Weingut Franz Keller, Franz Anton, Chardonnay, 2019
Achkarren, Spatburgender, 2019
This is a Baden estate that specializes in Burgundian grapes, which is really the region's trump card. The Franz Anton series is a tribute to the estate's founder and his "winemaking philosophy". The Chardonnay is sourced from old vines around Kaiserstuhl and it's terrific. Really terrific. Especially if what you enjoy Chardonnay in its tautest, saltiest expression. I thought it reminded me of Puligy, the guy who brought it said Meursault. The distinctions don't really matter. It owes a debt to Burgundy but doesn't try to ape it. Really, the best thing to take away from Burgundy is to let the grape express the land.
The Achkarren, Spatburgender - Pinot Noir for English/French speakers - shows pure red fruit but is frustratingly timid about showing much more than that. After a couple of hours, some forest floor shows through, but that's all.
Bilbainas, Vina Zaco, Crianza, 1970
I bought this at a "hole in the wall" wine store in Madrid for 25 euros. I don't want to sound disparaging. It just wasn't the kind of store where you would expect to find an aged treasure. It seemed worth a shot, because good Riojas seem to live forever and I had drunk the same wine six years ago and knew it was a good Rioja.
The color was scary, even horrible. A murky dark orange. The nose was alive and well. The palate was very mature, but at a steady maturity that showed no sign of unravelling, thriving at first on acidity only, with no noticeable tannins, but it improved with air and gained a firmer grip. It has aged well in the sense that even though it has lost the vigor of youth, the Rioja character is still evident. In fact, age has laid bare the essence of Rioja: rust, iron, tasty red fruit.
Chateau du Hureau, Samaur-Champigny, Four a Champs, 2016
I have a great, big, soft spot for Hureau, my first Loire Cabernet Franc. This is the mid-level red in the lineup (the Lisagathe is the flagship) and is enjoyable after a few hours of air, despite its youth. Still, it's on the simple side and, like many of its brethren from the Loire, proves that while a Loire red may cost half or a third of the price of a Bordeaux, it often requires a significant cellar time. Not to soften or integrate the oak - the good producers, like Hureau, have a sensitive touch in the cellar - but to coax complexity. For now, enjoy it for the fresh red and black raspberries and spices.
G.D. Vajra, Barolo, Ravera, 2017
This was open for ten hours by the time we got to it. It's still subdued. The overall, holistic impression is of an elegant, deep Barolo. I can't tell much more. I think it has settled into a place where the palate presents a good balance of fruit and tannins, but has yet to show complexity or expression. I think the problem with young Barolos isn't that they take a long time to open, but rather that they just don't stay open. Sometimes, a young Barolo is actually more expressive straight out of the bottle and then it shuts down again. Like I said, the balance is good here and it looks like 2017 is better than expected. It may have been a hot vintage, but I think a lot of vineyards managed to revive when the rains finally came.
Gunther Steinmetz, Mosel, Brauneberger Mandelgraben, Riesling Eiswein, 2018
An eiswein is probably the last wine style you want to analyze. I wound up just coasting on this nectar's waves of hedonism.