Sunday, May 27, 2012

A little aging goes a long way: Aligoté and Lopez de Heredia

As I was tasting through a lineup of roses at Frankly Wines in Tribeca on Wednesday, I asked owner Christy Frank why no one in New York carries the Olivier LeFlaive Aligoté that I'd enjoyed so much the previous day at Aquavit. I mentioned the comparison with the de Moor, and she asked what years they were - 2009 for the LeFlaive, 2010 for the de Moor. Aligoté is meant to be drunk very young, but Frank suggested that the extra year could well have been critical in ridding the LeFlaive of what she called "that battery acid taste," which had displeased one of my coworkers who drank the de Moor on its own. Frank said that within the last year she bought some Aligoté from Domaine A. et P. De Villaine. Aubert De Villaine is the co-owner and co-director of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, whose wines are the most hallowed, and expensive, in Burgundy. Frank bought a few cases of the Aligoté on close-out from the distributor both because they were cheaper and because the extra time in the bottle softened the wine's acidity and made for a much more drinkable beverage. (If you're in Chicago, you can pick up a bottle of the 2009 at Binny's for $24.)

I experienced the difference a few years in bottle can make yesterday in drinking a 2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia, a wine entirely of Viura, which is also known as Macabeo. I had the same wine two years ago, probably not long after its release in the U.S. and remember it as being almost unpleasantly sharp. Yesterday, though, it had a beautiful soft gingerbread smell and, one of my friends said, a touch of petrol (a good thing, as in a Riesling, but perhaps one that needs a descriptor more appealing to Americans who don't like gas fumes). The acidity had receded into the background but gave the wine a backbone and allowed it to stand up to a softy, smelly cow's milk cheese.

That same backbone of acidity was present in a 1991 Heredia cosecha, their grand reserve Viura that I bought at the winery in November in a spasm of vacation-induced profligacy and drank at lunch on Friday. It started off smelling like hazelnuts, then rolled into orange zest, lemon zest, light caramel and popcorn with butter and salt. Many of those flavors come courtesy of the Kentucky and Missouri oak barrels in which the wine is aged for years on end. A pea soup brought out the floral quality in the wine, which went perfectly with a Spanish blue cheese. Heredia's best whites can age for decades, but the people at the winery said this one was ready to drink, and they knew their product. If the euro keeps dropping, I may feel less guilty about picking up another one when I go back to Haro this fall.  


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