Summer Wine Review Part 1: Long Island Whites
BOUKÉ, White Table Wine, North Fork of Long Island, 2008, $17
SHINN ESTATES, Coalescence, North Fork of Long Island, 2009, $14
I came across both these relatively new companies at a tasting of Long Island wines some sixteen months ago and vowed to pick up these particular bottles if ever I saw them; on a recent trip back to Brooklyn (ostensibly part of Long Island), I finally got my chance.
The Bouké White Table Wine 2008 comes in an alluring label that sets the scene for the wine itself, a stainless steel fermented blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Gewürztraminer. It’s amazing how even a dash of this last grape can affect a wine; at that same Long Island tasting last year, I sampled a Chardonnay that was transformed by just 1% Gewürztraminer. In this case, there’s lots of tropical fruit going on in the nose: pineapple plus tangerine and orange, some jasmine and quince. Surprisingly low acidity and very light on the palate (it’s only 12.5% alcohol), the finish is quite delicious, featuring the subtle return of the Gewürztraminer’s ample body. Though not desperately complex it’s very fruit forward and refreshing. A good wine.
The Shinn Estates Coalesence 2009, whose label represents a color-coded chart of the winery’s grape planting, is also stainless steel fermented, this one a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, the rarely seen Merlot Blanc, and Riesling. Understandably perhaps, it’s lighter and simpler than the Bouké, with considerably more acidity, almost to the point of bubbliness – all of which might be a reflection on the wet summer that was 2009. The nose offers the pungent green apple of Riesling and some of the sharp green gooseberry/nettle notes of a Sauvignon Blanc. Green and fresh all round, with sharp fruit, its vitality is almost prickly. I didn’t get much by way of Chardonnay on the palate, the way I might well have guessed it formed the basis of the Bouké. In fact, much though I admire Shinn’s philosophy, and even allowing that it’s priced a few dollars cheaper than the Bouké, it represents a significant drop in quality. But in a heatwave like the one we’ve experienced this summer, when we’re eating lots of salads and freshly picked green vegetables, it serves its purpose.
Both wines reflect and represent the willingness, indeed the wild enthusiasm at times, of American producers to blend grapes into a popular, and ultimately proprietory formula. You can find them at Brooklyn Wine Exchange on Court Street, though the Bouké was priced $20 there – and only $17 up the road at Heights Chateau on Atlantic, proving that it never harms to shop around.