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Grand Blanc at Aquarelle French Restaurant

Austin, Texas

Tasted August 8, 2010 by austinwinesalon with 887 views

Introduction

This monthly wine salon had intended to look at a number of great French white appellations, including some lesser Burgundies, Graves, Sauternes, et al., but when the wine call was made to cellar owners, the wine they offered morphed this tasting into a look at "some" of the great French whites--there will be a part two Grand Blanc tasting in the future. Teresa Wilson, Ray Foreman, and Diana Salazar hosted this salon event at Austin's premier French restaurant, Aquarelle, and they provided some wonderful dishes, including fried frog legs with Mexican marigold cream sauce, croque monsieur sandwiches (with bechamel), potato balls stuffed with truffle cream and balsamic syryp, and a shrimp salad with radish, cilantro, and cayenne syryp. James added a dish with fresh Texas lump crab, lemon garlic togarashi aioli, avocado balls, and cocktail sauce; Earl a salmon tartare crostini; Brian apple chicken sausages with fennel, squash, and apricots. We also had some relevant cheese provided by the Antonelli's Cheese Shop: Chabichou du Poitou, Morbier, Cantalet, Tomme Crayeuse, and an added Epoisses Affidelice with Chablis. Great wines demand great food, and vice-versa, and on this hot August day in Texas, we transcended.

This salon was limited in attendance to wine providers, sommeliers, and wine and food professionals, and quickly filled to its limited attendance of 32. We had four tasting groups of eight people each, with each tasting group reviewing two flights of nine wines each. All the wines were opened and drunk immediately by two tasting groups, so our older wines could be judged fairly. Normally many tasters don't score wines but for this tasting, with the large number of wines in each flight, we found it more convenient to score so that we could rank our wines accordingly. At the end of each salon we review how the wines were ranked by different groups. This was a remarkable wine salon--except for a few oxidized bottles, the wines were spectacular.

Flight 1 - Burgundy Blanc One (9 notes)

White
1992 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
92 points
Terrific acidity and balance, with a ripe pear nose which developed into candied fruit as it warmed, this 18 year old premiere cru held up well. A medium gold color, it had good intensity and a soft palace with lots of flavors: bosc pear, granny smith apple, honey, caramel, honeysuckle, nectarine, citrus, some almond and nuttiness. Most tasters thought this still young and was a very good food wine.
White
2000 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
92 points
Lots of minerality here, a light color and bright, with noticeable oak and good acidity. Some tasters detected a bit of oxidation, many thought it still young, especially as it had a short finish. Buttery with some green apple notes, along with the steely minerality, this grand cru had some elegance but the jury was out about whether it would improve much over time.
White
1990 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
94 points
With a pronounced warm apple pie nose, this was a sweet, deep, soft, and spicy drink: comfort wine. Dark gold in color and with good acidity, there was some noticeable oak but this is a rich wine, both on the mid-palate and the finish. Lots of dried apple and pear, some butterscotch, tropical fruit, nutmeg, and lemon notes, it had amazing weight for a twenty year old CC.
White
1991 Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
91 points
A surprisingly good wine with one groip of tasters ranking it the best of this 8-bottle flight, and another the least favorite—there was no worst as all the wines here were exceptional. The detractors thought the wine fell a bit flat and was disjointed with some bitter lemon and bacon fat notes—enjoyable but ”narrow.” Most tasters really liked the nose, described variously as gorgeous, coconut, pasture, oaky, and floral. From a lesser vintage, the wine “surprised” most tasters with a huge, silky/creamy mouthfeel and a fruity, lemon, and hazelnut palate, and a bright finish: lots of finesse for a CC.
White
1991 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
94 points
Very balanced, with power and intensity. This off-vintage chevalier was quite good, with great acidity, a milky nose, golden raisin, honey and lemon flavors (“lemon cream pie”), and gentle finish that lingered.
White
1990 Domaine Michel Niellon Bâtard-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
flawed
Perhaps maderized but defintely flawed, it had some mango on the nose, a very acidic finish, some promising fruit, but all that funk--how sad.
White
1995 Blain-Gagnard Bâtard-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
92 points
Slightly unresolved, youthful, and somewhat dumb, this bottle needed a few more years to come together. With an interesting nose of gunpowder and eucalyptus, a lot of acid on the palate, it improved over some time and gained some bright minerality and flavors of under-ripe pineapple and citrus. Most tasters thought this a good wine which would improve with time, or with some decanting from the bottle.
White
2004 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
91 points
The 2004 white burgundy vintage was forward in this tasting, where older vintages like 1995 and 1996 seemed younger. While some additional bottle time undoubtedly would improve this wine, it showed finesse, elegance, and crispness on the palate. The nose was initially band-aid, petrol and acetone (“gun-cleaning solvent”), which blew off to become earthy with some green wood tones. There was balanced fruit on the palate, noticeable creaminess and a light pineapple flavor. It was a nice drink, but decidedly a less-than-average Comtes Lafon Charmes.
White
2004 Domaine François Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Charmes France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
88 points
Disappointing for a Charmes, especially compared with the adjoining Comtes Lafon, it was initially quite tart and very acidic. It grew in the glass from being lean and flat, with flint and apple notes, to gaining a bit of weight after half an hour, with apple orchard and bubble gum on the nose and crisp apple and pear on the palate.

