The wines we remember most involve a special cast of characters, circumstances and wildcards. This particular bottle of Bouzy Rouge came into my life when an inspired designer/family member, Joe Schrader, noticed I was enthralled with his Wolf oven while on vacation with Peter in Edina, MN.
Even without the comfort of my home kitchen tools (Thermapen, cast iron skillet and such), it quickly became clear that the gustatory potential of Joe's kitchen was limitless. I decided that Wolf oven was the best way to thank Joe for his hospitality . . . every day.
Surprised by my frenetic activity in his kitchen, Joe brought out a worn recipe book and pointed to a page featuring a family favorite: roast chicken flambé. I pulled the book from his hand, updated the recipe, and got started. Joe ran out to the wine shop to get "something special" to go with the meal.
With a name like Bouzy Rouge de Margerie, the bottle held Joe, Peter and me at rapt attention. Joe and I lit the chicken afire and served it and we all took our seats at the table. Joe poured the Bouzy Rouge and we each inspected the label. This mystery wine was from the Champagne region but it did not sport the usual Champagne cork and cage. What was going on?
The wine was a clear, sexy shade of garnet, indicating some age and/or oxidation. Visual and mouthfeel inspection indicated no petillance/bubbles whatsoever. On the palate, we got baked red fruit and earthy complexity inlaid with medium tannins and a long finish that set the tone for a very special dinner,
This was a still red wine from Champagne country, a Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy. Champagne expert Peter Liem sites Bouzy as having one of the region's greatest terroirs. And Joe's choice of a wine produced in one of Champagne's warmest climates seemed the perfect match for a chicken that had been doused with brandy and Port wines, then lit afire. The Boozy Rouge was rich, fruity and complex, a gift from the village's South-facing vineyards on the Montagne de Reims.
Bouzy Rouge is a highly celebrated cult wine which is only produced in this village and makes a great party wine. A number of rosé Champagnes are made with Bouzy Rouge as the base wine. Though this wine can be elusive in U.S. wineshops, a search for my new White Whale is worth the effort.
If you get the chance to visit Champagne, make it a point to party in Bouzy. Or, you can run out, like Joe did, and find your own surprising gem at a wineshop when looking for "something special." Pro tip: Start by finding a friend or family member with a hot oven and take it from there.
The first time I bought the wine it was suggested by the knowledgeable staff at The Wine House. When I start a new region of study, I lean heavily on recommendations then grow bolder with each shopping trip. Today, I picked the wine myself, mostly because I recognized the winery, Château Pégau, from the podcasts I follow. Full disclosure: My choice was also influenced by the buyer-friendly price in a region that makes me want to cry when I pay my AmEx bill.
After rating the wine today, I was disappointed to realize I had already rated it, only one month prior! At first I cursed my horrible memory for the mistake. What a dummy! Then it dawned on me that this was an opportunity to assess the consistency of my tasting skills and consider the possible differences between bottles. Think about it: These wines were made by the same producer with the same grapes in the same year. The two bottles were cared for by the same shop. Could it be true that every bottle of wine is an individual, no different than ourselves?
Though my ratings and tasting notes were not wildly different, my emotional response to the wines were night and day. Let's compare the facts, as listed on the Vivino tastings:
The score for the wines are .25 apart, if you read down to the final conclusions. Here's where the scenario gets tricky: the emotional response. The bottle in September: It's a nice quaff to go along with your sandwich. October: My God this is a good wine with a luscious mouthfeel and a backbone of acidity that tells me this vintner is on the mark. I'd like to give this wine a four! When I sat down today to give it an objective review, I dialed the score down to a 3.5, but doing so in no way diminished my euphoria.
How about you? Have you tasted two different bottles of the same wine and experienced both ho-hum and joyful moments? What do you think accounts for different emotional responses to a wine? Belly up to the bar and share your experiences.
What's going on when you open a bottle of wine and smell . . . Band-Aid? Welcome to the world of brettanomyces (aka Brett). This character in our script is a wild yeast that sometimes makes it into your wine -- usually your reds, but sometimes your whites. Brett plays a leading role in the nightmares of most winemakers because it's like a feisty two-year-old child: uncontrollable yet full of potential.
Brett is not necessarily an off-flavor (in palatable amounts). If you were to make a list of Brett's positives, you could include beguiling earthy aromas such as rustic barnyard, spice and horse saddle. When I find Brett to be in a good mood, I am mentally transported to a dark, dusty stable filled with horses, hay and barnyard animals. I hear the horses snorting and pawing at the earth and hens clucking nearby. Perhaps a pig runs through the scene of my imagination. And I am in my happy place -- much like the five-year-old I was when hanging out with horses in my rustic neighborhood of Vista, California. Sidebar: The salt-licks were exotic but not off- menu.
However, Brett has a dark, evil side. Off-flavors that make it impossible to enjoy your wine might include the aforementioned Band-Aid, which I recently encountered in a 2014 Equis from the Saint-Joseph appellation in the Northern Rhone region. The Band-Aid aroma was mild but distracting in what otherwise was a delicious wine. See my review at Vivino. An unruly Brett wouldn't think twice about offering up medicinal, metallic, rancid cheese and other off-putting aromas.
Brett can make itself at home at any stage in the winemaking process, from the grapes to the winery and the barrels. Improvements in cleaning technologies have made it possible to avoid Brett, but these Yeasty Beasties sometimes find a way in.
As a brewer of beer, I find Brett an intriguing dancing partner -- racy, but don't turn your back on him. Brewers are increasingly seduced by the potential of Brett, but it takes a racy type of vintner to embrace the potential of Brett. Many aromatic compounds are shared in the fermented products of wine and beer, so when I study one, it usually helps me with the other. However, in beer, a band-aid aroma is typically associated with Chlorophenols, which is the result of chlorine-based sanitizers like bleach. This differs from wine, where we look to naughty Brett as the villain. Or the hero.
Discovering a recent AOC in the south of Rhone requiring 50% Grenache
Some wines are like people you know, and the ones you love best: flawed but fascinating. In speaking with Lucky Lance at The Wine House in Los Angeles, I discovered a little known secret from the Southern Rhone: AOC Rasteau. Lucky Lance urged me to try this wine and I went for it. In spite of a dried-out cork and fusel alcohols from what I'm guessing is a warm fermentation, this wine from Aliane won my heart (see my notes on Vivino). This may sound crazy to you, but the moment I inhaled, I was infused with the glory of little trotters in a clean pig sty. We're talking barnyard and flaws in a wonderful way. What I've learned about Rasteau: