A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships…
Popular culture’s interest in wine is hitting a fever pitch. Proof of this will be seen in Wayzata this weekend as dozens (if not hundreds!) of people sit for their Introductory and Certified Sommelier Exams through Court of Master Sommeliers. At these exams, the candidates will be poked and prodded as they show their knowledge of the world’s famous wine regions, proper service standards, and blind tasting abilities. While the desired outcome of this exam will provide the successful participants with a pin and a title, the path and determination that got them to the point of actually sitting the exam is to the benefit of everyone. The impact of this reinvigorated interest is wide reaching; we are reminded of it each and every time we see a Vinho Verde available by the glass at an Irish Pub or when we can choose between more than one type of Pinot Noir at a mid-tier chain restaurant. Change is at hand and I think we are all better off because of it.
This wider appreciation of wine also seems to have helped it shed of some of it’s pomp and pretense. The average buyer is becoming more savvy. Social media and the internet play a role as they’ve inspired consumers to look past ratings and instead, hunt expressions of authenticity. It doesn’t surprise me anymore when an evening at the shop is dotted with people looking for a Picpoul de Pinet, a rosé from Provence, or a pet-nat. A wine range of wines have made it into the everyday life of wine drinkers – not just for romantic evenings or formal dinners. Champagne too is starting to break down barriers and move beyond the realm of anniversary toasts and the sides of new boats. We’re seeing this increased interest as bubbles fly off our shelves at ever faster speeds.
This brings me to the lineup for this week’s selection and with it a question: what will be the celebratory beverage of choice for those who pass their exams this weekend? When I passed my Introductory Sommelier Exam I gargled down about four too many Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt Scotches but I’d bet it’d be safe to say the beverage of choice for this week’s alumni will be something with bubbles in it.
This weeks selection:
Larmandier Bernier – Owning less than 40 acres of land in the Cote des Blancs does not make the house of Larmandier-Bernier a titan when it comes to scale of production but the quality of their wine is unmistakeable and puts them at the forefront of the Grower Producers movement. The house style of Larmandier-Bernier has two main factors to consider: they tend to pick their fruit later than other producers, as they seek a more mature level of ripeness which gives their wines a certain weight and their dedication to terroir.
Two fantastic, entry level, blancs de blancs offerings from this producer are Larmandier-Bernier Longitude – $63.99 – a blend of laser-focused, mineral driven chardonnay grown on the chalky soils throughout their holdings in the villages of Vertus, Oger, Avize, Cramant, and Chouilly and also the Larmandier Bernier Latitude – $61.99 – a weightier cuvee made from only grapes grown on the the south-facing clay slopes of Vertus. I should also note that Larmandier-Bernier is biodynamic, an absolute rarity in the region.
Tarlant – Powerful, structured, with bready loveliness while still remaining bright and focused is the style of Tarlant. The Tarlant Cuvee Louis – $99.99 is barrel-fermented and aged sur lees for 15 years. Remarkably, the wine did not go through malolactic fermentation so while ravishingly generous with hints of wood and bread, it is still livel. It’s viniousness arises from aging and not malo. The blend is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot noir all sourced from Oeuilly in the Marne Valley.
Digby Fine English– Sussex, in the Southeast of England is carving out a spot for itself in the upper echelon of sparkling wines and a few of the cuvees produced there are making their way on to our shelves. Interestingly, the proximity of the White Cliffs of Dover to the region’s vineyards illustrates the primordial connection between this burgeoning region and it’s French counterpart. The chalky soil of this part of Great Britain has the same origin as the white soils throughout champagne as they were both submerged under an ancient sea 70 million years ago and composed of fossilized crustaceans and other marine life.
Digby’s style is full-bodied. The long cool growing season allows them to obtain incredibly complex fruit aromas while maintaining bright acidity, the chalk of course lends that je ne sais quoi minerality. Digby Non Vintage Brut $52.99 – a blend of Pinot Noir with aged Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier sees 18 months on the lees and it’s a fantastic introduction to the quality that we now expect from the region. Digby Leander Pink Non Vintage Brut $62.99 – is a blend of 50% Pinot noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier and was special ordered to the shop for a couple of our regular bubbles shoppers and (thankfully) they’re head over heals for it just as I was when I tasted it earlier in the year at a distributor’s portfolio tasting. The dosage for both of these cuvees is 12 grams per liter making them fuller on the palate and I believe they best express themselves with a proper chill. As far as I know, it’s currently only stocked at our shop.
I wish the very best to all of our readers who are taking the exam this weekend and remember that, whatever the outcome may be, your determination and diligence will be valued by all of us just the same. You’re making the city a more exciting location for popping corks. To those not taking the test, thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the shop soon.