This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Sep. 3, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20070903.php.
Wine Focus - Louis Jadot, Negociant
In a change of pace this month from our usual attention to a specific wine-grape variety or region, the monthly "Wine Focus" topic in our WineLovers Discussion Group forums will take a close look at the historic firm Louis Jadot of Beaune, one of the leading Burgundy negoçiants.
So, what in the heck is a negoçiant?
We'll get into this in more detail during September as we talk about, and taste, some of Jadot's wines. Today, let's set the scene with a summary:
The French term "negoçiant," sometimes rather poorly translated into English as "shipper," is a sort of middleman company that purchases finished wine, grapes or grape juice from individual producers, then finishes the wine in its own cellars, bottles and distributes it usually under the negoçiant's label.
The concept appears to be originally French, dating back to the 19th century (the house of Louis Jadot was founded in 1859), but the concept has spread through the world of wine, ranging from California (where such items as Bronco Wines' "Two Buck Chuck" or Don Sebastiani's "Smoking Loon" could be described as a negociant wines), to Australia (where it could be argued that even the sought-after Penfolds Grange meets the negoçiant qualification, being made from grapes purchased under contract from a fleet of growers).
In general, negoçiant wines tend to earn less respect than wines grown, produced and bottled by the maker, and it's no coincidence that most wine-producing regions enact strict laws to ensure that there's no fooling around about provenance when a maker puts "estate-bottled" or, in France, "mise en bouteilles au chateau" on the label.
But in Burgundy in particular, where most vineyards are subdivided into a fiendishly complicated jigsaw puzzle of tiny plots - the heritage of Napoleonic land redistribution and inheritance issues - the negoçiant system became a logical way to handle the output of vineyards too tiny to support individual wine producers. To this day, even if artisan producers in Burgundy tend to earn greater respect and higher prices, negoçiants produce more than half the region's wine, and the consumer can't necessarily assume that a specific artisan's product will beat a competing negoçiant on any given day.
From a consumer standpoint, particularly if said consumer is trying to count his Euros or is shopping outside the major urban centers, it would be foolish not to consider Burgundy's top negoçiants - a list that certainly includes Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Louis Latour and Bouchard Père et Fils - when you're puzzling over the Burgundy shelves at your wine shop.
During September, you're invited to participate in Wine Focus as we discuss and taste any wine from Louis Jadot, which may range in price from under $10 (in some markets) for the Beaujolais-Villages, through the lower to middle teens (for the generic but well-made Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the white Macon-Villages) to the $20 range (today's featured wine, Pouilly-Fuissé, and on into nosebleed realms for some of the Premier Cru and Grand Cru Burgundies.
Those interested in more advanced tasting might find it interesting to set up comparative "blind" tastings of similar wines and vintages from different negoçiants, or similar tastings that pit a negociant wine against an independent producer.
To join the fun, simply click to Wine Focus at the WineLovers Discussion Group forums,
To check out some of my recent notes on other wines of Louis Jadot, see the Louis Jadot 2004 Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($17.99),
For older notes, use your browser's "Search" function to look for "Jadot" on my French wine reports archives page,
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Louis Jadot 2005 Pouilly-Fuissé ($23.99)
Transparent straw color. Delicious fresh apple and pear aromas, clean and rather delicate. A bit more forward on the palate, medium-bodied and dry, juicy white fruit and a distinct stony minerality; a tart, cleansing finish makes it an exceptional food wine. Good fruit, minerally, structured and lean, Chardonnay for those who don't think they like Chardonnay. U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (Sept. 3, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Fine for all but the lightest fish dishes, chicken and pork or a variety of cheese; it served very well with pork cutlets in a light fresh-tomato sauce over conchiglie pasta.
VALUE: A generation ago, Pouilly-Fuissé was typically overpriced in the U.S., selling for $20 in an era when you could do as well for $10. Now the Euro and reality have caught up, and a good Pouilly-Fuissé is a fine bargain in the middle to upper teens. (This local price is well on the high side; careful shopping in most markets should bring it home for less.)
WHEN TO DRINK: Although it's drinking well now, quality Pouilly-Fuissé, like other good White Burgundies, will reward careful cellaring for five years or more with complexity and richness.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
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This Sirah's not so petite (Aug. 29, 2006)
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Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: