Degustation Dinner at Barcarola (Sept. 5, 2007)

What a night. Barcarola is one of my favorite local restaurants, with precise, reasonably imaginative handling of good raw material, often foregoing corkage fees. With great company and lovely wines, the evening turned out quite successful and informally celebrating my change of jobs didn't hurt.

I'm not that great at writing food crits. I don't have the vocabulary for it, I never get the names of fish and meat cuts and fruits and vegetables right. But I will say that the seafood dishes at Barcarola are a condension of the essance of the sea and if you like that direction - and I do, very much so - then they'll charm you out of your socks.

The order of the wines was quite unorthodox, as the degustation menu turned out to be difficult to match with the usual progression of whites to red. On top of that, we had to nursemaid a vendange tardive until it cooled down to the proper temperature. So we started out with a Gewurztraminer vendange tardive from Alsace as an apertif, but as it obviously needed more time to cool down, we went on to the San Felice, Vigorello, 1999, which wasn't as good as my previous experience with it had been. Just a bit foursquare but still a very good wine. Following that, we had a Bordeaux white and finished off with a bottle of Malescot-St-Exupery, 2000, which proved that the good Bordeaux 2000's must be approached with caution as this potentially elegant wine was still coming together after two hours. We then returned to the Gewurztraminer for an encore.

And now, I will indulge in my oft-stated bias and go into the white wines in greater detail.

Andre Blanck, Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, Alsace, 2000

This small winery is not very well known and the wine's contributor admitted he didn't know whether he opened it too soon, which he did, as it turned out. At first, you get the typical Gewurztraminer fruitiness, tropical fruit and lychee and rose water, but not the trademark pungent spiciness. Which is rather surprising for a seven year old, even if it is a vendange tardive. I think more overt typicity will come in time, as by the time we returned to it for dessert, an initial bitter pip-like bitterness had rounded out into the first hints of mature Gewurtz spiciness.

Chateau Margaux, Pavillion Blanc, 2002

Some might consider this classy wine oaky but I beg to differ. First of all, the nose is so laden with minerals, mostly flint, with so little signs of wood, that it is irresistable. Then the palate is oaky, but it's not your typical, blunt, buttery, toffee-ish instrument of malevolence. Rather this is what you get if you have access to really fine barrels and good terroir: the oak is seemlessly integrated and only serves to highlight the minerals, so the overall effect is like sucking on flint and salt. In other words, dry and savoury.


Joe said…
I like your Pavillon Blanc comments - oak is not a poison if used correctly. Too many bloggers criticizing oak, when I think they are really criticizing buttery oak. It has been a while since I had a white Bordeaux - I think I need to go shopping today.