Flight 2 - Burgundy Blanc Two (9 notes)

White
1996 Verget Chablis Grand Cru Valmur France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
92 points
The nose was initially a little off but this had excellent balance and drank remarkable well. It had notes of seashore and sea salt, was very well balanced between minerality, high acidity, florality, and citrus fruit, with some green apple skin and lemon rind. Definitely needs food, and definitely much better on the palate than its wet paper nose.
White
1992 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
93 points
From a Chablis to a CC, what a transition! But this, like the Chablis, came together with food. Initially austere and a little young (it was in magnum), it had good acidity and minerality and was slightly imbalanced for awhile. As it developed in the glass, it withdrew its sharp edges, gained some spice and butter notes, and began pulling much flavor, especially of minerals and honey. It matched up great with a salmon tartare crostini. The magnum needed more time.
White
1995 Blain-Gagnard Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
92 points
A very interesting and elegant wine, it developed after a few minutes into a round and powerful blanc. With white flowers, caramel and nuttiness on the nose and finesse, this wine was “singing and dancing,” with a creamy texture reminiscent of white chocolate-covered almonds and a very long, complex finish, though a bit abrasive for a couple of the tasters here. Excellent with cheese and with Aquarelle’s frog legs.
White
1996 Louis Jadot Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
96 points
Initially lemon bitter and tight, this wine developed beautifully over time. A light color amidst our other grand crus, the wine gave off an outstanding nose, of melons primarily, and had a fresh limestone minerallity and outstanding complexity. With some flavors of pineapple, citrus, butter, and green apple, four tasters thought it close to perfect, with comments of “absolutely amazing” and “I’m speechless!” Several others found it still austere……
White
1996 Domaine Marc Morey & Fils Bâtard-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
97 points
What a surprise! The 1996 vintage has been difficult for so many producers, with the Batards of Ramonet, Sauzet, and others badly oxidized, and this producer, not experienced by many of us, served up a great blanc Burgundy on par with our Niellon, Jadot, and Blain-Gagnards. With a subtle, savory and saline nose, it was light in color and had a graceful, elegant mouth-feel. Full and round flavors were noted, of sweet Meyers lemons, white and golden flowers, lemon, honeysuckle, and tropical fruit, balanced with a beautiful tart character. Very complex and well-balanced on all fronts, this begged for seafood.
White
1995 Domaine Michel Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
97 points
A legendary wine which evolved effortlessly in the glass, you can drink this wine in chapters over an hour’s time. With a nose that may have lost some power over the years, it gains in the glass, is smooth, seamless, and elegant, with more nuance than the Marc Morey Batard we tasted alongside it. It was bright with a creamy texture which coated the back palate, and had flavor notes of almond extract, stoned fruit, baked peaches, yellow apple and bosc pear. Powerful and sexy, don’t wait.
White
1996 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru
flawed
If our flight of wine didn't have so many profound wines, we might have spent some time on this oxidized, sherry bomb. It had a very dark golden color, some caramel and butterscotch, but was so gone, and here forgotten.
White
2002 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
94 points
From a powerful vintage, needs time in the glass to develop. Would likely improve 5-10 years out, had a floral and ripe lemon nose, good acidity, much elegance and fine balance. Flavors included unripe peach and white stone fruit, banana, pineapple, some toffee. An excellent food wine, it had good minerallity, with a nice, long, salty finish. Delicious!
White
2002 Domaine Francois et Antoine Jobard Meursault En La Barre France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
89 points
The least favorite wine of the flight, but nevertheless good, it may have suffered from being too young. Oak-y with a stinky, band-aid nose, it is a big wine that was rustic and earthy, tasted some of chalk and shell, was a bit New World. It had good balance and went well with food, especially the Epoisses cheese (cured in Chablis) and our salmon tartare crostini. Probably needs more time and definitely needs food. Was no match with its neighbor, the Comtes Lafon Clos de la Barre.

