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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.

Wine of the week: Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche 2009

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White wines from France's Rhone region aren't particularly well known and, at least in this country, don't get all that much respect. You don't see many of them on store shelves or restaurant wine lists, and you don't see many of them reviewed, for that matter.

Which is a shame, given that white Rhones are usually different and interesting, and that's something the Wine Curmudgeon is always looking for. The Belleruche ($12, purchased), from one of the Rhone's largest producers, has always been one of my favorite wines for just that reason (when I can find it, of course).

This is a previous vintage, and the extra year of bottle age has given the wine, a blend of grenache blanc, clairette and bourboulenc, a little more character. There is lots of white pepper, some oiliness and just a hint of a green fruit, like lime or apple. This is a not a white wine for people who need something fruit forward, like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, but it's not supposed to be.

And don't worry that you haven't heard of the grapes used to make it — almost no one who isn't in the wine business has heard of them, either. Which is another reason why the wine is so interesting, and that's three more grapes for your Wine Century Club effort. Chill this and drink it on its own or with something like goat cheese; roast pork with apples would be terrific, too.

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