’15/’05 Burgundy. What’s the hype?

"Extraordinary," said Decanter. "Best vintage since 2010," said Forbes. Tim Atkin was a little more subdued, "a very good to great vintage for reds." But, Janicis Robinson went further, "Seriously impressive," she wrote. 

If you read about Burgundy you know that there's a  gushing about the vintage 2015.



 I have a history of being odd man out. I don't know why I see the world differently, it could be a curse, but I do.

I loved the tannic 1998. I loved 2006. I found the weird vintages of  2007 (difficult and rot plagued) and  2011 particularly charming.

And as far as the famed 2005? Jancis Robinson wrote. "In general all the wines are charming, truly succulent and they faithfully express their origins. Can one ask for more?" Alan Meadows had proclaimed it, "One of the great Burgundy vintages of this century for Pinot Noir,"  but for me? Not so much. Not at release and not ten years on.

I have no idea why my colleagues gushed about it. But in politics and vintages are controversial, even if from our vantage points the truth seems obvious. For myself, I can add it to the incredibly difficult (for me and my wine glass) 2003 and 2009 vintage. It was confounding to me how this could have been acclaimed. Yet, unlike the '03 and '09, '05 still hasn't budged. It reminds me of one of these melons that arrive in the market that go from unripe to rotten. I know, that's harsh. I'm not saying they're rotten, but they just don't yield. And I am afraid that when and if they finally loosen their seams, they'll die before they live.

So, why? 2005 was also a very solar vintage. And solar in Burgundy, when that's all you get, makes for the kind of wine that is the opposite of the kind of nuance we want when we go to this hallowed strip of the Cote d'Or.  I remember in June of 2005, meeting with Philippe Pacalet. Now, he's not a vigneron but as we went to taste in his cellar he voiced his fears. "The sun, it's too much for the vines," he said. He was mostly correct. 

Those who worked the vineyard in both '05 and '15 as if they were in a cloudy, cool vintage... failed. Those who worked by rote:  leaf-pullings, fruit dropping, over hedging, extraction and destemming made, to me, charmless wines. In vintages like that stem inclusion and/or whole cluster--with a few exceptions--seemed to help the wines. It's like putting on a hat for shade.

As I hinted, even ten-years on, I was still contemplating the vintage when confronted with over 100 examples to taste.  

I thought, now's the time I will understand. Out of those 100 only a handful pleased me, and more reds than whites. They were from both Beaune and the Nuits. The sun didn't cause sun-stroke in the wines. I found complexity and a depth.Where the great majority--from very well-considered estates-- so many others were stunted by the tannin-- not the structure--these had a window open and vibrancy. Certainly not a vintage light on its feet, but I felt the best of the vintage, had the sun, sure, the tannins were unapologetic, sure, but instead of the opaque, there was the transparency I look for in my Burgundy.

Who were they? 

de Montille, Mugnier, Lafarge, Dujac, Berthaud, D'Arlot, Chandon de Briailles, Rousseau, Jérôme Galeyrand, a little wine from Epineuil, from Dominique Gruhier. For the whites? Roulot was a standout as was Bonneau du Martray.                                            

Here are some of the survivors....

IMG_4887    Mugnier


Lafar      BerthRoulot



And here you go.

So now we're at 2015?

Superb? Meh.

As a vintage? Difficult.

Some great wines of pleasure? Without a doubt.

Who and how? Stay tuned-- coming to The Feiring Line soon. Subscribe


when Hugh Johnson talks about natural wine

When the wine writer emeritus Hugh Johnson told Washington Post wine writer David McIntyre that "orange" wines were a sideshow and a waste of time fur raised on Facebook and Twitter. He went on to say, "Making good wine is hardly modern technology, it’s just experience and common sense. And hygiene!"


He's right about the part on making good wine, of course. But the sharp that stuck in the throats of wine drinkers who have come to love skin-contact wines (full disclosure, I did write a love poem to Georgian wine, home to skin-contact) was that this wonderful writer, (thoughtful enough to write me a fan letter after The Battle for Wine and Love came out. I was completely honored.) the very same one who wrote The History of Wine, failed to realize that orange wine was nothing new but a revival of all things old, and made by common sense and without a doubt, hygiene.

Yes, Mr. Johnson, today, we do know how to make a really good wine and many times--though not always--the ancients had something to teach us way more than the modern laboratory does. Cleanliness of course is key. All agreed.

