? Now, that was excellent wine service. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  13. Marcus -- I think one wine and one particular price point is not enough to make a case. Especially when it is a wine that is as rare as 1978 La Chapelle (assuming that we are talking about genuing bottles -- I think that is one wine where there is now a fair amount of bogus wine circulating). Also, the the auction market, frequently yields very bizarre results. Here in San Francisco, for example, and I am sure that it is not just here, buyers frequently pay substantially more for wines at auction than they would pay at stores for the same wines. One would think that wine-searcher.com would end such follies, but it is not the case. On the other hand, to cite one example, Guigal for a long time sold his la-las at much lower prices in France than they were sold for in the US. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  14. What nights of the week are you talking about?
  15. Marcus -- There are various reasons for the differences in wine pricing between the US and France: Champagne houses sell their wines to restaurants at unusually low prices because they consider it good advertising to have their Champagnes drunk in restaurants. Now, why don't they do this in the US? Rhones (and here we are talking the prestige wines, not Cotes-du-Rhone, Crozes-Hermitage, etc.) generally (but not always) are cheaper in France because US importers often take unusually high markups on the wines due to demand that far exceeds supply, and also because Rhone wines are not much in demand in France outside of the region of production. Bordeaux is a different story. I don't believe that restaurants buy en primeur, and in fact it appears that the distribution system for Bordeaux is more complicated and inefficient in France than it is for other wines. Also, especially in Paris, Bordeaux has a special cachet (one might even say snob appeal). Consequently, restaurants seem to think that they can mark clarets up more than other wines (the flip side of the Rhone situation). (I must say, given the pricing of Bordeaux in France these days and the quality and style of so much of the wine that is produced there these days, I hardly glance at Bordeaux selections any more, unless I am in a restaurant with older wines on the carte.) Finally, currency fluctuations, of course, can affect the relative prices of wines between the US and France. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  16. Marcus -- Gary Danko's approach is one way, but not necessarily the exclusive one. My experience is that most restaurants in France do not take the extreme markups that Danko does with some of his wines, such as the one you cite. (Many restaurants in France do take markups that are higher than I think justified, but they do so across the board.) Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  17. It seems that there is more than one reason why restaurants won't sell wines that are listed on their carte. One is thinking that the diner is not worthy of the wine or that the wine will not go with the dish(es) ordered. But a second reason is that the restaurants want to have cartes that are studded with prestigious wines, and if they sell them too rapidly, they may have problems restocking, especially if the prices of the wines have increased. Therefore, the prestige wines are essentially show window wines, but not in stock. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  18. ctgm -- I have three comments in reply. First, the reason for putting the varietal on the label is to increase sales. Many people would not buy a Macon-Villages because they don't know what it is, but they think that Chardonnay is a prestige grape, so they will buy a bottle that says that the wine is made from Chardonnay. I don't endorse the logic, but it exists. Second, you represent one school of thought --- all that matters is that it tastes good. For many of us, thoough there is much more to wine than that -- the infinite nuance that varies with terroir, vintage, and producer and that gives the wine the unique, and in some cases magnificent, character that cannot be reproduced anywhere else. Third, you are badly misinformed about the adulteration of Burgundy pre-1970. It was a not uncommon practice (and still exists to a much lesser degree today), but not at the great estates. Moreover, the wines that were doctored did not taste good, IMO, although I know not everyone would agree with me on that. I found them to be hot, jammy, and muddy. The practice of adding Hermitage to Bordeaux is a nineteenth century practice that did not carry over into the twentieth century and it is unclear exactly how common it was. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  19. Agree, it is not a surprise, but to me the plates seemed less likely to work than those on the regular menu. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  20. Jonathan, Ah, but now you are talking premier cru, (which should be) a notable step up from most village wines. How did you find the wine? Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review Claude, I am not at all a wine connoisseur. I enjoyed the wine a lot: it seemed balanced ("rounded") and had a subtle quality that I described as "spicy" in my writeup but perhaps wine people would call "mineral". It wasn't quite as fruity as the sommelier had led me to expect; perhaps just a bit of citrus. I've now seen this wine priced at €60 at retail, so €140 doesn't seem like that painful a restaurant price. Jonathan -- Glad it worked out well. Boillot had problems with hail in some of his Pulignys in 1998, and I didn't remember if the Clos de la Mouchere was one of them, but it sounds as though it wasn't. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Reivew
  21. Unfortunately, it is a common experience in French restaurants to find that they refuse to sell you a wine that is on the list -- the more you have a sharp eye for the list's bargains, the more you will run into it. They size you up and decide what wine you deserve. Once at Arpege when it was still a two-star, I had to negociate through about four or five wines with the sommelier. He kept trying to push a Jadot Beaune on me that I already knew and knew that I didn't want and he kept on refusing my choices until I finally landed on one that he would agree to sell me. The practice is disgusting. Given that extraordinary service is supposed to be one of the distinguishing aspects of a three-star restaurant, there is no excuse for it to occur in a three-star or a two-star that is aspiring for three. Happily, I've never had or heard of the problem in the United States. Another practice that I disapprove of but that is not quite as offensive is to put wines on the list and in place of a price, put "en vieillissement." I think it is a good practice for a restaurant to hold back wines until they are mature, but why put them on the list if they are not currently available? Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  22. Many Macon labels also state that the wine is Chardonnay, many Bourgogne labels state that the wine is Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, as the case may be. Etc., etc. Where Frenmch wines are blends of grapes, there often are back labels that state the varietal composition.
