Sunday, February 26, 2012

Notes on The Nothern Rhone

The Northern Rhone lies 20 miles south of the city of Lyon. The vineyards lie along the Rhone River which helps moderate the climate which is also affected by the cold Mistral winds. There are three white grape varieties grown: Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne and one red variety, Syrah.
There are eight Crus in Northern Rhone starting with the Cote-Rotie AOC. It is considered the North's most elegant and approachable wine. The vineyards are located on steep granite terraces which are difficult to work which contributes to the price of the wine. They produce only red wine but can legally add up to 20% Viognier if they choose though that is unusual today.
2008 Saint Cosme Cote-Rotie    $60
Clear, deep ruby in the glass with medium intense developing aromas of bacon, pepper, black fruit and tobacco. Dry, medium+ body, tannins, alcohol, acidity and length. Very good, drink now or hold.

Next is Condrieu AOC where they make small quantities of white wine from Viognier. Chateau Grillet  AOC is a single property within Condrieu producing similar wines.

The Saint Joseph AOC primarily makes red wines but they make some white as well. It is a large appellation on the east bank of the river. Their red wine is considered the lightest and the fruitiest of the northern reds due to the higher sand mix in their granitic soil. 
2007 Nicolas Perrin Saint-Joseph      $35    

Clear, deep garnet in the glass with medium intense developing aromas of smoked meat, menthol and black fruit. Dry, medium+ acidity and medium alcohol, body and tannins, medium length. Good, drink now.
2007 Domaine Mucyn Saint-Joseph   $23
Clear, medium ruby in the glass with medium intense developing aromas of red fruit, smoke, baking spice with just a hint of savoriness. Dry, medium- body and tannins,  medium alcohol and acidity with medium+ length. Very good, drink now.


Crozes-Hermitage has been said to be a hit or miss appellation due to the terroir diversity and its size. This was a hit.
2009 La Matiniere Crozes-Hermitage Ferraton Pere & Fils   Clear ,medium purple with medium intense youthful aromas of strawberry jam, cracked black pepper and a bit of smoke. Dry, Medium body, alcohol, medium+ tannins, acidity and finish. Good+   $20

Hermitage is the next small appellation. It mainly produces red wine that can have up to 15% Marsanne and Rousanne in the blend though it is uncommon.
2003 Hermitage E.Guigal     $70
Clear, deep garnet going brickish at the rim. Medium+ intense, developing aromas of mixed baked berries with just a bit of pepper and forest floor. Dry, Medium body and alcohol, medium+ tannins, acidity and finish.
Very good/drink now.

Cornas is the last red wine cru in the north. Production is very small. It is considered the biggest, most masculine wine.
St. Peray is the final appellation. It is very small. It makes both still and sparkling white wine from Marsanne and Rousanne.

Related Post:
Notes from a Rhone Valley Tasting

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2002 Clos des Perrieres Savennieres

Savennieres is located on the north bank of the Loire River, southwest from the city of Angers. It is best known for its small production of Chenin Blanc-based dry white wines. The cool climate helps to preserve Chenin Blanc's naturally high acidity while the slate/sandstone soils add to the mineral character of the wine. The wines are typically very long-lived and can be austere in youth because of the high acidity.

2002 Clos des Perrieres Savennieres     $25 
Appearance: Clear, medium gold color with a watery rim.
Nose: Clean, medium intense, fully-developed aromas of nuts, honey, apricot and a bit of canned mushroom.
Palate: Dry, high acid, medium body and alcohol with flavors of apricot and cashew with a dash of minerality in a long finish.
Very Good/ Drink now, may be at its most charming.

Related posts:
Loire Valley Review
Tasting Notes on some Loire Valley Wines

Friday, February 17, 2012

Notes on Southwest France

When thinking about the wines of Southwest France, you are considering all the non-contiguous tiny sub-regions throughout the southwestern part of the country in Gascogne.  There is not a regional AOC that covers the area, there are only specific communal appellations.
Starting in the Dordogne/Bergerac sub-region, you find that many of the wines are very similar to Bordeaux which it borders. For this review, I am looking at Monbazillac which produces liquoreux white wines. A liquoreux wine is a sweet wine that is produced from late-harvest botrytized grapes. Monbazillac uses Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, the same grapes used in Bordeaux's sweet wines.
1996 Chateau Belingard Monbazillac    $40
Clear medium gold color in the glass with pronounced developed aromas of marmalade, honey, peach, citrus flowers and a bit of sulfur. Sweet with medium+ body, acidity and alcohol with sweet peach and almond flavors and a medium length honeyed finish. Very good/ drink now or hold.

