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Archive for August, 2015

Affordable selections from Spain

The 2011 Barahonda, Barrica, Monastrell-Syrah, Yecla must be one of the most frequently opened bottles in our house after the 2012 Chateau Marvis, Old School Rouge, Minervois.  The Barahonda is a $12 beauty that is full of flavor from the black fruit and minerals but provides interest from some mature notes. Though opposite in drinking age, the 2011 La Verdosa, La Suerte de Arrayan Garnache, Mentrida is my favorite of the wines featured in today’s post.  The beautiful nose makes way to expansive flavors but this is best left in the cellar.  The 2012 Castano, Solanera, Vina Viejas, Yecla offers up the serious flavors you would expect from Eric Solomon.  For a simpler, though old-school experience you should check out the 2012 Charo Moriones, Verasol, Tempranillo-Garnacha, Navarra.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Barahonda, Barrica, Monastrell-Syrah, Yecla – $12
Imported by OLE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 75% Monastrell and 25% Syrah sourced from vines planted in 1968-1970 that was aged for 6 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a  mouthfilling start followed by a core of black, mineral infused fruit.  The wine is rounded out by grip from the attractive, ripe tannins.  Though rich in flavor, it is balanced, and somewhat compelling to drink for there are hints of maturity.  *** Now – 2018.

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2012 Castano, Solanera, Vina Viejas, Yecla – $14
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Garnacha Tintorera that was aged for 10 months in oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The serious nose is followed by young and bright fruit which is supported by structure.  This cool tasting wine wraps up with ripe tannins.  **/*** Now – 2017.

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2012 Charo Moriones, Verasol, Tempranillo-Garnacha, Navarra – $12
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Vinos & Gourmet. Alcohol 13.5%. The interesting nose offered up aromas of ripe strawberry and ripe orange.  There were similar flavors in the mouth where the orange-red citrus note took on some creamy Orange Julius.  This attractive, old-school wine then turned a bit soft and linear with a black fruited finish.  ** Now-2017.

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2011 La Verdosa, La Suerte de Arrayan Garnache, Mentrida – $18
Imported by Tradewinds Specialty Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were rich fruit aromas of plum.  The strong flavors in the mouth showed plenty of texture, some weight, and black minerals in the end where the extract paired with an expansive finish.  With air there were additional flavors of ripe strawberries and wood on the sides of the tongue.  This nears a year to open up.  *** 2016-2019.

Interesting wines from Chile, Greece, Moldova, Romania, and more!

There is no shortage of diversity in the wine selections available in Washington, DC.  If you can only try one wine in today’s post that should be the 2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile.  Garage Wine Co., produces attractive and unique wines.  While the Cabernet Franc appears to be sold out (the empty bottles were packed in the move so I am not timely) the Carignan is still available.  From Greece, I certainly recommend the orange citrus flavors of the 2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece.  Continuing with the indigenous vein then you should check out the exotic nose of the 2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania.  Finally, the 2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa offers bitters like flavors making it a Pinotage like no other. I’ll grant that it is a bit polarizing but any intrepid drinker should pick up a bottle.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Garage Wine Co, Carignan Lot #34, Maule Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  Aromas of raspberry candy made way to dense flavors with the texture of an unfiltered wine.  This showed more acidity with tart cherry flavor and red fruit through the end.  The wine built flavor with time showing both ripe and citric flavors including raspberry followed by a lipsticky finish.  *** Now – 2018.

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2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The raspberry aromas mixed with herbaceous notes and tobacco.  In the mouth were ripe and dense flavors that combined an herbaceous hint.  This savory wine had a lot of chewy flavors accented by chocolate before the not too bitter finish.  With air it showed complexity in the way of forest notes and perhaps tar.  ***(*) 2016-2022.

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2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa – $18
Imported by Kyslea Pere et Fils.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a complex nose of bitters and red fruit.  The aromas echoed in the mouth with ripe then dry, grippy flavors.  The structure came out as rather fine, drying tannins.  The wine was simultaneously tart, ripe, grippy, and creamy with greenhouse notes and cocktail bitters.  It morphed towards blue fruit in the finish.  Ultimately, the wine showed a ripe core of fruit surrounded by powdery, dry, and finely textured tannins.  Different! *** Now-2018.

