It is probably typically Belgian, this love for the underdog, but I allways have been very keen on the best wines from wineregions with a bad reputation. They deliver an excellent price/quality and they make you remember where the region got its reputation.
The Loire is one of these regions, and especially the Muscadet has a special place in my wineheart. Ever since I had my first fruits-de-mers combined with one of these dirt-cheap fresh and vibrant wines I fell in love with them, and the idea of resolutely going for the cheapest wine on the list and then finding out it was actually the best combination is great. I also frequently experienced that when going for the slightly more expensive Muscadet on a winelist I stumbled upon the very best of the region, sometimes in very unpretentious restaurants where you would not expect them.
Recently I drank a bottle by Marc Ollivier, an impressive figure and an excellent winemaker. and unfortunately an exception in the region as he works his soils and does not use weedkillers. In the nose it was mineral with a vague hint of apples, but the ones you will find on farmers markets and bio-shops, the old varieties I mean. In the mouth the same earthiness, the taste of soil and old apples powdered with dust, and in the finish, that was quite fresh, a surprising little touch of honey.
I paid 9,5 euro for this bottle at Delcoeur in Eupen, Belgium. Marc also makes an unpretentious but very good red, and some top-cuvées in white that I still have to find (and taste). If you ever drive through Eupen, this is and a good wineshop and a good restaurant : www.delcoeur.be
I wrote this message because I stumbled on a very interesting article on my favorite wineblog, Wine Terroirs. It has some nice pictures of Marc Ollivier and explains very well the circumstances in the Muscadet region, where wine-heaven and wine-hell are often neighbours. The picture of Mr Ollivier also comes from this article. http://www.wineterroirs.com/2013/05/muscadet_vineyard_man...
I buy my Lapierre's in Wetteren near Gent these days, at Leirovins, and when it suddenly dawned on me that he had both the Sans Soufre and the Légèrement Sulfité version of the Morgon 2011, I had an idea. Why not do a little comparative tasting over a few days ? To see how the bottles were when just opened and how they evolved during the next few days. For isn't sulfite also a preservative ?
This should mean that both bottles, made from the same vineyards and grapes in the same year, would show some difference, but would it be big or very limited or not at all ? I wondered, and as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I decided to test it. I paid 15 euro for each bottle. In between tastings the bottles were kept in a cool cellar with the cork on.
Morgon Sans Soufre, Marcel Lapierre, 2011:
Day 1, early afternoon: A bit darker than the other. In the nose more minerality and less fruit, at first very timid and when it opens it smells earthier with fruit that is more serious, less fun. After a while iin the mouth there is more fruit coming, but it's fruit from a bio-shop, also riper than that from the other bottle. Very big difference in the finish. Day 1, in the evening: even more closed, and after serious swirling in the glass something like wet earth and soot, idem for the mouth feel.
Day 2: again rather closed, and what could be tasted tasted almost like a Bordeaux, very serious and straightforward. swirling it around in your mouth, it got more complex with a nice acidity, well structured, quite ok now. Day 2, later that day a ripe red wine, fruit but with leaves and branches and a bit more "vin naturel";
Day 3: spicy and fruity, and in the mouth very soft with nice acidity, but the complexness is gone
Morgon, Légèrement Sulfité, 2011:
Day 1: red fruit, fresh, dried herbs, a nice beaujolais; in the mouth starting very fruity, tender and nice, soft and broad and a bit of a teaser; very good and rather long. A few hours later still soft fruit, light chocolate touch, yoghurt, fresh and fruity;
Day 2: The wine starts to pinot ("à pinoter") ! Smells now 100% like a good burgundy pinot noir ! Amazing. In the mouth now very soft and also strongly reminiscent of a pinot noir, and a nice one.
Day 3: great. The spiciness is completely gone, only the fruit remains. A bit shorter but oh so good and tasteful. the fruit is soft and nice and accessible. Until the last glass a pleasure to drink.
To my surprise I liked the Légèrement Sulfité most. The bit of added sulfite seems really to help the wine ageing. It was certainly more friendly, the Sans Souf was more agressive and difficult, brooding even. Interesting experiment.
A very interesting tasting where we put four extremely traditional Rioja's from Lopez de Heredia next to a series of more modern ones. Heavily oaked whites and pinks, more than ten years old, and still great ? Yes Sir !! We have rarely been more surprised in a tasting.
Originallly made when the French vineyards were eradicated by phylloxera to fill in the need for Bordeaux-style wines and smart businessmen turned to Rioja. And yes Viña Gravonia refers indeed to Graves, and it was uncanny how it started to smell and taste like a Pessac after a day or two. Whenever you meet one of these bottles (production is big but remains for 90% in Spain), you sould taste them. Somehow they seem voices from the past, but how deliciously they whisper...