Friday, February 01, 2008

Burgundy Whites(12): Australia; Canada(5); Chile; France(5)

BURGUNDY: In contrast to Bordeaux where each wine area joins the other in a contiguous land area, Burgundy (#5) is fragmented into separate regions with distinct terroirs and vineyard histories. From Paris the N6 Autoroute runs southwest as much as 300km where it comes to Chablis on the Serein river, the north end of the Burgundy region, and then continues on south. 100km farther southwest Burgundy picks up again following the Saône river stretching from Dijon another 100km southerly to Lyon and the Rhône river. At its widest point at Mâcon it's only about 30km across. Vineyards usually lay beside the river and at times may be just a few hundred yards wide.

Rather than individual Châteaux as in Bordeaux, but not exclusively, Burgundy wines are produced and distributed by négociants who collect barrel or cask lots from the growers. Négociants may also be growers. There are one hundred or so Appellations Controlées in Burgundy. Wine labels detail the region, the village and the ranking of the grapes based on where they came from and give their relationship to the varied terroirs. The best known terroirs from north to south are Chablis, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune (Côte d'Or), Côte Châlonnaise and Mâconnais, and finally Beaujolais. Of the hundreds of vineyards there are less than forty eligible to be called 'Grand Cru', the highest rank. This is followed by designations of Premier Crus, and Appellation Communale. Bourgogne is used for wines made from grapes of lesser vineyards. Labels tell the story and one has to be familiar with the many villages and communities to determine good from not so good. Because of the limited number of Grand Crus quality wines can often be found at the Premier Cru level.

By regulation, the pinot noir grape makes up all of Burgundy's top red wines and red is three times the volume of whites. Most at the LCBO are well above the $30 level and many are above $100. Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais. Burgundy whites by regulation are based on 100% Chardonnay. The whites selected for this month's tastings are $11 to $15 and all except one are from General listings. Chardonnays from Australia, Chile and Canada thought to be similar in style are included this month as well... also three Aligotés, another Burgundy grape. As each are tasted it will appear in bold:
  • J. Moreau & Fils Bourgogne Aligoté 2006, Ww89 -- G, #032037 $15.05, Labeled from La Croix Saint-Joseph in Chablis.
  • Bouchard Pére & Fils Mâcon-Lugny Saint-Pierre 2006, Ww88 -- G, #051573 $14.70, Labeled Grands Vins de Bourgogne with vineyards in the communities around Mâcon.
  • Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2006, Ww88 -- G, #283457 $11.00, Winery in McLaren Vale and grapes from South Eastern Australia.
  • Cave Spring Cellars Chardonnay 2005 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ww87 -- G, #228551 $13.05, Grapes grown on slopes below the Niagara Escarpment near Lake Ontario.
  • Henry of Pelham Reserve Chardonnay 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ww86 -- G, #252833 $14.80, Grapes from vineyards possibly including their own on Short Hills Bench.
  • Francois Labet Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2005, Ww84 -- V, #041319 $14.85, Vineyards located near the town of Vougeot overlooking Beaune in Côte d'Or.
  • Georges Duboeuf Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay 2006, Ww82 -- G, #110122 $14.15, Grapes are from the the vineyards in the communities around Mâcon.
  • Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ww82 -- G, #081653 $13.85, Grapes from vineyards owned or controlled by the winery with wine production at the Chateau.
  • Santa Rita Estate Grown Chardonnay Reserva 2006, Ww82 -- G, #348359 $13.40, Grapes from the Casablanca Valley in Chile.
  • Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Aligoté 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ww80 -- G, #294950 $13.35, Grapes from vineyards owned or controlled by the winery with wine production at the Chateau.
  • Château des Charmes White Label Chardonnay 2004 VQA, Ww74 -- G, #038828 $6.20, Grapes from vineyards in the Niagara peninsula.
  • Les Chapitres de Jaffelin Bourgogne Aligoté 2005 (NR) - G, #053868 $15.85, Vineyards near Beaune.

FRANÇOIS LABET BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY VIEILLES VIGNES 2005, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #041319 $14.85 (Tasted February 10, 2008)

Vintages release on January 5, 2008 described as "Acclaim continues apace for the great 2005 Burgundies. Here's an old vines Chardonnay that shows off the vintage to superb effect. On the nose, it displays apple, pear, mineral and a hint of oak. The whole package is beautifully balanced and ready-to-drink. Try it with an herbed-chicken dish or steamed clams." Dan Kislenko says "The year is the key here; 2005 is considered one of the best in Burgundy in recent memory, and even everyday wines like this show it off. As consumers, we've tended to wander from the classical earthiness of white Burgundy, but it's back in this wine, with a whiff of violets, a toasty nut fell, and focused fruit that comes across as golden pears and apples." My notes: A light golden colour crystal clear and faint floral aromas, violets I think, marginally better offchill -12C. Light-bodied, a distinct mineral first sip and soft tang, flavours of filo pastry and pear with a finish that's long not expressive, a delicate pear and apple, clay ending. Sipping alone brings out the subtle flavours and nose, an elegant white or have with hors d'oeuvres: stuffed mushrooms, an olive paste on saltine, mild/soft cheeses or pair with white fish entrees in a light cream sauce. A 'safe' chardonnay not quite unoaked but almost. Ww84

