Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bordeaux Notes- Tasting the Right Bank

Moving to the right bank of the Gironde Estuary and moving down to where the vineyards lie along the Dordogne River, the emphasis shifts to Merlot-based wines in the area known as the Libournais. This shift occurs because the predominantly clay and limestone based soil is too cool to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon consistently. Blending grapes for Merlot are more likely to be Cabernet Franc (aka Bouchet) or Malbec (aka Pressac) although there are some Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in small areas where there is some gravel in the soil such as on the plateau to the north and northwest of Saint-Emilion.

Starting with Fronsac AC commune which lies on the limestone based soils on the rolling hills above the Dordogne. This and Canon-Fronsac AC can be a good source for less expensive but good quality Merlot-based wine.
Chateau Arnauton Fronsac 2009  ($15)
Clear, deep ruby color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of ripe red fruit with a bit of earthiness. Dry, medium body and alcohol with medium+ acidity and soft tannins with a refreshing medium length red fruit finish. Good/Drink now.

The Pomerol AC and the Lalande-de-Pomerol AC are next. The cool clay soils of the commune of Pomerol tends to create rich, more tannic wines that are slower to mature. 
Chateau De Sales Pomerol 2006 ($30)
Clear, deep ruby color going garnet at rim. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of red cherries and plum with a bit of pencil shavings. Dry, medium body, acidity and alcohol with medium+ dusty tannins and a medium length finish. Good+/Drink now.
Chateau Siaurac Lalande de Pomerol 2006 ($30) flawed/corked.

Saint-Emilion AC is the largest. It and the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru AC cover the same area of production with the latter having higher production standards. It has three distinct vineyard areas: the gravel and limestone plateau in the north, the escarpment to the south and east where most of the Grand Cru AC and classed wines come from and the sandy soils at the escarpment base where they produce slightly less expensive and lighter style wines.
Chateau Fourney St Emilion Grand Cru 2003 ($30)
Clear deep garnet color going brickish at the rim. Clean, medium intense developed aromas of fresh red and blackberries with black currant leaf and cigar box. Dry, medium everything: length, acidity, body, alcohol and soft tannins. Very good/Drink now.

Something to note: The wine above is in the Grand Cru AC while the wine below is in the classified ranks of  the Grand Cru AC.

Clos St Martin Grand Cru Classe St-Emilion Grand Cru 1998  ($45)
Clear, medium garnet color with a bit of sediment. Clean, medium intense developed aromas of leather, tobacco, black plums and a bit of cinnamon. Dry, medium+ everything with flavors of black cherries and berries, smoke and a bit of a savory note. Outstanding/drink now.

Related Posts:
Entre-deux-Mers - Bordeaux Notes
Tasting the Left Bank- Bordeaux Notes
Regional Appellations- Bordeaux Notes
Notes from a Bordeaux Tasting

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bordeaux Notes: Entre-Deux-Mers

Entre-Deaux-Mers, the land between the seas or between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, is known for producing inexpensive wines meant for early consumption. There are nine ACs within the sub-region producing a variety of wine styles. Most red wines from the region fall under the Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieur AC designation except for the red wines of Saint-Foy-Bordeaux. Entre-Deaux-Mers AC is for dry white wines that are typically Sauvignon Blanc based but may also use Semillion or Muscadelle.

Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deaux-Mers 2010   $14
Clear, pale lemon color with a watery rim. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of bell pepper, grape fruit and a bit of a floral note. Dry, medium+ acidity, medium- body, alcohol and length. Diluted flavors mirrored the aromas.

Across the Garonne River from the sweet wine regions of Graves lie the sweet wine making communes of the Entre-Deaux-Mers. The two areas share a similar macro climate.

Related posts:
Bordeaux Notes-Regional Appellations
Bordeaux Notes-Tasting the Left Bank
Notes from a Bordeaux Wine Tasting

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bordeaux Notes- Tasting the Left Bank

Bordeaux's famed Left Bank includes the land west of the Gironde Estuary and the Garonne River. It stretches from the Medoc Peninsula to Graves. The soils are gravel based making it the perfect home for warm gravel loving Cabernet Sauvignon. This combination of soil and grapes leads to firmly structured wines with good amounts of tannin and a flavor profile that may include dark fruit, cassis, graphite, tobacco, cedar, pepper, coffee or cocoa. 

Bordeaux is usually a blended wine but that is not mandated by law. The blend for each Chateau is usually determined by the type of soils they possess. In the north, the soils get heavier with more clay making Merlot increasingly important.
Starting in the north, the Medoc is a sub-region of Bordeaux.
Chateau Greysac Medoc 2004 ($20)- 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Clear, deep garnet going brickish at the rim. Clean, medium+ intensity, developing aromas of mixed red and black fruit with cedar and cigar box. Dry, medium body, acid, alcohol and tannin with flavors of black berries and cherries with tobacco ending with a medium length finish. Good/Drink now.

