Monday, July 8, 2013
Jean Francois Merieau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
"Fruit in a wine is easy; purity is elusive." - from their website, www.jondavidwine.com.
We Americans love gobs of fruit in our wines, no matter what type. So when the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs appeared in the American marketplace in the 1980s, we jumped all over them. They were refreshingly unoaked but yet still substantial and mouthfilling nonetheless. Right up our alley. Hedonistic.
France makes "fine" wines and for Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, that means the complimentary flavors in the Sauvignon Blanc profile are subtle, nuanced, and lighter by design. Parker described this wine as "honeydew melon, fennel, caraway, and white pepper in the nose with a lush and subtly creamy palate with long, sizzling, bitter phenolic notes of melon rind, lemon peel, caraway, and white pepper." While I don't have a good enough palate to appreciate all of that, I substantially get it in the same way the viewer does in the movie, A Few Good Men, when one lawyer admonishes another that "it's the difference between textbook law and courtroom trial law." The distinction is not lost on me. The courtroom law is reality and your palate is the arbiter of all things wine. While it's good to read the reviews, in practice when we taste a wine like this, we "get it" more profoundly than reading the flowery words.
So what makes this wine so good? First, this wine is sourced from Touraine (which may as well be Sancerre) from sixty year old vines which are organically farmed with hand harvesting of the fruit. The wine is then aged in steel with seven months on the lees with periodic stirring for richness. Let's break this down:
1. The roots of these older vines struggle through the rocky siliceous and calcareous soils of the region yielding a decidedly minerally product. These soils moreover are reflective of the sunlight shone upon them further ripening the grapes and increasing the phenolics affecting the taste, color, and mouthfeel of the wine.
2. The organic farming/hand harvesting contrasts with the industrial farming that is now the norm in the increasingly large production wineries. In those operations machine harvesting break grapeskins as a matter of course, increasing the likelihood of the juice coming into contact with other broken stems, seeds, and other contaminants. Because so much fruit is sourced from greater distances from the industrialized production facilities, the chances of contamination increase. This kind of contamination could result in the addition of a more bitter, astringent, or coarse phenolics to the wine. The smaller operation with hand harvesting quality control would restrict the phenolics to those intrinsic to the juice resulting in a fresher tasting wine.
3. The steel barrel aging with lees stirring in Touraine just emphasizes the purpose of the wine: this one's for the seafood dinner table. In Georgia in July, as much as I'm thinking low country boil, I think this is broiled rainbow trout wine.
Please join us on Friday the 12th of July as we continue our exploration of Portuguese wines. If you aren't familiar with them, do yourself a favor and be here for this one. Whether it's red, white, or rose, you'll be surprised by the quality/price ratio and like Touraine, when you look at Portugal, you think seafood although this time it is the low country boil!
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