Southwestern France's most famous wine is Cahors, a dark inky wine with plum and tobacco notes. It must contain a minimum of 70% Malbec, which is locally known as Cot, and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. It is also the most easy to find locally.
2008 Chateau Labrande Cahors    $10                
(90% Malbec/ 10% Merlot) Clear, medium purple color in the glass with developing, light aromas of blueberry, prune, cedar, sawdust and mint. Dry, full body, medium acidity, alcohol and tannins with flavors of blueberry, black cherry, toast and vanilla in a medium length finish. Good/drink now.
2009 Chateau Labrande Cahors      $10
(90% Malbec/ 10% Merlot) Clear, deep purple in the glass with medium intense developing aromas of black & blueberries with a slightly earthy hint of beets. Dry, medium+ body, alcohol, acidity and tannins with flavors mirroring the aromas in a medium+ length finish. Very good/drink now or hold.

2009 Gouleyant Cahors Malbec     $12
In the glass, the wine was a clear, deep purple with medium- intense youthful aromas of black and blueberries with wildflowers. Dry, Medium+ body, alcohol, tannins and acidity with dark berry flavors in a medium+ length finish. Good, drink now or hold.
2008 Clos La Coutale Cahors    $16 
Clear, medium purple in the glass with medium, developing aromas of ripe black & blueberries, plum, cassis with hints of tobacco. Dry, medium body, acidity and alcohol with medium+ tannins: the flavors mirror the aromas with a bit of vanilla added in the medium length finish. Very good/ drink now or hold.
All of these Cahor wines would work well with lightly seasoned roasted beef or leg of lamb.

In the Pyrenees sub-region, I am going to look at two distinctly different wines. First, the wines of Juracon in the foothills of the mountains where they produce both dry and sweet white wines primarily from Petit Manseng with Gros Manseng and Courbu. The sweet wines are late-harvested and may have botrytis characteristics.
2010 Cuvee du Bapteme Jurancon  
Clear pale gold color in the glass with medium- youthful aromas of pear, apricot and citrus. Medium dry with medium body, acidity and alcohol with light flavors of citrus, honey and a bit of nuttiness with a medium length finish. Good/ drink now or hold.

Finally, I am looking at Madiran where they produce red wines from Tannat (40-60% of blend) with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and/or Fer Servadou to complete the blend. The best wines should have a pronounced black fruit character with high amounts of soft, ripe tannins. While young, it can be very closed but should open up after 5 or 6 years.
2007 Chateau Montus *    $31                        
Clear, deep ruby in the glass with medium-intense developing aromas of tobacco, vanilla, charcoal and blackberry. Dry, full body, medium+ acidity and alcohol with high tannins with a long finish.
Very good/ drink now or hold.

Overall, there seems to be both good wine and good value coming from southwestern France.

*side note- I was part of the Tannat blind judging panel for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo where the Chateau Montus received a silver medal.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Morning Annoyance

I was grocery shopping at HEB in Sugar Land this morning when this sign caught my eye. I believe that this is deceptive as this is American-made sparkling wine and was definitely not made in Champagne, France.
I find this annoying because it just isn't truthful. It makes me wonder if I should believe that this particular lettuce is organic or that the beef that says grass-fed on it is really grass-fed. Can I count on HEB's honesty with other products when they are clearly misleading their customers with this price sign?
The reality is that HEB is probably not trying to be dishonest. A stocker with no wine knowledge probably set this up (I hope it wasn't their actual wine guy). Why would that person just add the false information "Champagne" to the price label? In the stocker's defense, probably because "Methode Champenoise" is the main thing that you see on the display boxes from the producer. They could say sparkling wine, they could say made in the traditional method, they could say "methode traditionnelle" if they just feel like they need to print French words on what is an American-made with Spanish ties product but they chose adding "Champenoise" to their packaging. Is it a nod to the level of wine knowledge sophistication they believe their consumers to have or is it an attempt to be deceptive on Gloria Ferrer's part? I will let you decide.
To HEB, you do need to change your sign because tricky packaging doesn't make you exempt from the truth on your signs and that particular product that you are selling is NOT Champagne.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Notes on the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley wine region is situated south of Normandy and north of Cognac.  It has one of the coldest and wettest growing seasons in France. It's name comes from France's longest river which starts in central France and then ends at the Atlantic. The river affects the climate by warming the flanking vineyards.

