Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Acquired tastes

"It's remarkable that you can get that bottle of wine for $16," the boss said last week of a 2009 2009 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny Rouillon, a blend of 70% Gamay and 30% Pinot noir from a small town in the Loire. "Now, not everyone is going to like it. It throws a little sediment, it's a little effervescent, it's nto a fruit bomb." The boss's Cheverny apparently demands a palate attuned to finesse, as Kermit Lynch put it in his chapter on the Loire in "Adventures on the Wine Route," about which more later.

With those caveats I found five takers for a boss-man special, showing that Japanese salarymen aren't the only ones who mimic their superiors. I could have been the waiter in this great scene from the movie Tampopo:


Responses to the boss-man special were equivocal. One taker found far more exalted wines on a weekend outing and ended up selling his bottle back to the boss; two others have yet to drink their Cheverny. Another club member, call him DB for Database, liked it, but the Coffee Connoisseur wanted a more robust wine, which he'll get next week in the form of a red from northern Spain.

Like the boss, I stayed in the Loire with a 2002 Baumard Savenierres I thought would go with scallops. It did, for about a glass and a half, with a delicate nose and just enough honey on the tongue to balance the richness of the seafood, but then the acid took over and trampled my palate. "This is a wine for intellectuals, not neophytes," the Oxford Companion to Wine warns of Baumard's wares, and I'd have to agree, though I did enjoy the glass I had last year in San Francisco.

While I was getting my tongue seared off, Mr. Marathon stayed on a roll with a 2006 Guelbenzu Evo from Cascante in Navarre, which is in north central Spain just east of La Rioja. Mr. M wanted to celebrate eeking into the Boston marathon with a $30 cab that recalled Francis Ford Coppola's Rubicon wines, which go for $150 or so a bottle. Instead of staying in California, I ended up with the Guelbenzu, which is 70% cab, 15% Merlot and 15% Tempranillo. Mr. M drank it with an Asiago cheese fondue that he found went well with the robust wine. Mr. M's verdict echoed another one in the office; upon hearing that the Evo was reduced to $20 from $25, the chief snapped up the store's several remaining bottles, so much did he enjoy his bottle last month.

Given their responses to recent wines, the chief, CC and Mr. M are headed for a group trip to northern Spain, which means La Rioja, Navarre and Cataluna, whose red blends aged in oak seem likely to appeal to their palates at relatively gentle prices. The region also features a fair amount of Cabernet, a grape that became prominent in the region in the 1860s when French vineyards fell prey to disease. The Spanish were able to profit by fulfilling the French demand for, among other things, cab-based blends, the most famous of which is Bordeaux. Several of the great Rioja producers in fact date from this era. The Spain gang will sample some of their wines in the weeks to come.  

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