Archive for the ‘Review french wine’ Category

Dare to Drink Pink!

Thanks to SmartFem Magazine, who originally published this story…

Online Magazine for Women – Informative, Entertaining, Intelligent!



It’s official: Rosé wine is trending. In big-city bars and upscale bistros, Rosé is now at the top of the wine list. But make no mistake about it: this is not the sweet, cheap White Zinfandel that’s given pink wine a bad name in North America.  These are crisp, dry wines from places like Provence, Tavel and Mendoza.

“Real” Rosés are dry wines traditionally made and consumed as the “wine of summer” in Europe. They show delicate fruit notes — think strawberries, cherries or melon — and finish crisp and clean. If you haven’t enjoyed a chilled glass of Rosé by the pool, with brunch, or as an aperitif, then it’s high time you did.

TIP: Rosés are meant to be consumed young and fresh, so look for vintage dates just a year or two old. And you don’t have to spend a lot: there are plenty of nice still Rosés in the $10-$14 range, and sparkling from $16-$20.

Rosé wines can be made from almost any red grapes, but typically use Grenache, Mourvèdre or Pinot Noir. The juice from these grapes is clear, but picks up pigmentation as it soaks with the skins. So very simply, the amount of skin contact determines the depth of color in the finished wine. That’s why you’ll see Rosés that vary in color from pale salmon almost to magenta.

You should start your exploration of Rosés by sampling a few classic styles. Provence in Southern France is known for the very pale and delicately flavored Rosés that are favored by the owners of the yachts that dock at the French Riviera. Compare this to a Spanish or Argentine Rosé that’s deep in color and intense in its fruit character. (If you typically drink bold, dry reds, you’ll probably enjoy these Rosés.)

And don’t forget the pink bubblies. While Rosé Champagne starts at $40 and can go much higher, there are great pink sparkling wines from Burgundy (called  Cremant de Bourgogne), Alsace (Cremant d’Alsace), Spain (Brut Rosé Cava), and of course, California and Washington.

Pink wines are great for sipping, but also make good food wines. Try them with an appetizer like Smoked Salmon and Boursin Cheese Crostini,  or a tray of fruit, nuts and soft cheeses.

Here are a few good choices to get you started on your Rosé adventure:

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Rosé — Costieres de Nimes, France    $12

Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé — Mendoza, Argentina. $13

Belle Glos Rosé of Pinot Noir — California  $18

Gruet Sparkling Brut Rosé — New Mexico (It’s from New Mexico and it’s great!)  $18

And of course, the BrAngelina wine, Chateau Miraval –– Provence, France. $24

Dare to drink Pink!

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Elegant and Refined: Chateau Guibon Bordeaux Blanc


Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux

Grapes can be tricky little devils. In one bottle they can have you believing one thing — “this grape tastes like lime and grapefruit” — and in another bottle it’s anything but.

You say, “What happened to the aggressive citrus and acid?”

Well, what happened is that this grape, Sauvignon Blanc, changes style as often as my daughter changes her clothes. Sauv Blanc can be bold and aggressive, like a young career woman on the rise, or refined and sophisticated, like one of those lucky women who look cool and elegant no matter the occasion.

You’ve probably guessed that my two players here are New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — that’s the aggressive one — and the white wine of the France’s Bordeaux region. The wine that I loved recently, and launched me into this barely-plausible analogy, is Chateau Guibon Bordeaux Blanc 2010.

Chateau Guibon is part of the Andre Lurton wine family, and it’s a very extended family. The Lurton’s have been in Bordeaux since Lords and Ladies rode through it on horseback, and they now own and manage six or eight Chateau in Bordeaux. Not being content to stay close to home, various family members have launched wineries in 10 other countries, including France, Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile.

So back to the French Lurton. Chateau Guibon comes from the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation, a sub-region of Bordeaux. In this area “between two seas” (the Garonne and Dordogne rivers), white wines can be made from some or all of these grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Chateau Guibon uses all three. Semillon is the predominant variety, and the blend is beautifully balanced.

