Here is a tasting we put together recently for a group of young sommeliers.
As I have noted in previous writings, one of my jobs as a restaurant wine buyer is to provide expertise…….enough so that I can sift through the myriad of wine offerings & better & hopefully smartly determine what we will buy for the restaurant.
I therefore think to get better at this skill, it really helps to establish & grow a strong foundation. In the case of sommelier-ing, this includes having a bank of really solid, “good” wine choices. By doing so, you have a base to measure others by.
Several of our chefs are headed for Japan, mainly on a food inspiring trip. When asked what restaurants they should look to eat at, my comment was to find smaller, unique “hole in the walls” who have garnered a niche & respect from true foodies for serving solid foods which come from passion, hands on dedication, culture, heritage & authenticity. I think then one can taste & experience more traditional ingredients & techniques & therefore better understand a sense of purity & of where they came from culinarily.
From this base, we can look to add our touches.
Why would one want to morph already morphed foods?
One can apply a similar thought to wine. I therefore look to establish a base of well made, pure, more traditional styled wines of any given category. From there I can create different sub-categories such as “internationalized”; “superstar”; modern; “country/food friendly” or whatever.
Over the years, there are at least 8 Sauvignon Blancs from France’s Loire Valley, which really standout to me amongst the crowd. Interestingly, I would have thought that at least a few would have been replaced by now. Here are 5 of them–
Domaine du Salvard Cheverny–Sauvignon Blanc (& some Sauvignon Gris with up to 16% Chardonnay permitted) grown in sand-chalk-limestone soils. This cuvee typically showcases exotic fruit nuances, passion fruit & even guava in some vintages (perhaps from the Sauvignon Gris), with a rounder middle & a distinct minerality on the palate, much more so than in the nose. I generally refer to this wine as being more “country”ish in style–meaning delicious, unpretentious, light, food friendly, gulpable & perennially over delivering for the dollar.
Trotereau Quincy “Vieilles Vignes”–sand, silex, pink limestone soils. This vineyard also still has a surprising number of 100 year old vines I am told. As a side note, Quincy was but the 2nd AOC granted back in 1936. The old timers must have known there was something special or unique in the soils here. I poured this wine next, because, it has a more flinty character in the nose & seems more nervier with more bracing acidity.
Regis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes”–clay, limestone, marl at 750 feet elevation. We adore this wine’s purity & cleaner, fresher, minerally approach. This was one of the first true artisan, “boutique” Loire Valley wines which caught my attention as a young professional. I really find it so incredible that in all of these years I have yet to find another which has at least equally caught my fancy. Deliciousness certainly has something to do with that.
Roger Neveu Sancerre “Clos des Bouffants”–a relatively new star on our radar screen. I am always so amazed at how many diners easily recognize the word Sancerre on the winelist, yet it has been so challenging for me over the years to find really good Sancerre. My “go to” rendition is by Hippolyte Reverdy, because of how ethereal & delicately refined it can be. Now, of course, the Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre is quite allocated. Leave it to wine importer, Kermit Lynch, to thankfully find yet another jewel. The Bouffants parcel is roughly 700 to 850 feet in elevation, with a steep, southern exposure & a limestone bedrock (40% active limestone). Here is one you can make lots of friends with.
Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–The village of Reuilly is also located in the Central Vineyards of the Loire Valley. I poured this sauvignon last because I typically find it the most ethereal of the five. I am told the soils is Kimmeridgian limestone, very similar to what one can find in Chablis, complete with fossilized oyster shells & other sea critters. My wife Cheryle, in fact, noted in this blind tasting how much it smelled of seashells in the nose. Plus, on the palate, it is more refined & ethereal with a lime edge & definitely not flinty like those above who have more marl to their soils.
Quite an interesting learning opportunity AND on several different levels. Thank you to all who came.