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TN: Small Carnival Gathering


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Friday was Cathryn's birthday. She's from New Orleans and won't be making it home for Mardi Gras this year so we had a small carnival party. Food included jambalaya, gumbo, muffalettas, and similar items. I chose four wines with the idea of trying to box in the tough matches. Riesling for a gentle but bright white, aligoté for a bit sharper white, Brouilly for a bright and fresh red, and Cairanne for a round and ready red. For the three French wines, I also picked up the generally crowd-pleasing 2003 vintage. I think that it, perhaps, pleased the crowd. Whether it pleased me was another question.

  • 2004 Greenhough Riesling - New Zealand, South Island, Nelson
    Light and bright appearance. Nose of limey apple and mineral. A bit of spritz on the tip of the tongue highlights the bright freshness of this. Good acid, nice lime and peach highlights surround the core of apple fruit and mineral. Maybe a touch of petrol (but just the slightest hint) in the finish. This makes a passing reference to Alsace, but lacks a bit of the density and concentration it showed last time I had it. Bright and fresh and everything a simple young riesling should be, but a tad disappointing only because it was such an over-performer the last time I had it.
  • 2003 Fleurot-Larose Bourgogne-Aligoté - France, Burgundy, Côte d'Or, Bourgogne-Aligoté
    Relatively deep and dark color, hinting at something but I wasn't sure what. On the nose, it became immediately apparent; a dastardly duo of vintage and super-toasted oak had done its evil work. You know those aboukir almonds that sometimes appear at the end of a meal? That's exactly what this wine smelled and tasted like. The butterscotchy sweetness of the new oak and the super-ripe fruit of the vintage produced a big cloying glass without any fresh and acid aligoté profile. I had hoped the vintage richness and typical aligoté character would combine to produce a great outcome. No such luck. The wines from Fleurot-Larose are getting new exposure in Japan now because the owner has married a Japanese woman (or so I am told). Based on this taste, I won't be trying any more of them. I also hear they've sold or long-term leased out their little plot of Montrachet. I had hoped the proceeds would go into better wine. From all that I can tell, they've simply gone into a grotesque level of toasted barrel purchasing. I realize that I haven't described anything else I found in the wine, but what's the point? To be fair, without the extremely cloying aboukir-almond-sweetness this would just have been an overoaked wine. But I just couldn't get past that kernel of sweetness, even though I drank parts of several glasses throughout the night to give it a chance.
  • 2003 Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Croix des Rameaux - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Brouilly
    Schizophrenia... That's the only way I know to describe my reaction to this wine. It has a nice deep purplish red color that is bright at the same time. The nose shows just a bit of new oak vanilla sweetness that also comes out on the palate as a certain (baby Dujac-like) silkiness and an occasionally cloying candy note. There are really two strains of fruit: a typical Brouilly bright red berry with almost peachy acidity and also a very Moulin-a-Vent like deep plummy fruit that even threatens to hint at chocolate. It is surprisingly dense and reasonably persistent on the finish. The alcohol is occasionally a tad hot, but gives the wine a certain sweetness and body that makes it seem bigger than it is. If I rated wine on some absolute scale, I would probably have to rate this higher than most Beaujolais that I am happier drinking. It really does have all the pieces in that way. Yet, somehow, it just shows a bit too much of the effort to move north to the Côte d'Or and bit too much of the vintage. Ease up on the new oak (or whatever gave the sweet nose) and tone down the ripeness and the dark fruit a bit and this would be a headline stunner of a cru Beaujolais. As it is, it is almost there. But I feel a bit like I'm buying some kind of pirated good in a back alley in Beijing. If I'd wanted a pinot from the Côte d'Or, I would have bought a basic bourgogne from Geantet-Pansiot or Lafarge. Those were available for about the same money. I wanted to buy a Beaujolais (and a lighter, brighter wine like the Brouilly it claims to be).
  • 2003 Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne
    "Love the one you're with..." Deep and dark ripe plummy color. Nose shows a bit of dust and garrigue to highlight the ripe blackberry juice nose. On the palate, again shows just enough hot earth and herb to avoid ripe-black-fruit malaise. Juicy and fun, with good density and enough pleasant richness to wear its alcohol well. A meaty element on the finish and the slightest tannic bite round out the package. While I love Rabasse-Charavin and other CdR that have great acid and red fruit that I can age forever, there is always a place for ripe and young and pleasantly rich CdR. This fits the bill perfectly. That was what I was looking for when I bought the wine and it delivered. While I've yet to have a bigger appellation 2003 from the Rhone that pleased, the lesser apps in the south are providing some nice and juicy young drinking.

As stated above, the Cairanne was exactly what I was looking for and so was the riesling. The Brouilly was good in some sense, but was a prime example of why wines should be true to their appellations. Otherwise, how do we know what to buy? The aligoté was a freaking cartoon.

None of this really mattered though, as the Hurricanes were the more popular item -- at least until the collective groans went up the next morning.

Posted from CellarTracker

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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If I'd wanted a pinot from the Côte d'Or, I would have bought a basic bourgogne from Geantet-Pansiot or Lafarge. Those were available for about the same money.

The same price?

Good heavens, were that such things happened here.

Best, Jim

But Jim, you fail to ask the critical question:

Why are they roughly the same price? Are the Lafarge and Geantet-Pansiot regionals such a great deal? Or is this one expensive Brouilly?

Sad to say it is more the latter than the former.

I drink a lot less cru Beaujolais than I would like here in Tokyo. Part of the reason is that it is not the value it is elsewhere. When I do drink Beaujolais here it is precisely because I want Beaujolais and not something beefier, deeper, oakier, riper, gobbier or otherwise pointier.

That makes it that much more disappointing when I have the experience I did with the Lapalu.

I had heard good things about the wine, so I gave it a second chance before I wrote the note. On Monday night, I opened another bottle just to make sure. It was the same as what I had noted Friday night.

However, last night the wine was much better. Twenty-four hours of air had eased the vanilla on the nose and brought out more of the tarter red fruit. But it still wasn't a Brouilly.

I would highly recommend this wine to people who want to try something with a thread of the grace and beauty of real cru Beaujolais, but want a little extra ripeness, density and sexiness. That's just not what I want. There are plenty of other wines to do that. :angry:

Sorry...rant over.


Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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