I liked this wine for its elegance and bright fruit palate. The entry is soft — not like the aggressive attack of New Zealand Sauv Blanc — and some delicate but lush pear and melon linger on the palate. The finish is still crisp (thanks to the Sauv Blanc) but softened by the Semillon in the blend.

This is a classically styled blend that would be very appealing to fans of both the New World and Old World style. In fact, I think it beats the heck out of almost every California Sauv Blanc I’ve tasted. And it’s pretty cheap ($13). Yay for that! Take it out for a spin next time you’re tired of your Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, and Cheers!

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Andre Lurton and Chateau de Rochemorin

If you, my loyal reader, have been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that my blog posts are always about wines I’ve enjoyed. Why waste time writing about lousy wines when there are so many good ones, right?

And the first thing I do, when I want to write about a wine I’ve enjoyed, is research. I want to learn about the wine’s region, the people who contributed to its creation, and the winery that produced it.

So after drinking this really good Bordeaux the other night — Chateau de Rochemorin 2009 – I set out to do my usual. But what I discovered in my research wasn’t “the usual”. Take the winery’s history, for example: this Chateau traces its roots back to 1520. Really! That’s a long time ago.

And over the next 400 years the Chateau at Rochemorin was home to Lords and Ladies, Poets, one of the great philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, and even an honest-to-God Musketeer! (the dashing, sword-wielding type, not the candy bar type).

Vines were planted on Lord Rochemorin’s estate in the region we know as Graves in the 16th century, and good-to-very-good wine was made there continuously for four hundred years. Holy cow! That kinda puts the “Old” into “Old World” wines.

Then in 1919, the estate was sold to a lumber baron, and it wasn’t until 1973 that it  was rescued  by Andre Lurton, a man whose family wine history isn’t too shabby, either. The Lurton’s have been wine producers in Bordeaux since 1650, and at this point there are “no fewer than 17 family members of the currrent generation working in the wine trade today.” In fact, the appellation within Graves where the winery sits, Pessac-Leognan, was created in 1987 after 20 years of lobbying by none other than Andre Lurton.

So enough preamble: let’s get to the wine. Bordeaux is arguably the King of Old World wine. Reds from Pessac-Leognan, which is part of Bordeaux’s Left Bank, can be blended from the six traditional Bordeaux grapes (the Lurton website includes Carmenere as the sixth grape). The Chateau de Rochemorin is blended from just two grapes — 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lost and Found: William Fevre Chablis Fourchaume 2006

chablisI love finding things unexpectedly; like when you put on a coat you haven’t worn for a few months and find a $20 bill in the pocket. That’s a great surprise. (Except that in my coats there’s never more than $1.)

Yesterday I dug into the hard-to-reach places in my wine fridge and found — a half bottle of white Burgundy. I’d forgotten it was there, and still can’t remember who gave it to me (probably a distributor rep trying to win points). But I didn’t care. I had a potentially great bottle of wine to taste, as we sat on our deck on a beautiful summer evening.

The wine is William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2006, so it’s a white Burgundy from the Chablis region. Many of you may know that the Chardonnay-based wines of Chablis are known for their austere, flinty, style. They typically never see an oak barrel, and the cool climate in northern Burgundy produces plenty of acid in the grapes, and adds ageability to the wines.

I was anxious to see how this 2006 was drinking. When I poured it into our glasses, the wine was beautiful to look at. The color was a crystal-clear pale lemon yellow, suggesting a delicate palate to follow.

The nose was — nothing, at first. This wine really needed to be worked over in the glass, so I swirled and swirled to get some oxygen into it. When the aromas finally released, I was surprised. Instead of the citrus and flint I’d expected, I smelled tapioca, butterscotch, and maybe even creme brulee. All these rich aromas from a Chablis?? Read the rest of this entry »

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Chateau Petrus or Chateau El Cheapo?

