2015 Wine Tasting
Sparkling - Gasnier Cravantine
When we last saw Fabrice Gasnier at his beautiful home in Cravant-les-Coteaux, he had just completed a five-year transformation of his 24-hectare estate to biodynamics; the agricultural discipline based on a series of lectures by Rudolph Steiner titled The Spiritual Foundation for the Renewal of Agriculture. Steiner was an Austrian philosopher active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who is best known today as the founder of the Waldorf Schools.
It would be easy to describe biodynamics as something like “Organic Plus,” but more than simple labor-intensive organic farming, biodynamics includes a strong belief in interdependence among the “forces” of Earth, Life, and Cosmos. “In the past, Fabrice told me, “we would have sprayed fungicide in the vineyard whenever we had cold, wet weather.” He scooped up a handful of clay-calcareous soil and smiled. “But I don't think that way anymore. Now when I see mildew in the vines, I see it as a sign that something is out of balance, and I treat it homeopathically.” He shrugged. “I don’t know how it works, but the wines have more perfect fruit-purity than ever before.”
La Cravantine is a distinctive, inviting sparkling wine made from carefully grown Cabernet Franc grapes. The bubbles are the result of the traditional, labor-intensive méthode champenoise. Appealing strawberry and mineral scents are encased in a firm structure with a dry and spicy quality in the palate.
Reisling - Keller QBA Trocken 2014
When Klaus-Peter and his wife Julia took over at Weingut Keller in 2001, they had an enviable advantage: his parents had laid a solid foundation for the future of the estate with their work in soil analysis and clonal selection, and were already producing the best wines in Rheinhessen. But Klaus-Peter has taken Weingut Keller to even higher heights, inspiring a renaissance of viniculture in the Hügelland, where the Benedictines of the Kloster Lorch grew some of the most prestigious wines in the Rheinland, in vineyards that were forgotten after the French Revolution.
But Klaus-Peter doesn’t have time for media stardom, and is quick to point out that “great wine would not be possible here, if it weren’t for these great limestone soils. It’s only that someone had to remember the old tradition and just make good wine.”
This pale, green-gold dry Riesling has a penetrating, irresistible nose, with ripe green apples, lime blossoms, grapefruit zest, and a faint suggestion of sweet wood smoke moving in and out of the foreground as the wine evolves in the glass. Along the way, for a few moments, it smells almost as if it were seasoned with lemongrass and fresh wild rosemary. On the palate the wine is generous, pure, and complex, with ripe white peach, green apple, and citrus flavors unfolding with vibrant limestone mineral intensity, and the finish is long and refreshing, with plenty of fresh acidity, depth, and cut. This is flat-out great wine: worthy accompaniment to the most elegant seafood, and one of the happiest non-Burgundy accompaniments to a simple roasted chicken that I have ever experienced.
White Burgundy - Corsin St Veran Vieilles Vignes 2013
Gilles Corsin splits his time between the courtier business he took over from his father twenty years ago, and the cellar at Domaine Corsin, where he makes the finest wine in Saint-Véran. As a courtier, he tastes wine from hundreds of growers and cooperatives, and is responsible for the purchase of thousands of hectoliters for Georges Dubœuf, Louis Jadot, and Jean-Marie Guffens’ Maison Verget. Tasting so many wines from so many sources gives him a unique frame of reference when he tastes his own wine.
Jean-Jacques Corsin, on the other hand, is a gentle giant with a ruddy face, and forearms that are uniformly tanned by the vineyard sun. In contrast to his brother Gilles, who seems to be permanently on edge, Jean-Jacques is calm and deliberate – all the better for a vineyard manager whose decisions may have consequences that last for decades. Together, they are a perfect team.
Remember that this limpid, silvery-golden wine is fine Burgundy, so use a large well-shaped glass and don’t overfill it. And give the wine a minute or two: this is a textbook example of how a fine wine evolves in the glass after it’s poured. The classic nose unfurls gradually with white peaches, crushed limestone, orange blossoms, and lavender, along with fresh fennel, roasted hazelnuts, and persimmon. On the palate, the wine is super concentrated and generous, with mineral-saturated Chardonnay flavors that echo the nose, including ripe Anjou pears, orange zest, and a fleeting suggestion of dried honeycomb, all sustained through the long brisk finish by fresh, vibrant acidity. Drink now for it’s luscious primary fruit, or lay away in your own cool dark cellar for a decade or more, if you can wait that long.
Pinot Noir - Cornu-Camus Cotes de Nuites-Villages 2012
Fine, inexpensive, estate-bottled Burgundy is always a happy surprise. The land is expensive, the work is hard, and demand usually exceeds supply. But if you’re willing to look beyond the most famous villages of the Côte d’Or, there are still discoveries to be made: expressive Burgundies, white and red, grown by passionate stewards of the genuine Burgundian tradition.
The Cornu family has lived in Echevronne, about seven kilometers northwest of Beaune, since the thirteenth century. Pierre Cornu joined his parents in the late 1970s, and like so many of the best of his generation, was the first in his family to estate-bottle the wine. In 1981 he married Bernadette Camus, and in 2007, after completing her studies in enology at Beaune, their daughter Lydia, along with her husband Christophe Pertuzot (previously of Domaine Leroy), joined them as co-gerants, ensuring the continuity of this dynamic ten-hectare estate.
This lovely Pinot Noir comes from a small vineyard called “La Montagne,” which borders the Bois de Buisson on the slope above the village of Comblanchien. Pierre and his father planted the vines almost forty years ago. In the glass, this wine has a limpid, saturated, bright cherry red color. The nose is pure Burgundian Pinot Noir, with aromatics of black cherries, rhubarb, smoke, and a hint of cardamom. On the palate, the wine is deeper than the color suggests, with a core of sweet black cherry fruit, bright fresh acidity, and a long, fine-grained finish.
Chianti - Isole Chianti 2012
There is no producer in Italy who is more widely admired for the range of brilliant, expressive wines that he grows year after year. And there are few producers in the world who have not made a pilgrimage to the viticultural monument that Paolo De Marchi has brought to life at Isole e Olena.
At the heart of Paolo de Marchi’s wine-making philosophy is his sense of what is typically Tuscan. Amid the over-extracted, cabernet-influenced wines produced in Tuscany today, Paolo's elegant renditions of Chianti quietly exalt the beauty of Sangiovese.
Supple, well balanced, and perfumed in every vintage, they have become an illustration for younger producers of what pristine agriculture, high-density vineyards and meticulous fermentation can achieve. Fennel, and porcini-infused earth form the backdrop for fine, black cherry fruit, while silky tannins and mouth-watering fruit acids allow Paolo's wines to linger gracefully on the palate. Roasted sausage and Sugo di Coniglio are natural accompaniments.