June 18, 2009

The Last Days of Joly (for Me)

I think the Day 1 tasting note for the Joly wine sums it all up nicely (see yesterday's post if you're already behind):

Gun metal and rubbing alcohol with faint floral perfume.

Now I've had enough of Joly's wines to know that all is not necessarily lost at this point. The palate was sharply acidic, but still had some interesting complexity. This wine could stage a comeback. I've seen it happen.

Day 2 for the Joly: Smells like nail polish.

And Day 3: Something killed this.

There would be no come back for the Clos Sacres this time. The Villaine white Burgundy, meanwhile, was singing.

Day 1-3: Nose is an interesting mix of honey, clover, coddled cream and lemon oil. There's also a strong oak undertone of vanilla. In the mouth, more lemon with some grapefruit/lime acidity, and ripe apple and freshly cut grass.

This held up pretty well and drank consistently, and with little evolution, over the first three days. On Day 4, however, the barrel effects took over in an unappealing way. A smell like the banana flavored novocaine my dentist used in the 70s dominated and the fruit faded behind a tart acidity.

So this could have been a classic battle. The Joly tortoise versus a Burgundian hare, with the reptile closing the distance and claiming victory on the final day. It could have been exciting. Except that the tortoise was DOA from the start.

To add insult to injury, I opened a second bottle of Les Clos Sacres on day 1. It was frizzante and cloudy; some refermentation had occured in the bottle.

I get that sulfur, or more accurately, the absence of sulfur, has become a fashion in wine. And Joly has long been on the edge of that trend. But maybe using some sulfur should remain in vogue for wine that you know you're going to ship from France to America. Joly labels this wine for the North American market (it's called Les Vieux Clos in France), so perhaps he should sulfur for export as well.

When Joly's wines are good, they can be sublime. But in the past year or so, I've had more misses than hits. I really don't know if this can be chalked up to just (a reluctance to use) sulfur. But I do know buying these wines seems more and more like a roll of the dice.


David McDuff said...


I have a couple of bottles of '05 Clos Sacrés in the cellar but have yet to taste it. Word on the street is, though, that there's a significant amount of bottle variation with the vintage. Perhaps that's why it was significantly less expensive than the '06 when both were concurrently offered at CSW not long ago. I went for the '05 for reasons of economy but am beginning to wish I'd ponied up for the 2006.

Perhaps it's time to check in on a bottle. Based on your experience, I'm not sure patience is likely to be rewarded.


Director, Lab Outreach said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. When they're good, they are brilliant.

I don't know about 5 days, but Joly's really do need a lot of air. I think you have to plan to pace them out over a couple days to see all the potential. I'm intrigued by Joly's wines and, in spite of my drawn conclusion, will probably buy them again -- if Domaine de la Sansonniere were more readily available in the US I might be more apt to stick to my guns. In my experience, bottle variation is always an issue. So long as they aren't "imbuvable", I've always thought that was one of their many unusual charms.

I also wonder about the Loire Shut-down effect here. You hear stories about Chenins going through dumb/dormant phases. I wonder if it's possible that Joly's wines, rather than just shutting down, instead perform awkwardly during that period (assuming it's not urban legend).

I actually tasted this back in December but was distracted and forgot to post the experiment until now. I'd be very tempted to give yours another 6-9 months before I opened one.

Couldn't hurt to wait a little?

(I got your mingl)