Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Charmed By Berlioz

(This article first appeared in Appellation Wine And Spirits newsletter on 5/17/12)

Jacquère isn’t a garage band, a perfume, or cool way of pronouncing the maestro of boutique chocolates. It’s a variety that rarely finds its way onto a brunch menu, but that’s not the grape’s fault. For one, it’s hard to find, flourishing in the heart of Savoie. Hugh Johnson refers to it as alpine Muscadet.

This noteworthy stuff is found in the village of Chignin which nestles between the communes of Les Marches and Montmélian southeast of The Bauges Mountains. Chignin also refers to the cru in the Vin de Savoie appellation which is often shortened to Savoie. Production is tiny. They make less than a fiftieth of the production in Bordeaux. Hello matchbox. The Bauges Mountains are part of the culprit and the diffused vineyards also add to the slim pickings.

Domaine Gilles Berlioz makes a polished Chignin. This Berlioz is no relation to the composer, but don’t hold that against the biodynamic maverick. The estate’s been practicing biodynamics since 2005. I find this wine to have a delicate aromatic structure of white flowers and just an insouciance of Mackinaw peach. Pale-toned, it is bantamweight, and earmarked for those who value reticence over car chases. I get citrus peel more than I get pulpy juice. There’s also a zestiness girded by a stony minerality. The Bourget Lake, the largest natural lake of glacial origin in France, is probably to thank for this. Lighter-bodied and well-balanced, Berlioz Chignin will go just as well with steamed mussels as with Gouda and wheat crackers. Daredevils might want to try it with medium-spicy Mexican fare— Huarache and Chilaquiles.