20060612

Rockets to Mercurey: Domaine Michel Juillot 2003

Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey 2003arugula rockets
Like the planet Mercury, wine from the Côte-Chalonnaise town of Mercurey is predominantly red (90% of bottles produced there is red wine, reports Jancis Robinson). Since Mercurey is nestled in the heart of Burgundy, red means Pinot Noir. And since Mercurey carries with it a lesser-known Burgundian appellation, red also means bargain. I got the sophisticated cuvée pictured above on sale for a hair over $20.

Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey 2003 may not be as solid or firm as your average Côte D'Or product. At least that is what the experts say -- you have to be fairly flush to dabble with the cream of the Burgundian crop. So if, like me, you can only occasionally afford a Mercurey such as this one, you will do well in treating yourself to a good, reasonably priced Old World Pinot Noir.

The 2003 Juillot has smoky and earthy notes which are characteristics of the Pinot Noir grape. On the palate, there is big, bold but elegantly nuanced cherry fruit. I tend to think of some Mercureys as northern takes on Rhône wines -- from the central French valley below Beaujolais and just south of here -- with their typically luscious cherry fruit. They are totally different grape varieties but both possess a similar intensity of cherry fruit.

You are encouraged to serve this fruit-filled Mercurey at 14 degrees. In the summertime, that means sticking it in the fridge a good quarter-hour before you are ready to serve it. Since I would recommend decanting the entire bottle to let the wine open up, obtaining that lightly chilled temperature is easy as pie. Just stick your carafe in the fridge as you get out your ingredients for a dinner.

WHAT TO TAKE OUT OF YOUR REFRIGERATOR WHEN YOU PUT IN YOUR WINE

On the subject of food pairings, the bottle label says this wine matches red or white meats, as well as cheeses. If that seems too vague and general, I'll widen the playing field even further. How about a salad made up of whatever you have on hand? Throw it all in the salad bowl and toss with a vinaigrette. One restriction: make whatever you want just as long as you're working with arugula greens, or rockets, as they are sometimes known. Why arugula?

The mushroom is supposed to be a legendary pairing for Pinot Noir. Those deep and foresty tones in rich mushrooms like truffles, chanterelles or black trumpets are echoed in the wine. Sounds great indeed but expensive wine and expensive ingredients... you are going to have eat again this week so don't break the bank on one meal. Instead of mushroom delicacies, turn to the nutty, rich and pungent flavours of arugula to live up to your Mercurey.

A salade composée centred around the hearty arugula leaf is not only cheap but a cinch to prepare. There are no rules really: hard boil some eggs and slice them up, rinse some canned beans and coat them with herbs and oil, dress up some cold leftover boiled potatoes or whatever you've got. Mound the various items around the edges of your tossed rockets and feast.

Mercurey, France. 13%

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