The year is 2010, and the airlines of Europe are suffering. Since this is a wine blog and not a travel blog, I will limit myself to mentioning the phrases “financial crisis” and “Eyjafjallajökull” (hint: it’s an Icelandic name). In a situation such as this, the airlines should reasonably be expected to take care of the few remaining paying passengers they have. Let’s just say that at the day in question, a certain airline’s interpretation of the best way of doing so was to cancel the day’s last flight from Brussels to Stockholm. Since we’re fortunately not talking about a low-cost sorry Irish joke of an airline, at least an alternative offer for the same day was made, flying via Copenhagen. Ah – the fair and cheerful København! Who could mind making a visit there? Except, of course, those who actually wanted to go someplace else, those who prefer direct flights, those who don’t really like to arrive delayed at their destination at around midnight, or those who think that Copenhagen airport actually isn’t one bit more fair and cheerful than any other airport at light night a weekday, after most things at the airport are closed anyway. Well, despite all this, there was one positive effect of the delay: it gave me a little more than an hour extra to spend at Brussels airport when things at least were still open there. I used the time to visit the nice wine and tapas bar Beaudevin. So, yes, this complaining about airlines actually led up to something wine-related after all!
Beaudevin both has manual serving and two Enomatic machines (one for white and one for red) where the wines can be purchased in serving portions of 4 cl and upwards with a prepaid card, and where the wines are stored under inter gas (nitrogen, as far as I know). This clever invention surely deserves the distinction of being the most clever invention since… well, some other, more clever invention. Beaudevin is a nice place to spend some free time after one has managed to get through the security check at Brussels airport. The person responsible for the selection of the wines is Fiona Morrison M.W.. The selection is renewed regularly, but I have the impression that this only happens every few months or so. The range offered represents a certain price spread, and one time I even saw Château d’Yquem in the machine. And, by the way, this tasting actually happened quite some time ago, so the current offer could be different.
And now for the wines: three white and two red, of which one a non-Enomatic wine.
Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2007, Alsace
In the nose clearly perfumed, very much gives the impression of heavy-style ladies’ perfume (lavender?) and some cinnamon roll dough on top of that. (Now, as ”cinnamon roll” is a typically Swedish descriptor, we’re talking about a slightly sweet dough that includes wheat, milk and yeast, and where the cinnamon actually sits in the sweet filling – I’m thinking of the aromas of this fermenting sweet dough rather than of the cinnamon flavour). On the palate slightly more than medium bodies, fruity flavour with pear, rather good acidity and a fruity aftertaste plus some hint of alcoholic bite. Nose and palate don’t quite harmonise, and the nose is quite odd for a grape variety that tends to yield fairly neutral wines (for a possible explanation – see below; some similar notes turned up in several wines), but the aromas are basically “clean”. Has some sort of surplus from the airport’s perfume store found its way into the wine? 83-84 p. Fiona M.’s written opinion was that this wine should show blackcurrant, passion fruit, grapefruit and gooseberry – which I didn’t find but which almost sounds like a description of Sauvignon Blanc, possibly with a slight touch of Riesling, rather than of any neutral variety. “Parker”, i.e. Wine Advocate (or in this case actually David Schildknecht, a good and reliable man in Parker’s team) rated it 85 p in spring 2010.
After having later tried a completely different wine (a red Bordeaux) from another Enomatic and detected ”cinnamon roll dough” there as well, I’m fairly certain that this aroma is some kind of “reduction defect” from being too long under inert gas in the machine. Pinot Blanc is perhaps a wine that is not very fast-moving in the machine (doesn’t it have a bit of a bland and boring reputation if it is known at all?) so I wouldn’t be surprised if this bottle had been sitting there for some time. In this case, I couldn’t say that the wine was “ruined”, only that it was not typical on the nose, while the palate was quite credible for a Pinot Blanc. This does not explain the perfumed aromas, though.
