That’s Life Gourmet – Spring 2014 Portfolio Tasting
That’s Life is one of BC’s most interesting import agents with a portfolio of some of the top producers in France, with an increasingly exciting and extensive Burgundy selection. I recently attended the tasting of their 2014 portfolio which featured new vintages of some old favourites and a couple producers new to BC. My picks are as follows:
My Champagne choices were the Vilmart Grande Reserve ($67) and the Champagne Guy Charlemagne Cuvee Charlemagne blanc de blancs ($78). Vilmart’s unique house style is fairly umami driven and I find their Champagnes always to be fascinating and very well made. The Cuvee Charlemagne offers a toasty, richer form of Blanc de Blancs. I rated both Very Good+.
Some exciting values came with the Alsace table. That’s Life has perhaps the best Alsace portfolio in the city, and the selection of Eblin-Fuchs, Marcel Deiss and (new to this market) Bott Geyl offer a good variety of style, price point and terroir.
Eblin-Fuchs are the best value wines of the bunch, with their Zellenberg 2010 Riesling selling for $26 and being a superb example of dry but potent Alsatian Riesling (I rate it Very Good). The Deiss 2010 Riesling ($36 and Very Good) provided an interesting contrast, with more aromatic complexity, and the Bott Geyl gave the most hedonistic Riesling of the three I tasted with their 2010 Schlossberg Grand Cru ($58 and Very Good+), which is from a site that always provides a lot of power.
The 2007 Deiss Burg is an example of Deiss’ famous coplantation style, with several varieties that all grow in the Burg vineyard both grown and blended together. The wine is extremely fruity and opulent, almost to the point where the wine appears to have a fair amount of residual sugar, which is not the case. In fact, the wine is quite dry. It’s a fascinating example of a different approach to Alsace than you see anywhere else. $66 and Excellent.
The flight of odd-ball wines from Roussillon and the Jura was one of my favourites. The Clos de L’Oum Cine-Panetonne Blanc 2011 was my standout white of the tasting, with a waxy texture and soft orchard fruit and a savory mineral character leading into a dry finish. It’s a wonderful, unique wine that I highly recommend. $44 and Excellent.
Tissot, one of my favourite producers, had two wines showing. The 2011 Empreinte Chardonnay, which was a nice entry level wine showing Jura terroir in a clean, fruit driven form. $39 and Very Good+. Beside it was the 2011 Poulsard Vieilles Vignes, which is a delicious medium bodied wine with bright red berry aromatics and a soft, low tannin texture. This is peppy but serious wine perfect for spring and summer. It has much earth and secondary character as well. $37 and Excellent.
I thought the $20 Les Mireilles 2010 from Bordeaux was superb value. It is varietally correct and I have a hard time imagining a wine in BC for the same price that gives an equally authentic sense of classic Bordeaux. Very Good.
The Vigot burgundies were quite traditionally made and, despite the 2011 vintage, still very tannic. I honestly expected a little more fruit on these wines at this stage, but I think their more backwards character will open in just a year or two. My choice of the lot was the 2011 Vosne-Romanee La Colombiere. $88 and Very Good+.
The Domaine Roblet-Monnot Volnay Brouillards Premier Cru 2010 was showing very well, with classic Volnay aromatic expressiveness and a light step on the palate. $117 and Very Good+.
The best Burgundy being poured was from the legendary Comte Armand. Its Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru 2011 was the most structured and complex of the wines and needs a fair amount of age. It’s impressive to see this quality out of an Auxey red and also interesting to compare top producers to respected ones that have not yet claimed the same level. $69 and Very Good. I’ve noticed that the famous Pommard Clos Epenots is now way up in the stratosphere at just under $200 a bottle. Fairly shocking given pricing just a couple vintages ago, but I suppose the Domaine is cashing in on its success.
That’s Life also represents one of my favourite Barbaresco producers – Marchesi di Gresy. Their Camp Gros is one of my favourite wines from that village, but all their wines sit beautifully between traditional and modern and have outstanding fruit quality and an easy, pleasure-focused way of being that I adore. The 2010 Langhe Rosso Villa Martis is a great entry level Nebbiolo, which in my opinion is quite rare. Usually you need to pay to get something interesting from Nebbiolo. $32 and Very Good.
The 2006 Martinenga Barbaresco was delicious and quite structured, which you’d expect from that vintage. You can enjoy this now, but it will start to truly rock in 2016. $78 and Excellent.
One of my biggest surprises was how much I enjoyed a flight of three wines from Priorat. Priorat has grown in fame considerably and is popular with North American consumers, but it remains a little underappreciated by many wine geeks who are in the ‘low alcohol, high acid’ camp because there is a misperception that such wines can be unbalanced and overly rich. Priorat, rather, has a huge diversity of terroir and its high altitude, combined with the various cepage options available to producers, can make truly outstanding wines. There may be no better place for Carignan.
Thus the Clos Dominic wines were all quite impressive, ranging from the entry level Clos Peto 2011 ($40 and Very Good), to the mid tier Vinyes Baixes 2008 ($48 and Very Good+) and the top tier Vinyes Altes 2007 ($66 and Excellent). Each was good value for its price point, with excellent quality fruit. The wines move from early drinking in the Clos Peto up to the highly structured Vinyes Altes, which I can imagine aging for several more years.