Monday, November 17, 2008
On the recommendation of my friend Jay Miller (not of the Wine Advocate), I picked up a bottle of 2007 Clos Roche Blanche Gamay on the way home from work and constructively arranged for roast chicken for dinner. I must say, well played Mr. Miller. I really enjoyed this bottle, which most likely would have remained overlooked given my dissatisfaction with the 2006. It showed great Gamay character, which is of course a mixed blessing. The fruit lacked a bit of clarity, but it made up for it with a sense of earnestness and purpose. The two things that defined it for me and guaranteed a future purchase were the refreshing acidity and the appealing spiciness to the back half of the wine. I wonder whether the fruit will come into focus more with a little bottle age, especially given the acidity.
This bottle made me think of a broader point with respect to Gamay, especially with respect to Beaujolais (Clos Roche Blanche is from the Loire) and specifically with the perceived character of the grape. As someone asked on the Wine Disorder board, "if Beaujolais has been blessed (or infected) with California weather what is vigneron to do?" My answer is, if the Sun is responsible for the uptick in quality of Gamay in 2005 and 2007 then shine, baby, shine. Vignerons have always struggled either with making sure that their grapes get ripe enough (e.g., Loire) or the converse that their grapes don't get too ripe (e.g., California). My hope is that the winemakers of Beaujolais do not fall into the trap of experimenting with pushing the levels of ripeness that failed miserably for their American Pinot-making counterparts. Hopefully, the vignerons will use the power of Sol for good and not evil. If they can harnesses the ripeness of the fruit while maintaining the acidity and uniqueness of the Gamay profile, then we may see a new era for the variety. Otherwise, we may end up with generic crap, not there has ever been a shortage of that coming out of Beaujolais.