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Jun 5, 2011 11:19 PM

What's Wrong with My Vouvray?

Recently, the New York Times had an article about how great Vouvray is and what a terrific value.

So I picked up a bottle of what Eric Asimov rated as his top pick -- the 2009

Huet Clos du Bourg, which he said "was stunning in its complex, intense flavors of lemon, honeysuckle, mint and minerals."

I hated it -- I tasted no complexity, only lemon. Found it very unbalanced and unpleasant. Asimov also did mention the wine was "very young." So is something wrong with my palate or is the wine just too young?

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  1. I would say "too young." I'd say "waaaaaaayyyyyy toooooooooooooo young!"

    14 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Well, then that raises a peeve I have with wine critics, particularly ones like Asimov who are writing in general interest media, presumably for the rank and file and not for fellow experts. Why don't they tell their readers that the wine needs years of cellaring?

      A somewhat related question. If a wine needs years of cellaring, how do wine critics know what the final product will taste like when it is ready to be drunk? Do they have such sophisticated palates that they just know how the wine will eventually turn out?

      1. re: omotosando

        I assume you bought the same wine Asimov reviewed. Huet makes both a Sec and Demi-Sec Clos du Bourg Vouvray. But if you both zeroed in on lemon, then it's probably the sec of both of you.

        Huet's wines benefit from LOTS of cellaring. The impatient drinker (not calling you that) who wants to open this bottle sooner than later might find some benefit from letting the wine aerate for a bit.

        As far as how to critics know enough to make the predictions/recommendations they make... Part of it is that they have tasted bajillions of wines. I might not always use the term "sophisticated palates," but I would use the term "developed palates." And I would bet Asimov has tasted the Huet Clos du Bourg Vouvray Sec from many vintages - some of those upon release (like the 2009) and other in various stages of maturity.

        1. re: Brad Ballinger

          When exactly will the 2009 be ready to drink? Since Asimov mentioned nothing about cellaring, I naively bought two bottles, thinking they would be great for drinking this summer. I already have way too many wines in my small off-site storage locker that are being aged and not enough to drink now, but I guess I will have to cram the other Vouvray into the locker. I was going to pawn it off to my dad, thinking perhaps it just wasn't too my taste, but from what you guys say that wouldn't be fair -- I don't want him to think, "gee, thanks for the undrinkable wine."

          1. re: omotosando

            My Huet-loving pal says in about 5-10 years depending on vintage for the sec, add an extra 5 to that for 1ère Trie.

            1. re: omotosando

              Well, I just had a 2004 Clos de Bourg Vouvray Sec that was doing just fine. 2009 is a better vintage. I haven't even thought about opening my demi-secs yet.

          2. re: omotosando

            I cannot speak for Asimov, nor would I even try. HOWEVER, I can speak for myself . . .

            From 1974 until 2001, I wrote about wines for a variety of different national and regional magazines, newspapers, and had my own radio program on wine for an FM station in Monterey, California. I *never* wrote a tasting note (TN) for publication that did not include some sort of estimate for optimum drinking as the conclusion of my description of the wine, such as:
            -- "Best now and over the next year"
            -- "Drink 2015-2020"
            -- "At its peak now"
            -- "Enjoyable now, but needs another 10 years to fully mature"
            -- "Drink in 3-5 years"
            -- "Over-the-hill; drink up."

            I am/was certainly not alone in this. MOST wine writers do this. Parker and the other writers in The Wine Advocate certainly do. So do the TNs found in the Wine Spectator, etc., etc., and everyone else I can thing of at 7:30 am while working my way through my first cup of coffee. Being in Berkeley, California, I don't read Asimov -- or other East Coast writers, for that matter -- very often, so I cannot say whether "estimates of drinkability" are generally included or typically omitted from his comments.

            / / / / /

            Other general comments/answers to your questions:

            >>> Well, then that raises a peeve I have with wine critics, particularly ones like Asimov who are writing in general interest media, presumably for the rank and file and not for fellow experts.<<<

            NO writer that I can think of writes for "fellow experts." EVERY writer writes for his or her readers, the audience. That does vary with the publication and the "bent" of the writer(s). Someone who focuses on writing about, say, inexpensive wines -- as Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher did in the WSJ -- have one audience; Robert Parker has another. I had a very different audience if I was writing for a national magazine, than if I was writing a weekly wine column for a local newspaper in a town of 60,000.

