DREAM ‘SWEETS’: Part 1

First off, thanks for clicking. It never ceases to amaze us that when you say something is a dessert style, people (the same ones that drink Chardonnays with 2% residual sugar and love those sweets when they are poured in their glass) scurry away. It is not a sin to like fruitier wines, nor does it mean you aren’t ‘cool’, in spite of what the populace at large might do to suggest otherwise. Far too many people act like drinking dessert wines is akin to drinking pancake syrup. But in fact the sizzling acidity that supports the great ones make them brighter and more versatile than a lot of wines out there.

Anyway, we are still fans of the genre and appreciate their place in the wine spectrum. Also, in spite of all of the negative attitude out there, we sell a lot of them…often providing we don’t say the ‘S’ word. For the moment we have a couple of gems that deserve a word. First up is the Felsina Vin Santo 2007, a fascinating and complex wine that is the result of an equally fascinating process.

The grapes in Felsina’s case are Trebbiano, Malvasia and Sangiovese that are harvested by hand and put through a rigorous sorting before the grapes are placed on mats until January/February. They are then de-stemmed and pressed, and the must is transferred to sealed, 100-litre oak casks containing the “mother” (a thick substance remaining from previous vintages).

After 7 years in storage, the cask is opened and the wine is bottle-aged for a minimum of 6 months. It’s a little bit ‘life on the edge’ because anything can happen in that closed environment for such a long period of time. When the stars align, it is magic, and this complex peach, dried apricot, carmel and spices elixir is one of those engaging examples.

Wine Advocate’s Monica Larner went off on this one saying, “The 2007 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (375-milliliters) is a gorgeous wine with so many descriptors that apply to the ever-evolving and complex bouquet. This golden dessert wine offers distinct aromas of dried apricot, honey and saffron. But give it a few moments and earthy or autumnal tones of wild mushroom, forest floor and aged cheese also rise to the top. The effect is almost savory and definitely very sophisticated. The wine glides smoothly over the palate with creamy richness and viscous smoothness. ..94+.”

Simply a stunning way to end an evening and, if you don’t finish it, it will hold up for a few days. (Go to ‘Dream Sweets: Part 2’)

NEAR PERFECT (98 Points) DESSERT FROM HUET

“…2015 is an exceptional and historic vintage again at Huet (perhaps the best since 1997). I can only recommend to buy cases of all styles.” – Stephen Reinhardt, Wine Advocate #227, October 2016

It doesn’t take a lot to get us to talk about one of our favorite estates in the Loire, Domaine Huet.  What with the historic aspects, including Gaston’s story as a prisoner of war in Germany, the long success of the estate upon his return, the takeover by the Hwang family, and the eventual retirement fixture Noel Pinguet (he had been there since 1971) and the eventual taking of the reins by his former assistant Jean-Bernard Berthomé, there was never a lack of material to write about.

Of course, without the wine, there is no story.  Of course, we’ll be the first to admit that the timing of the winemaking transition over the course of a couple of difficult vintages did give us cause for concern.  Was Huet, one of our favorite estates, going to become ‘just another Loire producer?’  The thought was depressing.  But Berthomé hit back-to-back home runs in 2014 and 2015 and restored our faith.

As we said in an earlier piece on the 2015s, the 2015 Huet lineup serves as an exclamation point on what will be viewed as an important harvest for the Loire.   The recent Wine Spectator article on the Loire Valley in 2015 was glowing and the ‘Top Picks’ section looked like an advertisement for Huet with the top eight wines listed, and nine of the first 11, bearing the Huet label.  At the top of the list were Huet’s dessert (moelleux) offerings, destined to become modern day legends.  We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see one pop up in the Top 100, though quantities would barely justify that (not that such things concern the press).

A great Loire sweet is in a league by itself.  The complexity of late harvest Chenin Blanc and the pristine, precise acidity will enable these wines to age decades.  Great examples like this are rare because the conditions that must exist for this ripening process to occur in the place only happen once or twice a decade.  We fondly remember the historic 1996 and 1997 vintages and recently managed to scrape up a few bottles of Huet direct from their cellars from the great 1989 vintage (we still may have a few bottles).

What we’re getting at is that, for wines like this, and Huet in particular, this is a special moment.  These are best of breed, and, while they aren’t cheap, they are bargains compared to the elite Sauternes and Beerenauslese from Germany with whom they easily can stand.  The ‘Trie’ wines in particular are super labor-intensive, the result of multiple passes (or tries) through the vineyard.

This wine, however, is a little different, as the workers go through the vineyards and pick the heavily botrytized and/or raisined grapes first, berry by berry. This is why the 1ere Trie is called 1ere Trie – it is the “first pick.”

Let us reiterate…THIS WINE IS SPECIAL.

The wines from Huet’s Le Mont vineyard, from rockier soils, have a more pronounced streak of minerality and a firmer backbone that provides the structure for aging. The Wine Advocate’s Stephan Reinhardt had the Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux Première Trie 2015 pegged as his favorite, noting, “This is super clear, ripe and aromatic on the nose, highly elegant and with lovely flinty flavors. Intense and concentrated, with great finesse and vitality, this is a highly elegant and perfectly balanced wine with a persistent grip and salinity. Great balance and harmony. 98 points.”

It is the Wine Advocate’s highest-scoring Loire Valley white wine for the outstanding 2015 vintage. It literally gets no better. And at $64.98 for a full bottle, it’s certainly one of the great values in world-class dessert wine that, incidentally, could potentially find itself cozying up to some spicier Asian preparations after a decade in the cellar.

Get this world-class gem while you can, historically wines like this come long once a decade.