Monday, February 4, 2013

Report from ... Abbotts & Delaunay Lunch and Tasting - November 6, 2012

There are times you get invited to tastings of wines you have never heard of.  It’s easy to say yes to the Latours, Bouchards, Masis and Frescobaldis of the world, but when you hear a name like Abbotts & Delaunay from the Languedoc (Southern France) you wonder if it’s worth your time – afterall there are only so many hours in a day.  You think I’m being egotistical, but every wine writer worth his salt thinks the same way … but, and this is the determining factor: every wine writer is also a very curious sort, and the chance to try something new pulls on his or her heart strings  even more than the timing-factor pulls against.  Which was why I find myself at the table today at the ex-Jamie Kennedy establishment now just called Wine Bar.

Many will remember, or think of the Languedoc-Rousillon region as the bulk wine ghetto of France – and that was true years ago … but as they say, that was then, this is now.  These days the Languedoc-Rousillon is changing its image, producing first class wines at very reasonable prices – and that truly is the key … the price of Languedoc wines are, for lack of a better term, “cheap” (I know my mom hates when I use that term) compared to the quality in the bottle.

The story of Abbotts & Delaunay is not your typical one.  Nerida Abbott, an Australian winemaker, started Abbotts winery in 1996 … and in 2005 a fifth generation Burgundian winemaker and negociant was looking at making quality Languedoc wines to raise the bar of wines in the area.  He stumbled upon Nerida’s winery and Abbotts & Delaunay was born … anew.  But a back-story is just that unless they have something to show for it, and this small lot producer decided on three lines of wine – the base models that focused on varietal wines, the Reserve – focusing on regional expression of the fruit, and the Nuages et Vents line (cloud and wind) “Micro-cuvees from old vines grown in Languedoc’s high altitude vineyards, produced in very limited quantities” (approximately 300 cases each).

Nine wines were tried this afternoon: 2 from the base-model varietals, the 3 Reserves and the 4 Micro-cuvees … here are notes from my top 5 wines (with one special mention) – take note of the price for these wines, especially the serve and higher level wines.

Special Mention …
2010 Merlot ($14.95) – the whole base-model line that we tried was based on the Bud Light philosophy of “drinkability”, this was easy drinking with blueberry and cherry taking centre stage.

The Top 5 …
The Reserves – all three were amazing value wines and worth every penny:

2010 Cotes de Rousillon ($19.95) – blend of Syrah-Carignan and Grenache, with plum, black cherry and spiced licorice aromas, these follow onto the palate with good weight and balance of tannins. (****)

2010 Minervois ($19.95) – same grapes as above, just reverse the Grenache and Carignan for percentage in the blend, lots of red and dark fruits through the olfactories along with smoky-vanilla notes … on the palate this one is red fruit dominated with the smoky-vanilla playing a part in palatal enjoyment. (****+)

2010 Corbieres ($19.95) – this one stole the showing and was one of two wines I kept coming back to over and over again … the typical blend of the Reserve-line starting with the Syrah and Grenache, but this time there’s the addition of Mourvedre (instead of Grenache), and that’s just the ticket for this wine to wow the palate.  Beauty fruit that’s both red and dark in nature, silky tannins along with anise and vanilla coating the palate – sure the price is worthy of every-weekend-drinking, but I’d still hold five-plus years and bring it out on special occasions … people will think you paid more than you did. (**** ½+)

Micro-Cuvees - Don’t get me wrong, these were very good wines, but two stood out amongst the four, and both were the single varietal wines.

2010 Alto Stratus – Carignan ($27.95) – everything you’d want in a wine: plum, spice, chocolate on the nose; while the palate doles out great spice and pepper notes amongst all that fruit, then there’s a touch of mineral on the finish that manages to keep it all fresh. (****+)

2011 Zephyr – Chardonnay ($30.95) – the only 2011 in this line-up (at time of tasting); this is a Chardonnay that just kept going and the other wine I kept going back to.  Pleasant fruit along with rich creamy notes of butter cream and vanilla, but it also delivers hints and hits of spice to keep it from being cloyingly creamy, plus great acidity adds to the freshness.  This is one sexy Chardonnay from the unlikeliest of places. (****+)

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