The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 124

22 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 AS A SOMM, WHEN I THINK OF Bordeaux, I get two general feelings: excitement about bottles I've sold or have on the list, and anxiety about flashcards detailing classification systems that go on for hundreds of year. Bordeaux being the preeminent wine region of the entire world, I don't think of pushing envelopes and breaking paradigms. As my mother taught me, "If it ain't broke . . ." That's why it was so paradigm-rattling to have André Lurton's Winemaking Director, Vincent Cruège, join us at Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis, Monarch Beach to work through some different approaches to viticulture and winemaking in a region that's been at the top for over 200 years. We started off with Château Bonnet: the QPR of Bordeaux, coming from Entre- Deux-Mers. We've all studied how this isn't the best land for grapes, right? Wrong. Apparently, geologic shifts over the last 100 million years didn't obey our borders and appellations. Bonnet is found on a limestone escarpment identical to the one found just over five miles to the north in a place called Saint-Émilion. The biggest dif - ference between the two is that the cost of entry across the river has an extra zero added on the end. Bonnet comes in Blanc, Rosé and Rouge versions and dramatically over-performs across the board. The Blanc is bright and crisp showing lemon-lime candy, grassy tones like a Sancerre of yesteryear and electric acidty. The Rosé was another shocker. I'm not usu - ally a fan of rosés with pyrazines, but these ones were just barely mature—that rare happy place between green pepper that just doesn't jive with strawberry fruit flavors and getting too ripe and losing the gorgeous refreshing aspect, which is why we all really gulp rosé. The pyrazines on the Bonnet Rosé came across as just a hit of green that made me think of wild strawberries with the leaves still clinging to them. Lastly and most surprising is the Rouge: 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Why? Because that's what's in the vineyard. Yep, an actual Entre-Deux-Mers property dedicated to natural winemaking tech - niques rather than machine harvesting on flat land. What blew my mind was the bal- ance of oak; there's a lot, but the fruit con- centration supports it. At this price point? I'm still wondering how they can afford it, but I won't question too deeply. From there we moved onto the big boys. Literally. We worked through side-by-side verticals of cork versus Stelvin to show the differences over time in Château La Louvière Blanc and a horizontal of bottle sizes in Château La Louvière Rouge from the 2005 vintage, going from 375mL to 5L. I have a troubled love affair with Bordeaux Blanc. I love how high-acid Sauvignon Blanc is so pretty in its youth and turns sensual and textural with a dollop of Sémillon when wrapped up in high-quality oak, but absence makes the heart grow fonder as I wait for her to gain some maturity and I really can't afford to take her out all the time. Wait . . . Who are we talking about again? Going through the vertical was telling and Monsieur Cruège's point was clear. Cork helps them round out in the first few years, but after about five years, the fruit on the Stelvins was still bright, but balanced by texture. They turn into fresh lemon meringue pie—zest mixed with creaminess. The horizontal told a similar but different story. A different tool for a different job was the common thread, yet the biggest sur - prise was the different interactions in the bottle. I even saved some samples to try with a winemaker friend that evening and she shared the same revelation. The brett- versus-fruit balance changed. We figure it must be something in the oxygen ratio, but regardless, the smaller bottles tasted almost more "classic" Graves while we progressed into deeper fruit and what seemed more modernist. At the end of the day, the bot - tles don't lie, so I have to figure that it has more to do with our paradigm of what we are looking for. Perfect! For my list and my personal consumption, I can choose which route to go. Options, options, options . . . We all came out of the tasting with a different mindset from the one we entered with, no doubt. Bordeaux has wrapped itself with prestige and maintained hegemonic power in the world of wine for a very long time. When you're the best, though, how do you stay on top? The Bordelais have done it with constant evaluation and striving to be better. We should have seen it coming—from the time of Ausonius to the 1855 classification, through the replant - ing of the Right Bank in the 1950s and into today. Led by people like André Lurton, Bordeaux continues to be a pioneer and keeps that entrepreneurial spirit. They are pushing forward in the 21st century rather than looking back on a thousand years of premier wines. Beyond the Book in Bordeaux ANDRÉ LURTON KEEPS THE WORLD'S GREATEST WINE REGION ON THE CUTTING EDGE by Paul Coker, Sommelier, Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis, Monarch Beach Resort / photos by Margaret Soss Vincent Cruège, Winemaking Director for André Lurton. { pioneers }

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Somm Journal - Dec 2015-Jan 2016