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Snooth User: VegasOenophile

Schreiner's Winers France vs. US tasting and "Bottle Shock" viewing 010910

Posted by VegasOenophile, Jan 9, 2010.

Our fourth tasting event, we had a viewing of "Bottle Shock" and did a blind France vs. USA tasting. We drank:

2008 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay Santa Barbara County (winner by majority) vs.
2006 Louis Latour Chablis la Chanfleure

2007 Jean Chartron Bourgogne "Clos de la Combe" Chardonnay vs.
2004 BV Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay (tainted wine- winner France by default)

2002 Patriarche Pere & Fils Pommard vs.
2006 Homewood Winery Pinot Noir Carneros Queen's Cuveé (winner by majority)

2006 Artesa Pinot Noir Carneros (winner by majority) vs.
2006 Louis Latour Marsanny

2007 Guenoc North Coast Victorian Claret (winner by majority) vs.
2003 Chateau Grand Village Bordeaux Supérieur

2003 Chateau Lalande-Borie Saint-Julien vs.
2004 St. Francis Sonoma Claret (winner by majority)

It should be said, I personally preferred most of the French wines, especially after the main tasting as we finished everything. Some great things happened to those bottles once they got some breathing. The two 2003 Bordeauxs and the St. Francis Claret in addition to just about all the pinot noirs really evolved wonderfully as the tatsing ended and people just continued to kill off their favorites. So for those, I'd recommend decanting for 30-45 minutes or opening the bottle 60 to 90 minutes before drinking for optimal result.

All bottles were under $23 at our local Lee's Discount Liquor.

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 9, 2010.

Am curious why you paired all these bottles off in what looks like only two bottles at a time, rather than having all the chardonnays, all the Bordeaux blends and all the pinots together at once, in three flights rather than six? Am also curious why you chose those specific pairings.

Did you find the group tended to like the fruit-forward bottles better? It would seem so from your 'winner by majority' comments. So the next question is what was the makeup of your group?

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Reply by zufrieden, Jan 9, 2010.

I would be interested to know the answer to that question as well. I assume you just decided to "stack up" certain pairings of interest, but many of us are used to long horizontal comparisons. Anyway, anything pretty much goes, but just wondering.

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 9, 2010.

The first pairing we did because Chablis is unoaked and I wanted to be able to compare in a more apples to apples style, whereas the second set of chardonnays are the oaked style. Everyone knew one each of the pair was US and France and it wasn't a "guess which is French or CA, but which one you prefer". This is a very amateur group with very limited experience and tastes who yes, tend to go after the more approachable and simple wines, whereas I preferred the more complex, usually French ones.

My main goal was to compare as close to possible a similar style wine within the same general price range as it's sister and with similar (if I have tasted it before) qualities on the nose and palate.

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Reply by gregt, Jan 10, 2010.

I understand your reasoning, but another thing you might do is pair the same vintages. There's a dif between a 2003 and 2007.

But good for you for exploring. Cheers.

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Reply by napagirl68, Jan 10, 2010.

I agree with pairing similar vintages.. great idea.

Typically, US, especially California, wines are higher in alcohol and "bigger" than their French counterparts. This can turn some off to the French wines who are used to the taste of high alcohol wines. I find pairing the wines with an appropriate foods can make a world of difference. For example, for my palate, I love a either a true White Burgundy (French Chard) or Burgundian-style California chard. However, for just sipping while sitting outside in the summer, they are not my first choice. Pair them with food tho, and they FAR outshine the typical malolactic, butter bomb California Chards... JMHO :-))

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 10, 2010.

I got older Bordeauxs than their counterparts because those tend to need a little more time to come together, whereas generally speaking, CA wines in that price bracket are more approachable early on. I don't utterly disagree with you on same vintages, but then again, 2007 in CA was lilkely very different than the 2007 season in France.

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Reply by napagirl68, Jan 10, 2010.

Yes, VO, your are correct. Most california wines are such that they are made to drink immediately. Much of that has to do with climate. The brix is much higher, thus higher alcohol. Many wineries here in CA RUSH to get that fruit off the vine. Some even send it out for processing to lower alcohol levels (to lower their tax rate). Others love the climate, as higher alcohol wine tend to sell better. It is very hard with the warmer climate here in CA to produce a wine with, say, a 13% alcohol content (like many french wines). I have seen California Chardonnays with alcohol contents of 16.5%!!! YIKES!

