A couple of weeks ago, something in the vast wine universe (either the one inside my head or the one we all share) made me think I’d like to drink an Alsatian wine. So I went into the crawlspace I use as a wine cellar and, on an auto mechanic’s stool I keep there, wheeled to, among the 1000+ bottles, one of the several rows of same. I knew I wanted a wine from Domaine Barmes-Buecher, but I wasn’t sure which one.
I’ve been a fan of Barmes-Buecher wines ever since, in late 2007, I was lucky/smart enough to yield to one of Wine Access’s seductive emails and order a mixed case of six different Barmes-Buecher wines, all from the moderately well-regarded 2005 vintage:
Pinot Gris Rosenberg Silicis
Pinot Gris Calcarius
Pinot Blanc Rosenberg
Sylvaner Rosenberg Vieille Vigne
I’d never before heard of Barmes-Buecher. I’d been a sometime retail-store purchaser of the occasional ubiquitous Hugel and Trimbach and Sparr, but had also in the 1980s finally listened to Robert Parker sing (one of his finest tunes) about Alsace and invested in quite a few bottles (maybe two cases total) of the great 1983s from Zind Humbrecht and Willm, mostly Gewuztraminers and Pinot Gris. (I was not yet sophisticated enough to appreciate the Rieslings; but I did know to include some late harvest –Vendange Tardive – bottles, including the fine Willm Clos Gaensbroennel Gewurtztraminer.)
So, some seven years ago, I turned to Barmes-Buecher on a whim and turned away with a smile. I loved all the wines I tried (except, in a restaurant, their 2009 Crémant d’Alsace) and had drunk one bottle each of my six when I wheeled up to the rest a couple of weeks ago. The bottle I chose was the least promising. I chose it because I always choose the least promising wine when I’m going to drink it in private — when there is no one from outside the household with whom we are going to share it. I have a genuine fear of opening a wine that tastes like salvation and of wondering why the rest of the world isn’t there to have some.
I didn’t expect much of the Sylvaner, for reasons you will quickly discover if you do the least amount of research (which I have done and would provide if I had the space herein). I did expect (note I do not say fear) that it might be oxidized.
And – no surprise if you’ve read the title of this piece – it was! Since I don’t have space either to discuss oxidation, I point the lucky reader to the best article I’ve read on this subject.
That night we drank the somewhat oxidized Barmes-Buecher Sylvaner with chicken piccata. Nothing the chicken did could keep the oxidization from not so much asserting itself as nudging our tongues cheekward.
But the next night…ah! Undaunted, we served it the next night with a simple roasted salmon.
The oxidization, I mean. Not gone from the wine, which, tasted by itself was, yes, increasingly oxidized. But gone completely when tasted with the salmon.
We’ve served salmon with many of its multitudinous pairings, most often Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé. But no wine, ever, no matter how exalted in reputation, was as good with salmon as this 2005 Barmes-Buecher Sylvaner Rosenberg. There was not the slightest hint of oxidization. There was only a modest, somewhat over-the-hill wine made young and beautiful by food and time and great good luck.
First published June 2014