Flight 3 - Oher French Blanc One (9 notes)

White
1992 Jean-Jacques Vincent Pouilly-Fuissé Château de Fuissé Vieilles Vignes France, Burgundy, Mâconnais, Pouilly-Fuissé
92 points
Surprisingly tight, maybe even young, this was integrated but a bit tart and had a variety of responses. Some tasters thought it a solid chardonnay, powerful, acidic, and bright, even compelling with balance and fruit cocktail . Others were not fans, finding it flat with a pronounced shell flavor, as well as bitter grapefruit and toasted almonds. Of course it improved with food, and this wine showed that an aged Pouilly Fuisse is a blanc to be reckoned with.
White
1997 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
flawed
Unfortunately oxidized, but it showed some spiced orange zest and marmalade notes to those who pursued it.
White
2000 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage Blanc Chevalier de Sterimberg France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
88 points
This bottle did not show well, and we have had much bottle variation with this wine. At a salon Rhone rouge tasting six months ago, this wine drunk during an intermission was stellar—but for this salon it was clumsy and acidic, seemed in decline; another bottle of 2000 previously opened was oxidized. But this wine can be quite good. Our tasters here found it bland, more interesting on the nose than the palate, where it was more mineral than fruit, with campfire, smoke, cedar, wax candle notes. Not by any means a bad drink, but lacked the marsanne and rousanne fruit character which other bottles have had.
White
1996 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex France, Loire Valley, Upper Loire, Pouilly-Fumé
91 points
Like the blind men describing an elephant, tasters had a variety of reactions to this wine, ranging from “terrific” with “lush tropicality” to “off, full of pickles and vinegar.” So let’s cover the gamet and investigate the variation. All tasters found the wine quite unique, but there were two primary camps: the herbal/vegetal and the tropical/sweet. Some of this difference might stem from the pickled pepper character of the wine, where some tasted enchiladas, roasted chili peppers, slight oxidation and herbs, and others found flavors of clove, lychee, lemon curd and “lemon metal,” papaya, tart raspberry, apple orchard, sweet cherry. The nose was stew-y, again vegetal and herbaceous for some tasters, and tropical and spicy for others. Most agreed that the finish was short and abrupt, and some thought the wine might have been better a few years younger. One experienced taster called it a monster, new world, with no staying power; others described its power quite differently, ending with “but love it”……….
White
1997 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée de Serrant France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières-Coulée de Serrant
93 points
Its bright acidity “screamed for oysters.” This had a beautiful, honeyed nose for most tasters, was clean and dry, with much minerality, and impressed with sweet chenin blanc flavors of stone fruit, rich citrus, flowers, even pork sausage. Seamless with a great mouth-feel, a wine which continued to develop nuances in the glass, enjoyed by all.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1997 René Renou Bonnezeaux Cuvée Zenith France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Bonnezeaux
89 points
This was too sweet and syrupy for most tasters, rather monolithic with an abrupt finish. It needed strong blue cheese to work, and still was quite cloying for some tasters. The structure was disappointing, as this is a highly rated Parker wine, and some tasters did not like an iodine note, or a canned fruit syrup character. After awhile the wine calmed down and a few tasters really enjoyed the wine, finding flavors of honey, maple, rum, peach, caramel apple, waxy honeycomb, apricot, and candied anise.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1976 Moulin Touchais Anjou Blanc France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Anjou
93 points
The wine of the salon for a few, light and insipid for others. Its fans found it “phenomenal” and “killer,” with great balance, strong acidity, a rich and lively palate of lemon curd, dried apple, tangerine, nectarine, peach, orange rind, cantaloupe, and some wet wool. Produced in a hot, dry year known as a mediocre Loire vintage, one taster noted an earthy, rustic component, signifying it wasn’t well-made (still he scored it 93!). The un-impressed found it had a closed nose, was undistinguished with a light palate, some mustiness, rather flat. All tasted the wine soon after the bottle was opened.
White - Off-dry
1989 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Goldert Vendange Tardive France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
96 points
Overall the favorite in this flight of eight wines, the Goldert VT was very well balanced and had a cornucopia of flavor. With a jasmine and green tea nose and character, the wine was golden and spicy, and had notes from tasters of dried apricots, home-canned spiced peaches, honey, lychee, Turkish figs, brown sugar, cinnamon toast, honeycomb, papaya, lemon-orange, “warm spice peach and apple pie” (that’s right, we are from Texas). And it had a fine, dry acid finish. Delicious.
White - Off-dry
1999 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Heimbourg Vendange Tardive France, Alsace
93 points
Tasted alongside a Goldert VT, this wine was unevolved, less complex and seemingly young. Most tasters thought it had potential, but it didn’t coat the palate like the 1989 beside it, though it had plenty of flavor. With a tropical and spice nose, it was a bit unbalanced while it had strong notes of white peach, blood and mandarin orange, mango, kiwi, lemon and orange zest, even “Pine sol” and “Aperol” (a bitter orange aperitif). Give it time…….maybe ten years.