  23. 1989 was the year of the bicentennial of the Revolution in France, and when one went to the cellars to taste the wines in 1990, there was much enthusiasm among the producers who thought that everyone would want wines with an “89” vintage. (Interestingly, even in Bordeaux, where 200 years later there was still great antipathy to the Revolution, producers expected to capitalize on this numerical coincidence.) As a result, the wines were expensive when released (prices for current vintages of the same wines generally are only be about 10-15% above the prices for 1989s in 1991-92). I daresay that no one reading this today could care less about drinking a wine because it was from the year of the bicentennial (or even an American wine from 1976, our bicentennial). It was a warm vintage and the grapes arrived at the cellars at elevated temperatures. Thus, cellars not equipped with cooling equipment may have had troubles. Overall, yields were about 5-6% higher than in 1988, although some of the real stars of the vintage, such as Dujac and Pousse d’Or came in with significantly lower yields than in 1988. When I went to taste the wines in barrel, there was much foolish talk about 1989 being the vintage of the century. Like the 1988, these wines were extremely dark in color, but beyond that, they in now way resembled their 1988 counterparts – the 1989s were lower in acidity and considerably less precise in representation of their respective terroirs. The problem seemed to be that the wines showed the effect of too much sun. Too much sun seemed continue to be the problem for many years, as enjoyable as the best wines were. I remember asking Christophe Roumier about five years ago which of his wines he thought were drinking well. He said 1989 and 1992, and although the former had the better reputation, he would rather drink the latter. I was in agreement. However, I must admit that as the years go by, I find that I gain increasingly more pleasure from top 1989s that I drink. The wines should be regarded as at their peak now, and although top crus will continue to hold their quality for some time, I do not foresee continued improvement in the wines. The best are simply splendid for current consumption. Beware, though, that the quality revolution was slow in spreading, so the number of producers making topflight wines was considerably less than today. 1989 may be the last vintage in which the Cote de Beaune generally was more successful than the Cote de Nuits. Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, where yields were especially small, was a particular standout, as were the wines of Lafarge. Other highly successful Cote de Beaune producers included de Montille, Comte Armand, Pothier-Rieusset, d’Angerville, Lafon, and Jacques Germain – the usual suspects. On the Cote de Nuits, Dujac’s wines were/are even better than the 1988s, Méo-Camuzet was extremely successful, as were Leroy and Rousseau, and an inconsistent producer, Manière-Noirot in Vosne-Romanee, made wonderful wines in 1989. Chevillons were good, too, as were Rouget’s wines, and I had some good Bruno Clair, Lucien Boillot, and Philippe Rossignol wines. But there were relative disappointments, including Maume and Roumier (still very good, nevertheless), and the few Ponsots that I had were disappointing in more than the relative sense. Curiously, I am not able to locate any notes on DRC 1989s. Last, the wines of the legendary Henri Jayer were simply phenomenal in this vintage, as a magnum of Cros Parantoux split among five drinkers demonstrated last November. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
  24. One month to the day. I'd start around 9 am Paris time (might even try faxing the night before). BTW, several people here mentioned the menu surprise. I purposely avoided it and took the other menu, which I thought sounded more likely to be a resounding success (and it was).
  25. Nobody who buys Montrachet is going to want to see "Chardonnay" on the label. But the ominous part of the story, and one that shows how wacky this guy is, is that he says that France needs to develop a brand like Blue Nun. Blue Nun played a very important part in ruining the market for fine wine in Germany. Thirty years ago, top German Rieslings sold for the same prices or higher than top white Burgundies. Today, except for Egon Mueller and Robert Weil, top German Rieslings sell for a small fraction of white Burgundies. . . . . . . Come to think of it, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have white Burgundies selling for the prices of German Rieslings. Best regards, Claude Kolm The Fine Wine Review
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