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Category Archives: French wine

Beaujolais Nouveau and the crisis in French wine

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Beaujolais NouveauGeorges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 12%)

Thorin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 11-14%)

These Beaujolais Nouveaus were two of the worst professionally-made wines I’ve tasted in 25 years, practically undrinkable and as bad as some of the amateur regional plonk I endured in the local wine movement’s early days. The Duboeuf, from one of France’s major producers, was thin, watery, and almost devoid of fruit save for the faint taste of overripe bananas. The Thorin was even more offensive — more thin, more watery, and without any fruit at all. The Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, which I tasted with the nouveaus because I was afraid this would happen, cost a dollar less and was of a quality the nouveaus could only dream about.

Beaujolais Nouveau hasn’t been good for a while, but these wines were past even that. That anyone would have made them, let alone sell them, is an embarrassment to wine and to the glory that is French wine. More, after the jump:

Wine of the week: Guy Saget Pinot Noir La Petite Perriere 2012

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guy saget pinot noirRegular visitors here know how difficult it is to find affordable pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir, even if you’re willing to spend as much as $20. The weak dollar is one reason, but quality Oregon and California pinots are equally as pricey. It’s just the way pinot is — the cheap stuff, even if it’s worth drinking, doesn’t taste like pinot, and the expensive stuff, even if it tastes like pinot, is priced beyond all but five percent of us.

That’s why I tried the Saget pinot noir ($13, sample, 12.5%), even though my hunch was that it would be difficult to find unless you lived in a big city with a top-notch independent wine shop. But the Wine Curmudgeon was that desperate.

The good news is that the wine is well worth looking for. The Saget is labeled French, which means the grapes to make it came from all over the country. This has not been a common practice for quality wines, but is becoming more common after the European Union relaxed appellation rules. The result is a delightful and refreshing pinot, with red berry fruit and a hint of tannins and oak. In one respect, it’s almost Beaujolais in style, but without the grapiness. What I liked best is that it tastes more or less like inexpensive Oregon pinot, when there was inexpensive Oregon pinot.

The Saget is light enough for summer and simple dinners anytime of year, but pinot enough to be enjoyable. Highly recommended, and I hope you can find it. There’s a retail location widget on the importer’s website, and that’s the first place to look.

My lunch with Provence

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Provence roseRegular visitors here know how much the Wine Curmudgeon loves rose, and how much I want to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the wine world. Hence my excitement to to attend a Provence rose lunch this week, given that that Provence (located in southern France on the Mediterranean) is to rose what Napa Valley is to cabernet sauvignon and Burgundy is to chardonnay.

And I was not disappointed. Rose accounts for 80 percent of Provence’s production, and its producers have learned a thing or two in the 1,500 years they’ve been making it. The region’s grapes are cultivated specifically to make rose, and not to make something else where the rose is an afterthought. And there’s even a rose research center — call it the UC-Davis for pink wine.

Best yet, Provencal rose is still cheap, something that the lunch’s host, Wines of Provence, emphasized at every opportunity. Talk about being in pink wine heaven.

The best wines we had, and one of them wasn’t even rose (prices are suggested retail, which will probably be a couple of dollars less in the store):

Domaine Houchart Rose 2013 ($15, sample, 12.5%): One of the best roses I’ve ever had, with depth and a roundness that most pink wines at this price, no matter how well made, rarely have. Not too much fresh red berry fruit, crisp, and bone dry. Chill this, and you’ll never want another wine all summer.

La Vidaubanaise Le Provencal 2013 ($15, sample, 12%): A notch below the Houchart, but that’s hardly a criticism. More fresh red berries, nice acid balance, and even a little melon on the back. Another terrific value.

Chateau de Berne Terres de Berne 2013 ($20, sample, 13%): It speaks to the wine’s quality that I’m including it here, since it’s not $10. A flowery aroma, almost white fruit flavors, some spice (believe it or not), and so fresh it was hard to believe. Availability may be limited.

Rimaresque Cru Classe Rose 2013 ($24, sample, 13%): Rose for people who think they need to spend more than $10 for wine, with a rich mouth feel, minerality on the back, and a little more heft, given that cabernet sauvignon is one of the eight grapes in the blend.

Domaine Houchart Rouge 2011 ($15, sample, 14.5%): How a red wine with this much alcohol can be this light and enjoyable is apparently one of those things you pick up in 15 centuries of winemaking. A blend that shows off its grenache and carignan, with cherry fruit and some spiciness. Highly recommended, and don’t be afraid to chill it a bit.

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