Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhone “L’Elementaire” 2009
Gramenon is a phenomenon. Robert Parker, in his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, trumpets the domain’s wines as “outstanding,” a testimonial that I am not usually on the lookout out for, but mention it if only because the wines are, I guess, in a way very anti-Parker. (Parker is famous for his fetish of big n’ bold, froot forward, extracted, alcoholic frat boy wines, and he is happy to tear into those of us who drink differently.) Despite 2009 being, like 2007, a warm vintage, this Gramenon cuvée of old vine grenache manages to be supple, light of foot, yet paradoxically full-bodied without being mouth coating and gross. It is a deceptive wine: deeply pigmented, almost opaque, and on the attack, it tastes pretty ripe, but then rather than continue to build into a big, boring, predictable, jammy, stewed fruit finish, it takes a left turn at the fork in the road, and finishes refreshing, almost Burgundian. All of Gramenon’s wines are grown organically, are fermented with wild yeasts, and are vinified without filtration or fining, or any adjuncts at all—just a bit of sulfur, if needed.
Tedeschi “IGT Emilia Pignoletto “Spungola Bellaria” 2008
On occasion, a winegrower takes a grape variety that is unique to his or her region and brings it to a new and exciting plateau. Ten years ago, Alvaro Palacios showed us what he could do in Bierzo with the once-humble Spanish variety Mencia. Another example is Franck Peillot: While other growers make respectable and sometimes good Altesse, Peillot, in his single-minded dedication to the grape, elevates it to another plane of existence. This week, we are starting our Monday supper with a white wine made by the young Italian winegrower Alberto Tedeschi, made from the regional grape variety Pignoletto. Like Palacios and Peillot, Tedeschi has singlehandedly pushed a grape variety to another dimension.
Pignoletto is native to Emilia Romagna, and Tedeschi’s tiny vineyard is not far from the outskirts of Bologna. He farms his grapes organically and uses only ambient, wild yeasts to ferment his wine. In addition, he has been experimenting with skin maceration and extended lees contact (15 months in big ass, 500-liter neutral wood botti). I do not know if the magic is in how he farms or in his methods of élevage, but the result is a wine that is new and compelling. The skin maceration and long barrel aging certainly give the wine a beautiful, coppery-gold color. It smells of orange blossom and spices; full bodied, yet with loads of minerality.
Rey Juliénas “Les Pacquelets” Très Vieille Vigne 2009
In the voice of Walter Brennan, “Listen, sonny, I enjoy well crafted, inexpensive basic Beaujolais more than most people!” To that end, we have been pouring either JP Brun’s 2009 Beaujolais or Marcel Lapierre’s 2009 Raisin Gaulois for several months now. That said, I am very, very vulnerable to cru Beaujolais, and I am licking my chops, clapping my tiny, clammy hands together, and squealing in anticipation of receiving the first crus of the 2009 vintage. The first cru Beaujolais have begun to trickle in and more are on the water. Soon, we will be flooded with an embarrassment of riches, I tell you, riches!
Our first 2009 cru arrives this week. It is Rey’s Juliénas, and it is a North Berkley Imports barrel selection. For this wine, do not think “special selection” means extract and new oak: The wine is aged in second or third pass oak barrels, and the Reys bottle it without fining and filtration. The fruit is from vines with an average age of 90 years. This wine is a super juicy mouthful, a little clove-spicy-raspberry-ish, full-bodied for Beaujolais, but with fresh acidity, not at all soupy. Beaujolais is not typically a very structured wine, and that is one reason to love it. However, in an exceptional vintage like 2009, old vines give a depth of flavor, concentration, and structure. Drink this wine and be happy, if only for a few fleeting moments, to be alive.
Here is North Berkley’s panegyric to it:
Deep, concentrated berries (and very, very low yields) from the family’s were some of the finest fruit the Reys have ever seen! A mix of Burgundian spices and truffles blends with raspberries and blueberries a la Chambertin on the aromatic, expressive nose. Endlessly juicy and richly structured, with notes of milk chocolate with cream underneath a festival of black raspberries, cherries and purple plums on the saturated mouth. Notes of fresh ginger, black pepper and more baking spices appear on the long finish. Very complex, stunningly stacked and packed yet not a hair is out of place — the balance here is impeccable.