06 February 2006

How dry I'm not

Bisson 2004 Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani (Veneto) – Bone-dry, perhaps excessively so, with a powdery, misty texture and the bitterness of citrus rinds. Severe. I almost like it, but in the end I think this would be improved with just a hint of residual sugar.

Prosecco can be good, bad or indifferent, but in its most everyday form (the kind that arrives in unlabeled bottles on Venetian tables, for example) it is rarely without a dollop of softening sweetness. It’s one of prosecco’s great appeals. Bone-dry prosecco, for reasons that aren’t clear to me but that are almost certainly related to the inherent characteristics of the grape, is a bit of a high-wire act, and the result can easily cross the austerity line and end up in the realm of severity. That is, to an extent, what’s happened here. That’s not to denigrate the wine’s essential nature, which is fine in its idiom, but I’m just not convinced that bone-dry prosecco is often the best expression of the grape. Alcohol: 11%. Closure: cork. Importer: Rosenthal.

Donaldson Family “Main Divide” 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough/Canterbury) – What one wants from a Kiwi sauvignon: gooseberry, some herbs, the hint but not the bite of capsicum, riper melon notes (but not overripe into the tropical range), in a clean, balanced package. Nicely done.

90% sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, 10% sémillon from Canterbury. The sauvignon for this wine is not consistently sourced, but the wine is fairly consistently made in a style that is both approachable and resists the modern New Zealand trend towards sauvignon blanc with obvious residual sugar, yet also avoids the traditional problems of the underripe, pyrazine-laden wine that, for better or worse, made Marlborough famous. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Meadowbank/Empson. Web: http://www.maindivide.com/.

[Redfield]West County Cider Redfield (Northern Berkshires) – Strong, dark and ripe apple with a slight tannic bite, good acidity, and a faint sparkle. The structure gives this persistence and wipes away the sticky residue that sometimes lingers from everyday cider. Vivid and intense.

Well-made varietal cider is as interesting as varietal wine – why should it be any different? – so it’s exciting to taste this version, from a getting-rarer variety that adds a bracing touch of skin bitterness to what is already a dark, intense cider. The producer softens it a bit with just a grace note of sugar and leaves a bit of residual (and natural) sparkle, which makes this one of the more fascinating ciders I’ve tasted in quite some time…not made by Eric Bordelet, that is. Alcohol: 5.3%. Closure: cork. Web: http://www.westcountycider.com/.

Clergot “Château Courtiade” 2002 Bergerac Sec (Southwest France) – Striking, showing earthy melon, ultra-ripe apple and white grape aromas with touches of sweaty gooseberry and a pulsating mineral underbelly. Long and delicious, this is a rather stunning wine for its price.

50% sauvignon blanc, 50% sémillon. Way, way back in the dim vestiges of memory, I recall a Bergerac opening my mind to entirely new horizons of taste in my first, tentative explorations of wine. But given the wine’s general absence on the local market, I’m not surprised it took me this long to come back to the region. If this bottle is any indication, the next absence will be brief. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Grand Vintage/Nadine & Allan.

Peillot 2003 Bugey Mondeuse (Ain) – Unsurprisingly lush vs. other vintages, but showing balance and poised fullness throughout, with aromatically floral red fruit still on the vine, traceries of lavender jam, and a silky, smooth finish. It’s atypical, perhaps, but it’s far too good to worry about atypicity.

Were it not for the yeoman efforts of crank individualist importers like Joe Dressner, I doubt I’d be particularly familiar with this grape (apparently more regularly a blending partner for gamay than a solo star). Mondeuse is one of those relentlessly rustic varieties that always has some lack vs. the modern vision of a “complete wine” (a vision I don’t share, by the way), but I’d be surprised if anyone could much object to the 2003 version of this wine. Yes, it lacks the delicate yet mildly abrasive qualities of the wine in more authentic years, but it’s just so purely delicious in this guise, how could anyone except the stubbornly closed-minded resist its charms? Alcohol: 12%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.

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