So yes, I see your rationale now. Thanks for pointing it out. And I think it was a wise choice. Vintage comparison is great, but my own opinion is that vintage comparison should be by region since there are too many variables.. climate, region, clone, etc, etc. Too much to deconvolve (yes I do work as a scientist :-)). Again... FOOD pairing is key, IMHO... the "drier" tasting, less alcoholic french wines often stand out ( and show their complexities) when paired with the correct foods, where the CA wines may pale in comparison. Another personal observation- some of the French wines that taste "young" in comparison with CA wines STILL taste young after aging. The tannins will mellow, but the residual sugar is often way less than in CA wines, so it will taste "different", and not "big".

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Reply by napagirl68, Jan 10, 2010.

PS- thanks for posting! Want to try these out myself!!

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 10, 2010.

BTW, Vegas, it's a mistake to think that oak isn't used in Chablis. Plenty of the producers use it at different stages. Some examples are in one of my posts in this thread:
http://www.snooth.com/talk/topic/oa...

I don't know the details of Latour's chablis without looking it up, but I do think that as napagirl and Greg have pointed out you were playing loose with a large number of variable factors in your lineup. All fun of course, and I assume of value to your group, but I'd hesitate to make too many conclusions from what you present. All sorts of other aspects would be interesting to know, from bottle provenance (esp. for the French side of things) to price to winemaking practices to.... I'd also be curious about how or why you liked which French bottles, that 'like' being the bottom line for each of us, even if our tastes may evolve over time. ;-)

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Reply by gregt, Jan 10, 2010.

Vegas - it's true that the year may not have been the same in both hemispheres but there's a difference between a wine with age on it and a young wine. At the lower price points, the Bordeaux don't need the same time that the higher-priced ones do. One thing that you might try is matching older versions of both. In some instances when I've done it, what has been striking is the fact that some of the CA wines hadn't moved. That's not always true and it's a pretty large generalization to talk about all CA wine as having this or that characteristic, but it has been true in some match-ups I've made.

As far as alcohol levels, much of that has to do with decisions made by the vinters. Sure, many parts of CA are warmer than some parts of France, but people can decide when to pick and if they choose to pick later it doesn't mean that they couldn't have picked earlier.

But again, it's cool that you're showing your friends a little bit about this stuff. Maybe you'll make wine geeks out of them.

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 10, 2010.

I think some might be giving this a "far too serious" factor, when it's a small hobby group coming together to learn more, all amateurs at best. We just change up our themes and I thought it'd be fun to post the recap for the Snooth community.

Incidentally, even the wines involved in the Paris tasting were just chosen because of similar qualities to their counterparts. I challenge anyone to find a direct equal between something mid-range in CA and France that can be considered totally apples to apples. It was all for fun with some education. Of course there's a difference with aged wine, but again, I have found (in my opinion and personal taste) that because of the styles in which they're made, a French wine with a few more years age on it is much more akin to a newer CA wine, vs. tasting the same year on both.

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Reply by zufrieden, Jan 10, 2010.

I agree - the main idea is to have fun in an atmosphere of conviviality. Generally, it is interesting to try a few eclectic comparisons. I find that most of the time my friends do not want to do too much "work" when enjoying a diverse supply of wine, so I often make things simple: we just talk about the relative merits of each product to a degree that's mutually agreeable.

By the way, I see there was a comment on Chablis (a personal favorite tipple of mine - especially Les Clos or Vaudésir - but regular Chablis A. C. is fine too) so I'm just going to digress briefly. You are right to assume that most regular Chablis is not subjected to oak aging, but that is not true of all offerings out there. In fact, the use of oak is considered controversial as this style of Chardonnay wine (soft, acidic, steely, with mineral notes) is easily overpowered by the injudicious application of oak. Some of the better growths DO use oak though; it is something the consumer just needs to research and be aware of.

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 10, 2010.

Definitely having fun drinking is a large part of what we're about, whether on Snooth or in our daily lives. But I think that many of the people who post here are also looking for something further than just a validation of that. Not to belabor the obvious, further knowledge and understanding of wine's complexities is the aim behind many of our queries and debates here.

To recap what I said in that previous thread, Chablis, though a very different expression of chardonnay than that from the Cote d'Or, is something I like very much. I might prefer in absolute terms the chardonnays from Beaune, but I'm very glad we have both. Though there's more controversy about the use of oak in Chablis than most other places, they still do use it. Especially for their premier crus and grand crus.

Let's look at the bottlings from Moreau, Fevre, Raveneau and Dauvissat, arguably the best producers in the district:
--Raveneau ferments in steel and ages in older casks (feuillettes with an average age of 7-8 years).
--Moreau generally ferments in steel and ages in oak, though they do a lot of tweaking from plot to plot in their grand crus.
http://www.domainechristianmoreau.c...
--Dauvissat claims to let no oak touch their wine.
--Fevre is a little stingier with their info, but appear to ferment in steel and age in oak casks. Perhaps that's because William Fevre was so vocal in the past about the desirability of oak aging, while newer ownership/management (he sold out to the Henriot champagne house at the end of the '90s) seems to be cutting back a bit, and using more old casks.
http://www.williamfevre.fr/domaine....