A small comment on Alsace ”Pinot Blanc” in general, while I’m at it. Surprisingly enough, this wine is allowed to include both genuine Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and white (“blanc de noirs”-style) Pinot Noir in any proportion. This is in accordance with appellation regulations for AOC Alsace using the designation “Pinot Blanc”. There is actually more Auxerrois than Pinot Blanc in the vineyards of Alsace – in 2007, all French vineyards combined had 2 330 ha of Auxerrois and 1 304 ha of Pinot Blanc, most of it Alsace. Pinot Blanc also goes into a lot of Crémant d’Alsace, so often there is more Auxerrois than Pinot Blanc in “Pinot Blanc”. If this also is the case in wines from classical wine merchants such as Trimbach, I simply don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single Alsace producer specify which blend they actually use for their ”Pinot Blanc” – the only time you see Auxerrois mentioned is when someone produces a high-end varietal Auxerrois. So, the correct way of reading ”Pinot Blanc” on a bottle of Alsace is as ”Pinot (Blanc)”, and in older days they were often designated Pinot d’Alsace. My personal opinion is that if Auxerrois is what’s being grown, allow that designation to be put on the label of AOC Alsace wines, and require that something labelled “Pinot Blanc” is actually produced from the grape variety Pinot Blanc.
Château de Rochemorin Blanc 2007, Péssac-Léognan, Bordeaux (André Lurton)
I recently evaluated this very wine here on the blog, so this is a revisit.
In the nose overtly oak, buttery notes, yellow apples, lightly floral with notes of white flowers. On the palate, relatively full-bodied, decent acidity, some bitterness in the aftertaste. Perhaps a little more aromatic than when recently tasted from bottle, but the same lack of citrus notes and freshness compared to other vintages, even though it is very “foody”, so it comes across very much in the same way. Same rating again, 85-86 p. As I noted then, most vintages of Rochemorin tend to be a little better than this.
Marchese di Barolo Gavi 2008, Piemonte
The name of the variety is Cortese, and the DOCG is Cortese di Gavi. Gavi is a place.
Rather sweetish nose of mature apples, some peach, a hint of honey. (First showed a little perfume – is this machine doubling as a perfume dispenser?) Very fresh taste with discrete fruit, some citrus, obvious acidity, very distinct mineral notes, cool mintiness. Quite elegant. 87-88 p. Have tasted Gavi wines sometime before, but I don’t have a very clear memory of how it ”should” be. Its aromas were almost like a discrete Riesling, but the overall impression is more of a very good Muscadet. It would make an excellent aperitif and match light and elegant seafood dishes.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Shiraz (usually the majority, some 2/3) and Cabernet from South Eastern Australia (a collective designation for the parts of Australia where most of its vineyards are actually located)
The wine belonged together with my tapas and was served directly from bottle, not from the Enomatic.
Purple colour. Sweet nose, blackberries, some chocolate, very New World/Australia style. On the palate clearly sweetish, generous, very fruity with dark berries (blackberries), clearly alcoholic, relatively tannic but of a friendly kind, some oak bitterness comes through, slightly alcohol-dominated aftertaste. Very easy to like – straight-forward and “a lot of wine for the money”. Shiraz aromas a much more obvious than anything from the Cabernet, in my opinion. It comes across as very Australian, in an almost caricature New World way, which sometimes can bring the worst out of wine snobs and unrepentant francophiles. (What – moi ?) I’ll try to resist going down that avenue and I rate it 84-85 p.
However, I can’t resist thinking in these terms: what a fantastic wine this had been if it had had 1% less alcohol and less sweetness, if the fruit, concentration and tannin structure had stayed the same. Then this had been a wine of much better balance and poise, and had probably merited something like 88-90 p. It’s supposed to have 13,5% alcohol, which isn’t that much, but it’s more than what is really good for the wine. Although I don’t fully appreciate the style, there’s no denying that anyone who likes it will find it a very good value for money! Probably a very good BBQ wine, and should work with BBQ dishes with rather sweet accompaniments.