Hpetrusere’s a cute story reported by Wine Spectator’s blog, “Unfiltered.” It concerns a wine that’s surely the world’s most expensive Merlot. cheap

• A young lady in France was caught last month trying to get a discount on a few bottles of Château Pétrus, switching the barcodes on the $3,300 bottles with ones on bottles priced $3.50. This occurred at a Dordogne outlet of the supermarket Leclerc; the company’s wine buyer said such occurrences are common.

Really? In France, they have lots of $3,300 bottles of wine sitting on grocery store shelves? I guess it ain’t the Piggly Wiggly…


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chinon rose

chinonI converted a whole room full of people.

But don’t be thinking we were saying “Hail Mary’s” when we were done.

What everyone was saying was, “I never thought I’d like pink wine.”

Here’s what I did: I was hosting a summer-time wine tasting, and when I say “summer” I mean 90 degree temps plus 90 percent humidity. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to float in a pool with a very cold drink in your hand.rose

So predictably, my wine list included a snappy, grapefruit-y Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. But it also included Le Grand Bouqueteau Chinon Rose 2010. This wine is a beautiful pale salmon-pink color, and for many American wine drinkers, pink wine = sweet wine. At least out here in the Great American Heartland, the vast majority of pink wine is White Zinfandel, which my regular, wine-taste-attending customers wouldn’t touch with a ten foot straw.

So when I pulled out the Chinon Rose they looked at me like the heat had cooked my brain. But when I poured it, and they tasted it, their faces lit up.

This rose comes from the Chinon appellation, which is tucked into the Touraine region of France’s Loire Valley. In Chinon, the most widely-planted red grape is Cabernet Franc, and that’s what this rose is made from. It undergoes the same winemaking process as any other dry wine, except that the skins (the component that gives red wines their color) are removed after soaking with the juice for just a few hours. That’s why the color is so pale.

The Loire is one of the more northerly — i.e. cooler — wine-growing regions in France. And if you’ve been following my blog, you remember that cool temps create more acid in the grapes. Add to this the limestone soils of the central Loire, and you get grapes with bracing acidity and flinty minerality. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tasting a Treasure: Chateau d’Yquem 1989

yquemI don’t drink a lot of $1,000 wines.

It’s just not in my budget.

So I was thrilled when our good friends, Chris Holcombe Cotanch and Bruce Cotanch, invited us to join them to taste their bottle of 1989 Chateau d’Yquem Lur-Saluces.

What?? You mean the Yquem from an outstanding vintage that scored 97 points from the Wine God Robert Parker Jr? Yes, I’ll be honored…

So just in case you don’t know why Yquem, and Yquem in this vintage, is such a treat, let me give you some history.

“History” is the key word. Chateau d’Yquem is a French wine and winery that dates back to 1593. Yes, that’s more than four centuries ago. Here in the Americas, we weren’t even growing subsistence crops, let alone a luxury item like wine.

And in the Chateau d’Yquem vineyards in southeast Bordeaux, the dessert wine made from the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that they planted in the 16th century earned them an international reputation. By the late 1700′s, our own Thomas Jefferson wanted to visit this prestigious winery, and he loved the wine so much that he bought 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage and some extra for George Washington. Wow! The 1784 vintage?? It kinda blows my mind.

So last weekend we were sitting down to taste the 1989 vintage. I was keenly aware of the history that preceeded us, and I’d done my research so that I could taste knowledgeably. Here’s what I learned: Read the rest of this entry »

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A Vanishing Breed: Guy Allion Malbec Le Poira 2009

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of  Malbec.

Now raise the other hand if you think it’s a wine from Argentina.

If you’ve got both hands in the air, you look like a lunatic and you’re only half right.