OUCHARD PERE & FILS MACON-LUGNY SAINT-PIERRE 2006, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #051573 $14.70 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium straw colour; intense fruit, spice, apple & biscuit aromas; generous fruit flavours, with a good long finish. Serve lightly chilled with seabass, sole, or other fish." My notes: No information about this wine was available on the website. A faint aroma of citrus, wild floral and light honey and a light blond colour. The fullness suits the mix of lemon, firm apple, slight biscuit or ripe melon all riding a tart grassy thread. The finish is lengthy silky smooth with fruit and oils lasting 'til the end. If you like a oaked chardonnay it's a sipper... not too aggressively oaked so could be more appealing. Have with light fowl, pork chops in an onion and/or mushroom sauce, roast turkey breast, spicy mussels or garlic shrimp. Has a fullness and acid level that should cellar well improving each year up to four making this a good value. I'd have in for friends and family... but it's definitely a chard. Ww88

GEORGES DUBOEUF MACON-VILLAGES CHARDONNAY 2006, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #110122 $14.15 (Tasted February 3, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium straw yellow colour; aromas of green apple, pear, hazelnut and melon; dry, light to medium bodied, well balanced with good fruit flavours on the palate, crisp finish. Serve with garlic shrimp or mussels, poached salmon." My notes: A light golden colour with aromas of clover honey and lemon. A light silk to a tart seam but with a side note of sweet apple and pear. Improves off chill, 14C - 16C. Lightish medium-bodied, finishes dry and bright with almost ripe granny smith, very long unless interrupted by nibbles. Have with quiche tarts, spinakopitas, a mild cheese tray. Was good with chicken pieces in pita with fried veggies. A drink now. I'd have in for friends and family with light seafood dishes: scallops in a cream pasta, grilled shrimp, crusted telapia and baked yam or herb rice. $11 in the US. Ww82HENRY OF PELHAM RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, St. Catharines, Canada, 13.0% XD, #252833 $14.80 (Tasted February 8, 2008)A General listing described as "Bright yellow gold colour; creamy aromas with yellow apple, spicy/vanilla oak, slightly tropical with pineapple notes; dry, full-bodied, well balanced with rich, creamy textured, oaky citrus flavours; long finish. Serve with BBQ salmon; grilled veal; lobster; mushroom alfredo topped with roasted pine nuts." The back label gives the location of the winery as on the Short Hills Bench, however, the grapes used could be from other areas of the Niagara Peninsula including their own estate. Reserve is said to signify grapes are from 'older, lower yielding vineyards' to 'give a more concentrated and complex chardonnay'. Toronto Life gives it an 88/100 saying "This is consistently good, typical Ontario chardonnay year after year. Generous apple, peach and well-integrated wood spice. Medium weight, with balanced acidity and alcohol. Very good length. Now through 2009." My notes: A clear light golden colour and aromas of apple, warmed butter and a touch of vanilla. A tart first sip, medium-bodied with flavours of lemon cream, crabapple and slight oak. The finish is lengthy mostly of a pineapple edge ending on a warm straw note. Flavours build nicely and if your preference is a dry moderately oaked chard there's no reason not to sip - above 10C below 15C. It's better with a pepper pate and garlic bagel crisps, a mixed tray of edam, mild cheddars, provolone, emmental with melba toasts. Better still with a mixed seafood platter, a Valentine's steamed whole lobster with skimmed butter, or shrimp skewers. Cellaring for a few years should give it more complexity. Ww86CAVE SPRING CELLARS CHARDONNAY 2005 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Jordan, Canada, 13.0% D, #228551 $13.05 (Tasted February 13, 2008)A General listing described as "Straw colour; soft peach, pear fruit and vanilla aromas and flavours with spicy notes; dry, medium bodied, balanced acidity with soft vanilla and spice on the finish. Serve with pasta in light cream sauces; chicken; seafood." The website says "... predominately from vines grown in clay till soils along the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment. These gently sloping terraces, overlooking Lake Ontario, are moderated year round by on-shore breezes. Vinified in stainless steel... captures the freshness and vitality of this classic variety... " My notes: A golden yellow colour with a tart grass, peach fuzz, apple and vanilla aroma - serve 8C to 12C. Nicely tart on the first sip with a round texture, more pronounced at 14C, and flavours of apple and stone peach blended - no sweetness apparent. The finish is light and long with a clean, bright fruit. This sips well, as refreshing as lemonade without the sugar. Better with seafood- or chicken based hors d'oeuvres or with mussels in a cream sauce, oysters Rockefeller, pork chops and apple sauce, firm fish entrees. Cellaring for two more years should take away a youthfulness and introduce some nuttiness although drinking well now. Ww87CHATEAU DES CHARMES ESTATE BOTTLED CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.0% XD, #081653 $13.85 (Tasted February 19, 2008)

