Sunday, March 9, 2008

Joly’s Clos de la Coulée de Serrant

Excessive doesn’t even begin to describe our behavior this weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk more wine in a 60-hour period, especially of this caliber. With anything from DRC to Raveneau to Huet to Salon to Marcarini, I think we managed to hit most of the major food groups. We took a break on Friday during a terrific morning of old white Burgundy to drink a small flight of Savennières from the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant.


Few wines are as polarizing today as Nicolas Joly’s Savennières. The 2002 brought up the usual discussion of oxidation in Joly’s current style of winemaking—this bottle was downright poor, feeling metallic, oxidative, alcoholic and clumsy. I’ve defended this wine in the past, and it's possible that another bottle might show better. For me, however, this was extremely disappointing. It was especially shocking in direct comparison with wines from the previous era, as today’s wines in no way resemble the wines of the past.

The pairing of 1986 and 1987 served as a wonderful example of this, with the former showing a sleekly luscious, waxy depth of fruit and the latter feeling like a distillation of pure minerality, its fruit existing solely as a vehicle for transmission of terroir. This is how Savennières should be: complex, refined, harmonious, dazzlingly soil-expressive, and above all, showing an impeccable balance. Even more regal was a spectacular bottle of 1961, its complex layers of flavor ranging from dried apricot to blanched almond to chestnut honey, all infused by a hauntingly fragrant minerality. Very few wines in the world can finish with such incredible length and detail as this one did. Will the wines of today turn out anywhere close to this? Personally, I don’t think so. What’s your opinion?

9 comments:

Marshall Manning said...

I haven't had the '61 (where the heck was my invite??), but the wines from the '90s that I've had all seem too oxidized and tired already to do much aging. Most weren't that pleasant when they were young.

Lyle Fass said...

No way they will. The 1983 is my all time favorite and I told him and he dismissed it as an average wine because it was not made by him in the BO style.

Brodie said...

So interesting to read your commentary on the 2002's, as they are the most prominent vintage offered in both NC and NY. It is especially good to take into consideration before purchasing this vintage. I have known of Clos de la Coulée de Serrant to be Joly's best, but I will perhaps hold out for better.

Peter Liem said...

When the 2002 was first released, I wrote in W&S that I thought it was the greatest wine made by Joly in over a decade. This still may be the case -- the bottle I tasted here could have been flawed, or it could be an indication of the (d)evolution of the wine. I would prefer to taste another bottle in Europe before deciding. The Coulée de Serrant is certainly a special terroir, capable of some of the greatest white wine in the world.

Anonymous said...

My experience matches yours on almost all of the bottles of recent-ish Coulee de Serrant. Nicolas Joly has lost sight of the most important thing as a vigneron: the purpose of growing the best grapes possible is to make the best wine possible. Non-intervention is a quality only up to a point. We've all heard that wine is a natural product. Let's not get confused here: vinegar is a natural product, wine is the interruption of that natural process. Some intervention, not much, is necessary.

peter gibson said...

This was the third time I've had the 2002. The first bottle was magnificent and matched closely your W&S review. The subsequent two were as you describe here. As all three bottles were sourced locally here in Portland, my vote goes to (d)evolution.

I don't believe the problem is unique to Joly, however, as I've had recently had advanced, cidery bottles of 2002 Château de Varennes Savennières, 2001 Pierre Soulez/Château de Chamboureau Savennières Roche aux Moines Cuvée d’Avant and 2002 Chamboureau Savennières Cuvée d’Avant normale. I've also heard others claim that some bottles of mid-'90s Baumard Clos du Papillon are suffering symptoms of premature oxidation as well.

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