            >>> If a wine needs years of cellaring, how do wine critics know what the final product will taste like when it is ready to be drunk? <<<

            This is much simpler than you think. You simply need to taste a lot . . .

            I began tasting and learning about wine in 1963, but didn't enter the trade until 1969. I have been blessed with the opportunity to taste thousands of wines over the years, and I've been doing this long enough that I've been able to taste many bottles of the same wine -- in its youth, in its early maturity, at its peak, and in its dotage.

            Tasting wine is easy. Training yourself to remember is not as easy, but principally all it requires is some effort and dedication.

            So if I taste the 2015 vintage of Château Cache Phloe from Bordeaux when it is first released, and it reminds me in character and structure of the 1982 Château Cache Phloe . . . well, I know how the 1982 evolved over time, and so it is my "guesstimate" that the 2015 vintage will develop similarly over time. OTOH, if it reminds me of the 1984 instead, well, that vintage evolved very differently.

            >>> Do they have such sophisticated palates that they just know how the wine will eventually turn out? <<<

            NO ONE has any idea how the final wine will turn out, because there is no such thing.

            Yes, it's a cliché, but -- as I often say -- things become a cliché for a reason; they are usually true . . . have you ever heard anyone say, "There are no bad wines, only bad bottles of wine"?

            OK, so it's not 100 percent true. Of course there are bad bottles. I've rated hundreds of wines "STW" over the years ("Shoot the Winemaker"), because the wine was flawed due to a winemaking mistake. But far more wines have been rated "DNPIM" ("Do NOT Put in Mouth") because it was a bad bottle. The most obvious example would be a corked wine -- not every bottle of that 100,000 case lot is bad, but *this* corked bottle of it sucks!

            The point is NO ONE knows how any individual bottle will turn out after years of cellaring. Some people may indeed have perfect temperature- and humidity-controlled storage conditions, but that is only a teeny, tiny fraction of one percent. Most of us -- well, most of us don't even store/age wines, but for THAT small fraction of the population who do -- most of us have something less than perfect, but it will certainly do . . .

            So everything is a "guesstimate," but it's an "EDUCATED guestimate," and that;s a very different thing than a Wild A$$ Guess . . .


            1. re: zin1953

              Totally OT, but Cache Phloe cracks me up every time you write it.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                We can but do our humble best . . . .

                Actually -- continuing the OT tangent for a moment -- while I *do* take credit (or debit) for "Domaine Jean Deaux," I cannot take credit for "Cache Phloe," only for the addition of "Château" (to the best of my knowledge).

                Cache Phloe Vineyards was a REAL LABEL back in the late 1970s-early 1980s. It was the private label of a retail store in Marin (IIRC, Marin Wine & Cheese, but I could be mistaken) . . . I have an old (empty) bottle of 1982 Cache Phloe Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay that was, in fact, produced by Veedercrest. Damn good wine!


              2. re: zin1953


                I know that you once posted your personal rating system, of which STW (Shoot the Winemaker) and DNPIM (Do Not Put in Mouth) were part of.

                Would you share that again?
                If so, thanks in advance.
                If not, I understand.

                ps - I very much enjoy your posts on the wine board. I wish I had half your knowledge!

                1. re: Cookiefiend


                  Thank you . . .

                  So if you think about most "star" rating systems, they usually consist of 1-5 stars, or zero -- giving you six options. (Long before Parker popularized the 100-point scale, which I still don't understand, but let's not go off on a tangent.) So I basically "tweaked" it . . .

                  IFC = In-F***ing-Credible (think "completely mind-blowing, outstanding wine")

                  GSM = Good $#!+, Maynard (my homage to the Dobie Gillis Show and Maynard G. Krebs, portrayed by Bob Denver -- think "excellent")

                  PGS = Pretty Good $#!+ (my homage to Cheech & Chong -- think "really very, very good")

                  DNS = does not suck (but it's also simply average-to-good, and nothing really to recommend it; nothing exciting here, so why bother?)

                  DNPIM = Do NOT Put In Mouth (Danger, Danger, Warning Will Robinson -- this is some really bad stuff! Could be because it's corked, could be heat damaged, could be OTH*, could be any number of reasons)

                  and then, the category for a wine that should have been excellent but due to a winemaking screwup, really sucks . . .