These winemakers produce the best, most sophisticated, complex and longest living chardonnays from Chablis. And, even though each has its own variation in how they do it, they (all except Dauvissat) use oak (to greater and lesser extents) to get to the level of excellence they aim for, and that I very much appreciate. To me, they set the benchmarks for one distinctly attractive style of chardonnay.

When you take the time to look at all the other producers of Chablis, you'll find a similar distribution in practices. So the currently popular demonization of oak as something that should never touch chardonnay or other whites, and that doesn't in the supposed best, is absurd, whether in theory or practice (as are unresearched assumptions about whether it is used or not). As with most anything, judicious use (and knowledge) is the key.

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 10, 2010.

I agree. I just sought out an unoaked CA chardonnay to go with the Chablis, knowing even if it did have some oak, it would be nearly undetectable to the folks I was pouring for, likely myself included, so I was also shopping for the palates I knew I was working with. dmcker, you are always a wealth of knowledge. Thanks for the time you put forth in sharing links and such.

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Reply by zufrieden, Jan 10, 2010.

You are right, of course - it is the producer you need to examine for the manner in which the wine is ultimately made. And I also agree that we are looking for a little special something from this site although we may not all seek the same thing at the same time. Wine is special.

And you are right again - in my opinion, at least - that nixing oak altogether is absurd and would surely injure the flavor profiles of many a great Chardonnay - especially those from more traditional Burgundian whites such as Montrachet. I doubt anyone would seriously suggest we stick exclusively to stainless steel fermentation and storage. However, there is a sort of bias against oak aging Chardonnay for wines we consume young. That sounds more reasonable to me. But I think for more age-worthy wines, the wonderful soft vanilla tannins from oak contact is a plus - if managed wisely by the winemaker.

Previous negative reaction to wood seems related more to the coarse use of oak and oak chips to mask mediocrity and certain wine faults. Certain countries were on the main hit list of culprits, but I demur.

Cheers!

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 12, 2010.

The "far too serious" factor plagues wine discussion boards.

Looks like a great tasting that was fun. I am all for geeking out about wine but, as anyone who knows me can attest to, If I'm not having fun doing it I'm outta there.

I love wine, love drinking wine, love discussing wine, but only because it's fun. We obsess about the details of wine and the truth of the matter it's all much ado about nothing.

Every bottle, and I am speaking of fine wine that's alive in the bottle, is a unique experience affected by factors as diverse as weather, palate, mood and glassware.

Sure there is something to be learned from each experience but they are like individual frames of a movie. It's only by assembling all the frames that one can get the big picture.

Vegas, your tasting looked like great fun. Thanks for sharing the results with us!

Now if we are going to geek out, that comparative tasting of Chablis producers looks like a prime target! Now about that oak, most in Chablis is neutral or used, and the style of fruit harvested in those cool climate meager soils is ideally suited to, uh oh "far too serious" strikes again!!!

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 12, 2010.

No problems at all with the concept or reality of 'fun', Greg. Just was initially reacting to the presentation of pairings where many factors involved in a comparison didn't seem to be recognized, and the subsequent 'geeking out' ensued from the dialog.

Obviously another instance of where your leavening wit has been missed, Greg... ;-)

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Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jan 12, 2010.

Sounds a little bit suspicious that the vox populi always went anti French, I am guessing that the crowd went mostly with what they were more familiar with for taste. I nice line up, wish I had been there, would have been fun to test myself. I am not familiar with these California wines. I think Marsanny is not the most approachable of wines, but you get used to it after a few bottles. You are to be commended for making such an excellent and sociable effort. I am sure your panelists learned a few things.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 13, 2010.

I'm not surprised Dirk. In comparative tasting it's often the bolder, richer wine that wins. It's over time, and particularly with food that a leaner,higher acid wine will shine.

Having said that, the likelihood that the group was predisposed to preferring wines they were more familiar with is certainly may have had a great impact on these results.

Glad to see you here!

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Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jan 13, 2010.

Greg, thanks for your kind words, your opinion is very valuable to me. And this may not be the right time and place, but I admit, I am just a little bit jealous of your excursion to St. Martin, but happy for the interesting info, I had no idea of the nature of that place, it sounds wonderful, a true island paradise (as you can see, I am not into roughing it).


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