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Monday, December 29, 2008

What kind of geek are you?

There's a broad world of esoteric wines out there that continue to elicit polarizing passion from their fans as well as foes. Geeks, almost by definition, have a predilection for the obscure, and in turn, the obscure tends to be poorly understood by the masses. Within our vast array of tastes and sub-cliques of wine fanatics, it seems that certain regions and/or varietals continue to gain traction as other fads come and go. The Jura-heads, Gruner guzzlers and Madiera mavens divide and conquer in their ‘Chess Club’-like support groups, while the ‘Rock Head’ Riesling addicts have done the unthinkable…boosted the image of their love for weenie white wine w/ residual sugar into the realm of badass (I still have no clue how something w/ 8% alcohol could ever be called ‘dope’).

I suppose I’m asking in part because I’d like to feel less alone for my own little peccadillo, my penchant for the other 5% of Rhone wines…you know, the white ones. I can’t even confide in my wife (as she tends to find them flabby and soft), so my home provides no shelter from the ‘kick me’ storm. I don’t want others to like them, as the foundation of my soap box stems more from confessional origins than desire for conversion. Further to that point, my appreciation (or yours, for that matter) wouldn’t be unique if it were a mainstream affair. There's nothing geeky about vanilla?

So with that, I leave you w/ a quick little tasting experience that inspired the question. I explain it in detail not in the hopes that you’ll like the wine, but simply so you can appreciate my passion (and perhaps share your own in return).

Chave, Hermitage Blanc '02

While '02 was a washout for the Southern Rhone (and dicey at best in the North), most white grapes came in before the historic floods, keeping the integrity of the fruit in tact. The beauty of this vintage (for those w/ a penchant for white Rhones) is that the cost of most whites remain exceptionally modest, as the 'guilt by association' stigma put downward pricing pressure on all wines. While I popped this w/ quite a bit of trepidation (simply due to the unpredictability of white Hermitage at such an age), it fortunately was clicking on all cylinders. The '02 has a striking golden color. The nose is subtle, but distinctively tropical, w/ fresh guava, creamed peach, white flowers, honeysuckle and melted butter notes emerging from the glass. The palate is paradoxically chewy, yet mineral-infused, w/ good lift from well defined acidity pushing things along its well proportioned frame. This is not an overwhelming vintage, yet its multi-dimensional texture hits the senses from different angles, closing w/ a flinty, slightly tannic note.

It always fascinates me how Northern Rhone whites can have the bouquet and mineral tone of a super-ripe Vouvray, yet this guy's palate speaks in clear Chardonnay tongues, flexing a bit of the Hermitage hill's structural muscle for good measure, 92 points.

So put your pocket protectors on and let the cat out of the bag. Are you a closet Muscadet devotee? Does it make you feel guilty to admit that you actually like Mollydooker? I promise not to make fun of you, because if I did…you’d just rank on me for thinkin' Picpoul is cool.

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