Best of the Best: International White Wines
Jadot Le Montrachet 2000
From the rocky heart of Burgundy, an unrivaled Chardonnay.
No Burgundophile, even a novice, requires an introduction to Louis Jadot. One of the oldest and largest firms in the Côte d’Or, Jadot nestles at the heart of Beaune. The founder, Louis Henri Denis Jadot, established the firm in 1859 with a small vineyard plot inherited from his father. Over the course of the next century and a half, the company accumulated impressive holdings and contracts in a whole roster of coveted Burgundy vineyard sites.
Today, under the enological direction of the charismatic Jacques Lardière, Jadot makes a full spectrum of Burgundies, ranging from affordable generic reds and whites to splendid grand crus to bottlings made through production agreements with single estates, such as that with the Duc de Magenta. Almost incredibly, the talented Lardière himself crafts up to 90 very different wines in each vintage, a feat that surely makes him one of the most prolific (and perhaps overworked) winemakers in the world.
Le Montrachet stands near the pinnacle of Jadot’s white Burgundy portfolio just as the vineyard itself, surrounded by its neighboring grand crus, stands near the summit of the slope known since Roman times as Mons Rachisensis, or Mont Rachat. This “bald knob” is a crest so stony that it supports no brush or undergrowth—hence the moniker. Le Montrachet occupies slightly less than 10 acres, which are split between the contiguous communes of Puligny and Chassagne. Since the end of the 18th century, the vineyard has been owned, in typical Burgundy fashion, by a dozen different proprietors. Jadot purchases its share of the highly coveted grapes from Domaine Beaucaron at vintage time.
The 2000 vintage serves up as pure cream on the palate. This wine is also flush with elegant flavors that not only evolve, but last. Urgently pure, racy white fruit mingles with an amazing honey-honeysuckle component and an elegantly placed injection of intriguing spice. This incredible white shows the power, class, and focus that make Le Montrachet synonymous with Chardonnay at its unrivaled best.
Bubbles with an Edge
Though Lanson is one of the oldest producers in Champagne, the firm is not a high-profile house and sometimes tends to be overlooked by collectors in favor of a host of flashier labels.
The quality of Lanson’s wines has climbed steadily since the early 1990s, and now the offerings have established themselves on a par with the very best of the region. The Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blanc 1995 is the Blanc de Blancs version of the firm’s tête-de-cuvée, which happens to be a personal favorite of ours, even though there is also a Brut version. The 1995 vintage, like all of them, is made very much in the Lanson house style: These wines are characteristically a bit edgy, and some regard them as an acquired taste. The 1995 exhibits tangy acidity and bright fruit but with complex, toasty flavors and great depth and style.
Caravelle Wine Selections
A Noble Revelation
Quarts de Chaume may be the most important grand cru nobody ever heard of. This elusive appellation lies on the Layon, a tributary of the Loire, and the wines that issue from it are made from Chenin Blanc, a grape that’s sometimes (appropriately) reviled and occasionally (equally appropriately) exalted.
When allowed to develop a dose of noble rot—as happens in Quarts de Chaume—Chenin Blanc can make beautifully harmonious sweet wines. Lush and creamy, the Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2001 bursts with the flavors of honey and melon, underscored by a mushroom-like earthiness. A revelation.
The 12-acre Josephshöfer vineyard is a Mosel monopole in the sole possession of the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate. It has an illustrious history; it was first mentioned more than 11 centuries ago, when local monks owned the property.
Von Kesselstatt acquired the important south-facing vineyard in 1859. The difficult 2002 in the Mosel lacked the cachet of the phenomenal 2001 vintage, suffering from late rains, which left producers with very few ultrasweet Beerenausleses and Trockenbeerenausleses, since the botrytis, or noble rot, was simply washed away. Nevertheless, the vintage did yield an abundance of lovely wines of the Kabinett, Spätlese, and Auslese level. The Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Spätlese Josephshöfer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2002—an enticing siren of a wine—is loaded with opulent tropical fruit over a core of firm mineral, and its rich taste experience closes with a bracing finish.
Didier Dagueneau remains the reigning enfant terrible of Pouilly Fumé—one whose prodigious talents seem never to cease evolving and growing—and his creations continually surprise us.
His tenacious ways include a fierce allegiance to the arcana of biodynamic agriculture, such as the use of horses instead of tractors, and meticulous vineyard management to lower yields and increase extract. Dagueneau is, in short, a purist; he makes only Pouilly Fumé. The Dagueneau Pouilly Fumé Silex 2002 possesses a flinty quality, which becomes apparent from the first sip of this Sauvignon Blanc; this flavor runs through it like a backbone of quartz, along which is strung a lavish panoply of essences, including white fruit, honey, spice, and smoke.
Canada on Ice
Although Canada produces some lovely table wines, ice wine has become the country’s calling card: It is this deliriously sweet nectar that can (and often does) place Canadian appellations in the same league with the best vineyards of Germany and Alsace.
Jackson-Triggs operates estates in Okanagan, British Columbia, and on the Niagara Peninsula. Both make ice wines, but this particular bottle, the Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Gewurztraminer Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula 2001, comes from the latter property. The wine is unctuous on the tongue and intensely sweet, yet it retains a defining streak of bright acidity that highlights the Gewurztraminer’s lovely apricot and pineapple flavors. A splendid dessert wine and a major achievement.
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
$80 (375 ml.)