Without further ado, here now is my review of that Mâcon wine I mentioned in my last post -- the one I picked up last week in New York after reading Eric Asimov's New York Times column, in which he scored it the "best value" of the Mâconnais bunch (see his full Tasting Report here).
Rather than submit to WBW more or less of a rehash of what Eric said, I thought I'd at least do something that Eric couldn't do in the New York Times and drop my pants.
The idea of "Naked Chardonnay" is a suitable one for this special anniversary edition of WBW in which participants are asked strip away the extraneous and get back to basics. This month's theme is a celebration of three years of WBWs and it is hosted by none other than the prodigious Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours, the originator of Wine Blogging Wednesday, or WBW for short. Lenn himself is currently taking a step back and re-jigging some aspects of the monthly WBW event so a theme that takes a similar step back to assess a legendary grape in its most simple and essential expression (which is naked, meaning unoaked or unwooded) follows perfectly.
That's because so many Chardonnays you regularly encounter are heavily oaked these days. Wood can mask the fruit of the Chardonnay grape when not handled carefully. With some of the many cheap and industrial Chard varietals churned out, the grape variety itself is getting more and more maligned, which is unfair.
I turned to Burgundy in France for my Naked Chardonnay -- specifically to Mâcon's Domaine Fichet, which produces under the banner of one of the many localized Mâconnais appellations, Igé.
Most Mâconnais wines are vinified in stainless steel or glass-lined concrete vats for early bottling and consumption within a year or two of the vintage, writes The Oxford Companion to Wine. Furthermore, when I researched this bottle, I found a some useful PDFs on the Internet regarding Mâconnais wine and regarding Domaine Fichet, so apart from my own tasting notes below, I am borrowing liberally.
Domaine Fichet harvests grapes from Château London, just north of Mâcon and east of Cluny to produce wines that are clean and expressive. This cuvée, named after the Château London site, is produced from mature low-yielding vines on the southwest-facing limestone vineyard and is tank-fermented. It was awarded La Coupe Perraton for the best Mâcon-Villages of its vintage. Though oak is sometimes used in Fichet's line of products, it is used judiciously. (Their Vieilles Vignes cuvée comes from vines 60-to-80 years old, and is mainly tank fermented, but sees 20% barrel fermentation, giving it wonderful, intense, creamy, structured and “old-viney” characteristics.)
MY NOTES ON THE FICHET WINE
Domaine Fichet Mâcon-Igé Château London Chardonnay 2005 is exactly the kind of wine that the Oxford suggests. Moreover, big props to Eric's guest Natalie MacLean for signaling out the hazelnut note on the nose. Upon uncorking I only got a sharp but zesty nose. Over time, the nuttiness did develop nicely.
To the eye this Chardonnay had a nice translucent amber colour. (Here's hoping next time it's Naked Merlot or something a little more opaque, i.e. modest.)
To taste this is to get an immediate sense of what strong mouthfeel is in a wine. This Chardonnay is penetrating and intense, wonderfully rich, and it dominates the palate. It's all citrus building to a smooth finish, with a beginning, a middle and an end along the way: From instant refreshment upon contact to buttery and nutty tones to a hint of anise and organic matter on the finish.
Paired with a seasonal meal, its racy, tart and delicious minerality comes to the fore as food flavours invite your tastebuds to note the contrasting elements in the wine. I found that with a fresh garden vegetable pizza, a nice licorice tone was echoed. With a celery and Parmesan cheese salad, the profile was more flowery and stonier.
Overall, a stunning value as Eric claims. Even the $20 (Canadian) that I paid for it is an alright value.
Pierre-Yves & Olivier Fichet, Igé, France. 13%.