Hello friends. Hype. Short for hyperbole. It runs rampant in the wine trade. I vowed when starting Full Pull to try not to overdo it. Because, I mean really, if today I’m offering the GREATEST WINE I’VE EVER TASTED, what the hell am I supposed to say about tomorrow’s wine? The truth is: I love all my babies. Maybe not equally. But plenty of love.
And yeah, I know I don’t always get it right, and sometimes enthusiasm crosses the line into hyperbole, but one thing I can promise you at least: it’s always on my mind to keep the hype in check and to offer you a clear-eyed look at the wines we’re offering.
One of the places where wine hype is at its worst is with vintages. We’re seventeen years into this century, and I shudder to think of the number of vintages I’ve heard described as the “potential vintage of the century.” In Washington alone, I’ve heard folks toss out that phrase for 2003, 2005, 2007, 2012, and 2014. When 30% of vintages are the “vintage of the century,” we are squarely into hype territory.
All of this is preamble to talk about the 2015 vintage in Europe. Hype heaven. It began as early as harvest time (see Decanter’s article: Europe’s 2015 wine harvest: On the verge of greatness?). And it has continued as even-handed folks like Jancis Robinson have begun compiling vintage reports. Some example quotes. Burgundy: [TEXT WITHHELD]
Those of us who enjoy Jancis for her restraint can pretty easily translate phrases like “very promising” into “what the [bleep] are you waiting for? buy buy buy!!!!” But still, I’m not going to go anywhere near calling it Europe’s VOTC™. For one thing, it’s waaaaaay too early. Most of the best wines are years away from release. And anyway, doesn’t it suffice to just call it an extremely promising vintage and then go out and taste the wines?
One nice aspect of Full Pull is that we have certain wines we offer year in and year out. Those wines give us an easy prism through which to view the effects of vintage. One of the first such wines that we taste each vintage is Bila-Haut, Chapoutier’s Roussillon project. And if this wine is any indication (and here I’ll slip into Jancisese), 2015 is very promising indeed.
2015 Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge
This wine is a ridiculous value in mediocre vintages. In a fine vintage like 2015, it’s a sub-$15 wine that can help lay the foundation for a cellar. Jeb Dunnuck tasted it out of barrel last year, and he was, erm, a little excited.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91-93pts.”
Now then, a few quick reminders on the Bila-Haut project: first off, Languedoc-Roussillon is a region that has for some time exported massive quantities of forgettable plonk, but has in recent years begun to develop a reputation as a fine source of French value. At the vanguard of the quality movement: Michel Chapoutier, he of the multiple 100pt (Robert Parker) wines from the northern Rhone. I’ll reprint the excerpt from one of Parker’s introductions to Chapoutier in Wine Advocate:
We tasted this wine in late December, and even at the end of a long year of tasting, this wine easily cut through the clutter. One of those wines where Pat and I simultaneously taste the wine and look up at each other like: are you tasting what I’m tasting?!? The nose is a glorious, expressive mix of black fruit and black pepper, violets and braising beef. The palate (14.5% listed alc) is perhaps most impressive texturally, with noteworthy intensity and real palate-staining character. The complexity and length, the crushed-rock minerality, the quality of pleasure this brings to the table: all simply dazzle at a sub-$15 price point. If this is the vanguard of 2015 in Europe, I might be ready to clamber aboard the hype train.
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