This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend my twelfth TEXSOM conference in Dallas. Each year, I’m amazed at the innovation and depth of content offered through the myriad seminars, tasting lunches, and sponsored tasting rooms offered throughout the three-day conference. With somewhere around one thousand wine professional attendees, volunteers, speakers, and sponsors, it’s a pretty target-rich environment for industry networking and socializing, but more importantly digging deeper into relevant topics and trends swirling about the wine world.
Below are a few short takeaways from the seminars I attended:
Masters of Wine Thinking About White Burgundy with Antony Moss, Charles Curtis, and Mary Margaret McCanic
Sampling the depth of White Burgundy in a tasting of 13 wines is hardly even skimming the surface. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s hardly even skimming the surface of the surface of the surface. Just the same, three Masters of Wine who happen to be quite well versed in the iconic region did their absolute best to give a perspective on how to distinguish white wines from each of the sub regions of Bourgogne.
Suffice it to say there wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch. But having spent the better part of my wine tasting education guided by the deductive tasting method fashioned by the Court of Master Sommeliers, it was supremely eye-opening to watch how Masters of Wine approach how they identify wines. Of course, either method manages to bring professionals to the same assessment most of the time, but there was clearly a different approach exemplified here.
First and foremost, it was clarified by the panelists that few white wines have a capacity to show a sense of place as much as Burgundy. In many ways, the region raises more questions than it answers, but what is most true about it is that the wines have the potential to be utterly delicious at a range of price points.
In fact, Charles Curtis pointed out that quality white Burgundy wines at entry level price points have been improving. Most of these “value” wines are being sought out by a younger, curious generation of drinkers through specialty retailers and restaurants. Curtis also pointed out that if you pay attention closely, “There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on off the beaten track in Burgundy.”
When tasting through white Burgundy, Mary Margaret McCanic suggested that you can’t just apply theoretical knowledge to determining the identities of the wine. “You have to think in terms of how these villages express body and taste. There’s a feel to Burgundy that you get and you love.”
Among those particular identification points, the panelists enumerated structure and finish as key elements. McCanic described mid-palate intensity as a crucial part of her deduction method, characterizing it as the energy of the wine as it moves across the palate.
Specific to Burgundy’s individual regions, each panelist offered a few pointers that stick out most to them. For instance, McCanic often sees that Puligny wines make a sharp, angular impression on the palate that is rarely made by Mersault. By contrast, Mersault wines tend to show a broader, richer style. Chassagne is known for styles that straddle Mersault and Puligny, yet are typically more full and firm than Puligny in general. In addition, floral and sometimes red fruit notes on the palate tend to characterize Chassagne.
Italian Native White Wines with Ian D’Agata and Laura DePasquale, MS
Ian D’Agata is one of the foremost experts on Italian wine, but he also happens to make discussions of wine chemistry and viticulture delightful and funny, which may the mark of a true genius. It seems there may only be a few dozen native white grape varieties in commercial production in Italy today--and that’s assuming they’re actually correctly identified. Sadly, phylloxera, industrialization, and food shortage in the mid-twentieth century have wiped out many of the varieties that are indigenous to the country.
Fortunately, we were able to savor a few of them during the seminar. Among my favorites: Arneis, Trebbiano Trebbiano D’Abrruzzese, Fiano, and Nascetta. (Reviews below.)
Bordeaux Blanc… Où Étiez-vous? With John Blazon, MS and Drew Hendricks, MS
In a world where Bordeaux as a region seems unattainable for entry-level wine enthusiasts, this seminar reminded us that there is, indeed, value to be found in this iconic region. Particularly with Bordeaux Blanc. Kicking the session off with the question, “Bordeaux Blanc, où étiez-vous?” (White Bordeaux, where have you gone?), Master Sommeliers John Blazon and Drew Hendricks illuminated that this category is woefully overlooked for excellent quality, affordable Sauvignon Blanc wines in two stylistic camps: Light, fresh and fruit-driven, as well as richer and creamier in profile.
Currently, there are 2.2 million cases of Bordeaux imported to the U.S. annually, out of the 57 million cases of Bordeaux produced each year.
“I’ve recently opened my eyes to the quality and opportunity for growth in the region,” said Drew Hendricks, having visited the region early this year. “The chance for growth, particularly for by-the-glass placements for the fresh and delicious styles is huge.”
Indeed, with the average price per bottle shared during the nine-wine tasting hovering below $20, the opportunity is indeed great, yet still undiscovered in most U.S. markets, a topic that certainly piqued my own interests in researching.
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TEXSOM is often hard to define for those who have never experienced it. Very few conferences can achieve such depth of content to deliver to such a concentrated group of high level wine professionals in just a few short days. The amount of advance planning, forethought, and hard work put in to executing the event is pretty astonishing to behold. For my part, it’s the place I first discovered my thirst for a wine-centric career, and it remains a cornerstone for inspiration and community for which I am forever grateful to co-founders James Tidwell, MS and Drew Hendricks, MS, and to every other hand that pulls this conference off every year.
2016 Ag. Tiberio, Trebbiano D’Abbruzo DOC:
This wine is 100% Trebbiano D/Abruzzese, which is a grape often confused with Bombino Bianco, Passerina, and Trebbiano Toscano. (Not to be confused with the generic “Trebbiano,” which according to Ian D’Agata doesn’t even really exist.) This wine is powerful with radiant citrus tones and a bracingly tart palate. Crisp, fresh, and beautifully linear, this wine is finishes with a vervy mineral character. 91
2016 Bruno Giacosa, Roero Arneis DOCG:
Surprisingly a grape that was once virtually extinct, Arneis has made a comeback in its native home of the Roero DOCG in PIedmont. A sensitive grape that can quickly lose its acidity if not picked at just the right moment, Arneis is known to deliver both brightness and body. This wine is no exception. With aromas of marshmallow, lemon pulp and orange blossom, this wine displays an energetic palate with a concentrated medium body and a delightful silky finish. 95
2015 Mastroberardino, “Radici” Fiano di Avellino DOCG:
While Fiano is grown practically everywhere in southern Italy, it’s most famous in the Campania appellation of Fiano di Avellino DOCG. This wine is like lemon sunshine radiating from the glass. Vibrant and mineral-driven, it offers a slightly chalky palate with a medium body and a touch of nuttiness on the finish. 93
2016 As. Agr. Elvio Cogno, Anas Cerra Langhe Nascetta DOC:
The white varietal Nascetta was first documented more than 140 years ago. It is the only indigenous white grape from the Langhe and exhibits a number of characteristics similar to Grüner Veltliner, Assyrtiko and sometimes the wooziness of Chenin Blanc when aged. This wine is floral and herbaceous, with the faintest hint of honey aroma. The palate is fresh and quenchy, and finishes with a distinquishable salinity on the finish. 93
2012 William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons:
A large producer for Chablis, Fevre reveals a distinct character of Vaillons with this wine. Offering concentrated texture but also persistence, this wine is beautifully aromatic with green apple, citrus peel, and white flowers that leads to a mineral-driven palate that is made more profound with the use of minimum 6-year-old casks for half of the blend for 8 months. A truly delicious wine. 96
2008 Bonneau du Martray Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne:
In Corton-Charlemagne ten years is nothing in terms of age. This wine is singing with freshness and verve. Bright with lemon curd and hints of caramel and hazelnut, this wine shows depth way beneath the fruit. The finish is vibrant, linear, and long. This wine could easily show well decades from now. 98