Category Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013


Saint-Cosme Cotes du RhoneDespite all the doom and gloom in the wine business, with prices rising and quality vanishing, there are still producers who care. And France’s Saint-Cosme is one of the best.

Its Little James Basket Press red and white blends from the Rhone are terrific examples of $10 wine, and the Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone red ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a step up, a lesson in how to provide varietal character, terroir, and value. Or, as I wrote in my notes: “What a red Rhone blend at this price should taste like, and why can’t anyone else do this?”

Look for deep red fruit from the syrah and a little licorice, but more subtle than usual and almost tight; that is, where you think there should be more fruit flavor but it’s hiding but will come out as the wine ages. This Sainte-Cosme is earthy but not off-putting, and speaks to the traditional Rhone style where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Highly recommended. Pair this with any fall stew or meat dish as the weather gets cooler. And know that someone, for all the focus groups and private labels, still cares. Writes Sainte-Cosme’s Louis Barroul: “It is my pleasure to offer every year a wine of this quality at a reasonable level of price. This is what French wine means: bottle a bit of spirit even at an affordable price.”

Wine of the week: Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Rose 2014


pigmentum roseForget all this foolishness about brose and the hipsters drinking rose and the Wine Magazines giving 90-plus scores to rose. We’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, and what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a $10 bottle of rose, like the Pigmentum rose?

That’s because the Pigmentum rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%), made with malbec from southwestern France, does everything a great cheap wine should do. It’s bone dry, crisp, low in alcohol, and more refreshing than you’d think possible — a burst of just ripe raspberries with some minerality on the finish.

It’s a steal at this price, especially since so many roses that cost more (and sometimes one-third more) don’t offer this much value. Highly recommended, and another terrific wine from the Vigouroux family. Drink this wine chilled, on its own or with any Labor Day weekend picnic, barbecue or cookout, and even think about keeping a few bottles for the fall and winter. It’s that well made, and will almost certainly earn a spot in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

Expensive wine 76: Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003


Chateau Pontet-CanetHow silly are Bordeaux wine prices? The Big Guy, who bought the Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003 (13%) almost 10 years ago, should have kept it in case he needed to top up his grandchildren’s college fund. The wine has doubled in value since he paid $60 for it at a Dallas wine shop.

Wine as investment is an alien concept to the Big Guy and I. We buy wine to drink, which is why any review of the Chateau Pontet-Canet has to take into account its ridiculous run-up in price. What’s the point of a $120 wine, even from a producer as reputable as Pontet-Canet — a fifth-growth estate in the 1855 Bordeaux classification that’s often compared to second growths — that doesn’t make you shiver? Because, as well made as it was, and as well as it has aged, and as much as we enjoyed it, it was worth $120 only if the person buying it wanted to flip it like a piece of real estate.

Which you can’t tell from its scores — proving, sadly, that the idea of the Emperor’s New Clothes is never far from wine and that scores can be as corrupt as a Third World dictator. That’s because the only way to keep the market going is to keep throwing lots of points at the wine, which seems to have happened here. I found lots of mid-90s, with nary a discouraging word.

If you get a chance to try it, the Chateau Pontet-Canet has more fruit in the front (blackberry and raspberry) than you’d expect, and which explains Robert Parker’s fondness for it. The tannins were very soft, and the acidity was muted, almost an afterthought. If you sniff really hard, you can smell graphite, which makes the pointmeisters go crazy. The finish is long, but not extraordinarily so, and the impression is of a quality wine that would be a steal at $40 or $50. But memorable, as one reviewer described? Hardly, unless you’re marveling at the demand for a $120 wine that was made 12 years ago.

Again, this is not to criticize its quality, but to note how little the Bordeaux market has to do with reality. You could buy four terrific bottles of Chablis for the same price; three bottles of a Ridge zinfandel, maybe the best value in the U.S.; or two bottles of Pio Cesare Barbaresco, one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.

If and when the French understand this, they’ll understand why 90 percent of the world is priced out of Bordeaux. Until then, I’ll somehow live without it.

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