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2013 Et Cetera, Cuvee Rouge, Moldova – $19
Imported by Sarego Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Saperavi, and 5% Rara Neagra that was aged in Hungarian and American oak barrels. Alcohol 13.0%.  In the mouth were ripish, red fruit around a core of watering acidity.  As the wine progressed it came dry with black flavors, textured tannins, and a dry, graphite finish.  Overall this is a young that develops a strong nature.  ** Now – 2018.

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2012 Groot Constantia, Shiraz, South Africa – $17
Imported by Indigo Wine Group.  Alcohol 14%.  There were smoky aromas of black fruit.  In the mouth the wine was tight with ripe flavors that built in strength.  The black fruit continued with some camphor and fresh, greenhouse notes.  This young wine textured, floral impressions.  ** Now 2019.

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2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania – $11
Imported by A&M Imports.  This wine is 100% Babeasca Neagra.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was different and exotic with both floral and citrus note.  In the mouth the dry, blue and black fruit was supported by a drying, black structure.  The wine was spritely on the tongue tip with some baking spices, young tannins on the gums, and good texture.  The finish was a bit short before the refreshing aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.

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2013 Chateau Vartely, Sec Rosu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moldova – $8
Imported by Salveto Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose smelled of slightly inky bell peppers.  In the mouth were flavors of ripe, blue fruit, and green peppers.  With air the cool, blue fruit fleshed out a bit.  While not indicative of any particular place, it is a solid drink for the price.  * Now.

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2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece – $20
Imported by Oenos LLC.  This wine is 100% Limniona.  Alcohol 13%.  The wine developed tart, red fruit with just a slight, liveliness on the tongue despite being acidity driven.  It developed a fine ripe set of light, orange-citrus flavors and black fruit that left impressions of ripeness on the gums.  The wine had a lighter, lift of creamy flavors towards the finish and ultimately, an attractive bit of ink.  **(*) 2016-2019.

Tasting notes for Italian wines opened these last few months

The buying of the new house followed by the sale of our old house was a massively time consuming effort.  We mostly drank from a rotation of a dozen different wines but there were new bottles opened as well.  Throughout that period I continued to post on what I felt were the most interesting wines.  I did manage to take other notes and transport many empty bottles to the new house.  In this post I feature a range of Italian wines tasted during our house transition.

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The Italian selection at MacArthur Beverages provides a steady cache of affordable wines with some age.  The 2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso is old-school both in style and price.  It is a wine that everyone should try but I would suggest you set aside your bottles for the next several years.   The 2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba offers the most maturity right now out of all that were tasted.  Two selections that drink well now but are poised to open up within the next few years include the 2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza and the 2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba.  For those looking for a good wine to drink tonight then grab the 2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe and 2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti.

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2008 Batzella, Pean, Bolgheri Rosso – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc which spent 15 months in barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed dark tobacco aromas.  In the mouth this dry wine had a leather note followed by fresh, black fruit and an earthy hint.  The finish was lively with drying structure.  With air the structure became harsh and the wine unevolved though it developed more leather, tobacco, and spices in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2025?

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2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso – $26
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This wine had more coiled power with upfront and lovely  integrated acidity, lots of texture, and verve.  Clearly a young wine it sported complexity from an earthy and foxy hint in the acidity driven finish.  It even took on a perfumed note.  It has a vibrancy that reminds me of a glass aged wine that will develop for years to come.  **(*) 2020-2030.

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2012 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Sicilia – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 13%.  The attractive nose bore subdued aromas of roses, tar, and cherries.  In the mouth were tart and focused flavors of red and black fruit that were somewhat rounded.  The wine had salivating acidity, grip from the tannins, and an old wood note.  It continued to show very focused fruit.  **(*) Now – 2022.

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2012 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato – $17
Imported by RWK Imports.  This wine is 100% Frappato.  Alcohol 13%.  There were heavy, wafting Frappato aromas highlighted by fresh pepper.  This was a light to medium bodied wine with fruit that bore weight and fine texture with extract.  It had the expected, unusual flavor with a dry finish of ripe, orange-creamsicle and dry black fruit.  The flavors were clearly hard for me to describe.  With air it became riper and a touch softer.  ** Now – 2016.

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2007 Castelluccio, Ronco dei Ciliegi, Forli – $23
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  There were dark, leaner aromas with some wood.  This firm wine, was stone-like with black fruit, watering acidity, and old polished wood.  The flavors were lighter in weight with a dry nature and a  hint of roast.  Even with only a bit of structure left this will live for quite some time.  **(*) Now -2025.