A General listing described as "Bright yellow gold colour; smoky melon, apple fruit with earthy/mineral notes; medium-bodied with smoky, earthy flavours and balanced acidity. Serve with roasted chicken, pork with mushroom sauce." The website notes "... both barrel fermented and barrel aged in French oak... It has a creamy, buttery texture with melon and pear flavours. The wine is quite rich and can develop in the bottle for a few years... a perfect match for roast poultry, pork, or thick cream pastas." My notes: A soft fragrance of honeysuckle and apple and a light golden colour. Sipping has a very fresh impact on the palate with tart apple, 'extra brut' for sure. The finish has a prominent tart melon, long and crisp and ends somewhat steely. As this goes offchill, +12C, a slight roundness is introduced and is preferred. Not enough ripe fruit to be a solo sipper - have with stuffed mushroom caps, filo stuffed with feta and spinach, cold chicken pieces or Pair with seafood dishes, creamy pastas. A drink-now. Ww82

HATEAU DES CHARMES WHITE LABEL CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA, Canada, 13.0% XD, #038828 375mL $6.20 (Tasted February 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Clear straw yellow in colour with aromas of Granny Smith apples and a kiss of vanilla. Round and full-bodied with flavours of butterscotch and tropical fruit. Serve with pasta with a rosé & fresh herbs sauce." Tony Aspler gives it four (of ?) saying " A mature Ontario Chardonnay at a great price. Straw colour; mature nose of apples minerals and a touch of oak. Medium-bodied, ripe, full-flavoured, peach-apple flavours backed by oak. Terrific value." My notes: A light straw colour with some 'swirls'. Let air for ten minutes for faint aromas of almonds and lemon. Flavours of soft lemon and tangerine peel with a dry, texture that's slightly rounded - no other nuances that I could discern. The finish has the same soft lemon background now with clay overtones and drying... a shallow sipper. This washed out with a three cheese macaroni and telapia entree so not recommended as a meal white. Not for cellaring. The size is convenient for lunches or supping solo - tho' for me, not a repeat purchase. Ww74

SANTA RITA ESTATE GROWN CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2006, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #348359 $13.40 (Tasted February 12, 2008)
A General listing described as "bright yellow colour; tropical fruit, pineapple and toasty oak aromas with earthy notes; dry, medium-bodied, rich tropical fruit flavours with vanilla notes on the a long finish. Serve with grilled or roast chicken, pork roast, rich seafood dishes." The winemaker notes "... comes from the Casablanca Valley... A fragrant aroma of luscious, tropical fruit and juicy grapefruit are beautifully rounded out by soft vanilla and hazelnut undertones. Wonderful fruit flavors are enhanced by a pleasant acidity and sweetness. An outstanding Chardonnay, elegant and beautifully balanced, concluding in a complex, lingering finish." and of the soil "... alluvial origin with a very fine sandy loam texture, high permeability and scarce humidity retention." My notes: Very light blond colour with a green tint and scent of grassy pear and apple. The flavours include apple, pear and distant honey with a nice tang and very slight roundness. The finish is long, tangy, dry with a delicate touch of apple and pear. An interesting sipper with many flavours going for it. Pair with a shrimp ring and sauce, fresh oysters or a variety of tapas. Entree alternatives are a whitefish entree, wild mushrooms simmered in a chicken broth with sprigs of parsley or thin crust veggie pizza slices. It held its own with roasted chicken thighs and yams. Not for cellaring, a drink-now. Ww82

HARDYS NOTTAGE HILL CHARDONNAY 2006, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #283457 $11.00 (Tasted February 14, 2008)

