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Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is one of those grapes that doesn’t travel well. Take Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Grenache or Sangiovese, they travel well. Well…they travel whether they like it not. Personally, like a dear cousin, they are most appreciated at home rather than in foreign lands but that’s another story.

Nebbiolo’s home is Piemonte or Piedmont, rarely found outside Piemonte even in Italy. In the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco, the grape yields wines that are first rate, every bit as sublime as the greatest of Burgundy or Bordeaux. With first growth Bordeaux being sold at $750+ a bottle the best of Barolo starts looking like a bargain. Personally I find Barolo and Barbaresco to be more like Burgundy’s long lost cousin in character than Bordeaux ever would. Bordeaux is a cerebral wine; Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco are wines of the heart, wines of passion.

So what does Nebbiolo taste like at its best?  Smoky, raspberries, leather, spice, jam…concentrated with crisp acidity and great tannin, a wine of structure and depth. A consummate food wine to be enjoyed with grilled meats or hard cheeses. Provided there is ample fruit, with age the great tannin softens yielding a wine of passion and character, that caresses the palate with secondary notes of tar, incense, mushrooms or even truffles.

Great examples of entry-level Nebbiolos can be found for under $25 while extraordinary examples of Barolo and Barbaresco that have the stuff for aging can be found for under $75. A lot easier to hunt and afford than Piemontese white truffle…

Domaine David Clark

David Clark is a youngish vignéron in Burgundy based in Morey-St-Denis. I dropped by recently to learn a little more of what he is doing.

David picked up his first vines while a student at the Lycée in Beaune. His first purchase was ofdc.jpg Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire (BGO), an appellation rarely seen in France let alone overseas. Essentially BGO is for vineyards that don’t qualify for Bourgogne status. Red wines can be made of Pinot Noir, Gamay, César and/or Tressot. David’s is made of 100% Pinot Noir. He purchased the 0.3 hectares to get practical experience in the vineyards as quickly as possible. He has since added Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, Côte de Nuits-Villages and Morey-St-Denis.

The Domaine practices organic viticulture and keeps yields extremely low, generally between 25~30 hl/ha. This is on par with the some of the best in Bourgogne, Leroy, DRC, etc. David’s former occupation is as a Formula One engineer. He traveled the world with his team. Like most second-career vignéron, his focus is on quality.

While it is difficult say much at this stage, we tasted through his ’07s in barrel. They hadn’t started malo-lactic fermentation and were quite cold as a winter cellar would be. Yet they show potential. The Côte de Nuits-Villages was well-structured with firm tannin and acid, a Gevrey-like wine in style. The vineyard is actually in Brochon, the village just north of Gevrey. The Morey-St-Denis village has more density, was prettier, more feminine. These are wines to be followed. The 2006s were just bottled and will be released in Fall.

David plans on acquiring more vineyards of village or better quality. While David farms all his vineyards to the same level of quality, ironically the better appellation vineyards require less work than the lesser appellation vineyards. Apparently, it is in the vignéron’s best interest to acquire the best vineyards possible.

Domaine David Clark
17 Grande Rue
21220 Morey-Saint-Denis
Tel: +33(0)3 80 34 37 72
Mob: +33(0)6 32 20 21 72
e-mail:

When to Harvest

I met with Etienne Grivot earlier this week to discuss his approach to deciding the date of harvest. One thing that is remarkable to me is that he uses no technical analysis of his fruit in deciding when to harvest. I pressed the point two or three times.

He is convinced that you can’t take samples that are representative of a vineyard. The only way you could truly do this would be to sample from each vine, which is practically-speaking impossible. His general guideline is the date of flowering. Harvest is roughly 100 days later. There are a number of factors but primarily he tastes through the vineyards, chews the skins, seeds, looks at how the skins color his saliva. He watches the barometer, temperature. Observes the health of the grapes.

He tries to pick during the waning moon. 100 days landed around August 24th. He waited to start picking until the 4th. Many started picking on the 25th or 26th, Saturday and Sunday. He chose to start on the 4th to ripen the grapes further and to pick with the waning moon. Further, he chose to start picking on a Tuesday to prepare the team, the cuverie, etc. on Monday. He doesn’t like to start on the weekend as each year there is a learning curve. It is better to start slow and steady.

The order of picking is generally the order of quality of the parcels. Thus he starts with the white, then the bourgogne red, the village, etc. Richebourg was picked on the last day, September 10. It was perfect. It hung to achieve 13.4% potential alcohol and a pH of 3.3. There is a general order of picking as I noted but if clouds were on the horizon, the order would shift with the Grand Crus coming in first. Regarding the picking date, he avoids hearing what his neighbors are doing. His decision is made by him and him alone. (This reminds me of wine tasting. I can’t truly evaluate a wine if I hear the judgments of others first.) The last day of picking quality wines was September 10. There was a new moon on the 11th. He finished with some Gamay he sells in bulk.

Regarding 2007, this is a vintage of the vignéron. In 2005, everyone in Vosne made great wine. In 2007 if you farmed right, timed the harvest correctly, there is no reason why you couldn’t have had long hang time, physiological and phenolic ripeness. In fact, without the overripeness found in some of the very hot years, the wines can truly represent their terroir with no lack of density. After exhausting him with questions, we tasted through the 2007’s and the 2006’s gc’s. The Richebourg and Clos Vougeot are quite different. The Richebourg is aristocratic while the Vougeot overtly shows its GC power and spicy character. It’s hard not to like the wine. The Suchot is a stand out as well, wow.

We finished off with a lunch in Chambolle and ran into Bernard Gros there. We had the 02 Echezeaux. Etienne asked me what I thought. I answered, that I thought the food was great. He was referring to the wine!

Values

Burgundy has always been considered a wine for the wealthy. It’s been highly sought after by the aristocracy, the bourgeois, the rich. Yet it is a region of great value. Values abound. Wines of character and finesse can be found for under $ 50/bottle. One has to compare that to New World wines and Bordeaux for example.

Burgundy buying requires work though. Quantities are low; but there is a multitude of wines available. If you like looking for rare finds, Burgundy is for you. You have to look though. Anne Gros Bourgogne can be found for under 20 euros here and around $ 30 in the US. Jean Grivot’s Vosne Romanée is amazing and available here for 35 euros and $ 50 in the US. When you consider both are elite producer’s in Burgundy’s most respected village, these are true values. The list is endless.

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