Next is the largest of the six communes, Saint-Estephe. In the past, its wines were thought to mature more slowly (meaning lacking charm in youth) than its southern neighbors. Even in the famed 1855 Classification, only five wines were noted and none received 1st Growth status. In recent years, more Merlot is showing up in many winemaker's blends making for more approachable upon release wines.
Chateau Montrose Saint-Estephe 2004  ($75)- Clear, medium+ ruby color going garnet on the rim. Clean, medium+ developing aromas of black fruit, sage, leather and a bit of black olive. Dry, medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and tannins with a juicy black currant medium+ length finish. Very good/ drink now, has some aging potential.

Continuing south to the Haut Medoc sub-region, the general appellation for the vineyards north of the city of Bordeaux up to the Medoc border. Cru Bourgeois wines are important here although there are also 5 classed growths.
Chateau La Tour Carnet Grand Cru Classe Haut Medoc 2006 ($37) - Clear, deep ruby. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of fresh blackberries with cigar and pencil box. Dry, medium+ body/alcohol, medium acidity and medium+ tannins with a medium length blackberry/cocoa finish. Very good/drink now.

On down to the Graves sub-region. Graves is historically significant as the location of Bordeaux's first vineyards. Wine styles include dry red and white and also sweet white under the Graves Superieures AC.
Chateau Cabannieux Reserve Graves Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2000  ($27) - Clear, deep garnet with a brickish rim. Clean, medium intense, fully-developed aromas of black fruit, cedar and cigar box. Dry, medium body/alcohol, medium+ acidity and tannins, flavors mirroring aromas with a medium+ length finish. Good+/drink now.

Within Graves is the commune appellation of Pessac-Leognan. They produce both Cab-dominated reds and light whites from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion blends. 
Chateau Haut-Bergey Pessac-Leognan 2006  ($43) - Clear, medium lemon yellow color with a watery rim. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of citrus and smoke. Dry, medium+ body, acidity and alcohol with flavors of lemon, flint and smoke with a medium length finish. Good/Drink now.

Also within Graves lies the Sauternes appellation which includes five communes on the bank of the Cirons River. This area has a unique macro-climate making it the perfect place to produce botrytized sweet wines.
Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Grand Cru Classe Sauternes 2003 ($29/half bottle) - 
Clear, medium gold color. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of apricot and honey with a bit of canned mushroom and a bit of sulfur. Sweet, medium everything with a medium length honeyed finish. Good/drink now.
Chateau Coutet Premier Cru Classe 2005 ($40/half bottle) -
Clear, medium gold color. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of nectarine, apricot, marmalade and honey with a surprising bit of kerosene. Sweet, medium+ everything with a long-length honeyed finish. Outstanding/drink now or hold.

Related Posts:
Chateau Lafon Rochet 2005
Notes from a Bordeaux Wine Tasting
Bordeaux- Regional Notes

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bordeaux Notes- Regional Appellations

Bordeaux is located in southwest France. It has a moderate maritime climate enjoying the warming influence of the Gulf stream. High rainfall and humidity can be a problem which leads to concerns over vintage variation. Typically, great vintages have sunny, hot and dry summers with harvest dates no earlier than late September.
The largest appellation is the basic Bordeaux AC. The majority of wines produced in this category are low to mid-priced. They can be red or white.

Mission St Vincent Sauvignon Blanc Bordeaux 2009  $13.99
Clear, pale lemon color. Clean, medium- intense,  youthful aromas of grapefruit and gooseberry. Dry, light body, medium acidity, alcohol and length with grapefruit/citrus flavors. 
Good quality/drink now.

Chateau Bellevue Rougier Bordeaux 2007 $14
Clear, medium- ruby color. Clean, medium syrupy aromas of black cherries and plum. Dry, medium body, alcohol, tannins and acidity with a diluted, almost flavorless, short finish. Not recommended.

Bordeaux Superieur covers the same area but has stricter production standards like smaller maximum yields and higher minimum alcohol levels. Red wines have a minimum 9 month aging requirement and white wines must be semi-sweet or moelleux. There is no dry, white Bordeaux Superieur.

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009  $15
Clear, medium ruby color. Clean, medium developing aromas of mixed dark berries and cherries with tobacco. Dry, medium+  body, alcohol, tannins with medium acidity. The flavors mirror the nose. Good+/drink now.

Bordeaux Rose and Bordeaux Clairet are also in the regional category. The grapes for these wines may be sourced from anywhere within the region, as well.

