“For thus whatever false opinion of pre-eminence is attached to the age becomes at once a title of reverence to him: and when with distinguished powers he sets himself apart from the age, and above it, as the teacher of high but ill-understood truths, he (…) will derive from illusion itself the power to disperse illusions.”
This paragraph from the prose of the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth reminded me of the admirable pioneering work by wine producer Peter Colemont. Off the beaten track in beer-steeped Belgium he manages to make first class Chardonnay which holds its own amongst Burgundy’s great whites in blind tastings.
I have tasted and written up on Peter’s Chardonnay before. And, recently I got the opportunity to taste this wine grown at Clos d’Opleeuw again. The generous glass I poured for myself of the 2010 vintage was reminiscent of top Meursault – cool-clime Chardonnay lifted with a subtle touch of Pinot Blanc or Gris characteristics perhaps. Erstwhile wine writer Jancis Robinson MW and chef patron at Hof Van Cleve in Belgium Peter Goosens praised his 2001 vintage, which they had taken for a very sophisticated Puligny-Montrachet.
But the point is that every sip of Peter’s wine, regardless of what vintage it is and no matter of what it is akin to, retells the story of those brave men that have borrowed from distant tradition. Men that dismember tradition, piece it back together and plough a lone furrow in uncharted territory to teach their ignorant villagers respect for home-crafted produce despite their timeworn prejudices.
They say that once you discover something, you see it everywhere. I had my first intimation that Belgian wine was to be taken seriously the first time I assessed Peter’s Chardonnay. Unfortunately, since then I have not yet come across any that hail from my fatherland that are equally enjoyable. Rare perhaps are the occasions on which I really rejoice at Chardonnay’s taste, for rare are the terroirs that deliver greatness and shard-glass clarity. But it can happen and this is one not to miss.
Tasting Note (31.12.2012 G.M.)
Clos d’Opleeuw, 2010, 13% Vol.
style: dry white wine (still)
region: AOC Haspengouwse Wijn, Belgium
producer: Clos d’Opleeuw
Georges’ Score: B-2Ġeez
The nose is tight and sets off gently. But the palate is filled out with flavours of orchard fruit with a sappiness of Cox apples and Conférence pears. The mouthfeel is surprisingly round yet crisp, pure and mineral. The palate is not overly fruity, but full of interest and invites to revisit again and again. The dry finish has a very slight, integrated toasty oakiness to it – which may come from the unique use of some Flemish oak. You tend to approach Belgian wines with apprehension, but this is delicious.