Starting downstream in the Lower Loire or Pays Nantais, the Gulf Stream is also an important warming factor in the most maritime of the sub-regions. This area contains four ACs producing dry white wines from the Muscadet grape also known as Melon de Bourgogne. The wines can be fairly neutral so to add some flavor complexity and to create a creamier texture, many wines are aged with the yeast, or Sur Lie. The legal requirements are that the Muscadet wine must be aged on its lees from vinification through March of the following year. It cannot spend more than one winter on the lees. The wines are easy-drinking and affordable and most are consumed locally.

Guilbaud Freres Le Soleil Nantais Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie - A clear, pale gold color in the glass with clean, medium intense youthful aromas of green apple, lemon and yeast. Flavors mirrored the aromas with medium- body, alcohol, acidity and length. Good, drink now-not intended for aging. $14

The Middle Loire is known as the Garden of France and the vineyards lie between the city of Angers and Tours. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc (also known as Breton) are the primary grapes of this sub-region but there are also many others. The winters are slightly colder and the summers are slightly warmer than in the west so the grapes develop good acidity but the red grapes may have difficulty with tannin and color development.

2006 Domaine Gouron Terroir Chinon - Loire Valley - A clear, light ruby in the glass. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of red fruit, black olives and mint. Medium- body, medium acidity and alcohol, medium+ tannins with a sour cherry and pepper medium length finish. Good food wine/ drink now with roasted duck. $20

These same climate conditions are favorable for the production of sparkling wine and the production of Cremant de Loire is centered in Saumur. The Loire Valley is 2nd in France's overall sparkling production falling only behind Champagne.

De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Brut - Clear, pale straw color with abundant pinpoint bubbles. Clean, light aromas of pear and toasted nuts with floral notes. Dry, light body, medium+ acidity with a medium- finish. Recommended/ Very good. $14


De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Rose Brut - Clear, pale salmon color with limited pinpoint bubbles. Clean, light aromas of strawberry with floral notes. Dry, light body, medium+ acidity with a medium- finish. Good, I liked the other one better. $15

The Upper Loire produces white wine primarily from Sauvignon Blanc and red wine from Pinot Noir. The climate is more extreme than in the rest of the region and does not allow for the grape diversity of the Middle Loire. Pouilly Fume produces some of the area's most well-known wines.

2010 Cuvee Les Galfins Pouilly Fume 
Clear, medium- ruby color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of grapefruit, grass and chamomile. Dry, medium- body, high acid, medium alcohol with green apple and citrus flavors and a touch of minerality in the medium+ length finish. Very good/ drink now. (A little disappointed to not get the smokey/gunflint character for which the area is famous.) $18

related post:
Tasting Notes on Some Loire Valley Wines

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Marcarini Chinato

This was new to me. 

It was found on the clearance rack by someone who was not only familiar with it, but also very enthusiastic about it at its usual $25 price. He was super-geeked at finding it for $3.99 a bottle.

Chinato is an aged wine made from Nebbiolo grapes infused with China Tree bark, rhubarb root and aromatic herbs and spices. It has a long tradition in the Piemonte region where it is produced and where it was believed to be a disease remedy.

In the glass, it appeared a pale garnet color with a brick-orange rim. It had clean, medium intense developed, primarily herbal aromas of sage and fennel with licorice, vanilla and earth. Medium sweet, medium+ tannins and acid with high alcohol (16% abv) and a medium+ length bittersweet finish. It was oddly intriguing with a somewhat Jagermeister-esque quality; I swirled, sniffed and tasted a few times.

The website suggests serving it as a meditation wine, an aperitif with soda on ice, neat as a digestive aid after dinner or warmed with an orange slice on a cold winter's night.

I'll recommend it as a meditation wine for when you want to recall a Jager-fueled, misspent moment from your youth; you may want to include a few friends, I think there may be a limit on how much you can enjoy alone.