Friday, March 28, 2008

Paul Lapandéry et Fils

UPDATE: On a whim I opened a mag of 1980 that was a slight leaker (probably due to a high fill as it was very high in the neck) and it was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. I actually preferred it to the the 1990 that we tried here earlier! Show me any gamay based wine, or even a Burgundy from this admittedly awful vintage that has aged as gracefully, as effortlessly as this and I will eat my hat! WOW!!!

There was a trade tasting here at MILLESIME last Monday and one of the highlights in terms of quality, rarity, eccentricy, etc. were 2 wines from Domaine Paul Lapandéry. My experience with this domaine goes back to the early nineties when I met them at the Salon de l'agriculture de Paris to pick up some homemade saucissons they had under the counter for my boss. I had tasted current vintages in bottle but at the Salon was privileged to taste several vintages from the 70s from magnum and was simply amazed by the exquisite longevity achieved by these medium bodied high toned wines, all with a whopping 12% alcohol!

A lowly AOVDQS then, Paul Lapandéry was the driving force behind AOC status for Côte Roannaise. The wine, known as "La Rousselière" was then a blend of about 90% Gamay and 10% Pinot Noir. His ungrateful neighbors possessed no Pinot vines, let alone venerable ones like Lapandéry, and proceeded to conspire with the INAO to get them to declare the AOC Côte Roannaise to be 100% Gamay. He lobbied also unsuccessfully to have his "La Rousselière" classified as an AOC unto itself like Chateau Grillet, as the situation of the vineyard and the granitic terroir were themselves unique, but to no avail. Lapandéry was forced to either declassify to "Vin de Table" or discontinue the blending, calling the Gamay AOC Côte Roannaise, and the Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d'Urfé... When Paul died soon after, his son Francisque took over the domaine and in spite of his education at the Lycée Viticole de Beaune, has chosen to use the same ancestral methods, with superb results in the bottle. The geographic situation of the vineyard protects it naturally from fogs and all manner of extreme weather. Rot and mildew are therefore unknown and no treatments are necessary. Everything has to be done entirely by hand due to the vineyard's steepness (72 degrees in places) as well as the fact the the family uses the spaces between the vines for all manner of food crops for their consumption! As an additional particularity, the wines have always been destemmed. The wines are vinified in concrete and aged in venerable old barrels for 12-18 months and they really, truly and uncannily improve in bottle.

The happy ending to this sad tale is that the truth of the matter is that the ancient granite Gamay was always the secret to the character and longevity of this wine and not the Pinot Noir anyway! Don't get me wrong, the monocépage Pinot Noir is really a superb and complete example, at a price that really is a joke give the state of the $. The 2005 Gamay displays the same 'kirschy' fruit and finesse as the wines from the 70s! 'Purists' or nostalgists such as myself were delighted to see the continuity of the 2005 and the 1990 from magnum that we tasted on Monday. More than simply 'alive' after 18 years, the 1990 was easily the most interesting wine of the tasting... In a world of rotofermented flash-cooked brutally tannic "creature wines", these 12% alcohol examples of exquisite finesse and effortless longevity are indeed an antidote. While supplies last, we have the following wines available:

2005 Côte Roannaise "La Rousselière"
2005 VDP d'Urfé Pinot Noir

2005 Côte Roannaise "La Rousselière"
1998 Côte Roannaise "La Rousselière"
1996 Côte Roannaise AOVDQS "La Rousselière"
1990 Côte Roannaise AOVDQS "La Rousselière"
1980 Côte Roannaise AOVDQS "La Rousselière"