                  STW = Shoot The Winemaker.


                  * OTH = Over The Hill (a wine that is too old, should have been consumed previously, and instead of resting in peace, someone disturbed the wine gods by opening it!)

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Truly great, zin1953. Have often used DNPIM.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        ML --

                        To be fair, the first person I ever knew who used this term (and to the best of my knowledge, he coined it) was wine writer Bob Thompson (as far as I know, he still lives in St. Helena). When judging wines in competition together, I noticed he had a rubber stamp that he would imprint his judging notes with from time-to-time. I asked him what it was, and this was the (approximate) explanation I received:

                        >>> One's palate can quite easily become fatigued, especially when judging 100+ wines in a day. If a wine doesn't smell good, I know I'm not going to give it a medal, so why add to palate fatigue by tasting bad wine. So I had this rubber stamp made -- DNPIM ("Did not put in mouth") -- to remind me later that I didn't taste it.

                        Made total sense to me, but -- again, to the best of my knowledge -- I was the first one to change the verb tense as a warning to others: "Do NOT put in mouth!"


            2. Sounds like it was corked or oxidized. Even a sec bottling should have much more to offer than a spritz of lemon, even in youth, even if popped and poured.

              I'm a huge chenin blanc fan - prefer Chidaine ever so slightly to Huet in their little section of the Loire - and one thing I've never tasted in these wines is a LACK of complexity, even in the dryest cuvees.

              That said, I haven't yet had any of the 09 Huets, but the 09 Chidaine Les Argiles is absolutely wonderful. So far, I think 2008 is still the vintage to buy if you can find it on the shelves. Much more acidity, whch is especially wonderful in the bottlings with RS. Try the 08 Chidaine Clos Habert if you can find it.

              17 Replies
              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                If it was corked, wouldn't it be "wet dog," "moldy cardboard" -- I don't recall even getting "lemon" out of a corked bottle. The same is true from a bottle that was oxidized . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  But if the TCA was below the taster's level of perception, and that taster just got a sourness (acidity, probably) from lack of fruit and other flavors, perhaps that taster might describe it as lemon?

                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                      Yes but -- *to me * -- "muted" wouldn't be "lemony." Again, people use the same word differently, so . . .

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Yes, and I suspect the initial responses are correct. Not just young, but possibly in a mute phase (I posted Richard Kelly's observations from awhile back below suggesting it's shutdown). FWIW, I tend to associate "lemoney" and other citric descriptors with my perception of the acidity more than the fruit - hence my thinking it was scalped with low-level TCA.

                      2. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                        Isn't "Slightly corked" kinda like "a little bit pregnant?"

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            No. I have little tolerance for TCA. Sadly, a Hermitage I was so looked forward to drinking was miserably corked. Usually, I can't tell that a wine is corked. I can pick up on muted flavors, but not TCA. This wine was so badly corked I could sense the TCA.

                            1. re: SteveTimko

                              I've always felt that those who have very high sensitivity to TCA and oxidation are not necessarily to be admired...... unless they're professionals in the wine biz. The rest of us get to enjoy so much more wine. ;o)

                              1. re: Midlife

                                This is the difference between "tasting" and "drinking." Tasting is so much more work than drinking . . .

                                1. re: zin1953


                                  Does that in any way imply that you would "drink" a wine in which you detect TCA, but would only comment on it as a "taster"?

                                  I think I've mentioned before that I had a tasting bar regular whose palate was very sensitive to oxidation and he could tell if a bottle had been open more than a day or so...... even if Argon'ed and refrigerated. He would "drink" "old" wine, but would also remark about it.

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    No, I would not drink it; it is a flawed wine.

                                    OTOH, to be honest, there have been times when a wine was "corked" (i.e.: spoiled by 2,4,6-trichloranisole, or TCA) at VERY low levels -- and how low does it have to be, when human beings are sensitive to TCA at levels measures in Parts Per Trillion!), when I just thought the fruit was muted, or the wine was in a backward, "dumb" stage. But either upon re-tasting, or tasting by someone even more sensitive than I, the wine is clearly corked.

