Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gerard Bertrand, the South of France, and Per Se

Yesterday, I had the very good fortune to attend a magnificent wine tasting and lunch, featuring the gorgeous wines of Gérard Bertrand, at New York’s Per Se. As always when I post a brief accounting of a tasting here, I’ll point out that more in-depth coverage will be posted or linked up here in the coming weeks. However, despite the brevity, I thought it was important to cover it here today.

As far as the wines, this was the second tasting and lunch I’ve attended in the past month or so featuring the absolutely stellar ones of southern France--the previous one focusing on Roussillon, and this one on the bottlings produced by Gérard Bertrand from a number of appellations in the south.

And while each of the 10 wines we enjoyed with lunch was unique, expressive of different terroirs and grape varieties, they all shared one very important characteristic in common: They were, each of them, exceptionally food-friendly. The Viognier Réserve Spéciale 2010, for all the classicism of its nose, sang with a vivd acidity that is far too often missing from this typically tricky grape variety. It brought out the sweetness in the halibut, whereas the biodynamic Cigalus White 2009, on the other hand, highlighted the fish’s more savory aspects. Its warm-souled notes of vanilla, lemon cream, and nutmeg were amazing compliments to the San Marzano tomato marmalade accompanying the fish.

Then there was the Corbières 2009, a classic grenache-syrah-mourvedre blend that was vivid with peppercorns, purple berry fruit, and a touch of game--perfect with the ribeye, as was the more subtle Pic St.-Loup “Grand Terroir” 2009. And you’d have a hard time finding a better pairing for the perfectly caramelized king trumpet mushroom than the Château L’Hospitalet Réserve Rouge 2009, its own perfume of warm plums and peppercorn adding remarkable depth to an already dizzyingly delicious dish.

The trio of wines we sipped alongside the cheese course each picked up a different component of the plating. From the concentrated black raspberries and slicing acidity of “La Forge” 2008, to the dustier tannins and red plums of “La Viola” 2007, to the mouth-coating, sappier fruit of L’Hospitalitas 2008, these were almost dangerous in the flat-out drinkability and enjoyment they provided.

Finally, a wine that I’m not embarrassed to say I dreamed about last night: The “Legend Vintage” Maury 1929, a stunner of a wine bursting with figs, dried apricots, tobacco and minerals, as well as an unexpected note of savory caramel. M. Bertrand called this wine “the soul of the Roussillon area,” and I couldn’t agree more. It was mature and profound, of course, but also amazingly bright, a wine that still has time left.

I just wish I ate and drank this well everyday.


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