Saturday, October 8, 2016

Chateau de Jarnioux Beaujolais

This is a particularly nice little bottle of Beaujolais that starts off with strawberry and candy on the nose.  It is refreshingly soft, smooth, and round in the mouth with juicy red and blackberry flavors replete with pepper and spice notes all of which seems more forward than one might expect from this kind of wine.  Even its finish seems forward while still moderately long, much like the flavors on the palate, a both/and meeting of new and old world styles.  The color of the wine is an intense ruby red.

Maison Albert Bichot is the producer of this little gem and they advertise a partnership of winemakers in their employ which one would think should include their vineyard workers.  They not only maintain a palissage canopy season long but also hand harvest the grapes prior to vinification beaujolais, the carbonic maceration which precedes the regular alcoholic fermentation.  In this "beaujolais process" the grapes (still in bunches) are dropped into fermentation tanks without yeast or pressing allowing the weight of the grapes to crush those on the bottom releasing CO2 from the natural yeasts on the grape skins.  This "intracellular soak" creates more fruity flavors before the ten day traditional alcoholic fermentation which gives the wine its color, structure, and alcohol.  All of the above attributes are then enhanced by months of aging in both steel and oak barrels; the steel reinforcing the fresh fruitiness, the oak adding to the structure and spicy complexity.

The wine label's cover art depicts a castle which is the Church of St-Martin in the Village of Jarnioux in the middle of the Beaujolais region.  The village actually lies within the smaller Beaujolais Villages district but since this wine is just designated as Beaujolais, some fruit is sourced from outside of the esteemed area.  The church is a good story though.  It was first built in 889AD but has been restored and added on to in the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 18th centuries.  It is a spectacular yellow-ish edifice, complete with fortifications, grand staircase and dungeons, constructed using local limestone that is tinted with iron oxide.

On Thursday November 17th we will be featuring the first new vintage of the year, the 2016 Nouveau Beaujolais.  This is a light fruity red that serves as an indicator for the overall quality of the Burgundy vintage.  If the Nouveau is good then get ready to open your pocketbook when the great Burgundies are released.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chianti, Part 2 -The Fork in the Road

The previous post discussed the gradual evolution of Chianti from being a light, dry red for mass market consumption to being a more modern and sophisticated dinner wine.  Knowing what they were capable of producing, the winemakers of Tuscany drove industry improvements for the past thirty years to the point where the new and improved Chianti could properly reflect its Tuscan calling.

Yet in Lettie Teague's February 17th WSJ article, "Chianti's Struggle To Shed Its Dusty, Banal Image", the claim is made that there is now trouble in paradise.  Part of the problem may be seen as generational as we alluded to in the previous post.  But part of the problem may be due to the dilution of quality by over-expanding the Chianti appellation with accompanying lackluster quality standards for this seriously mass-marketed product.  If the truth be known, the Chianti situation may be emblematic of the contemporary wine industry as a whole.

So the fork in the road would seem to be whether to further define Chianti as one of the finer wines of Tuscany or whether to revert to its historical past as a blue collar food wine.  Actually the situation is and always has been a both/and reality.  Chianti has always included the pedigreed sub-regions.  Today they are named Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Colli Senesi, Rufina, and Montespertoli.  In fact, Classico is the original Chianti, the single oldest recognized wine region in the world.  But Chianti has also included as much surrounding vineyard land as needed to provide for everyone's dinner needs.  Today, Chianti can basically be sourced from anywhere in Tuscany.

According to Teague, those invested in the Classico region want to subdivide that prime area into generally acknowledged sub-districts differentiated by soils and terroirs and she has no problem with that.  The consumer of higher quality Chianti would then know what style of wine they would be getting.  As for the mass marketers of the rest of Chianti, there is but one solution - advertise!  After all, we're talking about the best all-purpose red dinner wine there is!  Sell it!