                        1. re: Niki in Dayton

                          Sour is not, in and of itself, "lemon." At least, I would define those two qualities differently. Obviously, specific descriptors are used differently by different tasters . . .

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Hmmn, now I'm trying to think back as to whether it was "lemon" or just "sour." Perhaps it did have low-level TCA. I've had corked wine before and oxidized wine before and found both completely undrinkable. I wouldn't say this was undrinkable, just not very pleasant.

                            In any event, I'm not in a hurry to open the second bottle I have. Nor, frankly, to buy any more bottles of Vouvray even though I know that is unfair.

                            1. re: omotosando

                              More for me!

                              Seriously, if you can get your hands on a bottle of 2008 (not 09!) Francois Chidaine "Clos Habert" Montlouis-sur-Loire (it's just across the river from Vouvray - same grape, slightly different terroir), I can assure you it's drinking fantastically. I've had more bottles than I can recall, but I'm down to 5... and my shop's run out! At around $20 a bottle, this is one of the greatest bargains I've ever had.

                              Here's what the cellartrackers think:

                              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                I've been cellaring all the Chidaine wines I can find. The old Poniatowski estate that he took over in Vouvray has a long track record of superb aging, especially the Clos Baudoin. The Monlouis wines are smashingly precise.

                              2. re: omotosando

                                Was this your first Vouvray sec? Most wine labeled Vouvray is (sort of by default) sec tendre, or off-dry. Huet labels their wines sec, demi-sec, or moelleux. Savennieres (also made from chenin) tends more toward dray than off-dray.

                      3. I just ran across Richard Kelly's notes on the vintage, and he had this to say about the 09 Clos du Bourg:

                        2009 Le Clos du Bourg Sec (limited) - This has closed up on bottling. It was already lush and exotic post-fermentation at the end of January, but is now very shy on the nose. The palate shows greater richness and texture which helps it display its class. Serious, but needs time- more time than Le Haut Lieu – before it will be at its best.

                        1. I've had this wine as a sec. I gave it plenty of air and it was stunning. Just freaking stunning. One of the deepest mid palates I've had on a wine in a long time. Quite complex and it will only get better with age.
                          Yours may have been damaged or slightly corked. It's one of the best wines I've had this year, but I have a 2008 Foreau demi-sec that may be better. . .

                          1. This may be an overly simplistic take on the original post, but doesn't this have to be either an off bottle or a palate difference?

                            Asimov's review describes the wine as it tasted to him when he reviewed it, not what it should taste like in the future. If both Asimov and otomosando have 'experienced' palates what other explanation could there be?

                            I keep repeating this but, having done many. many group tastings I am never surprised when two tasters get totally different elements in the same wine. But.............. if the tasters are experienced and the bottles are different, it would seem much less likely that it ISN'T the wine itself.


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Midlife

                              Now, I'm thinking maybe the bottle was slightly corked. I'm certainly no experienced taster like Asimov, but I was shocked at how actively I disliked a wine that he had rated as his best in tasting. It wasn't my usual case of well this wine is okay, but I don't understand why it's $1,000 a bottle or $500 a bottle or whatever insane price is being charged. Rather, it was "I don't like this wine at all and I don't understand how it could possibly be rated best of tasting."

                              Now, I'm curious to try the second bottle I have, but I think I will hold it for at least 5 years.

                              1. re: omotosando

                                I am nearly 100% certain you did not have a flawed bottle. What you had was almost certainly a bottle in a dumb phase. Huet wines typically shut down hard after 18-24 months in the bottle. (To call it a dumb phase isn't quite descriptive enough; the wines aren't just dumb, they are hoplessely retarded and in need of being institutionalized). This unforgiving period usually lasts 8-10 years. It makes Huet wines extremely difficult to handicap in youth. It is not uncommon for the wines to have shut down by the time they hit the shelves in the U.S. If you find a bottle in this state, the best thing to do is recork it and leave it in the fridge for 7-10 days. It doesn't always work, but more often than not at the end of that time frame rhe wine will be drinkng fairly well.

                                Incidently, I just had the 2010 a week ago and it is brilliant. If you can find it, it should tell you what Huet wines are all about. I think giving up on Huet specifically, and Vouvray more generally, on the basis of that bottle would be a tragic mistake. Other top tier producers like Chidaine and Foreau are safer to drink at earlier stages of their evolution.