A General listing described as "Lemon yellow colour; clean light apple & citrus; light oak in aroma & taste, balanced wine with clean finish. Serve slightly chilled with mussels." Their website says "Brilliant clarity and medium straw in colour, the Nottage Hill Chardonnay displays aromas of citrus blossom, melon and peach. Spicy and buttery characters are apparent with a slight oak influence. The palate exhibits citrus, melon and sweet spice flavours, integrated with soft oak. This is an elegant Chardonnay with a creamy mouthfeel and with a lingering finish." My notes: This has become one of my cellar staples. It has a pleasing honey, lemon, apple and firm straw aroma and a light lemon juice colour. Leaves long legs on the glass and has flavours of butter, lemon, crabapple, and ripe honeydew melon. A long finish with a citrus tartness cleansing the taste buds then leaving an zesty smoothness. A full-bodied sipper, with delicate oak touches and enough butter to hold up well with steamed lobster, spicy mussels, planked salmon, chicken/asparagus/rice casserole and grilled seafoods. A versatile chard, well balanced with natural varietal characteristics. It should even improve by cellaring up to two years. A bargain and always available. Ww88

J MOREAU & FILS BOURGOGNE ALIGOTE 2006, Burgundy, France, 12.0% D, #032037 $15.05 (Tasted February 9, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw in colour with delicate aromas of ripe green apple and floral. It is light-bodied, the finish is balanced and slightly nutty. Serve with a seafood platter, as a wine spritzer." The website gives the varietal a writeup but not their Bourgogne Aligoté: " Aligoté is thought to be the oldest Burgundian grape variety. In the Middle Ages it was probably drunk with “harigot”, a mutton and bean stew and/or “alicot”, a poultry stew. Vinified alone or blended with Chardonnay, it can bear the Bourgogne Aligoté Appellation Controlée. Paired with blackcurrant liqueur, it makes a Kir, after Canon Kir, deputy mayor of Dijon, who made this aperitif fashionable after the Second World War." My notes: J. Moreau & Fils belongs to the family of vineyards of Boisset Vins & Spiriteux, an international distributor of French wines. A light golden with soft aromas of wildfloral and slight nuttiness that need a chance to develop, allow to go offchill slightly to 10C - 14C. Has a delectable light honey texture with a very slight natural sweetness well balanced by fruit acids, light pear and apple, medium-bodied. The finish is moderate with the sweet fruit showing on a tart seam, not quite a tooth cleaner. Refreshing by itself, have with seafood appetizers: cocktail shrimps with seafood sauce, oysters on the half shell, shaved proscuitto with black olives or soft cheeses. Better paired with seafood entrees or chicken with a cheesy pasta, turkey, thinly sliced ham. Cellaring should improve this although drinking well now - not aromatic but everything else makes up for it. Ww89

LES CHAPITRES DE JAFFELIN BOURGOGNE ALIGOTE 2005, Burgundy, France, 12.0% D, #053868 $15.85 (Tasted February 18, 2008)


A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; Subtle aromas of mineral,citrus, anjou pear and green apple; Dry, light bodied, with clean apple/lemon flavours, crisp acidity on finish. To serve add cassis for a Kir, shellfish, light seafood dishes, ceviche or pan fried trout." My notes: A light blond colour with aromas of grass and kiwi fruit... a strong acidic, mineral flavour overwhelms on the first sip then settles down into a firm pear apple blending. A long finish with mineral being prominent and a mix mango, pear and apple each sharing equally. An acquired taste -add some Perrier or an oz. of your favourite clear liqueur to settle the tartness - Cointreau works for me. A Kir, named after the mayor of Dijon during WW2 who started the practice, is a before dinner drink of Aligote with a small shot of cassis making it more palatable. It needs something for sure... A specialty wine and not rated (NR). Refer to Pontac at Yahoo for an interesting history of Kir.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 12.0% XD, #284950 $13.35 (Tasted February 2, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; green apple and citrus aromas with floral notes; dry, medium bodied, crisp and refreshing palate with green apple flavours and a pleasant mouthfeel. Serve with mild creamy cheeses, trout with lemon or shellfish." The website notes "Aligoté is a rare vitis vinifera variety native to the Burgundy region of France. Our Aligoté is a straw coloured, medium bodied, dry white wine. It has a bouquet of citrus fruit and green apple with a crisp, refreshing finish..." Jeff Davis, August, 2007, said "Château des Charmes has generally done well with the 'other' Burgundian white variety. This has a fresh and youthful nose of apple and pear with some smoky and floral overtones. Quite vibrant on the palate with racy acidity amid pure fruit tones. Well balanced with good length. Good value. Aligoté is best enjoyed with seafood, particularly shellfish or on its own as an excellent aperitif." My notes: A light golden colour with a nose of honeysuckle, lemondrop and melon. The flavours ride on a seam of acid and has a light smoothness, not quite butter, light-bodied with a faint toasty oak and reminiscent of 'freeze dried' apple flakes. Finishes short, is light and drying. This had difficulty keeping up with a shredded turkey, cheese and vegetable thin-crust pizza. Cellaring for a few years may not harm... just not improve. Not recommended. Ww80

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