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Tag Archives: French wine

Wine of the week: Chateau Sainte Marie Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2011

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Chateau Sainte Marie How is it, just when the Wine Curmudgeon has all but given up on finding quality, affordable French wine from Bordeaux, that I suddenly find some? The red Chateau Sainte Marie ($15, sample, 13.5%), like the white Chateau Martinon, speaks to Bordeaux wine that tastes like it came from Bordeaux and that wasn’t made to please Robert Parker.

Look for a certain earthiness, jammy black fruit that is modern in style but not offensive, smooth tannins, and a soft, merlot-like finish. In this, it’s an upgrade from the cheap red Bordeaux of my youth, which was often harsh and full of unripe fruit, the kind of wine we drank not because we liked it, but because we thought it made us sophisticated.

The Chateau Sainte Marie, from the less known Bordeaux Superieur appellation, is about three-quarters merlot, with the rest cabernet sauvignon, and it isn’t perfect. I would have liked a little more grip, the idea that there was more to the wine than the fruit. But it is solid, well-made, and varietally correct. These days, given its price, that’s more than enough of a reason to drink it.

Expensive wine 74: Domaine Roger Belland Les Champs-Gain 2005

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Belland Les Champs-GainYou love your Mom, right? You want nothing but the best for her, don’t you? Then the Belland Les Champs-Gain is the wine for her and Mother’s Day.

The Belland Les Champs-Gain ($70, purchased, 13%), a premier cru from the Puligny-Montrachet region in Burgundy, is everything that great wine is supposed to be. It’s the kind of chardonnay that people dream about, and that even those of us who don’t want to pay more than $10 for wine will drink without hesitation — subtle and muted, with layers and layers of flavors and aromas.

Look for white pepper, a brilliant use of oak, and almost ripe apples, three signs of great white Burgundy from Puligny. But there is so much more going on that it’s almost impossible to describe. Besides, just listing a bunch of adjectives won’t come close to doing the wine justice (even though that’s apparently what I’m supposed to do).

Highly recommended, though availability may be limited. In which case, ask your retailer for something similar, and you can’t go wrong. White Burgundy remains one of the few parts of the French wine business that hasn’t shot itself in the foot, head, and behind, for which the Wine Curmudgeon is quite appreciative.

Expensive wine 73: Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié 2013

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Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie PonciéWine geeks get teary-eyed at the mention of high-end Beaujolais, and not just because they’re usually the only ones who know about it. Their argument: That Beaujolais that isn’t the $10 stuff that the Baby Boomers grew up on can be as subtle, interesting, and sophisticated as any great wine, and often at half the price.

The catch, of course, is that there isn’t much high-end Beaujolais, called cru Beaujolais, for sale in the U.S. and it’s not so cheap as to be a great deal compared to other great deals, like Rioja. So even if you find one, how do you know if you should buy it if there isn’t a wine geek handy?

Which is where a knowledgeable retailer comes in, like Cody Upton at Pogo’s in Dallas, who sold me the Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié ($32, purchased, 12%) for a BYOB dinner with the Big Guy. Because, given the price and how little I know about high-end Beaujolais, I wouldn’t have bought it. There’s plenty of sparkling, some white Burgundy, lots of quality Rhone and Rioja, and even California red and white at that price that I know and enjoy.

But I trust Cody, and the Poncie, a red wine from France, shows why. It’s not so much that it was delicious, or that the Big Guy marveled at what it tasted like. Rather, it showed that wine geeks can be right, and that just because a wine is made with the sadly unappreciated gamay grape and comes from Beaujolais is no reason to dismiss it. Cody said this is one of the great Beaujolais of the world, and he was right.

Look for a violet sort of aroma, lingering soft berry fruit, and even some earthiness, which I usually don’t associate with Beaujolais. In this, as with all great wine, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how great wines do that.

Highly recommended, and especially with Mother’s and Father’s Day coming up. Interestingly, it needs food, despite its soft fruit and cushy tannins — almost any roast meat, cheese courses, and even pate.


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