“Parker”, i.e. The Wine Advocate (in this case the somewhat inflation-prone Jay Miller) gave it 87 p at the end of 2009 and recommended drinking it 2009-2015. The suite of scores for the latest vintages is as follows: 2004 – 91 p (Parker himself), 2006 – 91 p (Jay Miller), 2007 – 88 p (Jay Miller) and 2008 – 87 p. At this occasion I didn’t try the 2004 or 2006, but in this style and at this price level I’m surprised at a 90+ score, in particular when you consider what is typically required in Bordeaux for 90-91 p, and the pricing possibilities at 90+ p. It doesn’t make me less surprised to read that Miller’s recommended drinking window for the 2006 (as evaluated in 2007) was 2010-2022. OK, fruit-driven New World reds can often handle more time in the cellar than many think or practice, although not that much happen with them in the cellar other than some softening of tannings. So unless a wine of this style has tannins that are disturbingly present (which at least the 2008 didn’t), I can’t really see why a minimum of three years of cellaring would be recommended. In particular since The Wine Advocate’s drinking recommendation are often seen by others as “shifted early”. I would also not think that Penfolds’ idea with this wine is to produce something that demands cellaring, because they actually write “Koonunga Hill’s reputation has been built upon its affordable price, its approachability in its youth… [T]his wine [has] immediate current appeal and outstanding cellar-ability over the medium term.” I would not consider ”medium term” for “affordable wines” to be 16 years, it would rather be 5-8. Well, I guess I just have to chalk down another case of Jay Miller being a wine critic not to be depended upon. Considering other types of criticism that’s also been levelled at him from several sources, I frankly can’t see why Parker keeps him, because he seems to be undermining the reputation of The Wine Advocate.
Château Bernadotte 2006
Haut-Médoc in Bordeaux, this property is situated just outside the border of the Pauillac appellation, and Bernadotte often shows some of that appellation’s character. Currently they have 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot in their vineyards.
Perfumed nose, dark berries with some oak and chocolate notes. Having smelled this wine, I’m afraid I’m certain that there is some sort of ladies’ perfume in Beaudevin’s Enomatic machines on this day! The wine has a strict palate with present and slightly aggressive tannins, blackcurrants, clear acidity. 87-88 p. Young, perhaps there is a risk that it soon will close down for a couple of years? If you buy this, perhaps a revisit in five years is more to recommend. Bernadotte has a reputation for producing traditionally styled Bordeaux that needs time, and this was my impression when I tried the 2001 (if memory serves me) some years ago. Compared to my memory of that vintage, I believe that this wine – although also classic/traditional – after all is more accessible young. I see from their website that they have chosen to increase the proportion of Merlot, which could be an explanation. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande bought them in 1997, and they are unusually fond of Merlot for their own wine for being a Pauillac estate. (Pichon Comtesse including Bernadotte was bought in 2007 by their current owner, Roederer.) When tasted next to Koonunga Hill – really two very different styles of reds, despite both being blends including Cabernet – it almost appears a little “mean” in character rather than elegant. But it’s immediately recognisable as a wine style with a potential to develop with time.
Parker rated it 87 p early 2009 and recommended drinking it 2011-2026. I’ve noticed that it’s common for me, as in this case, to agree more with Parker’s score than with his recommended drinking window. I often prefer to delay the “drink after…” date, and don’t mind drinking after the ”drink before…” date. And when I write “Parker” I refer to Robert M. Parker, Jr., not to Jay Miller.
I was very surprised by the perfume aroma that I to varying extent found in all four Enomatic wines. It was possible to more or less get rid of by patient swirling of the glass, and I don’t think it affected my scoring very much. But it was weird. I thought Enomatic machines used nitrogen as inert gas, and I don’t quite understand how you would get perfume aromas into the pressure containers or tubing. If anyone else than me has encountered this phenomenon, I’d appreciate if you dropped me a line! I’ve visited Beaudevin before without getting this impression, and tried some other Enomatic-equipped places.
A small postscript for those who don’t get a typical Belgian pun. The name Beaudevin is obviously meant to sound like that of the former King of the Belgians, Baudouin. Anyone wondering how -ouin so easily gets changed into -vin should now that his name in Dutch is Boudewijn, and the final -wijn is the Dutch word for – you guessed it – wine!
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.