By Heather Vander Wall, K&L Redwood City
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about millennials and wine. It is a well-crafted piece with plenty of statistics about how different generations approach wine consumption and purchasing, but the main point was simple. Millennials could care less about point systems and classifications in wine. The new wave of wine drinkers is interested in two things: story and experience (The Wall Street Journal “How Millennials are Changing Wine” Nov 5, 2015).
I think this is a very refreshing perspective. After all, what is a good bottle for but to experience, and what lends true enjoyment to the experience but the story of the bottle? Recently several of us at K&L had the pleasure of dining with Terry Owyang and some friends from Pacific Wines at Piperade restaurant in San Francisco. The dinner was centered around the Chateau & Estates portfolio of Burgundy—wines with incredible point ratings, but ultimately wines with a story, and wines to be enjoyed.
Some of the highlights of the evening were the following wines:
With the first course, basquaise salad frisée with serrano, ossau-iraty, apples, pine nuts, and sherry vinaigrette, the standout wine was Pierre Matrot’s 2012 Meursault “Charmes”. Pierre Matrot’s wines are marked by incredible richness and texture without losing a stony, mineral character. The Meursault “Charmes” was no exception. The aromas were of toasted hazelnut and that peculiar flint and gun smoke note so singular in good white burgundy. On the palate there was a great richness, showing the ripe fruit of the 2012 vintage and some battonage, together with very subtle oak influence.
In rather stark contrast, but showing equally well was the 2011 Blain-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot”. The 2011 white Burgundies are currently showing higher-toned acidity, with lighter body, and much tighter, more restrained characteristics, and this wine was no exception. However, Blain-Gagnard is exactly the producer to take a cooler, nervier vintage like 2011 and produce an extremely elegant wine. The Morgeot has an incredible tension running through it, with stony, mineral notes, softened just slightly on the finish with some baking spice from its time in oak. All told, a beautifully expressive wine, and a perfect match for the second course of shellfish medley and gigante beans.
As we moved into the second half of the meal with braised pork cheek, prune, Cipollini onion and parsnip, we were met with a barrage of equally expressive red burgundies. The most unexpected wine of the lot, which surprised all of us with its purity, complexity and depth of flavor, was Blain Gagnard’s 2012 Volnay “Pitures”.
Certainly Volnay has a name for elegance in the Cote de Beaune, but the small vineyard of “Pitures” is not particularly well known. As Terry explained to us, however, it is sandwiched between two very important sites in Volnay: the Clos de Ducs, and Fremiets. What I love about premier crus such as Pitures, is the complexity they can achieve without all the richeness, weight and fat of a grand cru. This wine was incredibly aromatic, showing red and black fruit as well as game, mushroom, and savory spices, yet the body was certainly on the light side. In addition, because of Blain-Gagnard’s commitment to using very little new oak, the wine was quite clean and very expressive of its terroir.
And finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Jean Grivot’s 2012 Clos de Vougeot. A deeper colored, more masculine wine, this paired beautifully with the braised pork cheeks, and provided a strong but pleasant contrast to the aforementioned Volnay. The Grivot wines are always marked with power, richness, and dark, savory characteristics. Somehow this wine displayed a perfect marriage of wild bramble and earthy notes with polished, velvety fruit, and a stronger, yet refined tannin structure.
These are just brief snapshots of four very different wines, highlighting the incredible diversity within the small, yet intricately classified wine region that is Burgundy. They may be bottles with high ratings and a particular place within the class structure, but they were bottles destined for enjoyment, and what better way to experience the story of these Burgundies than with great company, in the context of an incredible meal?
Don’t worry! All the above wines are in stock at K&L, and we are all too happy to recommend other favorites as well.
-Heather Vander Wall