Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Review: Two Oddballs
I'm always on the look-out for obscure wines or grapes I haven't tried before. More often than not, this urge steers my buying. Why get another California Cab or Australian Shiraz when you can try a Mondeuse from Bugey?
A what from the where, now?
A Mondeuse from Bugey. Bugey is an area near western Savoie—an eastern, cool climate wine region in France very near Switzerland. And Mondeuse? If you want to talk obscure French varietals, Mondeuse is really plumbing the depths. The grape was hit hard by the phylloxera epidemic. By 200, the French were planting just over 200 hectares of the underdog. It seems to have bounced back a bit since then.
My Bugey Mataret 2006 was 100% Mondeuse. Imagine that. Thierry Tissot is the vintner. The grapes are grown on steep slopes near the Alps, and hand-picked. It's a weird wine, I have to say. Takes a lot of warming up to. It's got an inky purple color, yet the alcohol is a light 12%. The nose is wildly floral and herbal. Dusty blueberry with a circle of evergreen, sage, thyme, wild plum and violet. Lovely, really. The wine is seriously dry and seriously tannic. It'll dry out your mouth. Firm structure. The impression is concentrated, but light, and a bit tight. (It tasted much better the second day.) Sometimes I felt like I was drinking violet-flavored mints. This may not sound all that appealing, and, I have to admit, I probably won't buy this wine again. But it was an experience.
At the same time I bought the Bugey, I picked up a Kiralyudvar Tokaji 2005 from Hungary, made from the Furmint grape. I've had much more experience with Furmint, which I associate with wonderful acidity and vibrant fruit, than I have with Mondeuse, so I felt on surer ground. (I believe there is also some Hárslevlu in the mix.) I know Kiralyudvar ages their whites. Still, I wasn't prepared for the crazy green-orange hue of the wine. Beautiful, and strange. It looked like the juice from a not-quite-ripe tangerine. Tangerine came through in the nose, too, as well as kumquat and diesel notes. Bright tangerine again on the palate, right from the start, as well as guava, lemon, more kumquat (kumquat!), young leaves. Great acidity, as expected, yet super juicy. I'd get this one again.