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Category Archives: French wine

Mini-reviews 59: Hearty Burgundy, white Burgundy, Aldi, Gascogne

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Mini-reviews 59: Hearty Burgundy, whReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, mini-reviews of four wines I really wanted to like, but didn’t:

Gallo Family Vineyards Hearty Burgundy NV ($9/1.5 liters, sample, 12%): The wine your parents and grandparents drank in college (in a 50th anniversary edition) is more modern in style these days, with more ripe black fruit. But it still tastes pretty much like it did then, which is surprising, and, for better or worse, epitomizes the concept of jug wine.

Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 2011 ($25, purchased, 12.5%): Disappointing white Burgundy from one of my favorite producers — more like what California chardonnay tastes like when winemakers say they’ve made “French-style” wine. Oak isn’t integrated at all, though apple and pear fruit is evident.

Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013: ($7, purchased, 13%): Aldi store brand is one-note, citrus-aggressive New Zealand white that’s a step up from something like Monkey Bay but, oddly, not all that enjoyable when the bottle is empty.

Globerati Côtes de Gascogne ($6, purchased, 12%): Easily the worst made Gascon wine I’ve ever had — thin, lacking fruit, almost no terroir, and none of the white grapiness that makes Gascon wine so much fun. What was Globerati thinking?

Wine of the week: Père Anselme Reserve De L’Aube 2011

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pere anselmFlash back to the 1980s, to a time before California grocery store merlot, before livestock wines with cute labels, and even before U.S. wine was much appreciated in the U.S. What did we drink? Something more or less like the Pere Anselme ($8, purchased, 12.5%).

Those wines were notable for three things: They were French, because we were supposed to drink French wine in those days. They were cheap, because that’s all we could afford to drink (not yet having learned that cheap wine is worthy of a lifetime of drinking). And they were, to be kind, uneven in quality. Sometimes they were rough and tannic, other times green and unripe, and sometimes both. But what did we know? We were drinking French wine. In an era when women’s dresses had shoulder pads, that was pretty damned sophisticated.

The good news about the Anselm, a red blend with syrah and merlot from the Langeudoc in southern France and made by a leading producer of Rhone wines, is that it doesn’t have the technical flaws those older wines did. It’s ripe, it’s more or less in balance, and it even speaks to the terroir — some earthiness, simple black fruit, a hearty finish, and what the wine geeks like to call the smell of violets.

Serve this with any red meat; it does need food, another hallmark of those 1980s-style wines. The Anselm is not Hall of Fame quality, but it is the kind of wine you buy and drink and feel happy about. That’s not a bad recommendation for any wine, is it?

Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007

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Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007Most of the time, for most of the wines we drink, it doesn’t matter if the wine is too cold. Or if you don’t open it ahead of time. Or decant it. We drink them, we enjoy them (or not), and then we move to the next wine.

And then there are wines like the La Sizeranne ($125, sample, 13.5%), which require all the care and comfort we can give it.

That’s because this is an exceptional wine; if you don’t fuss over it, it will be that much more difficult to discover how exceptional. At first glance, it’s a classic wine from the Hermitage in France’s northern Rhone — made with syrah, featuring red fruit, mushroom earthiness, and some peppery spice.

But take care with it, and you’ll discover the sophistication that only great wines have, and which makes them so difficult to describe to those who haven’t tasted them. It’s like reading Hemingway. The Nick Adams stories are wonderfully written, but you can’t feel them — the fish on the fire, the chill of the early morning river, the northern Michigan wilderness — until you read them.

I know this because I didn’t take great care with this wine, mostly just opened it and drank it, and I didn’t realize what I was missing until it was almost gone. One day, the La Sizeranne will be powerful and intense. Today, it’s young and controlled, like a boy at a school dance who is afraid to talk to girls. But the promise is there of what could happen in another three or four or five years, and of what it could turn into in its prime, for years and years after that.

Expensive? Certainly. But given how many expensive wines are so disappointing, it’s not much of a stretch to say this delivers value. Just remember to fuss over it.

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