Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Burgundy 2015 - It Begins with Maillard...

If you have heard a bit about Burgundy in 2015, you may be surprised that I've been mum on the subject. Time to break the silence...give me a few minutes of your time.

Ted (our beer manager) and I traveled to Burgundy this February where we tasted bottled 2014 wines and 2015 wines in barrel. There is no denying the "sexiness" of the 2015 vintage. After sampling nearly 200 wines, I'm left with the impression of a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010. In that I mean, it has the supple juiciness of 09 but with a little more of the structure in 2010. In short, the wines were excellent, very easy to drink and will commercially be a home run. So why have I not spoken a word about them til now?

Because the 2014 wines are gorgeous! They are supple, lacy wines with great purity. They deserve attention and I loved A LOT of the wines. Loved. So in my opinion, it doesn't do them justice to start lauding another vintage that hasn't even been bottled yet. And honestly, a wine isn't fully complete until the cork goes in. Now, since we returned from France, you may or may not have heard of the catastrophe of the weather in 2016 so far in Burgundy. Believe me, the struggle is real my friends.

Most producers all over Burgundy were hit by hails storms, some multiple times. Best estimates are that the losses will be in the 50-60% range, with some saying they lost nearly everything. What do you think will happen to the prices of the superb 2015 wines now? You guessed it. Skyrockets in flight.

So my recommendation for those of you who love Burgundy like I do is to buy as much delicious 2014's as you can. Those wines are now available or if they are en route, the price is already set. They will be excellent steals for the quality. Or find wines like the one below in 2015 that DESTROY for value. And I do mean destroy... This wine was also priced and en route before the hail storms making it amazing for the tariff. So if you want a glimpse of what the 2015 vintage looks like, here is proof positive of the loveliness...

Domaine Maillard Bourgogne Rouge 2015

Pascal Maillard, one of our favorite winemakers in the Cotes de Beaune, tends to his vineyards with the precision and focus of a marksman. Honestly, he's got the chops of a musical wizard of the highest magnitude; think of him as the Jimi Hendrix of Burgundy, playfully pouring his soul into his wines. And while Bourgogne Rouge can technically come from anywhere in the whole of the appellation, the grapes for this classy, elegant Pinot Noir come from Maillards' vineyards located around the villages of Ladoix and Chorey in the Cotes de Beaune. The 2015 is sexy as hell with plenty of black cherry tones with a mouthwatering, juicy character followed by subtle floral hints, rose petals and a hint of raspberry as well. A touch more weight than previous vintages, there are still subtle little tannins that frame the wine and will encourage a bit of cellaring short term. An amazing Bourgogne that would give just about any village level wine a run for its money.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Still Talking Natural....Still Talking $%&!

No I'm not going back on my statements in the last post.  I said it.  I meant it. 

BUT, that doesn't mean that I hate all things natural.  I love the Museum of Natural History, Nature Valley Bars, animals in their natural habitat, and of course, who doesn't love natural boobs.  And I love these two wines listed below, both picture perfect for the season and naturally made...

Domaine Bulliat Morgon Nature 2014 - This would normally be the exact kinda wine that would irk the crap out of me, a Cru Beaujolais with zero sulfur, biodynamically farmed and natural as they come.  But there is one important difference.  This ACTUALLY tastes freakin' delicious!  Light, fresh, clean and "airy as a feather" cherry fruit riding a wave of floral notes.  Love it...  $24

Pithon-Paille Vin de France "Grololo" 2014 - Speaking of boobs, this label is cute and funny but the wine inside is serious as a heart attack.  It's mainly Grolleau with some Gamay and a heaping helping of love.  Dark berries canoodling with an acid rush that will make you think you are back in the 70's.  $25

Click the link on each wine and buy these at 56 Degree Wine.  What, you thought this blog wasn't  going to be semi-self-serving?  Fret not, I'll get back to ranting next week.

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Natural Wine...The Danger of Dogma

Ah, natural wine...it is the "it", the buzzword of the our vinous times.  It's the darling of many sommeliers, retail wine zealots and uber-wine geeks.  It's the hot topic, the stuff of cool kid dreams.  It's the new wine reality.  It's legend in the making.  It's the SHIT!

And I don't care about it at all.

I have a lot of friends, really good friends in varying strata of the wine business who are all in.   I still call them friends and hope they will still feel the same about me.  But natural wine is not only of no interest to me, but I find it in many cases revolting.  But it's natural wine, Man!  It's gotta be good for you like kale.