Back in something like 2006 the first skin contacts started to arrive on our shores. Many weren't successful. Some had dried, starched fruit and aggressive tannins. But over the past decade as the skins were more understood as a way to make wine without addition, when the use of clay for fermentation spread (grape juice takes to clay as butter takes to toast), and winemakers learned to do less, great "orange" wines have proliferated. Not because they were a style, but because they had a purpose. They have developed a juiciness that combine the refreshment of white with the satisfaction of red. Many are in this category. Some are raised in wood like Radikon, La Stoppa and La Garagista, but others raised in clay like Vodopevic, Pheasants Tears and Iago.  

The disappointment here was not that Mr. Johnson didn't like orange wines. He gets to. But from this scholar and historian, we all expected a more thoughtful and researched statement and opinion.

Now we have another piece from him, in Decanter, where he seemed to suggest that natural wines were the wine equivalent of the Paleo Diet. In it he posed the question; 'Is "natural" a self-justifying word to cover any sort of accident?'

I think it's time for Mr. Johnson to take a break from garden writing for a minute to reconsider his words. Give us the courtesy of a more well-researched response instead of falling down the tweet drain --the second son of the blog--where unsupported feelings have become the norm. There are plenty of wines that are made like a military bed, tightened so extremely that an accident surely has happened. And yet it finds its way into a bottle. This statement is a little aggressive.

Then he dances with a lovely line that could have had some truth to it. "Wines like unmade beds are the In Thing." 

But what exactly does he mean?  What is his unmade bed and how tight does he like his sheets? Hospital corners? A little rumpled just enough to remember the night of passion?  Give us a little there, there. 

I kind of liked his unmade bed analogy.  Today, there are indeed too many wines, "like unmade beds." These to me are unfinished, quick to the bottle before the flavors and aromas have evolved to stability. Many are being supported mostly by newcomers to wine who find these wines fresh. This is a state of infatuation that can stay with the drinker for I'd say, up to ten years. And to some sommeliers who are following trends it could be an 'In Thing.' And my sympathies are with him if he has fallen victim to such a wine director. But there is life beyond the bottled wine still in progress, and surely he's had these --because they are some of today's most celebrated wines, but failed to identify them.

However, when he suggests the word natural is a coverup tactic, is he actually suggesting that  Burgundy, Bordeaux, Brunello, Barolo, made according to the spec sheet, still with ridiculous amounts of very bad and sour wood taint, too much acrid So2 addition, tannin addition and sloppy acidification, not to say anything about chemical agriculture, are superior? Do those get pass? Or is it that Mr. Johnson knows how to avoid those wines yet does not yet know how to navigate the world of natural?  In that case he should subscribe to my newsletter. 

The most stupefying sentiment, however, was tucked into his penultimate graf. 

The sales pitch for natural wine usually tells you that conventional wines contain a lot of non-grape juice gunk. Fish guts: horror. Egg whites: poison. Sulphites: allergens. Colouring: dishonest. Sugar: cheating.

There seems to be a high ground – is it moral, ethical, fashionable, hygienic? – shared by ‘naturalists’ and vegans. Then again, if you read the list of preservatives and allergens on any supermarket packet, you may want to give up eating altogether.

Mr. Johnson fails to acknowledge the 72+ which sail beyond chaptalization and fining... and coloring? Really Mr. J, do you want your claret colored? And by the way, who is giving this so-called sales pitch?  He also ---and surely he knows better--understands that most of todays wines are not made by commonsense and vintage, but by marketer and machine. And I don't know about you, but I don't eat processed food with anything artificial in it.

Look: Most of us have come to natural wine because the other seems dead. Lifeless. Natural wine, made with grape alone from healthy soil---the good ones, and there are many--make us happy.

Many of us choose our food the way we choose our wine and choose our wine the way we choose our food. Meaning any list of ingredients that I don't want to ingest, whether in cookies or in wine, I don't. Real food alone. Yes. Grape alone. A little So2 perhaps. Minimum intervention. Yes.

These wines mesh with our philosophy AND excite our senses. This is not the 'in thing,' this is not a fad. This is the future.

However, buried in the ill-edited piece is the nut of the piece: change natural wine to alternative wine.

Hmm...would that be like alternative fact?

Nope. That won't work. To those of us who only drink natural and natural enough, there's nothing alternative about it. Those wines? They're the real thing.




What is real Burgundy, really?