Flight 4 - Other French Blanc Two (9 notes)

White
2006 François Villard Condrieu DePoncins France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
93 points
The flight favorite of one group of eight tasters, the least favorite of its other tasting group. Its champions liked the very expressive, floral nose, the nice acidity and weight, and a dynamo of flavor, with notes of mandarin orange, apricot and peach, honeysuckle, and spice. The other group enjoyed the wine, but preferred two other Condrieus drank alongside it. They thought the wine’s best feature was its nose, powerful, perfumey, floral, and festive, with some lavender notes. The Poncins was very viscous but its palate didn’t deliver much, especially compared to the Cuilleron Les Chaillots.
White
2007 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
93 points
Delicious and well-balanced, with a bright nose of roses and lavender. Zesty and refreshing, this had ginger and some Indian spices, as well as kumquat, tangerine, and apricot notes. It had a buttermilk, bread, vanilla cake component, and some tasters thought the finish was bitter and pithy.
White
2006 M. Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
Disappointing compared to two other Condrieus in this wine salon, it had a weak nose for a Condrieu and probably should have been drunk upon release. A light style, it had too much acidity but still had some good, white flower and spice notes, with some melon, citrus, and lime zest. It went well with food, especially some croque monsieurs Aquarelle served.
White
2003 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Trie Spéciale France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières
90 points
A dry, medium-to-full bodied wine with medium acidity, fresh minerality, and slight nuttiness, we found notes of melon, fig, pear skin, limestone and chalk. It had a rich, buttery texture, and a rather hard, mineral and spice finish. A nice, dry chenin blanc which might improve some.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1997 Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
92 points
Starts very sweet on the palate and, surprisingly, finishes slightly dry with a lot of minerality. Some tasters compared it to a Sauternes, with pronounced apricot and pineapple flavor, along with baked apple, lemon, cinnamon, poached pear, and pistachio notes. Drinks well now but should improve, maybe last 30+ years.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1989 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru
94 points
A very rich and well-balanced sweet wine which seemed to demand food and cheese. With botrytis on the nose, it combined some flinty minerality with flavors of peaches, apricots, dried pineapple and nectarine, mango, lemon, pears, honey, and Indian spices. Some thought it at its peak, others that it drank younger than the excellent 1990 Clos Ste. Catherine we drank along its side.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1990 Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon Clos de Sainte Catherine France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Coteaux du Layon
93 points
This had a wide range of responses from its eighteen tasters, from chemical and disjointed to honeycomb jumping out of the glass. It had a complex, familiar but indefinable, nose, an absence of acidity, and very developed sugars. Some detected a cooked, oxidative characteristic, with asparagus and vegetal notes. Others thought it had pronounced apple and honey flavors. The favorite of one, the least favorite of another.
White - Off-dry
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Vendange Tardive France, Alsace
97 points
“Nectar of the gods” for many of us, flawed for some Condrarians of another tasting group. More uplifting than our excellent Loire sweet wines, this had a powerful orange blossom nose with some hint of mint, and had great structure and balance. Very compelling flavors of flowers and honey, with some pear, lemon, citrus, and mango notes. One taster noted a hint of band-aid which clashed with the wine’s complexity. Our group thought it quite feminine, especially compared to the masculine 1994 Heimbourg VT we had alongside it—almost like drinking fine Pichon Lalande next to Pichon Baron!
White - Off-dry
1994 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Vendange Tardive France, Alsace
96 points
“A brut wearing a dress!” A super-rich, no-holds-barred dessert wine with very ripe apricot, mango, and peach on the palate, maybe with some lime zest for nuance, and a complex finish. Drank alongside the 1994 Clos Windsbuhl VT, we could taste these wines hours after the salon ended. Very masculine next to the Clos Windsbuhl, this had sweet power, though some thought it a bit out of balance. No, it wasn’t the women.
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