Thursday, May 21, 2009

Real Wine vs. Varietal Wine

Pascal Bouchard Chablis 2008

I really enjoyed this bottle of Chablis the other night..its an early release from the 2008 vintage (which apparently turned out to be pretty exceptional in Burgundy.)
After fairly horrific summer conditions last year there was a kind of long, late Indian Summer, which helped the grapes achieve quality and ripeness.
Anyway this wine is pure “Classic Chablis” all flint,citrus and minerals..I remember someone describing Chablis as “licking a stone” and this wine fits the bill exactly!
(I should know.. I’ve licked a few stones as a wayward youth.. and the occasional pebble..I digress..)
I had the wine with a seafood bake, oven roast potatoes and pan-fried asparagus.
The wine worked really well with the food and got me thinking about what I like to call “real” wine. To me “real” wines are wines with a sense of place and Chablis is a perfect example. It’s a wine with something beyond the primary fruit character which can develop in the glass and hold your interest. The wine reflects the local soil or “terroir” with its flavours and aromas.,that’s where the “licking a stone” idea comes from. Chablis is made from the much-maligned Chardonnay grape and good Chablis is a million miles away from most New World Chardonnay offerings. Varietal wines labelled as Chardonnay are just hard to get excited about. Sure there are some good ones from Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere but I’ve never tried one to really rival a good Chablis or White Burgundy for sheer character, class and interest.
I guess Varietal wines fit the bill when you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful for a party or barbecue where you’re not going to have time to worry too much about the wine. Chilean Merlot is another good example..pretty boring after a while..grand when you’re new to wine and you’re looking for a fruit-bomb in a glass. If you want “Real” wine, Europe is the best hunting-ground, head for France, Spain and Italy and get stuck into wines with a sense of place and tradition,,Chianti, Barolo, Rioja, Chateauneuf, Sancerre, St.Emilion, Volnay etc....all the proven Classics..the list goes on and on...
A word of advice, don’t just buy the cheapest one you find. Because they are Classics these wines have almost become their own brands at this stage and there is some absolute tack out there masquerading as classic wine. I picked up a Chateauneuf Red at 9.99 from SuperValu a while ago for educational purposes..big mistake..the wine although labelled as Chateauneuf tasted pretty average, verging on slightly nasty..I certainly wouldn’t buy it again. The problem with these commodity wines is that they devalue the regions reputation for quality and the hard work of the reliable quality-driven producers who make the good wines that we all know and love.