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2011 Cesari, Bosan, Valpolicello Superiore Ripasso – $31
Imported by Opici Wines.  This wine is a blend 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella.  Alcohol 14%.  The fresh nose revealed ample tobacco aromas backed by cola with undertones of raisins.  The flavors began with a mineral thread before a brief spell of maturity.  There were drier raisin flavors and a developing tobacco note.  This gentle wine had a rather subtle structure that matched the compote of fruit and underlying black flavors.  Though forward drinking, I would give this another year or so to integrate the ripasso flavors.  *** Now – 2022.

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2011 Conterno Fantino, Vignota, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Neil Empson.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The linear, black fruit took on extract and strawberry flavor.  It had juicy acidity and a dark, rather ripe note.  *** 2016 – 2022.

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2009 Gagliasso, Vigna Ciabot Russ, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by .  Alcohol 14.5%.  This rather dark wine had matching aromas of dark red, raisined fruit.  The flavors were similar in the mouth but the forward acidity kept things sharp.  The drying structure was a touch coarse but the sweet, spiced, old wood was attractive.  With air tart, black and red fruit flavors developed some weight and became puckering in the finish.  Unfortunately some heat was breaking out.  ** Now-2020.

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2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti – $16
Imported by Massinois Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  I kid you not, but the nose smelled of cat fur.  In the mouth were bright, yet tart and ripe red fruit which tasted fresh.  This wine had clean fruit, water acidity, a tough of verve and grip, and even some density.  A wine for now.  ** Now-2017.

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2013 Massolino, Barbera d’Alba – $22
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The firm fruit flavors were of tart black fruit that took on a subtle red grapefruit note.  The acidity was noticeable from the start and matched the fresh structure which was evident in the finish.  There was a lovely, ethereal flavor in the middle which, when combined with the suggest of strength from the tannins, indicate this wine should develop.  **(*) 2016-2022.

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2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza – $21
Imported by Il Pioppo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a complex nose of cherry fruit that made way to round flavors of red fruit in the mouth.  Accented by some greenhouse notes this wine tasted like a cooler climate Cab.  The flavors turned blacker with more focus, integrated acidity, and some drying structure on the gums.  There were minerals in the finish followed by a tart aftertaste.  With air the wine tastes even young and should continue to develop for several more years.  It maintained good tension that keeps one’s interest.    *** Now-2022.

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2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba – $23
Imported by Potomac Selections.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was reasonably aromatic with dark, plummy notes.  In the mouth was a mixture of cedar and red fruit before the mature flavors of the middle took on minerals.  There was some firmness in the finish with almost puckering acidity that left impressions of ripe fruit in the aftertaste.  *** Now – 2020.

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2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were low-lying aromas of fruit on the nose.  In the mouth were savory flavors of blue and black fruit that worked well with the integrated acidity.  The wine tightened up in the finish with both tannins and polished wood.  With air, it exhibited cleaner fruit, that was tart and lighter but had a strength in the middle.  There was a touch of a spicy finish before the racy hint in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2025.

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2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe – $18
Imported by Free Run Wine Merchants.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The red fruit bore a touch of greenhouse the morphed into fuzzy red and black fruit.  There were fine,dry, coating tannins that did not overwhelm the fruit.  ** Now.

A deep Portuguese wine from Quinta do Vallado

I plan to unleash several posts this week featuring a large number of wines that I have tasted this summer. Until I do so, this short post bides me time.  The 2011 Quinta do Vallado, Vallado, Douro springs to mind as a selection for you to try.  I found that it is immediately recognizable as a serious wine.  The depth of flavor is obvious and forward but it also carries the need for age with ease.  My experience with mature Portuguese table wine is minimal but this is one I would see through the short-term.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Quinta do Vallado, Vallado, Douro – $23
Imported by Quintessential LLC. This wine is a blend of Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional Sousao that was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged 70% aged for 14 months in stainless steel and 30% aged for 16 months in used French barriques.   Alcohol 14%.  There were deep aromatic notes then low-lying aromas of deep red fruit with a sushi note.  In the mouth was rather focused, young, black fruit, that showed acidity right away with a forward drinking nature.  The wine continued with floral flavors, a dark robustness, and some oak notes.  With air this wine became weighty with fuzzy plum flavors.  *** 2018-2020.

