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Tag Archives: French wine

Four Arrogant Frog wines

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Arrogant fron winesFinding quality cheap wine from France is not as easy as it used to be. The weak dollar is the main reason, but a change in focus for French producers, who price wine to sell to the Chinese because they can’t think of anything else to do, hasn’t helped, either.

Save for exceptions like the Lurton family’s Chateau Bonnet or my beloved Gascony, most cheap French wine knocks off $10 California wine; is junk foisted on U.S. consumers because we’re too American to know better; or is the same as it has been for years, like La Vielle Ferme — OK, but nothing more.

That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited by the recent Arrogant Frog Twitter tasting, where a dozen wine writers sampled four $10 French wines from the Languedoc in southern France and tweeted with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. The good news is that the wines — a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and red blend — offer tremendous value for $10. If they’re not quite French enough in style for me (I would have liked more grip), they’re still well made and well worth buying.

Mas was candid and well-spoken: “You must convince people to buy your wine by being consistent. It’s easy to make great wine one year. Try doing it for 30 years.” Plus, he avoided winespeak, something that rarely happens at these things, and there was nary a mention of brix or canopy management.

A few thoughts about the wines 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.

Expensive wine 65: Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2003

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Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-MusignyThe Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact he would never get to taste most of the world’s great wines. Even if I could afford them, what with prices like $500 for a bottle of Cheval Blanc from an ordinary vintage, availability is difficult.

Which is why I’m always grateful when The Big Guy brings a bottle of Burgundy to the house. These French wines — the red is pinot noir and the white is chardonnay — are his favorites, and we always have a terrific time marveling at how well the Burgundians put them together, and always seem to get a whole that is greater than the parts.

The Hudelot-Noellat ($60, purchased, 13%) is no exception. The producer is one of the most respected in the region, one of those family businesses that make Burgundy We tasted it about 18 months ago, and it was still young and lively, with a zingy, almost tangy fruit aroma and a wonderful burst of red fruit (strawberry, as hard as that is to believe) in the middle. He brought another bottle over last month, and the wine had calmed down quite a bit. It’s probably ready to drink; the fruit is starting to become part of the wine, and isn’t something that stands out. It’s a wonder of oak and tannins, a lesson in how to use oak in pinot noir and how to craft tannins that give the wine structure but don’t overwhelm it.

This is an elegant, subtle wine, one that is gone before you notice what has happened, and then you wonder why there isn’t any left. It’s a reminder of just how good red Burgundy can be, and why it’s so expensive.

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