Category Archives: Loire

Our Annual Wine Party

Cork collection

It has become a tradition in our house that every year for Nina’s birthday we throw a wine party. It used to be that it was a wine and cheese party, where we provided the cheeses and opened Nina’s huge treasure chest of mustards and fruit mustards, and everyone invited was asked to bring a bottle of wine they liked or always wanted to try or thought we just had to try. The tradition started back in Germany, where naturally almost everyone brought Rieslings…over the last couple of years we have also been able to open Rieslings from Nina’s birth year which has been fun and educational.

These days, the party has evolved to just a wine party. Nina still gives some guidance regarding what folks should contemplate bringing, and it is usually respected. One cool thing is that a number of friends that come are not really into wine, but are willing to explore and try things out. I always love that. The other cool thing is that it gives me an opportunity to see what others consider when they look at wines and try to bring something to a specifically wine party. Here are some of my impressions from this year’s party:

1) Pinot noir seems to be gaining ground like crazy. I’d guess that half the wines that were brought to the party were made from that grape. Pretty much all of them from the US or other New World locations, mainly because we tend to limit money spent to grad student salaries. I enjoyed seeing that not so into wine folks are embracing that grape more and more, yet some of the wines were clearly underwhelming…it’s just hard at that price range.

2) A Portuguese friend of ours brought a bottle of Alvarinho, a white,  called Deu La Deu from the Portuguese sub-region of Monção e Melgaço. Our friend introduced it by saying it was a vinho verde, and she knew we like vinho verde, but that it was a “next level” vinho verde. I was naturally intrigued, given how much I enjoy vinho verde. When I tried it, I was quite impressed: It has all the citrus and refreshment that I love about vinho verde, the sazziness, the fun. But it also has a more serious air about it: It carries more weight, is a bit creamier, a bit more mature, I guess I would say. At 12.5% ABV it is great to drink, and made for a wonderful surprise! More about the wine here.

A next level Vinho Verde

A next level Vinho Verde

3) Our newly found blogger friend Hannah (of Next Stop TBD) and her fiance Mark brought a bottle from a winery visit in California last year: A 2011 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. They wanted to retry the wine, because memories of it were a bit hazy, and so we were happy to oblige. You know how I usually see Cabernet Sauvignons with trepidation, but it was a really tasty wine: bold, juicy, chewy, with enough depth. Nina was shocked I liked it, which was probably the other reason I liked it even more. Nothing like surprising your spouse once they think they have you figured out.

4) The amazement that has been Vouvray whites is continuing: Our great tasting buddies and real life friends, coffee roaster Jay and his baking-wine nut wife Sarah brought another bottle: Noel Bourgier 2012 Vouvray, this one retailing for a mere $11! It was just what I described as a winter white in my post about Vouvray a while back: creamy and full, round and enticing. Uncomplicated and quaffable. Go find a Vouvray and let me know what you think!

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

5) As the highlight of the night, we opened yet another 1987 Vereinigte Hospitien Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese (we have had this wine before, last year we had a Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen, and we have had Vereinigte Hospitien’s ’87 Erdener Treppchen before). We are now 27 years in, so I begin to worry a bit about how these Spätlesen are going to hold up, especially from a not ideal vintage. I have been telling Nina numerous times that we need to start stocking up on Auslesen and even BAs from that year, if there were even any produced. The cork was moldy on top, but came out seemlessly, and the wine presented itself in fantastic condition: I had gotten the decanter ready, to potentially breathe some life into it, but the tiny sip I tried made me push aside the decanter and go straight for glasses: The wine was firm and structured. There was very bright acidity which held the wine together and led to citrus aromas dominating the wine. The finish was holding up, and so all in all a very solid expression of what an aged Spätlese can taste like. I thought it was very tasty and definitely has a couple more years ahead of it, which I find astonishing….and reason enough to buy a couple more of this when we are in Germany next…

Stunningly fresh

Stunningly fresh

So, when are you throwing your next wine party and encourage friends to bring what they want you to try or share with you?

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2012 Domaine des Aubuisières Cuvée de Silex Vouvray

Different vintage, same bottle (Photo taken from Peter Weygandt, the importer’s, website – click the photo to get there)

I don’t know about you, but I am getting so sick of this winter weather in Michigan. The other day we had rain/snow/thunderstorm conditions resulting in slush everywhere. I come from one of Germany’s warmest regions, and am not used to these several month long winters that just drag on and on…

On the wine front, winter also means more red wine consumption for me. It comes naturally, but I am also realizing I am getting a tad tired of drinking mostly reds. Always a sure sign winter better be over. I do drink whites during winter as well, but especially the lighter, easy to drink Rieslings often don’t quite feel right, and our treasure chest of good, deeper, heavier Rieslings has been dwindling as of late. The more I relished Nina’s find from a few months ago: The 2012 Domaine des Aubuisières Cuvée Silex, a wine from the Vouvray region. This is definitely a first on this blog: A French white. OMG, what’s wrong with me??

Let me give you some background on Vouvray: It’s an AOC region in the Loire valley in Western France, just east of Tours. The region is France’s largest producer of Chenin blanc grapes, which are naturally high in acidity. Its climatic conditions are favorable to noble rot (botrytis) which is usually helpful in producing very sweet, age-worthy wines (like BA or TBA in Germany, or Sauternes in France). Vouvray also produces sparklers for those so inclined.

Our bottle from Domaine des Aubusières is owned by Bernard Fouquet with 28 hectares under vine. Apparently, Fouquet is a younger guy and has garnered some praise for his wines (see his importer’s page, and there is a pretty cool portrait about the winery from 2009 on the Jim’s Loire blog). He makes single vineyard and cuvée wines. The wine we had, the Cuvée de Silex, grew on clay soils, and has 9 grams of residual sugar per liter (at low end of medium-sweet when you look at German wine law), 6.85 gr/l of acidity, and ticked in at 13% ABV. Nina had discovered it at a tasting hosted by Village Wine Corner, a local wine shop with tons of charme and tastings every other month, and loved it for what she described as “cinnamon wine”. Now you see why this wine could make sense in cold weather, right?

Here are my tasting notes from when we tried it the other day: The color a bright yellow, the nose showed lightly smoky aromas, citrus, and hints of cinnamon (not as much as Nina seemed to remember). The alcohol was noticeable, but not oppressive. On the palate, the first thing I noticed, was how good it felt in the mouth. It had the right amount of – I don’t want to say silkiness, because that wasn’t it; I want to use the word woolly, do you get what I mean? It was heavy enough to warm me, yet showed great acidity which kept it fresh. The feel of this wine had a soothing quality, it made me want to cuddle up with it. Maybe that’s why I am thinking woolly. There were aromas of grape and again, slight cinnamon. The wine tasted dry, the sugar was no issue whatsoever. It paired exceptionally well with some soft cheeses we had (particularly with a Délice de Bourgogne, a triple cream brie type cheese). We shared the bottle with friends and it went down in no time…I am not sure it would drink that well in the summer, but to me, this was a great, great winter white. They exist. We just have to find them!

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