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The latest from Les Pallieres in Gigondas

The wines of Domaine Les Pallieres were amongst the first Gigondas that I cut my teeth on during university.  They came back to my attention with the 1998 vintage, of which there were so many great Southern Rhone wines available at MacArthur Beverages.  The two cuvees Terrasse du Diable and Les Racines are relatively newer constructs in the history of this domaine.  While both of these are Grenache based wines, the former uses fruit from younger vines located on several vineyards.  The later is produced using the oldest vines which are located around the winery and cellar.

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The 2012 Les Pallieres, Terrasse du Diable, Gigondas packs a punch with a structure not unusual for traditional Gigondas. It is a good wine but not as memorable as the 2012 Les Pallieres, Les Racines, Gigondas.  Produced from the oldest vines, Les Racines exhibits not only more depth and weight but also impeccable balance.  True it also has a significant structure but this creamy, mineral, and fat accented wine leaves you wanting to drink more. With both cuvees priced the same I highly recommend you purchase Les Racines but make sure you age it for at least several more years.  These wines were purchased from MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Les Pallieres, Terrasse du Diable, Gigondas – $37
This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Clairette.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The wine was very bright and creamy showing very focused ripe black and blue fruit.  It is supported by a very fine structure through the expansive finish.  With air it continues to show clean fruit, some saltiness, and a smacking finish.  Ultimately, this wine packs quite a structure as compared to the fruit.  *** 2020-2030.

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2012 Les Pallieres, Les Racines, Gigondas – $37
This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and Cinsault, and 5% Clairette.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This sported lower lying focused and deep black fruit.  The flavors were creamy and enlivened by a Big-Red flavored tannins in the finish.  This clean, textured wine had fruit matched perfectly with the fine tannins and integrated acidity.  With air it showed very good weight, fat, and a minerally finish.  **** 2020-2035.

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Several recent bottles drunk with friends and one without

It is a treat to have friends with strong interests in cookbooks, cooking, and cocktails who are both curious and excited to try new wines.  This meant that earlier this year I shared bottles not just from France but Croatia, Turkey, and Israel.  These were all youngs wine that I opened to expand their experience with wine regions.  At the beginning of the summer I was fortunate to purchase a number of old and mature wines (in case you have not yet noticed the radical shift in average vintage that Lou and I have been opening).  With a slew of vintages mostly from the 1970s my patiently cellared Rhone wines from the 1998 vintage now seem no longer precious.  Though modest in selection, they were the oldest bottles I owned so I held fast.

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At a small dinner this past weekend we started off with the recently acquired 2007 Yves Cuilleron, Les Poitiers, Saint-Peray.  I had no clue what to expect nor did Phil who pointed the wine out at MacArthur Beverages.  This blend of Marsanne and Roussanne was surprisingly young!  It showed some maturity in color but the palate was fresh with good acidity.  I did not take any notes at dinner so I am curious to try another bottle.

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We then proceeded to a trio of red wines including the previously described 2003 Brick House, Cuvée du Tonnelier, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.  The other two bottles were minor Chateauneuf du Pape that I had forgotten about until I unpacked my wine in the new house.  I was expecting less from the 1998 Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chateauneuf du Pape but it offered plenty of fruity aromas and a burst of clean, uncomplicated fruit in the mouth.  The finish was rather short and my interest faded fast.  I called it a one trick pony to which S. commented that he liked this pony.  I think though he ultimately preferred the 1998 Domaine Saint Benoit Grande Garde, Chateauneuf du Pape which was clearly favorite amongst the group.  It was austere at first but over a few hours it fleshed out to show reasonable complexity and appealing structure.  You could drink this now after an hour in the decanter or over the next five years.

With that selection largely finished I returned with a double-decanted bottle of 1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac.  This particular example was rather stinky with a strong leather component on the nose and in the mouth.  It was too distracting so I eventually gassed and re-corked it.  I finished off the bottle the next night after which the stink had left.  The leather was still prominent but the wine had some heft and made for a decent Sunday night drink.  With the Pichon out of favor I then returned with the bizarrely consistent 1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac.  This wine is very stable (perhaps filtered?), showing good fruit and though smaller in personality, is engaging enough.  I suspect it would work well at lunch.

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For dessert Lou opened the 2007 Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon.  This sweet, Chenin Blanc based wine drank forward without being heavy.  It was a spot-on match for our raspberry tart and a good note to end the evening.

