My found treasure: A bottle of Charton Trebuchet Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru 1990

The Terroirist: Treasure Troves

One in a continuing series
There are a lot of things, both good and bad, that can be said about the LCBO; the one thing though that I can say tonight, is 'jackpot!'. Trawling around the Summerhill branch of our liquor monopoly, I noticed a gentleman returning some very interesting bottles - bottles of 1990 white Burgundy.

While there are numerous valid criticisms of Crown controlled wine sales, their return policy - easy refunds of anything in saleable condition with receipt, and a virtually no-questions asked refund of any opened bottle that didn't live up to expectations - cannot be considered one of them. Even when working for a wine merchant in England - one with a fairly liberal return policy itself - we would only take back - with reciept - up to a third of one's purchase. And in the US? Forget it. When I asked, in Boston, what their policy on taking back corked bottles was, I was met with a bemused look and a laugh; when I was in New York, I was told that returning liquor bottles was verboten.

1990 was a great year throughout much of France. Most notably in Bordeaux and Burgundy, it was a vintage for the record books (probably the best in the former until 2000, and the best in the latter until 2002). In Burgundy, the great whites are just begining to hit their stride. As a wine ages, it matures and developes. Some flavours drop out, while other deeper and more complex flavours begin to shine through. Unsurprisingly though, much of this wine is drunk long before it becomes fully matured, and that which is still undrunk usually sits in private cellars waiting for its time - so finding a 16 year old bottle of white Burgundy for sale is a rare treasure indeed. Best of all, because of the bureaucratic nature of the LCBO, it re-sells returned bottles at the price they were bought for - regardless of inflation or rarity. In this case, the more expensive of the wines should have more than doubled in price, according to Wine-Searcher. So take a look next time you're at a LCBO - you never know what treasures you'll find.

And now the recommendations...

Something Red:
Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Coonawarra, Australia) $29.95, 441501
If you don't have the luck to find hidden treasures like I managed today, but have the patience and want to start a small cellar, this is an ideal bottle to do it with. A nearly opaque garnet colour, the aromas assault one's senses with the extracted notes of cedar, blueberry, plum, bramble, chocolate and coffee. The mouthfeel, instantly full and velvety, is nevertheless still closed off and tight, offering notes of cedar, cassis, floral tones, and coffee. This is not a wine that is ready to drink yet, but will keep improving for as long as you care to wait - give it at least two years and as much as a decade or more to develop and evolve.

Something White:
Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Marlborough, New Zealand) $18.95, 734095
In New Zealand, the winemakers brag about the quality of their Chardonnay; everywhere else, people are concerned more with the Sauvignon Blanc crop from the island. Sauvignon Blanc is a grape, that the Zealanders have made their own - with a lush, grassy, tropical expression that has become their signature. This pale, yellow golden 2005 from Clifford Bay winery is set exactly from that mould, with a nose abundant with tropical fruit, cut grass, lemon, and white berries. On the palate, it is fuller than many Sauvignons, but still dry and crisp, again expressing white berries, lemon, and star fruit. Lovely as an aperitif on its own, or try pairing it with some chevre doux for a pleasant afternoon snack.

Something Different:
Yannick Amirault AC St. Nicolas Bourgueil 'La Mine' (Loire, France) $24.95, 663534
The Loire valley is a region best know for its diversity in white wine - from the crisp, dry Sauvignons of Sancerre, to the lush, sweet Chenin Blancs of Coteaux de Layon, to the refreshing sparklers of Cremant de Loire. What it isn't as well known for, and given wines like 'La Mine' it's a shame, is its red wines, generally (though not always) made from Cabernet Franc. A light ruby colour, this wine is everything that the Leconsfield is not. It is ripe and juicy, but expressed in a lighter, ready to drink way. The nose shows off with aromas of tobacco, tomatoes, mineral, smoke and leather, while the palate puts forth tobacco, plum, cherry, and hints of vanillaed oak. Perfect with a brisket or roasted game birds.

That's all for this week. Remember to keep your eyes peeled, and your senses sharp.

The Terroirist is published fortnightly on Thursdays.


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