While Argentine Malbec is taking up more and more space on wine store shelves, the grape actually originated in France, where it was one of the six blending grapes used to create Bordeaux. In 1956 a killer frost took 75% of the Malbec crop in France, and while a small region called Cahors replanted, Bordeaux did not. Nowadays, you’ll find a little Malbec in Cahors, and even less in Touraine, a district in the Loire in northern France.

I found a bottle called Guy Allion Touraine Malbec Le Poira 2009, and I was too intrigued to ignore it. French Malbec is, after all, a vanishing breed, and the researcher in me was keen to see how the flavor profile of this Old World wine would compare to Mendoza’s New World Malbec.

My research showed me, first of all, that Malbec is a thin-skinned grape that ripens even more slowly than Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Holy Cow! How could it thrive in the cool climate of northern France? Just imagine how happy the grape could be in the foothills of the Andes mountains, where higher elevations produce tons of radiant heat, warm sunny days and cool nights to develop structure.. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Classic Wins Hands Down: Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2010

alsaceI have to admit tthat I’m in awe of the fine wines of Alsace. They seem elegant, sophisticated, and delightful to drink… so why isn’t anyone drinking them??

In my corner of the U.S., Alsatian white wines are about as common on local dinner tables as Frogs Legs. By that I mean that many folks have heard of them, but hardly anyone actually consumes them. Let’s try to change that…

First of all, let me explain that Alsace sits on the northern edge of France, but it owes much more to Germany in its winemaking traditions.  Alsace’s wine grape growing region is sandwiched between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Rhine River to the east, so they’re within spitting distance of Germany’s vineyards. The grapes they grow are similar to Germany and Austria — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris — and unlike the rest of France, the Alsatians label their wines with the grape name instead of the region.

(Sidebar for those who find wine labels impenetrable: France and most of Europe name a wine for the region it’s from, such as Sancerre, rather than the grape it’s made from, such as Sauvignon Blanc.)mann

So Alsace follows Germany’s wine styles. The area also follows its climate: it’s pretty darn cool up there, but the Vosges Mountains at least protect the vineyards from the worst of the winds and keeps rainfall to a minimum. So despite its cold continental climate, all that sun helps the grapes ripen more than they otherwise would that far north.

But let’s get to the wine. I put Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2010 in a blind tasting (that means the wine labels are hidden), and expected to smell and taste lots of acid (from the cool temperatures), plenty of minerals (from the soil), and not much more. Boy, did  I fool myself. Read the rest of this entry »

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Champagne Market Leader Setting a New Trend or Making a Mistake?

moetHere’s a report I just read on

Moët & Chandon is to lower the dosage of its market-leading Brut Impérial from 12 grams per litre to 9 g/l according to its chef de cave Benoît Gouez. This follows the decision by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy to gradually lower the sugar levels on the prestige cuvée, having dropped the dosage for its late-disgorged Oenothèque Champagnes.

As previously reported by the drinks business, Geoffroy said, “There has been a strategy of lowering the dosage in the last 10 years and we are now between 6 and 7 g/l.”

Hmmm… I’ve been selling Champagne (the real stuff) for quite a few years. Many of the people who buy it want to “treat themselves to a bottle.” They don’t mind that the price is considerably higher than many other very good sparkling wines — they’re buying it because it’s pricey. They figure that if it’s expensive, it must be good, and that’s what makes Champagne a treat.

Problem is, most of those folks don’t drink Champagne, or even wine, very often. That usually means their palates aren’t accustomed to truly dry wines. I’ve heard many say, “I spent a lot of money on Dom Perignon because it was supposed to be so special, and I didn’t even like it.” Yep, it’s too dry and yeasty for their palates.

But Moet et Chandon White Star wasn’t. It was my go-to Champagne because it was not as dry as all the others. It was considered an “Extra-Dry,” which in the totally un-logical language of Champagne-speak means “not as dry as Brut.”   Apparently others felt the same way, because it was the clear market leader in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

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