Thinking About Beaujolais Nouveau on the Day After Thanksgiving

I was unduly pessimistic and had a lovely time. Great Neck is cultured, civilized and they make delicious overly-elaborate-mishmash-dishes.

It was a good idea to bring wine. They had a Linden Chardonnay from the State of Virginia, "aged in new barrels" according to the wine's back label, that they were very enthused about. The back label also told us that the wine has lots of exotic fruits and was delicious. I view these type of back labels on American wines as a great service to the consumer, cautionary notes that are far more important than the useless Government Warning (I rarely drive and will never be pregnant) and am always pleased that the winery is considerate enough to warn that the wine is going to be over-oaked and over-yeasted and generally horrible. So, I drank the Domaine des Terres Dorées Nouveau instead. My mother liked the Nouveau a great deal but she is inclined to like our wines and in no sense can be considered a barometer of popular public taste. I agreed with her though.

My view of wine has very much been shaped by working with Jean-Paul Brun of the Domaine des Terres Dorées in the Beaujolais. Denyse and I have worked with Jean-Paul for 10 vintages and our notion of non-interventionist winemaking and the importance of natural yeasts dates to our initial tastings with Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul was receiving press in France for his beautiful production of non-yeasted and non-chaptalized Beaujolais, something that seemed almost revolutionary when compared to the the bottlings from Georges Duboeuf which still dominate the Beaujolais scene.

Until recently, Duboeuf was using an industrial yeast called the 71B, which was added to his wines during fermentation and which gave aromas of bananas and tasted like candies. Duboeuf has now moved on to other industrial yeasts and a system called thermo-vinification but Jean-Paul remains part of the tiny minority of Beaujolais vignerons who still produce something authentic. We loved Jean-Paul's wines when we first tasted them and realized that his notion of winemaking was central to making wine rather than beverages. Jean-Paul remains a maverick, constantly hounded by the local authorities in the Beaujolais for bucking modern trends, but over the years we have been able to find growers like him from all over France. But the vigernons working naturally are truly rare today and the industrial beverage-making segment of the wine business dominates both the new world and the old.

Take the Linden Chardonnay I could have consumed in Great Neck yesterday. What is this thing I didn't drink? I consulted their web site today for more information. Particularly intriguing is their use of both Burgundian and Australian yeasts! What could they possibly be talking about?

The world has gone mad and the people at Linden Chardonnay couldn't be happier! Of course Linden Chardonnay itself is of little importance. I had to travel to my cousin's Thanksgiving celebration in Great Neck to see a bottle of the stuff for the first time and I still haven't drank a drop. What is more important is what Linden Chardonnay says about the current wine zeitgeist. Perhaps I'm nuts, but doesn't the following description sound like a repulsive, concoted wine with little relationship to nature, vines, wine or enjoyment?

1996 Chardonnay
Aromas: Pear, melon, almond and hazelnut.

Flavors: Apple, toasty oak, and vanilla with a creamy, citrus finish.

Food Pairings: Rich fish like salmon, or earthy foods like risotto with mushrooms and roast chicken with polenta.

Vineyards: Estate Vineyard (79%), Fauqier Co., on top of the Blue Ridge at an elevation of 1,350 feet on a south and east slope. Deep, well drained, volcanic origin, greenstone based soils. Vine age is between 9 and 14 years. Contributes pear aromas and a crisp, citrus finish.

Flint Hill Vineyard (21%), Rappahannock Co., elevation of 900 feet, rolling terrain with several soil types. Vine age is between 16 and 18 years. Contributes melon flavors and a rich middle.

Vintage: Cool summer and a cooler fall. Harvest dates were Oct. 3 & 4, 1996.

Winemaking: 100% barrel fermented in 95% French oak and 5% American oak using Burgundian and Australian yeasts. Aged on the lees in the barrel for 10 months. Bottle aged for 18 months before release. This wine ages wonderfully for many years. 1,065 cases produced.

posted on Thursday, November 23, 2000

- Joe Dressner 5-09-2001 6:03 pm

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