Let's rewind a bit.  Natural wine is born out of a very good ideal and I don't want to gloss over that.  It's saying that we want to intervene as little as possible with the product.  We want the vines to be healthy.  We don't want to use chemicals or pesticides.  We want the environment surrounding the vines to be lively with other living organisms promoting balance.   It's all good stuff, right?  So what is the big deal?

The big deal is many of these wines taste like any combination of these:  LeBron's sweat sock after a double overtime game, grass clippings, nail polish, road tar, poop, barnyard animal, and hairball.  Oh and many with a slight unintended fizz.  Yum...  Notice I didn't mention any fruit from a product supposedly made from grapes.

I've been in this business long enough to know that dogma is dangerous.  There are tons of natural wines made by expert vignerons that are world class.  I mean, they taste flat out delicious.  Those people have great vines, know exactly what they are doing and are dialed in like Jordan Spieth pre-Masters meltdown.  But there are also a wealth of people dogmatically flying the flag of "biodynamics" and "natural" wines that are making unstable and/or flawed wines and trying to convince you that is good.  And by taking that dogmatic approach and refusing to do things to make a better product rather than just make a natural wine, they do a disservice to their reputation (read as you can't have confidence in their product) and to the people who are actually supposed to be enjoying it.  I even know some producers who made a wine under pretty favorable conditions, refused to stabilize it in any way and then tossed the whole tank down the drain when shit went haywire.  Doesn't make any sense to me.  You had a great product and you let dogma dog you out.  You wanted to make a wine that's "sans soufre" and instead you are "sans wine".  Ridiculous.  

I taste these things all the time and way too often.  Like last night...

I spent an evening with my sweetheart in our old stomping grounds briefly stopping by a (mainly) natural wine bar.  I sampled a rose that looked (and tasted) a little brown, a Blaufrankish that was dull at best and a red from Southwest France that started off fine but air did it no favors as it became muddled and herbal.  Sigh...  But there is something way more important afoot.

99% of the buying public for wine couldn't give a flying frankfurter about PH levels, indigenous yeasts, vine age or dozens of other vital statistics that we as wine pros obsess over.  They just want a good f'in glass of wine with their dinner!  One young couple sat next to us at the aforementioned wine bar, as the well intention-ed bartender/somm asked them what they wanted.  Looking for white wine, the bar/somm suggests a couple things and they taste them.  Trying one of the wines the woman retorts, "I don't like that."  And after more lengthy discussion/descriptions/dissertations, the gentleman says, "Just give us one of each, I'll drink whatever she likes the least."  I mean, wine is supposed to be joyful, fun and enhance your meal...sensual and get you in the mood for whatever comes later.  It shouldn't need an owners manual nor be so far of the field of play that people don't like it.  And by and large, most people don't like it.  Like almost everyone save for those seeking to examine it or live the life of dogma.  

And further more, if you pull some industry peeps aside and ask what they really think, they will tell you that they don't care to drink a lot of them either.  

I'd drop the mic, but I think someone is going to pick it up and start screaming at me.  I'm ready...

Much Love,

JCB the 4th

Thursday, June 9, 2016

That's Right...I'm Back!

Greetings Planet Earth, 56 Degree Wine Faithful & Folks with WAY too Much Time on Their Hands...

I have decided to revive my blog, Le Monstre du Vin, or "The Freak of Wine" en Francais, after a 5 year hiatus.  Can't believe it's been that long.  I promise to make Le Monstre 2.0 more fun and more scathing than ever and most likely, a career mistake.  Oh, and get off my chest all the venom this elder "L'Enfant Terrible" can muster.  

Since I abandoned you back in 2011, life and the wine world have drastically changed.  I married a gorgeous lady, had a beautiful daughter and realized that I am far better suited to complaining about, tasting, assessing, purchasing, and selling wine in retail than I am at being a wholesale sales rep.  In addition, my palate has changed a bit, my views on wine have shifted and my tolerance for nonsense has dwindled.  Yeah, I've still got a wee bit of a chip.  I'm a little chunkier (working on that) a little funkier and I've got 5 years of toxins that need purging from me.

So please do check back regularly.  As this is just an intro or rather a reintroduction of sorts, the real meat in the sandwich comes next week...I think I will make the first of many errors by spilling my guts on the natural wine trend and why I'm not overly impressed.  Did you hear that?  It's the boisterous, sucking sound of industry folk in NYC unfriending me on Facebook and Instagram.

Much Love,

JCB the 4th