By The Glass
Warm trend benefits wines
YES, global warming has affected us, even in the wine world. I've never seen so many hot growing seasons in strings of so many vintages, even in very marginal growing areas such as Germany and Burgundy.
Vintages such as the 2003 are almost scary in their breadth and potential ripeness levels -- in virtually every major growing region of the world.
People who adore ultra-ripeness in their wines are no doubt elated. Such sun-brazen harvest conditions, combined with a trend among top-caliber producers to lower their yields (thereby increasing the density and concentration of their juice) creates a slew of wines in the profiles and styles that win awards.
Even in the more northern and normally cool growing region of Germany, this has resulted in profound, well-structured 2001s, deeply flavored and powerful 2002s and the ultra-ripe, opulent, showy 2003s.
I, for one, am thankful for a vintage like 2004 in Germany. And it is certainly good timing.
For the most part, the 2004 Germans are much more "classic" in their delicacy and fine balance between sugar and acidity. The best wines are tasty, light and crisp and therefore have a larger window of opportunity to work with foods.
Where the 2001, 2002 and 2003s often called for rich, dramatic, much more extreme foods to balance out the power and depth of the top estates' wines, the 2004s are much more versatile and user-friendly.
For instance, I simply adore the remarkable lightness and crispness of the 2004 Christoffel "JJ" Estate Riesling ($20). It is certainly a white wine I would want to take to any Asian restaurant. It is also a wine I keep open in the refrigerator to have a glass after a long, hard day at the office.
I RECENTLY attended a comprehensive wine tasting and came away from it feeling a similar appreciation for some of the 2004 red burgundies.
Where many wine writers and connoisseurs have labeled the 2003 as having almost "California-like" ripeness, deepness and roundness, the 2004s I tasted are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Take, for instance, the 2004 Aubert de Villaine Mercurey ($29). I loved its perfume, which succinctly displayed "terroir" and earth, as opposed to ripeness and grape variety. It is a very pretty wine, one of sheer elegance, intricacy and amazing lightness on the palate. No hard edges here!
The 2004 Robert Chevillon Nuits Saint Georges ($40) was similarly delicate and provocatively perfumed, full of finesse, with lovely fruit and appeal.
The other noticeable perk of the these 2004s is that both were roughly 20 to 25 percent less expensive than the 2003s.
It is true, they are not vanguard wines to stash away for long-term cellaring, but that doesn't bother me. I love drinking them today. They are lovely, and they will work with a wider spectrum of foods.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org