Author: Brian Freedman
It’s late in the summer—nearly August—and the natural tendency is to drink the sort of casual, not-too-demanding wines that seem to mirror the season. This time of year, for me at least, is defined by grilled meats, languorous weekends, and a wardrobe far more casual than it is any other time of the year. So who wants to drink serious wine while wearing flip-flops?
There’s something deeply rewarding about treating yourself to a great bottle or two in the dog days of summer, and the unpretentious decadence of popping the cork from a world-class bottle on a summertime evening is hard to argue with, especially amid the season’s sea of inexpensive, cheerful, and deliciously undemanding rosé that makes up so much of our collective wine diet this time of year.
For today’s Wines of the Week, then, I offer two wines that are apt reminders that we’ll be looking back longingly on these long hot days in a few months, when autumn’s chill starts to clamp down. If we’re going to splurge a little bit, this is the perfect time of year to do so.
My white Wine of the Week, the Champagne André Jacquart Millésime Expérience Brut Nature Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2007, is a phenomenal example of why Grand Cru Champagne is one of the best values on the wine market today. That may seem like a contradiction in terms, the juxtaposition of “value” and “Grand Cru,” but it’s true. Because the Champagne system defines entire villages as Grand Cru, Premier Cru, etc., as opposed to specific vineyards, it’s possible to find remarkable Champagnes from these highly ranked villages for prices that are firmly on the reasonable side of the spectrum.
This particular bottle can be found for under $70 online, and even at 11 years old, it’s a lively, energetic wine that seems to be at its peak right now, but that will continue to hold on for another decade. There’s no need to wait, however: At this price, it’s a perfect bottle to pop open any day of the week, and to enjoy on its own, or alongside some lightly grilled fish or seafood, or—why not?—with Sunday morning brunch.
My red Wine of the Week is a perennial standout, and vintage after vintage embodies so much of the potential for the long-lived and deeply expressive wines of the best vineyards of Chile. The Don Melchor 2014, from the Puente Alto Vineyard in Chile’s Puente Alto D.O. in the Alto Maipo Valley, is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. And it’s a show-stopper.
This red, in fact, is one of those rare Cabernets that has the structure to age for more than a decade, but that’s also not just drinkable, but deeply enjoyable, right now. There is a plushness of texture to this wine that makes every sip a memorable tactile experience, and an energy that will allow it to continue improving and evolving with each passing year. When to open the bottle really depends on whether you prefer the immediate pleasure of expressive fruit, or if you’d rather wait for the more secondary characteristics to emerge, as they surely will, with a few years’ aging. There’s really no wrong decision when it comes to this stellar wine.
Or, frankly, with either of these two Wines of the Week. Because both are perfect breaks from the more typical late-summertime vinous fare, and both, in their way, represent value within their categories. Which, to me at least, makes them perfect for the dog days of summer. Or the dead of winter. Anytime, really: Great wine justifies itself whenever you open a bottle.
Champagne André Jacquart Millésime Expérience Brut Nature Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2007
Aromatically this is fully mature, with classic hints of cheese, toast, roasting coffee beans, and old leather-bound books in a dusty library, with just a hint of apricot pastry crème and lemon clotted cream. On the palate, the bubbles here are laser-point tiny and pulsed through with assertive acidity, copious minerality, lemon and lemon pith, and a hint of lime. The finish speaks of seashells and jasmine, and lingers both on the palate and in the memory. SRP: $74.99
Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Puente Alto, Chile
Such an evocative and instantly appealing nose, generous in its aromas of red-cherry liqueur and licorice, with hints of sweet vanilla woven throughout. The palate is structured for the long-haul, but the tannins, flecked with flavors of sasparilla and star anise, are so elegant that this is a wine that will reward drinking in the short-term as well. The generosity of the nose manifests itself in flavors of red currants and subtle chocolate, but they are anchored by the more savory pull of pencil shavings, grilled sage, and a ringing minerality that carries through to the long finish. I’d buy a handful of bottles, drink one this summer, and enjoy the rest every couple of years for the next 15-plus. This is a ringingly exciting wine. SRP: $125