paulg’s pierre rovani interview – part two

Friday, May 14, 2010

Continuing an interview with Pierre Rovani, who was Robert Parker’s reviewer for Burgundy, the Pacific Northwest, and other major wine regions from 1996 to 2006. Rovani, now president of Remoissenet, was a guest of McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants and Seattle Wine Storage, where he orchestrated a tasting of 2007 Burgundies, just now being released into the U.S. market. This was the first Remoissenet vintage made under his supervision.

PG: Do you write a blog? Or follow any particular blogs? Your former boss has been rather sharply criticized by some of them.

PR: Blogging? I barely understand Google! Democratization of opinions? There is nothing more dangerous than full-on democracy. The U.S. is a republic – the last thing you want is to be ruled by the masses in any respect. That is what terrifies me about the internet – people spewing diatribes they know nothing about.

PG: Yes but… there are some excellent writers, journalists, and critics doing blogs these days.

PR: I believe you earn your reputation. When a consumer goes into a wine shop and buys a wine because person ‘A’ gave it 95 points and the wine stinks, they won’t listen to that person any more. Parker’s reputation is earned, not voodoo, not magic, not mystery. If we’d recommended crap…

PG: You ever miss being the critic?

PR: I once got dis-invited from a very close friend’s wedding because he didn’t like the reviews I gave him. When I was a wine critic, I often wondered what it was like on the other side of the fence and have some schmuck fly in….

PG: And now you know!

PR: In April of 2005 I was asked to come on board and it was time to put up or shut up. The wines we’re having tonight are from our first vintage. I should mention – by training I’m not a winemaker. But all our wines are in desperate need of air. They are not reduced, but they are actually better the day after, which tells me they will do well with age.

PG: The tasting proceeded – some 14 wines in all. These are representative of those being imported into the U.S. Prices listed are full retail. As a side note, there was a question about the problem of premature oxidation (thank you Hosemaster, for pinning me to eParker on that one). But it’s been a real problem, and I’ve lost some wines in my own cellar to it. Here’s what Rovani had to say.

PR: Premature oxidation? The issue is being addressed. Burgundians reacted as all humans do – you look for a scapegoat. Initially they blamed it on cork producers. It has to do with a number of factors that fall into place. It starts with producers of white grapes who are absolutely convinced that yields are of no consequence. In high yield vintages when you put fruit in a pneumatic press and take the free run juice, and instead of putting it right into barrels, you decant off gross lees, when is your opportunity to get the anti-oxidants out of the grapes? When you press. If you don’t press, or press lightly, you’re getting no anti-oxidants. So you stir the lees. But there are no lees. So you are just oxidizing the wines. The less perfect stoppers oxidize first. But they are all vulnerable to oxidizing. What do you do? Reduce your yields. Press like a mad man. This whole obsession with clean, clear juice, is what kills the wines.

My notes and some comments from Rovani on the wines (I’ve starred my favorites).

2007 Remoissenet Whites:

* 2007 Bourgogne Blanc – fine value, vivid, racy, good minerality. $25

2007 Puligny-Montrachet – more depth and structure than the Bourgogne Blanc but not 3 times as good. Fine acidity, minerality, stone fruits, excellent concentration, extremely youthful. $75

2007 Puligny-Montrachet Perrières 1er Cru – this adds more texture and detail, some wheat, lime, stone, cracker, and a hint of vanilla. $100

** 2007 Puligny-Montrachet Folatières 1er Cru – PR “you get the ‘sap’ of chardonnay – from high on the hill, pure limestone, very ripe, the type of Burgundy that I adore. Whenever I find sap – that texture of a concentrated core going thru your mouth – that to me is a sign of a great wine that’s going to age.” PG: wonderful concentration, sap, dense and tight, with lime, citrus, mineral. $100

** 2007 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru – PR “breadth, massive shoulders, richness, power. For those who drink CA chardonnays – god bless you, somebody has to drink them – this is as close as Burgundy gets. But more elegant.” PG: deep, round, long-lasting, with spice and mixed fruits. It has some of the fruit depth of California, the acidity of Washington, but the minerality of Burgundy, with a lingering kiss of spice. $285

*** 2007 Montrachet Grand Cru – PR “some rules – if you are a French soldier you salute as you pass the vineyard. Do not pronounce the t’s.” PG: subtle, long, lingering, refined, really ineffable. The finish never finishes. It just keeps on going. $450

2007 Remoissenet Reds:

2007 Beaune-Grèves 1er Cru – fragrant, rose petals, cherries, solid, almost chunky, tannic, earthy, with a spicy, resinous spine. Lots of good flavor for the price. $55

2007 Beaune-Marconnets 1er Cru – this is showing a little thin, a little stemmy, acidic, slightly green. The green tannins are not too harsh, but they are evident and make for a rather thin wine, with cranberry fruit and high acidity. $99.50 (in magnum only)

* 2007 Chambolle-Musigny – a bit hard, tight, chewy, cranberry and sour cherry, light and elegant details of shaved chocolate, a good wine for the price. $70

2007 Nuits St. Georges – full, ripe, broad, spicy – a nice wine without finesse. Sharp. slightly salty, resinous, herbal – there is a lot of herb in here, but the wine still holds together with very tart cranberry and crab apple fruit. $65

** 2007 Vosne-Romanée – PR “if there’s one place on earth that makes the best pinot noir on earth it’s the village of Vosne-Romanée. There’s a combination of sweetness and saltiness; that I just love. You get ripe cherries, and this back side of sea salt, that makes you want to eat and drink more. Which is what wine is about. Sitting with people you like, a meal you love, and wanting more.” PG: This has good concentration, spice and a bright, wild cherry character. It’s fresh, youthful, fruity and nicely rounded. Lovely femininity. $65

2007 Gevrey Chambertin – much harder, earthier, stemmier than the Vosne-Romanée. This feels harsh, greener, more tannic. $65

** 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin Poissenots 1er Cru – unusual, delicate, aromatic, floral, with nuances of malted milk, perfect balance, and depth that belies its elegance. $85

2007 Clos du Vougeot Grand Cru – chunky, blocky, full-bodied, heavy, hard, without the elegant finish of some of the lesser wines. This seems to stop short and hard, continuing without evolution. $162

My thanks to Jay Schiering, Chuck Miller, and of course, Pierre Rovani, for the opportunity to participate in this event.

1 comment:

Ron Washam said...

Sorry, Paul, but Rovani and the eBobolinks had a two year, or longer, thread about premature oxidation, which is like premature ejaculation for white Burgundy--tired too quickly and not worth what you paid for it. I was fearful it would all migrate here.

He's right about democratization, but blogs are just like his defense of his old (dead) boss--consumers may try a lot of blogs but the ones that are poorly written or flatout misinformed suffer neglect and certain death. The blogs that are successful deliver the goods. Which is why there are about eight "successful" wine blogs. Mine ain't one of them.

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