Wines and Meat (Sept. 6, 2018)

Wines for hipsters vs. wines for the affluent
If someone asked me to pick a wine for hipsters, the last place I'd look for one is Bordeaux. I love Bordeaux. I love the infinite variety and richness, the heritage, the dream of a lush life the wines offer, the taste. But, Bordeaux is basically about getting the best wine money can buy. It's been like that since the Dutch drained its swamps and the upper class came rushing in to build their chateaus. Even the garagistes were just a tweak to the system, not a real change in direction.

In short, good to great wines all over the place, dependable and predicable, but, as Hugh Johnson put it, "not much novelty - hence less sommelier excitement".

But there's one small domaine in Saint Julien that's been doing things their way for centuries, a Carl Fredricksen hanging on to his house while skyscrapers tower over him. The Fillastre family has been tending the Domaine du Jaugare and their meager 1.3 hectares of vineyard since 1654. But they've come to the end of the line. Jean-François Fillastre is a childless octogenarian who's been preserving his family's heritage and flying in the face of modernity to the point that the domaine was rejected from the appellation for lack of typicality.

Judging by the prices this sells for at Manhattan wine stores, the hipsters have indeed been taking to Jean-Francois like Russel took to Carl. 

We recently drank the Domaine du Jaugaret, 2012 that Yotam Sharon brought for a belated birthday celebration. I liked it. It didn't make me swoon, but it really is a charming wine and if the establishment is successful in grinding down the domaine, it will be a tragedy. The grapes seem to have been picked slightly earlier than the norm in Bordeaux, so the fruit is very red (not green, just red). That's probably why pundits compare it to Burgundy - I personally find it Loire-like, rather, on the palate. The winemaking is solid, with no bombast or flash. The fruit is clean, with good acidity and no brett. A wine of great, rough charm and the "lack of typicality" claim baffles me. Sure, it's miles apart from the Leovilles, say, but for me, well within reasonable bounds of variety.

Benoit Ente, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Sous Le Puits "Terre de Blagny", 2012

This is one of my favorite producers in the Cote de Beaune, with a style and approach that highlights balanced, acidity driven wines. The wines cost roughly as much as the better known Puilgny name Etienne Sauzet, but Ente consistently thrills me more. This is lovely, with a nose of decent complexity, if not more, and detailed nuances of flint. It's lithe and savory and develops and grows well in glass.

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2011

This family establishment, and this wine in particular, are a long time favorite of mine, but I'm not sure aging really serves the Champs des Billons that well. At four years old, it was as great as the very best Chablis Grand Cru. Two years later, it started slowing down. This bottle is still holding steady, but it sure doesn't seem like there's an upcurve in the future. I am going to be more conservative about aging Sauvignon Blancs.

Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2004

I've been fortunate enough to have drunk more than a dozen vintages of Lynch-Bages over the years. And what a classic claret it is, with that elegant richness of form and taste of the best of Bordeaux. This is more of the same and very presentable. If you have multiple vintages, this is the one to open now.

And this is the wine to keep away from for the next ten years:

Chateau Canon, Saint Emilion, Premier Cru Classe, 2015

Too young. Fruity but not raw. 

Alion, Ribera del Duero, 2006

I usually find this boring. At best, it's a well made wine that impresses without straining to do so, but lacks excitement nonetheless. That's just me, of course, but I do try to like any wine I buy, if only to justify the expenditure. Tonight, though, it really meshed in the lineup and there’s a freshness and persistent buzz of iron that lifts it beyond its usual game. Best Alion experience I’ve had.