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One bottle that Jenn and I drank alone this week is the 2000 Domaine La Garrigue, Vacqueyras.  Apparently I bought four of these, of which I discovered three bottles at the time I also discovered the pair of 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape.  My tasting note from four years ago did not offer much promise.  I was hoping for bottle variation in the positive direction but this was not the case.  It remained ethereal in flavor with very fine, drying tannins, and some heat.  It only became harder with air.  Drinkable but not pleasurable.

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 “For Summer Houses, Yachts, and Camps”: An old bottle of the classic Pommery Drapeau Americain Sec

The mysteriously old bottle of Pommery Champagne stood neck-deep in ice water, its dark glass yielding no clues about the wine inside.  After it had chilled down, Mannie Berk met us outside with glasses containing a most attractive dark-apricot colored wine.  There were even little suspended bits of red-brown sediment.   A deep sniff of the nose and confirmation in the mouth revealed this was indeed a sweet example of an old Champagne.

Pommery is renowned for popularizing what is regarded as the first Brut or dry style of Champagne in the late 19th century.  At the time, customers in different countries preferred their Champagne at different levels of sweetness.  This was achieved by adding a dosage or a small amount of an old Champagne, sugar, and liquor mixture.  Whereas a brut Champagne could have a very small dosage, a truly dry Champagne contained no dose.  It was the 1874 Pommery Nature, which contained no dose, that was exclusively shipped to England where it took the country by storm.

Interior of Messrs. Pommery and Greno's Celler. From Henry Vizetelly A History of Champagne. 1882.

Interior of Messrs. Pommery and Greno’s Celler. From Henry Vizetelly A History of Champagne. 1882.

Lost amongst the history of this new Brut style of Champagne is the fact that two years earlier Pommery Sec was introduced to America.[1]  The Sec contained a small dosage and the quality of the wine ensured great popularity.   The Sec cuvee rapidly became synonymous with luxury taste in America.  Produced nearly a century later it was a bottle of Pommery Drapeau Americain Sec that Mannie had poured into our glasses.

Pommery Sec was considered the Champagne of nobility with the Prince of Wales being a particular fan.[2]  Henry Vizetelly wrote that the 1868 vintage is what first made Pommery popular and that the Pommery Sec “especially” was “highly appreciated by connoisseurs.”[3]

This quality “dry champagne” commanded the highest of prices at international markets.[4]  It was in 1872 that Charles Graef, a wine importer based in New York City, felt that the American market was ready for Pommery Sec.  He went from importing 2,000 cases in 1872 to over 33,000 cases of it in the mid-1880s.  With over 3 million bottles of Champagne consumed annually in America, Pommery Sec accounted for nearly one-eighth of those bottles.  The Champagne was so popular that empty bottles of Pommery Sec were being refilled and sold off.[5]  To combat such fraud the bottles were soon shipped from France with a white band on the neck printed with “POMMERY & GRENO”.

It was just several years later that the neck band was switched to black with white lettering.  Incredibly, this band was kept in use for over sixty years.  At the time of this change in 1891, a new mark was registered showing a circular belt labeled “VEUVE POMMEREY SEC” with an eagle on top, the whole of which surrounds an American flag.[6]  Drapeau Americain sec was born.

Pommery Drapeau Americain mark from 1891. [6]

Pommery Drapeau Americain mark from 1891. [6]

Pommery Drapeau Americain Sec was not just drunk in America for it also appears on French wine lists and banqueting menus through the 1930s.[7]  It was even served at the Nobel Prize banquet in 1925.[8] However, Prohibition in America soon meant that the flow of Pommery into the country largely ceased, dealing a crippling blow to France.  With the end of Prohibition, Pommery filed a new trademark for the Drapeau Americain Sec.[9]  It is this mark with its waving flag stripes that adorned our bottle.

DrapeauAmericainSecMark

There are some clues about the production of Pommery Sec.[10]  Pommery produced only one Champagne which was then differentiated solely by the dosage added.  The fruit for this Champagne was sorted from particular hills in Ay, Bouzy, Cremant, and Verzenay.  The fruit was mostly white grapes which gave the wine “delicacy, freshness, lightness, and…greater tendency to sparkle” with the black grapes giving “body and alcoholic strength”.

The bunches of fruit were placed in a shallow tray so that any defective or injured grapes could be cut off.  Care was taken to minimally touch the fruit so that it arrived with the bloom intact to aid fermentation.  Only the juice from the first pressing was to be used and aged in oak casks.  These casks were monitored with any substandard lots sold off to brokers.  When the wines were deemed ready they were all dumped into a giant cuve to be mixed together.  The wine was then bottled and eventually it received a dosage or not depending upon the market.

