Is there a better way to spend a Tuesday evening than sharing Burgundy and Bordeaux from great years with old buddies? I don’t think so. In honor of one of peripatetic, legendary wine offline host Jonathan Dinh’s rare visits our way these days, since he moved to Singapore a couple years ago, we gathered at Gravity for good food and some stellar wines from specific years. The Burgs hailed from the great Burgundy vintages of 1978, 1985, 1990, 1993 and 1996 (okay, so a ’91 crept in there too). The Bordeaux were products of the incredible years 1982 and 1989. And our lone Super Tuscan, which turned out to be my WOTN, was a 1993 Tignanello. Yeah, a memorable Tuesday alright.
I love minerally white wines. They are refreshing and delicious on their own, and the perfect accompaniment to a summer meal. The king of minerally white wines is Chablis, at least top premier cru and grand cru Chablises. I was therefore very excited about our monthly Euro lunch this month, with the theme of Chablis from some of Chablis’s great producers. And the king of kings when it comes to minerally white wines is the top grand cru of Chablis, Les Clos. Five of the 13 Chablises we sampled at this lunch were from the Les Clos Grand Cru.
The summery theme for our July Euro Lunch was sparkling wines from throughout Europe with the exception of Champagne. We excluded Champagne so as to give more focus to our theme, and to afford ourselves the opportunity to taste and compare some of the wonderful Cavas, sparkling Loire and Jura wines, and fizzy Italians that are out there, among others. As usual, our chef at Donato, Pedro Ayala, did an outstanding job of pairing very creative dishes to our wines. The result was a delightful summer afternoon of bubbles and flavor that made me thankful for the felicitous combo of summer weather and sparkling wine, as well as for wonderful wine-loving friends to enjoy them with.
Super Tuscans were darlings of the wine world from the mid-’90s through the early 2000s. These wines, whose producers include some of Italy’s most illustrious and historically significant, are based sometimes on blends of Sangiovese with international varietals–like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot–and sometimes just on international varietals. The term Super Tuscan is used to describe any red wine from the Tuscan region that does not conform to the region’s DOC(G) blending requirements, such as the Chianti DOC rule that the dominant grape of the blend has to be Sangiovese. Many Super Tuscans garnered very high scores from Parker and the Wine Spectator, leading to much demand and increasingly high prices for these wines. By the middle of the first decade of 2000, however, many Italian producers were offering Super Tuscan blends, most of which were indistinguishable from red international varietal blends from elsewhere. The market grew increasingly soft for these kinds of wines, and only the top, most well established names are still commanding prices well over $100 a bottle, and the demand even for these wines is much reduced from their heyday.
The combination of the wines, well matched food courses from Donato chef Pedro Ayala and the excellent company generated in me a very distinct feeling of mellowness and well being. I’m not sure in what precise measure the wines of the Jura contributed to this feeling; I guess I’ll have to repeat the “experiment” a few more times, changing a variable or two, to get a better fix on that. I do think, however, that there is something particularly mellow and endearing about the traditional wines of the Jura that can’t help but make people drinking these wines over a lovely meal feel quite mellow and charmed themselves.
We started with a sparkling wine, a Crémant de Limoux, and proceeded to a flight of dry whites, including two Picpoul-de-Pinets. A flight of verticals of L’Oustal Blanc and Mas de Daumas Gassac followed. The L’Oustal Blancs were very good, and the ’90 Daumas Gassac was terrific. We continued with a flight of younger reds, the best of which was the ’05 La Pèira En Damaisèla — quite a wonderful wine. We concluded with two peculiarly Languedocian sweet wines: a Rivesaltes and a Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois Vin Doux Naturel.
This Loire-themed edition of our monthly Euro lunch was one of the most delightful yet. Not only did our wines show well, and we had a couple very interesting verticals, but the food, which was excellent as usual, also paired beautifully with each course. We can’t wait to do this theme again.