Chardonnay, Evolved.

Chardonnay, Evolved.

Posted on Jul, 25. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Two months ago, I asked our friend and regular supplier Ellen (of The Country Vintner) for a list of older white wines. The best whites, as you will certainly know, need time to evolve, to knit together seamlessly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), in a world of instant gratification, the best whites go under-appreciated, simply because they are consumed far too early and so appear simple, or too acidic or too much trouble to hold onto.

To that end, Ellen sent two full pages, single spaced, of some of the world’s finest white wines, with at least 3 or 4 years on them, that are in stock. The reason these aged whites remain available today is precisely because of the reasons I outlined above. To put it in everyday parlance, people jus’ don’t know!

Alsace and Burgundy dominated this list, with a diverse selection and deep troves of Domaine Weinbach and Zind-Humbrechts, a wide variety of Domaine Michel Chablis, various Montrachet villages, Meursaults and the odd Vire Clesse and St. Veran. I worked through the list, sent it to a select few others and asked for samples. Seven bottles arrived, two of which were particularly outstanding. The first (the other will be forthcoming, stay tuned!) is a 2006 Verget Saint Veran “Terroir de Davaye”, and while its quality is not accidental, here we benefit from the confluence of vintage, producer and technology.

2006 in Burgundy was a cool, rainy vintage – typically resulting in strong acids and lean fruit, a combination that often scares average consumers; Saint Veran, too, is a lesser known village in Southern Burgundy whose wines are oft-overlooked by the non-French wine markets. As a result, the terroir is largely unheralded, resulting in a region where average producers settle for average wines. Jean-Marie Guffens is not an average producer, though, and has never settled for average anything. He’s made major investments in a number of regions, all going hand in hand with his ultra-disciplined vineyard and wine-making practices, resulting in wines that shatter stereotypes and anger colleagues. Certainly Mssr. Guffens will never win a popularity contest among his winemaking colleagues, but life is not a popularity contest.

(To wit, screw-caps have never won any popularity contests. They are not romantic. They do not look cool. They are made of tin. But screw caps are the perfect closure if you do not want oxygen to enter the bottle, thereby preserving every bit of fruit and acid for as long as they will hold together.)

Enter the Verget Saint Veran, where we have the confluence of an acidic vintage (making for long lived wines), a top producer (making quality wines of enduring character) and a screw-cap (preserving the work of mother nature and man). The result: a pristine chardonnay of exceptional quality and long life, peaking when most consumers are looking ahead to new releases. Checking a few reviews of the ’06 on CellarTracker, the impressions go from “meh” to “wow!” as time marches forward, which again speaks to the bottle-evolution of a wine like this. The effects of time, though, are elusive, often understood only by tasting hundreds of wines over many years. And who has time for that? Well…

Josh Reynolds at Stephen Tanzer’s Inernational Wine Cellar: “Yellow gold. Smoky pear and honeydew on the nose. Fresh and spicy, with deep melon and pit fruit flavors gaining a firm citric bite with air. Clean, precise and youthfully taut, with impressive finishing grip and lift. 90 points.”

The Wine Advocate (Schildknecht): “The Verget 2006 Saint-Veran Terroirs de Davaye exudes vanilla-tinged pear and purple plum; offers a seamlessly rich, creamy palate with more than enough vivacity and minerality; and a clear, long, invigorating finish. This excellent value was fermented half in tank and half in barrel; then the vessels of residence for each batch were reversed for the eight months until bottling. It should drink well at least through 2010. 90 points.

But I invite you to judge for yourself what wonders the combination of age, the right vintage, provenance, and masterful winegrowing can produce. And if time is truly of the essence in a literal sense, then I encourage you to move quickly – there are just 20 cases of this profound beauty to be had and I claim one of them.

2006 Verget St. Veran ‘Terroirs de Davaye’
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $18.33 • Premier Cru: $19.17 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $25.00
Buy Now!

Comments are closed.