Last week’s New York Times reviewed some wines from Savennières, the Loire appellation that makes often-stunning, always dry versions of chenin blanc. The article noted the alcohol levels from the label of each wine alongside the newspaper’s ratings, comments and prices.
Would you like to see more reviewers noting alcohol levels? Although what’s written on the label is what we have to go on as consumers, it’s not always accurate given that federal regulations allow one to one-and-a-half percent wiggle room from what’s stated on the label. Have your say in the latest poll!
Also, just how did the NYT panel’s favorite wine, Nicolas Joly’s Les Clos Sacrés from the damp 2007 vintage, reach 15 percent alcohol? This is the Loire, not Lodi, after all. For perspective, I asked Nicolas Joly for a comment, which follows after the poll.
Since several years the profile of most years here lead to a year dominated by light more than by heat which may be there for 2 or 3 weeks in July mainly. O7 is a year of light as O8 and O9 (where most nights were 1O°Celsius lower than day) the same. And 2OIO is on the same way. Global warming is in my mind for here incomplete Some magnetism of the earth is changing. Spring is less pronounced, very slow to come with not much force up to May. Surprising and worrying indeed. But people are lost in their heads and prisoners of too much intellectuality. What comes is not what is expected.
Why 15° of alcohol then? Because if you wait for the “right” maturity (yellow leaves which tells you “my job is over” , right taste etc ) the beginning of some concentration have happened although we do not reach at all the so called late harvest. Why not increasing the yields then by pruning longer? Because beyond the yield of 2O max 25 hectoliters by hectare you loose “something ” precious …I remember Lalou [Bize-Leroy] saying beyond 15 hecto / hectare you cannot make a great wine. This is probably what she meant. But with vines of 3O to 7O years old as here 2O to 25 works.
You do not get a painting away from a painter unless its work is achieved. When has the chenin completed its work is then the question? Fairly late is my answer although not at the stage of vendange tardive . Keep in mind first that chenin is a very difficult child to raise ; poorly handled it becomes a disaster, well handled it is a miracle . The basic is that you cant put it almost anywhere like a sauvignon or even a chardonnay ; a chenin will not forgive any mistake from your side. Second it does not support high yields ( like french fonctionnaire but this time for the benefit of consumers !!!); the best chenin here comes from October harvest where the cool nights and the indispensable end of the maturity permits much more subtleties and complexities to fully come out. the excess of one half of a degree to one degree does not mater you do not taste it as such!
Then last as always the simplest terroir comes out first as always .you have to move into the complexity of the wine to see the huge difference If you compare on a 8 days tasting a Coulée O7 and a Clos Sacré O7 (one glass a day just recorked no fridge ) you will see a Van Gogh beside an impressionist after 8 days !If you have been tasting a great Bordeaux of the fifties 2 years after its harvest you would not have bought it .I mean that if you just want a pleasant evening with a wine full of originality take a Clos Sacré ( sold as Vieux Clos in France ) it is great .If you have something very special wil reall friends devoted to a real thrue food take certainly a Coulée it is not the same trip This will be even clearer in one year or 2, but is certainly visible now. Make the experiment.
you can publish this on your blog of course!