19 October 2010

gamay, young and old

My friends and I shared a bottle of 2005 Jean Foillard Fleurie a few weeks ago at Le Garde Robe. I for one* was TOTALLY CONSUMED with curiosity, wondering how this keen, floral, graceful cru by a terrific vigneron from a famously tight vintage was unfurling, five years in.

Five years is not a long time for classic wines from stock portfolio regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Rioja, etc. It's not even very long in terms of 2005 Beaujolais, which was, in general, wound like a tripwire.

On the whole though, I have the impression that Gamay's aging capacity is somewhat underestimated. I do this too, in spite of occasional evidence to the contrary. People tell me stories about tasting Morgon from the 60's, which sounds positively far-out. And I recently tasted a surprisingly spry 1998 Gamay-based Coteaux Giennois (Loire - northeast of Sancerre) called "Biao!" by an organic vigneron called Matthieu Coste, but only after staring at the entry on the wine list at Spring Buvette for 10 skeptical minutes and attempting somewhat pointlessly to interrogate the server as to the wine's continued servability.

(Of course he said it was fine. What's he going to do, just come out and admit - as can be the case when you spot an anomalously old, obscure, and inexpensive wine on a list - that they made a huge mistake with that one, really blew it, and are now just trying to run through it?*)

In the end I needn't have worried: the 1998 "Biao!" still had a delicate, calligraphic sort of acid structure, and enough dried-rose and prune conserve flavors to be quite popular among those gathered. At least until 4/5 the way through the bottle, when the wine began to wither a bit. The lesson: drink quickly! No swirling! (And: still worth taking chances on old Gamay.)

The 2005 Foillard Fleurie we drank at Le Garde Robe was, understandably, a very different story. The question was: was the wine ready? Serious acidic teeth and claws, no sign of oxidation whatsoever, and a tannic, athletic sort of black fruit that was difficult to get a handle on, it danced so much... This was a wine with decades of lifespan ahead of it. It was beautiful, yes, but I felt a little Humbert Humbert drinking it.

*Yep. The only one, as usual.

**I did this once, at a restaurant where I was consulting, with some really unconscionably bretty '03 Givry. Happens to the best of us. 

Jean Foillard's 2005 Fleurie is currently available at:

Le Garde Robe
41, rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli or Chatelet.
Tel: 01 49 26 90 60

Matthieu Coste's 1998 "Biao!" is currently available at:

Spring Buvette
6, rue Bailleul
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli or Chatelet
Tel: 01 45 96 05 72

Spring Boutique
52, rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli
Tel: 01 58 62 44 30

Related links:

Drinking Aged Rosé at Le Garde Robe
Fall Wine Preview at Spring Boutique
Digging the Glass Pours at Spring Buvette

A characteristically exhaustive profile of Matthieu Coste at WineTerroirs
D. Lebowitz on Le Garde Robe. 
A 2009 check-in on Foillard's 2005 Fleurie on a French wine blog I'm unfamiliar with

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