The Quaran-Vine Papers #3: Shooting Blancs - French Whites in Small Batches

As the weather gets warmer and we continue to find ourselves with time on our hands, I thought I’d shoot out some suggestions for some amazing French white wines to enjoy on your patio, with, of course, some contemporary precautions:

FROM THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT – April 16th, 2020. Wine Product may be consumed in outdoor areas if consumers adhere to the following restrictions:

1a. All consumers of Wine Product must stay 2m apart from each other on patio.

1b. Patio must be 2m apart from neighboring patio.

1c. If two neighboring patios are occupied, eye contact between patios is forbidden.

1d. If accidental eye contact between neighboring patios does occur, eyes must be washed for 20 seconds before returning to patio.

Well, now that we’re safe, let’s get to the yums:

PRODUCER SPOTLIGHTS

Domaine Marius Delarche, Burgundy. Simply put, this is some of the best Burgundian value I have seen in a few years, from a tiny producer who should change their name to When Mice Roar. When Etienne Delarche took over after his father passed in 2007, there was every reason to expect that he would continue his family’s tradition of making passable, agreeable wines from the vineyards they’d owned for generations on and around the hill of Corton. Having apprenticed in a series of forward-thinking Burgundy houses, he set about reducing the oak treatment and the yields and stunned the region with pure, focused Chardonnays that shed new light on the unassuming hamlet of Pernand Vergelesses (or as I call it: Shadow Corton). Etienne now plays with the big boys but charges the kiddie rate: Delarche hasn’t increased their prices since 2010, putting them starkly in contrast with… France. I have 2 wines by Etienne:

Domaine Marius Delarche Pernand-Vergelesses AOC Les Boutières 2017. From vineyards literally around the corner (other side of the hill) from Corton-Charlemagne (that’s why I call it Shadow Corton, clever Jordan!). Wet stones and spicy apples with zing and tenacity, finishes with lemon zest and a drum fill. Truly amazing value, you will want more than you buy. 4 6-packs available, $52.98 +tax

Domaine Marius Delarche Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru AOC 2017. A creamy whopper of a Corton-Charlie, full, rich, loud and solid, like a lemon-cream-pie with rocks in it. Delicious now, delicious in the future second term of President Joe Exotic. I don’t mean to blow the “value” horn too much but just look at this pricing compared to anything else from this Grand Cru and you’ll see why I’m so stoked on this house. 2017 not yet rated, previous 2 vintages scored 94 with Wine Spectator. 1 6-pack left (this horse is partially out of the barn) $161.98 +tax

 

Nicolas Joly, Loire. The Godfather of Biodynamic viticulture. This dude’s book has almost too many chapters in it: born in France, educated in New York and a former investment banker at J.P. Morgan, Joly returned to his family’s estate in the Loire Valley after reading a book of biodynamic viticulture, and he became a pioneer of organic winemaking in France during a time when pesticides and herbicides were liberally used as seasonings. He effectively put the small appellation of Savennières on the map, working exclusively with Chenin Blanc and elevating both grape and region to a level where one of his crus, Coulée de Serrant, was awarded its own appellation, becoming a monopole (entire AOC under one proprietor) and joining the tiny club of Romanée-Conti and Chateau-Grillet. (In contrast, I just learned how to work our Moneris machine, huzzah!). I have 2 Chenin Blancs by Mr. Joly:

Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant AOC 2016. If you wash your hands long enough to speak this wine’s whole name, you should be fine. Like Corton and Vougeot, this hallowed land has been under vine since monks first planted it in 1130. Harvested in 5 different passes and fermented with indigenous yeasts, aged in old oak, showing crushed rocks and grapefruit over dried white flowers and mild green herbs. Probably 5 years out from Prime Yum, age it like a dry Riesling. Not yet rated, 12 bottles available, $135.99 +tax

Nicolas Joly Les Vieux Clos, Savennières AOC 2016. The estates youngest vines (20 years, ancient in BC context) are in this east-facing vineyard of schist and quartz, severely harvested so that only the ripest berries get used. This is Joly’s earliest drinking wine, golden and rich with flinty lemon and lemongrass and a faint saline note. 12 bottles available, $79.99 +tax

 

OTHER YUMS

Domaine aux Moines Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines AOC 1999, Loire Valley. Mother-and-Daughter team Monique and Tessa Laroche run this absolutely crackerjack, under-the-radar biodynamic neighbour to Joly, next door to Coulée de Serrant. This organic Chenin is aged to perfection, still showing dried pear and honey over tertiary notes of menthol and pineapple. Medium bodied, firm with a persistent finish. Still has the acidity to go another decade, but you’re in quarantine now, so… 12 bottles available, $59.98 +tax

Gerard Duplessis Chablis 1er Cru Montmains AOC 2017, Chablis, Burgundy. Gerard’s son Lilian now runs this organic, classic Chablis estate in the heart of the appellation, and the Montmains cru (means “medium mountain” because it’s on a medium mountain) is his favourite. Flint and smoke surround the citrus notes, it takes a bit to coax the snail out of the shell, here, so decant and re-chill would be my M.O. or a 3-years nap would work as well. So many hazards befell Chablis in 2017 – hail and frost above all – that it’s wondrous we got anything, and accordingly the quantities are tiny. I have one 6-pack. $69.98 +tax

Domaine Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Blanc AOC “Haut-Coustias” 2017, Cairanne, Rhône Valley. Continues to be one of the best values in White Rhône, but the world is slowly catching on. Clairette-led with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne doing dishes, this is an opulent, rich white, made by the Alary brothers from 90-year-old vines on the geologically unique hill of Haut-Coustias, which like the village of Cairanne is largely planted to red wines. Intense tropical fruits and a massive body are all tied up in a zing on the luxurious finish. 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $52.98 +tax

Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc AOC 2017, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley. It seems like a lifetime ago but we had Victor Coulon from Beaurenard here for a Collectors Tasting in late February (omg time is folding on itself) and this was one of the hits, a rare white CDP that uses an unusually large (25%) portion of the ancient grape Bourboulenc in the blend. White flowers, almond and apricot control the nose, and although quite crisp, it drinks like silk. This wine will give you the hugs your friends cannot. 12 bottles available, $77.98 +tax

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Drinking!

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