André-Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2009
Sometimes my chosen Weekend Wine wins favour purely because of its quality, or some other trait of interest. Sometimes it seems to relate to a context, which may be mere happy coincidence or, perhaps rather more often than you might imagine, it is actually by design. Take last week's Tio Pepe En Rama, for instance; this was a wine very recently delivered to my abode, and as I so rarely feature sherry on Winedoctor it seemed very appropriate to immediately throw the spotlight its way. Especially as I knew that it would slot into my recent internal debate over oxidation in wine very nicely. As it turned out, the wine's flor-derived acetaldehyde character - the aroma that, in other styles, betrays the presence of oxidation - made for an interesting (and educational) tasting experience.
For a more serendipitous example we do not need to look too far back, only to my recent encounter with the 2009 Bric Bastia, from Fabrizio Battaglino; I discovered this wine just as Fabrizio's reputation seems to be taking off. Having recently picked up yet another tre bicchieri award there is a developing buzz around this previously little-known estate. I would like to pretend I was in on the action early through design, my tasting note a trend-setting piece, purposefully set against the backdrop of the hubbub from Fabrizio's burgeoning fan base. But the truth is - as I declared in my write-up - this was a chance discovery, a bottle given to me by an Italian friend, carried all the way from a Roman enoteca.
Do I have any context, serendipitous or otherwise, for this week's wine, the 2009 André-Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie? That is difficult to answer, as it has not been your average week. The weekend before this one I visited my parents, both elderly. As they do not live in the UK it is not that often I see them; I took a Saturday morning flight, and returned Sunday evening. There was a flying visit to see my mother, who now resides in a nursing home specialising in caring for the elderly with mental health disorders, including dementia, her particular problem. She no longer knows my face, name or identity, and even my rather short stay there swung precariously between the comedy - largely provided by the show-stopping singing of her fellow residents - and the great tragedy of it all. There were two slightly longer visits to see my father, terminally ill in a local hospice. On the Saturday he was frail but chirpy, but on the Sunday he was more resigned, and clearly in pain. It was no great shock to learn, only last Wednesday, that he had died. It had been a rapid demise in the end, but one that protected him from any further insults his disease may have hurled his way, as it continued to tighten its malignant grip. Greater pain and grand indignity had lain just around the corner, I am certain.
With these events so fresh in my mind I am reminded of Andrew Jefford's words in The New France (p. 22, Mitchell Beazley, 2002), when he writes of sharing a solemn glass of Champagne with a friend who has fallen on hard times. Wine can certainly help lubricate the less festive moments of life, as well as the celebrations. I should, I suppose, write of my toasting of my father's passing with one or two glasses of Riesling, his preferred tipple when he came to visit me. In fact his lifelong poison of choice was more probably dark rum, but he did also develop a penchant for all manner of Riesling kabinetts, a taste that grew out of the semi-sweet Liebfraumilch culture of the 1970s. He had no real interest in wine, but in latter years he came to know the name of Loosen (I certainly poured enough glasses of the Ürziger Würzgarten, Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Erdener Treppchen kabinetts for him) and was sufficiently enamoured to track down a few bottles of his own. And even more recently he discovered my stash of the rather richer 2006 Hochheimer Reichestal Kabinett from Künstler, of which I have still remaining one or two doubtlessly poignant bottles. But on the whole he was content drinking whatever I poured, a rather laid-back approach that reflected his character I think.
And so I am sure he will not object if, in toasting his life, I retreat into what I know best; and so that means not one of Ernie's bottles, as my father might have chosen, but a young, vibrant and revivifying Muscadet from André-Michel Brégeon, one of the region's best (and yet little-known compared to the likes of Ollivier and Bossard) vignerons. The wine has a pale and shimmering hue, and aromatically it has a classic style, full of minerally fruit, thyme, lemon, pear skin and salt. These appealing and crunchy, well-defined aromatics translate into a tense, incisive minerality on the palate showing a salty, slightly vegetal and smoky character, with a firm and challenging structure. Overall it is long, sappy, dry and freshly acidic. For the point fans - 16.5/20. It certainly makes a good toast, for any occasion. It is not imbued with deep and multi-layered complexity (or if it was, I didn't see it on this day), but that is fine, as that is not really what I wanted here. Nevertheless, complexity or not, this is still a wine which managed to enliven, and that is just what I wanted. It is wine's ability to entertain, to enthrall, to intrigue and sometimes to confuse, even in more sombre times, that makes it so fascinating.
And, some might say, it is wine's multi-faceted ability to do all these things that makes life worth living. Right now this is a sentiment I find difficult to argue against.
My updates, already written, will continue this week as normal up to and including Friday. Next week sees the start of my usual summer break from Winedoctor, which this year must encompass a funeral, as well as a family holiday. Normal updates will resume on July 25th. (27/6/11)