Tomorrow me and the missus (or girlfriend rather) head out to her family's summer retreat on the Danish west coast. This is how we usually start our vacation and strange as it may sound, this is usually the best part. Even though I love travelling far and discovering new cultures, languages and first and foremost: places to eat and drink, that week on our own in the small house near the cold North Sea is just such an amazing way to start the vacation with. Usually the weather is not even that good but it does not matter. The fresh air, sunlight until late at night and the sweet smells of food on the grill and wine in the glass is something that keeps me longing for the whole year and really sets the tone for the summer.
Part of the equation is of course the lack of responsibilities. There is only one thing on my list; bring the wine. Naturally, this falls on me, and it's a job I wouldn't delegate to anyone else (I've had my fair share of "Buy-3-get-1-for-free" Riojas and it's just not worth the stress on my liver).
You would think this is an excellent opportunity to clean out the wine cabinet, but instead of that, I have been bringing home more bottles over the last couple of weeks, to the point where cases line up against the wall in our tiny metropolitan apartement. However, there's a limit on how much we can consume over the course of a week, so I have to exclude a lot, and the selection needs to be perfect. I am getting close...
* A perhaps not-so-surprising number of bottles of Burgundy. What is surprising is that most of it is red. I am more of a white wine drinker, but everyone else prefers red (and this is the in-laws after all, an important demographic to please). What am I most excited about? After drinking what I'm drinking tonight; the 2003 Volnay Champans from De Montille seems alluring.
* Germans, all of it with residual sugar. Some staples like the fantastic 2008 Kabinetts from Schäfer-Fröhlich and Zilliken as well as some sweet stuff from Schäfer-Fröhlich and Müller-Catoir to go with (or be) light summer treats.
* A handful of Loire wines. Red from Clos Rougeard, white from the nephew at Domaine de Collier and monumental Sancerre from Gerard Boulay.
*A single Bordeaux (05 Conseillante) and a single new world wine (05 Mt. Langhi Ghiran Shiraz). Outstanding producers in regions that generally do not excite me as much. Also, just a single bottle of Piemontese red, which is probably suitable for the season, but the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo from Beppe Rinaldi is just a beauty that I have been enjoying a chilled of almost every day over the last weeks.
* Some Fino Sherry from Equipo Navazos. Just one bottle. I reckon I will get to keep this for myself, which is just fine.
So what do you drink with packing? I bought a fair amount of aged Domaine de Montille recently, and although I trust the producer and admire the style immensely, I have had dissappointing wines before, probably owing more to my inexperience with at what stage of maturity to approach them than the producer. This was one of the bottlings and vintages I had least experience with and also at a point where it would probably be great or gone, so I figured it would serve as a good benchmark. It was, in every sense of the word.
2001 Pommard "Les Pèzerolles", Domaine de Montille, Bourgogne, France
Wine is nothing more than alco-juice, however pleasurable that may be, without context. The hedonistic pleasure is infinitely heightened by knowledge of what made the wine what it is; the terroir and cultural heritage it sprung from. So I can not refrain from some background information:
Hubert de Montille is one of the most iconic proprietors in Burgundy, forever immortalized as one of the protagonists in Jonathan Nossiter's controversial documentary Mondovino (which, despite its shortcomings and sensationalism, I can highly recommend to any wine romantic). Hubert, vigneron by birth but lawyer by necessity (being born at a time where a 3 ha vineyard was nothing you could make a living from), made wine in his spare time. These wines were usually light in style, austere and needed long bottle age to blossom. They had a cult following, but lost out in the post-Jayer era of boom in Burgundy. His children, Etienne and Alix helped out although they also persued supplementary careers until the 1990's. 2001 was actually the first vintage made by Etienne as full-time winemaker. The vineyards are biodynamically farmed today, but was in conversion from organics at this time. Hubert always included a proportion of stems. Etienne is more pragmatic and in vintages like 2005 there was no destemming, whereas in 2004 no stems were left. The wines rarely go above 13% alcohol, and somewhere between 20% and 50% new oak are used on the best premiers and grands crus. Etienne also owns Château de Puligny which has been improving in quality over the last years and is now making very impressive wine, as well as the Deux Montille négociant with his sister Alix, that produces some great value wine.
The premier cru Pèzerolles lies above the exceptional premier cru Les Petits Epenots in Pommard and is generally regarded as good. The topsoil here is white marl, which makes for a lighter wine than the village is otherwise known for. The vintage, 2001, is most remembered for the hailstorm that ravaged Volnay and also hit southern Pommard on August 2nd. Thankfully, Pèzerolles lies is the northern sector and was spared. To generalize, the wines of the vintage are fairly light, low in alcohol and fruit-forward. I find a lot of 2001's to be drinking well, right now, but admittedly my experience is almost exclusively Côte de Nuits. They are generally good, but not great wines. I fact, I drink Côte de Beaune reds far too seldom.
Cherry red with a brick rim. The nose is surprisingly fresh right out of the bottle, I had expected both more funk and more austerity. But no, this is just full of tart red fruit, liqourice, dried mushrooms, violets and sweet tobacco. The palate is so graceful and velvety and although acidity is high and fresh I would be hard pressed to call it a backbone, the sensation is too ethereal for that. There is only a little bit of heat and soy-sauce like savoriness on the finish to lead the thoughts to Pommard. It's just too fresh.
This drinks very well on its own on this early summer night, but would work very well with dishes that combines elegance with that autumnal earthiness, such as light game birds like pigeon or quail with seared foie gras and cherry sauce. Impressive in every sense, and I am glad I opened it now, because even though I am sure it will live on for 5-10 years, it has hit that point of intermediary evolution where I prefer my red Burgundy.
Hopefully, I can muster enough effort to report on the other vacation wines later this week. Do you have any special bottles lined up for the summer? Is it all fresh whites, or more powerful reds for the barbecue?
I will leave you with this very appropriate gems from the lovely Portico Quartet.