Tuesday, November 7, 2017
For my money, Uri Caftory (IPVinum) is one of the most distinctive local importers, one of only two or three with anything like a individual voice that they actually came up with on their own. The range is limited to France, usually to the less traveled parts of southern France (that is, less traveled by local importers). Even when he strays closer to the more familiar appellations, he either fishes unknown names or comes up with obscure satellite appellations most of us never knew existed. I can't say I'm always an ardent follower of his approach, but he has come up with a few names that are very dear to me (Redde foremost, but I'd also recommend Matthieu Barret from Cornas and Domaine de l'Horizon in Languedoc - there are others, but these are a good place to start).
Two recent additions to the portfolio especially illustrate his approach and its appeal to his fan base, such as it is.
The first hails from Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, which is an appellation which I explore whenever I get the chance (but which is sadly under-represented locally). The cognoscenti claim Muscadet can age for a very long time. My stance so far is that I'm happy with five to eight years on them. The three wines I tried from Bonnet-Huteau should reach that milestone with ease.
Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Dabinieres, 2015
I'm not a terribly perceptive lover of fruit. Usually, what I pick up is apples, peaches or just generic yellow or tropical fruit. I'm useless beyond that. So here, I just noted yellow fruit, but there's a lightly spicy kick to it and touches sculptor clay. This is just a pleasant pairing for a light meal, but there's an elegant small scale sparkle to it. (Sept. 7, 2017)
Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Gautronnières, 2015
I checked the winery's site. Each of the bottles under discussion here come from vineyards with different soil types. The Dabinieres comes from "schist and gneiss" and the Gautronnières doesn't. It is an "expression of a terroir made of green rocks and amphilolitic silidous-clay soil". Well. It has a different character, anyway, steelier and more elegant, very tense minerality. With both these wines, you get an insinuation of potential of additional complexity and breadth. (Sept. 8, 2017)
Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Laures, 2015
This is the priciest, but it doesn't yet show where the expense went, because it is so drenched and entrenched in minerals that they actually obscure the fruit. Almost like tannins, really. The potential is here as well, but the wine doesn't insinuate the need for cellaring, it actually insists on it. (Sept. 10, 2017)
Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Goisot
Goisot is a producer from St. Bris outside the Chablis border. Caftory says Goisot is just as good as any good Chablis producer. If I were the importer, I'd say the same thing. But I googled around and it seems to be a fairly consensual opinion. Goisot seems to be as close to a household name as that area ever gets. What Uri brought are wines from Côtes d'Auxerre, which is even more obscure. How obscure? The edition I have of the Johnson and Robinson Atlas Of Wine devotes a couple of sentences to it. The New Sotheby's Encyclopedia of Wine dismisses it and Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocketbook doesn't even miss but does recommend Goisot under the St. Bris and Irancy entries.
St. Bris is a Sauvignon appellation, Irancy is Pinot Noir and, finally, Côtes d'Auxerre is Chardonnay. You're all set to go on to the tasting notes.
Côtes d'Auxerre, Gueules de Loup, 2014
This is as good as a Chablis Premier Cru: lithe, long and complex, the acidity so vibrant it's almost combustible. There's enough to differentiate it from Chablis. It mixes the fossil and salt thing with flint, and it might be a tad fatter, I'm still undecided on that. Whatever, it's so tasty you'd be a real dumbass not to buy it. (Sept. 12, 2017)
Côtes d'Auxerre, Corps de Garde, 2014
I suppose this sort of parallels a village Chablis. This is very racy and rocky, impressing as lime juice poured over oyster shells. It's not of obvious lesser breed than the Gueules de Loup, a little less complex for sure, but its steely focus stands out and the marine character is less overt (Sept. 13, 2017)
Côtes d'Auxerre, Biaumont, 2014
This seems the most intense and pungent of the three to me. Whereas I thought the Gueules de Loup was fatter than most Chablis, this might be leaner, actually. It's very savory, though. You could argue with my enthusiastic assessment of Goisot - I think I was fairly sound and levelheaded here, but I wish I'd had more exposure to the house before making my final call - but that savoriness is what makes it cross over. That same tasty, saline savoriness that is the grail stone we always seek in Bourgogne. (Sept. 16, 2017-
Some other wines from the portfolio:
Domaine Bott-Geyl, Kronenbourg, Lieu-dit, Riesling, 2009
Even though I consider Alsace a distant third among the classic Riesling countries (after Germany and Austria), I do like to have a try at it every now and then. It is a beautiful place, really it is, and the terroir is intricate in a way that appeals to the more bookish wine geeks. There are literally hundreds of producers no one outside of France has ever heard of.
Caftory has been carrying Bott-Geyl for years. It's an interesting little house, given to wines spiked with an abundance of minerals. This wine comes from what in Burgundy would be a village or Premier Cru vineyard. Since Alsace has about fifty Grand Cru vineyards, I'm not sure the difference between a mediocre Grand Cru and a good Premier Cru would be very pronounced, but Kronenbourg seems good enough to broach on GC territory. I've had a few vintages of the Bott-Geyl version and it's always very mineral laden. I've even had the 2009 before. At the time, I was hoping it would improve its interest level with age, without actually expecting to run into it again. Now that I have, I love how it spikes the apple fruit with quartz. I know, I already used the verb "spike" earlier in my spiel, but "lace" is a little too tame for the the complex and fierce impression the Kronenbourg makes on the taste buds. It's at its peak now, but I'd definitely buy more. (Sept. 22, 2017)
125 NIS for the 2013.
Dirler-Cade, Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes, 2012
Caftory has been recommending this for a while. Naturally, I shied away. Sylvaner is the neutral, workhorse grape of Alsace. There's every reason to pursue other wines, even if this specific wine is made of old vines. Nonetheless, I was in an adventurous, explorative frame of mind, so I took home a bottle. This is a neutral wine, indeed. Aromatically, at least. Nothing explodes out of the glass. yet, there is a delicate, nutty earthiness to it. The payback's on the palate. The texture is firm, complex and interesting, with spicy, rocky finish. Nothing very neutral there. (Sept. 23, 2017)
And one red.
Domaine Christophe Peyrus, Coteaux du Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, 2014
Christophe Peyrus is the owner of Clos Marie, a Languedoc property that Uri has been importing from the start. This is pure Syrah, I think, and it has the same vibrant freshness as a young Saint Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage. Except, it ups the mineral quotient and there's almost no black pepper. I think that conveys its personality. It's a little dirtier than I prefer these days, but all in all it's a tasty wine. (Sept. 30, 2017)