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November 2011

Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc


Joseph Cattin is a is a family winery in Alsace, FR, that has been involved in wine making for three centuries.  Their vineyards in Alsace benefit from the general climate, which is hot, continental and sheltered by the Vosges mountains which create one of the driest climates in France.  They also benefit from having particularly high amounts of granite, limestone, and gravel throughout there vineyards.  The soils are farmed traditionally and all the grapes ar harvested by hand. 

I'm really enamoured with this wine right now.  It's one of the best Pinot Blancs that I've had.  It's been a lot of fun sampling this to my customers and surprising them with how bright and entertaining it is! 

Aroma: The first aroma I pick up is white flowers.  It's a pretty (in both ways) floral white wine that also has hints of citrus fruit, fresh grass, and peach fruit as well.  It's a nice mix of aromas.

Palate:  Cattin is supposed to have more limestone and gravel in the vineyards and this certainly tastes like it.  There is surprisingly bright, engaging, fresh acidity and mentality on the mid-palate, but that acidity is perfectly integrated with the lush, mouth filling fruit of the wine.  I really love this combination of Pinot Blanc's typical mouth filling texture with refreshing acidity.  This wine opens up as it warms and starts to show more layers with hints of stone fruit. 

My over all reaction is that I really enjoy this.  Plus it's a very adaptable food wine.  The full body plus teh freshness of the wine allow it to stand alone or work with appetizers, white fish, and poultry such as turkey (hint, hint)  This is under $15 retail and is available at The Freeport Cheese and Wine Shop, Whole Foods, the Rosemont Markets, Downeast Beverage, Scratch Bakery, and Oak Hill Beverage.


Thanksgiving Wine Treatise

I realized last year that Thanksgiving is really just about my favorite holiday; I even prefer it over my own birthday (though my birthday isn't a national holiday either).  Underneath it all, Thanksgiving is about a big, involved meal with friends and family; basically it's a great excuse for a dinner party.  And I love dinner parties! 


So I've been devoting a lot of thought to what I want to drink for Thanksgiving.  And not just what I want to drink with Thanksgiving but what I want to drink with every possible contingency that could arise on Thanksgiving!  Turducken? Friuli red blend from Comelli!  Turkey burnt beyond recognition?  Magnum of Dierberg Pinot to drown your sorrows!  Turkey lasagna?  I Balzini Red Label Super Tuscan!  Brussel sprouts with garlic, salt, and pepper?  Hatzidakis Nykteri Assyrtiko!

I could go on and on, but really, that wouldn't be in keeping with Devenish's focus on education and empowering you to be better wine consumers.  Instead of just dictating to you a list of wines that I approve of, I feel it would be more progressive to explain what kinds of wines I think suite Thanksgiving food and why.  So here goes nothin'!

Excess is an integral part of the American Thanksgiving dinner, but adding high alcohol reds (like 15% Zins) to the tryptophan in turkey can knock you out harder than a roofied Pinot Grigio.  So in the interest of going the distance I'm focusing on wines that aren't too heavy handed.  Turkey, while flavorful, isn't a really rich meat and is often kind of dry and lean; therefore I look to brighter vibrant reds that will complement the slightly gamy qualities of the bird with out overwhelming the flavor.  I really like Pinot Noirs for this purpose.  There are a couple different primary regions that are known for Pinot Noir which each have there own characteristics, but all the good examples will have a deft balance and soft texture that will work towards the goal of complementing turkey's flavor with out overwhelming it.  Broadly speaking, French Pinot will be a bit lighter and silky; Oregon will be a bit earthier and brawnier (more rugged Pacific northwest if you will) and Santa Barbara Pinot is often more fruit driven and hedonistic.  All these styles have their strengths.  I think the French is the most mouth watering, but Oregon has that rustic honesty, and Santa Barbara is just, well, gorgeous.

DISCLAIMER: this is a personal recommendation.  I may not follow it my self.  There are certainly always exceptions to the rule, especially in wine, and the unexpected prodigal son is often the most rewarding for it's unexpectedness.

But when was the last time you had a Thanksgiving meal that was simply turkey and nothing else?  Right!  There's mashed potatoes, roasted squash, root vegetables, stuffing, probably some cheeses.  And then desert!  The point is that there's a lot more to take into account than just turkey.  As Marylin Munroe said, and I'm so fond of quoting, Champagne goes with everything!  And it looks cool.  The effervescence helps to remove food flavors from your mouth, allowing you to taste the wine and making it seem more refreshing.  I'd recommend some kind of sparkling wine made in the Champagne style, but not necessarily Chapmagne because of the cost. You can get sparkling wine that's just as good for half the price from Cava or the Loire if you go to a good shop and ask around.

If Champagne for Thanksgiving doesn't really do it for you I'd recommend some kind of white that's full bodied but also still has some good acidity to it, and maybe a bit of sweetness.  A dry German or Alsatian Riesling or not quite dry Loire Vouvray would be perfect; full enough that it won't get pushed around by sweet potatoes and stuffing, but still bright and with some mineral and earth tones that will help it against roasted vegetables.  Argentine Torrontes has always been another favorite of mine for this. 


Here's a picture of someone trying to enjoy all those wines at once.  On a train.

And let's not forget Cabernet Franc!  A nice medium bodied Loire Cabernet Franc will have a silky texture, but a bit more fruit and pepper than a Pinot Noir.  They're less common, but I think they're some of the best food friendly wines around.  Bourgueil and Chinon are the two best appellations.  Any good wine shop will have a couple.  Check out this post on Bourgueil form

These are just guidelines and a glimpse at how I approach wines at Thanksgiving.  Probably the best way to find a wine that will please you is to come to one of my many wine tastings over this week and see what strikes your fancy.  Check out my Coming Events here!

Franck Givaudin Irancy 2009

2011-11-15 18.32.06

Franck Givaudin is the 5th generation of his family to run this vineyard.  Irancy is a small sheltered valley up near Chablis in northern Burgundy where it's normally too cold for Pinot; however the particular geography here lends itself to Pinot production.  All the grapes from Franck Givaudin's estate are hand harvested and fermented with natural yeast.


This has the bright vibrant red Burgundy nose that I expect, but it's riper and more developed than it would typically be due to the unusual ripeness of the 2009 vintage.  Under the violets, ripe cherry and raspberry there's a smoky, edge that's really more char; kind of a charcoal actually.  I pick up a hint of bramble too.  To really get wine geeky and let myself go I'd say it's like lying under a raspberry bush on a hot august day in the sun.  The intense ripeness evokes that intense sun and the smoke and earth aromas make me think of the sun baked grasses and bush....regardless of how geeky you are this is a ripe, well developed red Burgundy.


The developed fruit and unusual ripeness continues on the palate with a real pronounced fresh strawberry.  Really, this is very much like eating a really ripe strawberry; maybe there were a few blackberries in that handful too.  It's not just fruit though.  It's structured with a slightly noticeable drying of tannins on the finish and a dark mid-palate that builds in intensity in a deceptive way given the wine's bright aroma.

This is a great, characterful red Burgundy from a little seen, exciting AOC.  It's about $20 retail and currently is available at the Rosemont market up on Munjoy hill and the Blue Hill Wine Shop.  If you like vivid red burgundies I strongly recommend this.