Like doctors who annually advise their patients to lose some weight or dentists who tell you to floss, I find myself at this time of year offering what I know to be excellent advice that similarly won't be taken. This advice is simple: Start a wine cellar.
Without my wishing to belabor matters: You want a wine cellar because it's the only way you'll get a chance to drink reasonably mature wines. And it will allow you to lay in wines you really like that don't cost much money.
You already know this, but my Winocratic Oath requires me to say at the start of every new year that you'll find yourself in far better (wine) shape down the road if you take cellaring care today. Yes, it costs some money. But no more in a year than what you'd pay for two tickets to a Broadway show for just one night.
All right, I promise I'll start one, you say. But not everything good involves delayed gratification. What about right now? Surely, there's something? Indeed there is.
HERE'S THE (IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION) DEAL
Laforet Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay 2005, Joseph Drouhin — Burgundy's 2005 vintage is destined to be the most talked-about vintage since the great huzzahs raised for the 1990 vintage. Why? Shakespeare put it best: "Ripeness is all."
According to Allen Meadows, whose four-times-a-year newsletter called Burghound.com is the definitive word on matters Burgundian, says the 2005 vintage is "the single most consistently excellent vintage from top to bottom that I've ever seen." Mr. Meadows rarely engages in gush, so you'd better believe it.
In Burgundy, when you want proof of the greatness of a vintage, you don't go to the grands crus. That's like discovering that rich people live in Sutton Place. Of course they show up.
Instead, you can better take the measure of a truly great vintage by investigating lesser precincts. And there's nothing lesser in Burgundy's class-conscious hierarchy than a wine labeled Bourgogne blanc. Literally and legally it means a chardonnay from anywhere (and often everywhere) in the sizable Burgundy region, which is roughly as extensive as the distance between New York and Albany.
So when you taste a wine as generic as the brand-named bottling called Laforet Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay 2005 and you discover not merely a bland dry white wine but an honest-to-gosh white Burgundy, well, the phrase quelle surprise [italics] comes to mind.
It's no ordinary vintage that can transform an inexpensive white wine warhorse like Laforet blanc into something that can make a Burgundy fancier coquettishly say, "Haven't I met you somewhere before?"
A chardonnay drawn from vineyards in Mâcon, Chablis, Rully, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Puligny-Montrachet, this is a pure-tasting dry white wine that displays chardonnay's signature scents of apple and pear. Mercifully oakfree, it also has a discernible mineral note, which no one has any right to expect from a chardonnay at this low a price. Yet there it is. That's what makes it a real white Burgundy rather than a generic I'll-have-a-glass-of-white-wine chardonnay.
This is a lighter-style wine that shows exceptionally well with food. Worth noting is that Laforet Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay 2005 is bottled with a highly desirable screw cap, which insures a pristine freshness and flavor purity.
The price is little short of boggling for the quality: $12.95 a bottle. Look for a street price as low as $9.95. At that price, you'd be hard-pressed to find any dry white wine as good as this, let alone a 100% chardonnay that really does taste as if it comes from Burgundy. And it needs no further aging, either.
Lagrein Gries "Berger Gei" 2004, Ignaz Niedrist[BF] — Back in November I was prowling the northern Italian region called Alto Adige/Südtirol looking for the indigenous red grape variety called lagrein (which rhymes with spine). I reported on the extraordinary lagrein of J. Hofstätter's Steinraffler vineyard, as well as the great lagreins proffered by the monastic winery Klosterkellerei Muri-Gries.
Recently, another luminous lagrein came to my attention from the tiny artisanal producer Ignaz Niedrist. At its best, lagrein is a rich, succulent red that resembles nothing so much as a liquid blackberry cobbler. And that description certainly applies to this exceptional single-vineyard bottling from Ignaz Niedrist.
This is one of the richest, most succulent lagreins I have yet tasted. Yet it retains a degree of detail and restraint that keeps it from being merely a mouthful of ultra-ripe fruit. Instead, it is lagrein at the limits — but not beyond. It needs no further aging either, as a lagrein like this is as come-hither as a red wine gets. What's not to like? It's $35 (and worth it) at Moore Brothers Wine Company on East 20th Street just off Broadway.