It is unclear what Pommery Drapeau Americain Sec originally tasted like.  André Louis Simon, Pommery’s agent in Great Britain from 1902 to 1932, writes of only sweet and dry flavors in History of the Champagne Trade in England (1905).  George Saintsbury simply comments that he “did not share the prevailing mania for Pommery” in Notes on a Cellar-Book (1920).  T. Earle Welby wrote of 1904 Pommery in The Cellar Key where it is described as “beautiful with an austerity strange in Champagne”.  This was most likely the Brut having been drunk in England.  Perhaps finding a description does not matter for the bottle Mannie opened looked particularly old, much older than the vintages and ages typically mentioned.

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At the extreme, the earliest this bottle could date to would be 1934 with the latest around 1970.[11]  The bottle looks of the same general age as the wedding cuvee released for the wedding of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly in 1956.  With no further leads from the bottle it is the capsule that most likely holds the key to the date.  It is an old looking, red capsule with the name Pommery and three stars.  In searching online images it looks like Lambert No. 29 as catalogued in Répertoire Capsules de Champagne.  My efforts to reach out to Pommery and others in the community have yielded no further information.

DrapeauAmericainSecCapsule

The glasses of Pommery that Mannie poured were particularly attractive with their dark, apricot color and a nose that was somewhat articulated with yeasty aromas.  In the mouth the wine was clearly mature with no bubbles left but it had almost a prick from the acidity.  Old Champagne can have minimal and even no sparkle left which transforms it into a unique white wine.  This wine still conveyed a sense of freshness from some zip and though the sweet flavors filled the mouth, there was a tang of returning acidity in the end.  Perhaps strengthened by the residual sugar, this bottle developed with air, taking on spiced flavors as the wine tightened up.

Over a century ago Pommery was advertised “For Summer Houses, Yachts, and Camps”.  It is only appropriate then that I rediscovered the history of this Champagne after tasting it at a summer house.


[1] “POMMERY SEC,” HOW IT WAS INTRODUCED INTO AMERICA, AND MR. CHARLES GRAEF’S CONNECTION WITH IT. New York Times (1857-1922) [New York, N.Y] 07 June 1885: 6.
[2] Simon, Andre Louis. History of the Champagne Trade in England.  1905. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=qWAaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Vizetelly, Henry. Facts about Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines. 1879. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=66ZBAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] For example, Pommery & Greno sold for $25.15 net cash per case in New York, making it more expensive than Louis Roederer, Widow Clicquot, Mumm, Piper Heidsieck, Ruinart, Krug, and Giesler & Co’s.  Advertisement. Date: Monday, March 10, 1873   Paper: Daily National Republican (Washington (DC), District of Columbia)   Page: 2.  In London, 1893 Pommery Brut sold at 125 Shillings which was more expensive than 1893 Mumm at 91 Shillings.  Collier’s, Volume 30. 1902. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=tY4jAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA31#v=onepage&q&f=false
[5] Life, Volume 5. 1885. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=s6VAAQAAMAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] Recueil officiel des marques de fabrique et de commerce contenant les marques déposées. 1893. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=cFwMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false
[7] See such menus as Le Concours Aerostatique de Bordeaux. May 10, 1908. L’Aʹerophile: revue technique et pratique de la …, Volume 16, Issue 11. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=1BLOAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA191#v=onepage&q&f=false  , Brasserie Universelle 1913. What’s on the menu? New York Public Library. URL: http://menus.nypl.org/menus/35481/explore  and Maison Prunier 1938. What’s on the menu? New York Public Library. URL: http://menus.nypl.org/menus/30971/explore
[8] Nobel Banquet Menu 1925.  Nobel Prize. URL: Nobel Banquet Menu 1925
[9] POMMERY & GRENO CHAMPAGNE VEUVE POMMERYREIMS DRAPEAU FRANCE – Trademark Details. 1934. URL: https://trademarks.justia.com/713/45/pommery-greno-champagne-veuve-pommeryreims-drapeau-france-71345891.html
[10] A Chat on Wine. The Illustrated American, Volume 22. November 27, 1897. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=AWxNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[11] There was a Pommery Drapeau Sec “old release” from the 1970s with a completely different label.