Wine snapshot: Château Sociando Mallet 2003

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

11 May 2020

Welcome readers to my first wine snapshot: a weekly feature.

Each Monday, I will do a profile of a single wine that I like. And we start things off on Monday 11 May with the fine Château Sociando Mallet.

With impeccable gravel over clay and clay limestone terroir that “sees the river” to better temper weather extremes, this fine estate in the northern Médoc fared very well in the heatwave 2003 vintage, which had very early picking dates for most estates.

Fine tone and color for its age.

While some wines can taste jammy and/or superficially ripe, this “Montrose of the Haut Médoc” kicked ass. Note the tone and color that reveal “normal” evolution. The wine exudes ripe fruit and a hint of jam, but hardly overbearing. Nearly 16 years in bottle, one senses pleasing tertiary notes of Cuban cigar and creosote but also primary (and juicy) black fruit. The tannins are already well integrated if still thankfully present to lend structure, and the long finish is marked by freshness, indeed rather tangy: A major plus for this vintage. It lacks the peerless balance of the 2005 vintage, but it is excellent and can stay on this plateau for many more years in your cellar. Read More

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Champagne in the time of Corona. Virus, that is.

“Champagne makes you feel like it’s Sunday, and there are better days around the corner.”  – Marlene Dietrich

By Panos Kakaviatos 

27 April 2020

Sorry for the weak title: a play on “Love in the Time of Cholera”, but anyway … 😁
Last month on a high-speed train from Paris to Strasbourg, France, I got very nervous as another passenger opposite me kept coughing without covering his mouth.  And the train was delayed because of a faulty rail, resulting in another hour on top of the two-hour (crowded) ride to spend in this person’s cough ridden vicinity.
The news of the “novel Coronavirus” already had reached France, but lockdown was not for another 10 days, and I wondered whether this one-evening trip to Paris, to attend a Champagne dinner at Maison Rostang, a celebrated two-star Michelin restaurant, was worth the risk.

Truffle sandwiches Façon Rostang: worth the risk.

When I arrived the evening of 6 March, thanks to friend Claire Dawson, some dinner participants nervously shook hands. But any apprehensive air eroded as we enjoyed the fabulously simple mini truffle sandwiches, the signature aperitif of the restaurant made with butter and toast: “Façon Rostang.”

And the occasion, to mark the 20th anniversary of Champagne Gonet-Médeville was important enough to attract several top wine journalists based in Paris, including legendary French wine writer Michel Bettane.

At the time, we did not realize that this would be a final non-social distancing wine gathering.

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Who needs wine experts?

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

21 January 2020

Not too long ago, the highly respected American public news channel National Public Radio asked, “Is wine tasting junk science?”

It referred to several academic studies that implied the irrelevance of wine expertise.

For example, a 2001 study in Bordeaux caused a stir when a PhD candidate served the same white wine to 54 oenology students, but added red food coloring to some glasses, creating an impression of one red and one white. Most not only rated both wines quite differently, but also believed them to be different varietals.

A University of Davis study meanwhile found that consumers have a wider range of wine sensory “likes” than expert tasters and competition judges. The results of the study suggest that consumers are likely better off “trusting their own preferences” to choose wines they like, rather than relying on “expert” advice, as reported in the industry magazine Wines & Vines in 2014.

Indeed, respected wine author and consultant Robert Joseph wrote in an e-mail: “Most wine consumers, like consumers of cheese, tea and chocolate and music, don’t generally need experts; by trial and error – and with help from friends and family – they find what they like and generally stick to it.” Read More

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Holiday friendship and wine

From grand cru Burgundy, to top Bordeaux and exquisite Champagne, I may have had enough wine for 2020 😉

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

13 January 2020

Once a year, old friends gather for a final holidays feast with excellent wines, and this year’s gathering was no exception.

Ken Brown coordinated this year’s dinner at the French Embassy restaurant Petit Bouchon with David Zimmerman, Howard Cooper, Karl Kellar, Kenneth Barr, Scot Hasselman, Randy McFarlane, Christopher Bublitz, Paul Marquardt, Charles Stewart and me.

