This Thirsty Thursday we drink Chardonnay. Wait! No! Keep reading! I lied. It is not Chardonnay, it is magnificent, fabulous, white Burgundy.
Now, yes, white Burgundy is Chardonnay (usually). But you try and grow any grape in Burgundy. Any grape. No matter how hard you try, the resultant wine will taste of Burgundy. Why?
The weather in this eastern French valley sucks. The soil sucks. Vineyards are smaller than American homes. Traditions and rules are painfully restrictive. Wine-making is stuck in the past. And everyone looks pale, angry, and old (well not everyone).
Tonight’s vintage is no exception. 2011 sucked. Spring sun and drought scorched vines. July hail (yes, hail in July) killed 30% of the Chardonnay. Then came twice the average rainfall. Then August’s heat and humidity brought on rot. Alex Gambal summed it best, “The only consistency was that nothing was consistent.”
But Burgundy’s challenges have honed the best growers, producers, and wines the world has seen. 2011 lowered yields, meaning only the best fruit went into their wines. Meanwhile, on tropical islands, little gets done.
So to cap the week, we open the bargain $15 Olivier Leflaive, Les Sétilles, Bourgogne, France 2011.
Appearance: It looks a clear, glinting, steel and light lemon-color. Legs are a mere wash of 12.5% alcohol.
Aromas: Plump aromas remind me of lime peal, orchard tree flowers, meshed with a baked apple, light cinnamon, baguette, and sea salt.
Palate: Dry but fruity. Silver streamers of citric acid snap and wave through the soft medium body of fruit.
Flavors: Lean taught citrus juices and rinds balance against riper pear, melon, and honey (30% Meursault provides the latter). Then enters a minerality (thanks to 70% from Puligny-Montrachet). The long finish is pillowed in a nutty, browned butter (thanks 60% oak aging, 10% new).
Conclusions: For $15, you get to touch the hem of Burgundy greatness. Mouthwatering and food hungry, this wine is like an alarm clock. It will latch onto your taste buds, shake them but gently, and then embrace it with baking spices from the gentle oaking. Very good: 4 of 5. Drink now, although it has a few more years ahead of it.
Cream sauces and butter-based dishes will emphasize its refreshing citric/mineral Puligny side. Citrus squeezed fish, salads, will allow its riper, nutty Mersault side to shine. However, alone, this wine is neither Jekyll nor Hyde, but balanced, well integrated, attention grabbing, and lovely.