With the weather having devastated so much of Burgundy this season, thoughts are with that region, bursting with life in so many other ways. I loved writing this piece for the World of Fine Wine--pondering what is this thing called Burgundy and is it alive or a museum piece? 

13062123_1030410317035446_2370835507022786612_n     From Tomoko Kuriyama's FB page, of vines at Chandon de Briailles




Please click on the images to make them readable. 


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AND remember--for the definitive guide on natural wine, you do need to subscribe. As Eric Asimov said. 


Winery of the Year…Savage Grace Wines (Woodinville, Washington) by Blue Collar Wine Guy at The Seattle P.I.

At the end of each year I recognize a winery that I feel stands apart from the rest. It doesn’t have to be a small winery, but it has to produce outstanding wines on a consistent basis. Wines with character and personality, wines that reflect both the artistic side of the wine maker and be commercially viable.  Any wine maker can make what they like, but can they also make wines that others will enjoy without compromising their vision of what they want their wines to be.  This is a fine line to walk, and I have found that Michael Savage has accomplished this at Savage Grace Wines.>>>READ MORE at The Seattle P.I.

The post Winery of the Year…Savage Grace Wines (Woodinville, Washington) by Blue Collar Wine Guy at The Seattle P.I. appeared first on Woodinville Wine Country.

French winemaker combines Old World know-how with Washington’s abundant grapes – The Seattle Times

Jean Claude Beck, a native of the Alsace region of France, is thrilled to be crafting a broad variety of wines for The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville.  

IN THE OLD WORLD, a winemaker is pretty much required to use certain grapes in different places. For example, Bordeaux winemakers don’t use syrah, and Rhône Valley winemakers don’t work with cabernet sauvignon.  In many cases, that’s the law. And that can frustrate some winemakers who would like to make wines from a wider variety of grapes and in different styles. That’s why many Old World winemakers move to the West Coast, where virtually every classic wine grape is grown.

One native of Alsace, France, is thrilled to be working with Washington grapes, and he’s making the most of the opportunity. Jean Claude Beck crafts a broad number of wines for The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville, not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle. Beck’s family has been making wine since the 1570s. He was a winemaker in France for many years before moving to the United States, where he started in California before heading north to Washington to work for Brian Carter at Apex Cellars. >>>READ MORE at The Seattle Times

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The Woodinville Insider: Yes, Woodinville, there is a Santa Claus

Let’s face it, it can be hard getting excited for the holiday season when we start seeing signs of it in August. We all want to make this time of year special, but we can drive ourselves crazy and exhausted trying to do so. If only we could find a way to relax and enjoy the simple things that make the holidays fun and meaningful. Sure, it’s supposed to be a time of giving, but maybe that’s where all the pressure comes from. This year, instead of putting so much effort into the usual obligations and the ephemeral desires of others, why not spend a bit more time on the simple things that brighten your season?

The Woodinville Insider: Yes, Woodinville, there is a Santa Claus

Richard Duval Images

So what’s on your wish list this year? For many Woodinville residents, it’s something as simple and inexpensive as:

• A retail moratorium on the playing of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”
• An extreme scarcity of candied fruits due to global warming
• Christmas cards with absolutely no mention of what the family did over the past year
• A holiday-themed sweater so ugly it elicits tears of both joy and sorrow
• Cancellation of your annual office Xmas party due to an outbreak of spiced cheese log poisoning

If your holidays are unlikely to bestow any of these thoughtful gifts, there’s one thing you can absolutely count on to bring you heaps of comfort and joy: Saint Nick’s Holiday Wine Weekend. You’ve heard of “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Well this is “The Three Days of Tasting.” It all begins Friday, December 4th with over 30 Washington wineries sharing their finest vintages and hors d’oeuvres at one of the Northwest’s premier holiday destinations: Molbak’s garden+home—so lit up with lights and ornaments that you can see it from space. If this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, there’ll be three ghosts visiting you when the clock strikes one.

On Saturday and Sunday, the holiday festivities continue with Saint Nick’s Holiday Open House, a delicious weekend of merrymaking where you can visit participating wineries throughout all of Woodinville Wine Country. You’ll meet the winemakers, taste their finest selections of the season, learn about upcoming releases, and soak up the spirit and flavors of this special time of year.

You could wish for a lot of things this season, but why wish? Give yourself the gift of Saint Nick’s Holiday Wine Weekend, and make it truly a holiday to remember.

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