In the absence of master chef Mark Courseille, his team pulled off a fine series of dishes to go with the many fine wines – nearly 30! – that we enjoyed starting at around 6 pm and ending some five hours later. As per usual, wines in bold I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. When underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.

Happy crew indeed 😊

Part One 

We were off to a rock em, sock em start with a foursome of excellent to superb Champagnes. Could it get any better?

The 2007 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, which I tried last month and liked so much to do a video came across nicely coiled in as a young vintage Champagne would, but full bodied, too, displaying fine ripe pear finesse echoed in the finesse of the bubbles. The finish was marked by lime and wet stone, leaving me with the overall impression of a most smooth and elegant white Burgundy with les bulles. For lovers of tertiary notes in the Champagne, stash this away for a few more years and it will gain in complexity. 94/100

David with the wine of the night. At least one of the top three wines of the night: Salon 1996

Then came the exceptional 2002 Dom Ruinart Rosé Champagne. I saw several of us reach for the bottle a second (or third) time, and the wine was gone fairly quickly. With reason. At once beautifully crisp and full-bodied, “like a super elegant rosé”, Ken Brown commented. The wine blends 80% Grand Cru Chardonnay, 72% from the Côte des Blancs (Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger) and 28% from the Montagne de Reims (Puisieulx, Sillery) and 20% Pinot Noir made into red wine, from the Silvery and Verzenay crus. It did 100% malolactic fermentation and has a dosage of 5.5 g/l. Superb balance that demands gastronomic foods. Easily a wine for grilled salmon, roast chicken, even veal. 98/100

Ken Brown with the superb Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002

The third bubbly was the 1993 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Notes of hazelnut and toffee. Salted almond. This is pretty taut and lovely for its age. Indeed, the color is excellent, too. An overall impression of being svelte. Paul who brought it said that they had “a good run” in early 1990s, even if the 1993 vintage is not recognized as being that great. Indeed, both Decanter and wine critic John Gilman loved this in rather recent tastings. Rated 97 points by Decanter in a 2017 tasting, the panel noted that 1993 may be an average vintage overall for the region, but this 1993 proved a “real beauty, equal to the 1995 but in a different style.” Gilman gave it 94 out of 100, when he tasted it in 2016. He described the wine as having been “fully mature for many years now, but continues to be fresh and lively on the palate, with its internal structure sound and seamless.” 95/100

And then came one of the wines of the night and for me the wine of the night. Thank you David for bring the now rather legendary 1996 Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil*. So laser like, with focus but still tasting like a baby! At the same time a pleasing creaminess, like a super high end, home made French butter, finishing with zest and lift, candied red apple freshness. The finish lasted for something like a minute. As we sipped through it (it was gone also rather quickly), the finesse and depth became more evident with just a tiny suggestion of hazelnut to show its age, but really just a smidgeon. “Such precision and laser focus, but bursting with flavor,” remarked Chris. Indeed. 100/100.  Read More

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Ode to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

It’s only rock and roll, but I like it. 

by Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

28 December 2019

The bottles seemed endless. Fifteen producers had delivered three bottles for a dinner I had organized at the restaurant of the French embassy in Washington D.C. earlier this month. But the restaurant staff received 180 bottles of wine (the delivery was 45 different wines, but four bottles each), and along with the help of star sommelier Maria Denton and Châteauneuf-du-Pape representative Marie-Clémentine Savey, we tasted through most of these bottles to avoid any cork taint issues.

Fifteen whites and 30 reds were featured at a magnificent dinner earlier this month that proved a metaphor for the generosity that is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

At their best, the reds also convey complexity and length. And, dear readers, tis’ the season! 🎅🏻

Red Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a great drink to enjoy in the winter, especially with venison and other flavorful meat.  But the wines can be paired in more creative ways, as I experienced over the 45-wine dinner held at the Petit Bouchon in the French Embassy in Washington D.C. Vintages reached back to 1986, but most of the wines were in the 2000s. Read More

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