Related Posts:
Notes from a Bordeaux Tasting

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reviewing Alsace

      Alsace is located in northeast France near the German border, the food and wine of the region are heavily influenced by both cultures. The Vosges Mountains protect the region from rain and winds resulting in a cool, yet dry and sunny, continental climate. The soils are quite varied which influence the diversity of grape varieties planted and, therefore, the range of wine styles produced.      Only four grape varieties, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gerwurztraminer, can be used in Alsatian Grand Cru and dessert wines but many other varieties are planted and used in the Alsace AOC and the Cremant d'Alsace AOC designations.
      As I review my notes from some recent tastings, I think that one of the most important things for consumers to know about the wines of Alsace is that most are meant to be consumed 6 months to 5 years from their release.

Tasting Alsace:

2007 Trimbach Pinot Blanc (approx $15)
Clear, pale lemon color. Clean, low intensity lemon aroma. Dry, medium- body, acidity and alcohol, lacking any flavor. Quality: Past its prime.
(Pinot Blanc, a genetic mutation of Pinot Gris, is primarily used in Cremant production.)

2001 Trimbach Pinot Gris (approx $18)
Clear, medium lemon color. Quality: Flawed/Corked.

2006 Trimbach Gewurztraminer (approx $20)
Clear, deep lemon yellow going to gold. Clean, medium intense, developing aromas of roses, lychee and clove. Dry, full body, medium- acidity, medium alcohol with a somewhat diluted tropical/pineapple flavor and a medium length finish. Good quality/drink now.

2007 Marc Kreydenweiss Val d'Eleon (approx $18)
50% Riesling / 50% Pinot Gris
Clear, deep lemon yellow going to gold. Quality: Flawed-Past its prime, volatile acidity-smells like ketchup that has gone bad.

2009 Charles Baur Pinot Gris ($18 at French Country Wines in Houston)
Clear, pale lemon. Clean, medium- intense, youthful aromas of peach/nectarine with some flint. Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity and alcohol with flavors of peach, citrus and apple with a medium length finish. Good quality/drink now.

2009 Charles Baur d'Alsace Grand Cru Riesling ($27 at French Country Wines in Houston)
Clear, pale lemon. Clean, medium intense, developing aromas of peach, pear, honey with a bit of a floral/honeysuckle note. Off-dry, medium body, acidity and alcohol with the flavors mirroring the aromas with the addition of pineapple, almost fruit cocktail-like in the medium+ length finish. Quality: Very good/drink now, has some aging potential.

Related posts:
1999 Schlumberger Selection de Grains Nobles Riesling
Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace NV

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2009 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Karia Chardonnay

      After reading George M. Taber's book, The Judment of Paris, a while back, I always enjoy drinking a glass of wine from one of the depicted wineries and thinking about the people who brought recognition to that particular winery, to Napa Valley and to California as a place for quality wine in general. The story of Warren Winiarski and his creation of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and their win at the 1976 Paris tasting is, of course, one of the best parts.
       So, while I am not drinking the winning wine, I am thinking about that story while enjoying one of their more recent offerings, the 2009 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Karia Napa Valley Chardonnay. I purchased this bottle for about $30 at my local HEB grocery store. In the glass, the wine is a clear, medium lemon-yellow color. It has clean, medium intense aromas of lemon zest, pineapple and some oak. Dry on the palate with medium everything (body, alcohol, acidity) with juicy citrus and tropical flavors to match the nose with some creamy, buttery notes in the medium+ length finish.
      A very good+ wine suitable for both drinking and daydreaming.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thinking about Vintage Champagne

       The holidays, the parties, the visiting guests, a missing notebook and a broken laptop have all gotten me behind on both my writing and my studying. However, much wine was consumed and thought about during that time. For example, New Year's Eve 2012 was celebrated with friends, caviar, cold seafood and vintage Champagne.
     Vintage Champagne is special because it tells the story of a single growing season in the Champagne region; that better than ordinary year will be printed on both the bottle's label and cork. Like non-vintage Champagne, most vintage Champagne is still a blend of wines from many different vineyard sources, the major difference being that 100% of all the wines being used in the vintage blend must come from the stated year instead of the multi-vintage wine blend of non-vintage Champagne.
      Vintage Champagne also has a longer maturation period. French law requires a minimum of 36 months as opposed to the fifteen months required for NV, although these minimums are often exceeded. This additional maturation time typically allows the vintage Champagne more time on its yeast lees creating more complex bakery aromas and flavors. The additional time also helps the carbon dioxide to dissolve more completely into the wine helping to form more delicate bubbles.
       Vintage Champagne is not neccessarily better tasting than NV but it is usually more expensive due to the much lower production numbers. However, after a good sampling of the 2002 vintage, I highly recommend it if you are looking to splurge on some bubbles.


Related posts:
2002 Dom Perignon
2002 Ayala Perle Champagne
Pol Roger Champagne Tasting