Polyester leisure suits, puffy blow-dried hairstyles for men, wide ties and disco ... some of the most memorable trends of the '70s and '80s are probably best left in the dustbin of history.
But then we have Pouilly-Fuissé. Now, there is an old fad worth preserving.
Experts might rank this village white Burgundy from the Maconnais as a decent but unexceptional Chardonnay, pleasant enough but hardly "collectible." But back in those days, when fine wine was just starting to break out of its longtime status as a niche market for the well-to-do in English-speaking nations, Pouilly-Fuissé's surprising popularity made it one of the first French wines to defy the notion that Americans would never buy a wine that we couldn't pronounce. (In case you're wondering, it's "Poo-yee Fwee-say.")
The wine's faddish nature quickly inflated its price into the $20s, which was serious business in those pre-inflationary days, prompting savvy consumers to pass it by in favor of similar but less sought-after neighbors like St.-Veran, Pouilly-Vinzelles and even the generic Macon-Villages.
But a funny thing has happened over the years: With increasing sophistication in the marketplace, not to mention the falling dollar against the Euro, Pouilly-Fuissé's price has pretty much stood still, or even fallen back a bit, while the toll for many other imports has risen to meet it. The popular nectar from Pouilly can easily be found in the middle teens, a price point it now shares with such one-time cheapies as Cotes-du-Rhone and, well, Macon-Villages.
As it was then, so it is now: Pouilly-Fuissé offers an excellent introduction to white Burgundy, showing fresh apple-like fruit, good balance, firm acidity and a touch of minerality ... all the components that display Chardonnay at its best and that can help re-calibrate a palate attuned to the rich, sweet, "buttery" style of New World Chardonnay.
Today's tasting offers a good, straightforward example from Louis Latour, a major negociant whose wines are widely available worldwide. As Thanksgiving and the holiday season near, it's an excellent option to have on hand when lobster, crab or other rich seafood appears on a festive table.
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Louis Latour 2002 Pouilly-Fuissé ($18.99)
This wine shows a transparent, light straw color with a greenish tinge of brass. Fresh apples and a light yeasty note like rising bread dough bespeak characteristic unwooded Chardonnay in the aroma; tart, crisp apples are lifted by zesty acidity on the palate. Apple flavors give way to a clean, "stony" minerality in the finish. Textbook Maconnais, no hint of butter or tropical fruit, just fresh, dry and balanced Chardonnay. U.S. importer: Louis Latour Inc., San Francisco. (Nov. 25, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a simple seafood dish crafted to match, tiny bay scallops sauteed with onions and diced roasted red bell peppers, finished with butter and lemon and served over farfalle pasta.
VALUE: Competitive in the teens, but retail prices vary dramatically from about $12 to $20 or more, so if your local sources are toward the high end of the scale, consider shopping around.
WHEN TO DRINK: The 2002 is ready to drink now, but note that good white Burgundies are capable of gaining richness and complexity with several years under good cellar conditions. I wouldn't try to hold it more than a year or two at room temperature, though.
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Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004