The Year 2009

There’s much to be said about 2009.  It’s a momentous year for a variety of reasons; an African-American president, an economic meltdown of historic proportions and a lengthy list of otherwise global chaos – but there was one corner of the earth that ignored the whole mess and responded with meteorological grace and style framed with a series of long warm days and cool nights, this one epic vintage in the south of France, this “year of the Comet.”  The releases are finally popping up like boozy daffodils all over the state wine stores racks.

My personal favorite is also the least expensive Louis Latour Grand Ardeche Chardonnay 2009 (UDABC Code 255425 / $11.49) This is quite frankly the finest Chardonnay value in the whole wide fucking world and it comes from far south of Burgundy in Languedoc, specifically an area called “Ardeche.” The vines are sourced from the great Grand Cru hillside of Corton and farmed exactly the same way as it’s more expensive northern cousin.  Yields here are less than two tons an acre and once the wine finishes fermentation, it rests in two year old French oak barrels, specifically those that had been the home of a much more expensive wine, such as the utterly fabulous Corton Charlemagne.  Keeping in mind production parameters, were this wine made in California, it would have been three times the price.

The southernmost part of the Burgundy appellation, the Macconais, is home to its greatest values.  Two other 2009 Maconnais values that defy description are the Latour Pouilly Fuisse 2009 (UDABC Code 962974 / $21.99) and the Latour Montagny La Grande Roche 2009 (UDABC Code 917092 / $19.99).  Both of these go through malolactic fermentation but do not see any oak treatment.  These are a much fresher brighter counterpoint to the more serious rich spicy tones of the Grand Ardeche, but they have terrific length and minerality with tremendous intensity and what I like to call “lift.” These wines are best served cool, not ice cold, which gives them a chance to show off their unctuous finery.  These Latour 09s are flat-out brilliant with the same length and intensity as the hard-to-find bottlings that cost two and three as this modestly-priced bottle.

There are two other wines that deserve notice.  The venerable Henry Fessy Beaujolais made their debut in Utah with this comet year vintage.  I have hated this grape for so long and with such blazing intensity that it required massive amounts of crow, grilled, sautéed, and otherwise, for me to choke back my shame.

They are quite frankly the most versatile cheese wines I have encountered in my brief career at gluttony (certainly the gluttony is a lifelong venture but having been paid for it is a recent development).  Tasted without food, these wines show modest charms and minimal alcohol, but with a little charcuterie (Jersey translation = meat & cheese plate), they become brilliant aromatic and intense. A.O.C. laws require that yields are kept low and that wines are treated to fine wood ~ so, in short, they are required to make quality wines. As a matter of fact in each of these designated villages like Moulin a Vent and Julienas, they aren’t allowed to make the infamous pink scourge Beaujolais Nouveau at all! Cru Beaujolais really does deserve notice.  Start here. Henry Fessy “Moulin a Vent” Cru Beaujolais 2009 (UDABC Code #917998 / $16.99) and the Henry Fessy “Julienas” Cru Beaujolais 2009 (UDABC Code #917997 / $16.99)


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