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Tag Archives: French wine

My lunch with Provence

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Provence roseRegular visitors here know how much the Wine Curmudgeon loves rose, and how much I want to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the wine world. Hence my excitement to to attend a Provence rose lunch this week, given that that Provence (located in southern France on the Mediterranean) is to rose what Napa Valley is to cabernet sauvignon and Burgundy is to chardonnay.

And I was not disappointed. Rose accounts for 80 percent of Provence’s production, and its producers have learned a thing or two in the 1,500 years they’ve been making it. The region’s grapes are cultivated specifically to make rose, and not to make something else where the rose is an afterthought. And there’s even a rose research center — call it the UC-Davis for pink wine.

Best yet, Provencal rose is still cheap, something that the lunch’s host, Wines of Provence, emphasized at every opportunity. Talk about being in pink wine heaven.

The best wines we had, and one of them wasn’t even rose (prices are suggested retail, which will probably be a couple of dollars less in the store):

Domaine Houchart Rose 2013 ($15, sample, 12.5%): One of the best roses I’ve ever had, with depth and a roundness that most pink wines at this price, no matter how well made, rarely have. Not too much fresh red berry fruit, crisp, and bone dry. Chill this, and you’ll never want another wine all summer.

La Vidaubanaise Le Provencal 2013 ($15, sample, 12%): A notch below the Houchart, but that’s hardly a criticism. More fresh red berries, nice acid balance, and even a little melon on the back. Another terrific value.

Chateau de Berne Terres de Berne 2013 ($20, sample, 13%): It speaks to the wine’s quality that I’m including it here, since it’s not $10. A flowery aroma, almost white fruit flavors, some spice (believe it or not), and so fresh it was hard to believe. Availability may be limited.

Rimaresque Cru Classe Rose 2013 ($24, sample, 13%): Rose for people who think they need to spend more than $10 for wine, with a rich mouth feel, minerality on the back, and a little more heft, given that cabernet sauvignon is one of the eight grapes in the blend.

Domaine Houchart Rouge 2011 ($15, sample, 14.5%): How a red wine with this much alcohol can be this light and enjoyable is apparently one of those things you pick up in 15 centuries of winemaking. A blend that shows off its grenache and carignan, with cherry fruit and some spiciness. Highly recommended, and don’t be afraid to chill it a bit.

Father’s Day wine 2014

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Father's Day wine 2014

You don’t have to buy Dad another tie. Wouldn’t he prefer wine?

Tired of ties? Worn out from from all those cheesy department store Father’s Day TV commercials? That’s what wine is for — to make Father’s Day 2014 more fun for everyone involved. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: “Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.”

Some wine to consider for Father’s Day 2014:

Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2008 ($14, purchased, 12%): Delicious and surprisingly sophisticated cava — sparkling wine from Spain — with all sorts of things going on, including honey in the back, some citrus in the front, and even a little minerality. Toast Dad with this one, and impress everyone.

Château du Donjon Minervois Rosé 2013 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Look for sour cherry fruit and some minerality, though a bit thin in the middle. This is not so much a problem with the wine but with the quality of $10 rose, because the wine is quite tasty.

Robert Oatley Wild Oats Shiraz 2011 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Lots of spice to go with the fruity Australian style (berries?). This is a wine that shiraz lovers will enjoy, as well as those of us who don’t like the style. A fine value, and highly recommended.

Solena Pinot Gris 2012 ($17, sample, 13.5%) Top-notch Oregon pinot gris (apples, crispy, refreshing) that shows what the state can do with this grape. A bit pricey, but a fine gift for dads who like this kind of wine.

More about Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2013
Father’s Day wine 2012
Expensive wine 51: Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010
Wine of the week: Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserva 2010

Wine of the week: Chateau Recougne 2009

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Château RecougneThe Chateau Recougne, a French red blend, is an excellent example of the pricing dilemma facing U.S. wine consumers. At $10, this is a Hall of Fame wine, but increase the price by one-third, and it’s not nearly as impressive.

So what did I pay for the Chateau Recougne ($13, purchased, 13%)? One-third more than $10, of course. None of this means that the Recougne, mostly merlot from a lesser part of Bordeaux called Bordeaux Superieur, isn’t well made or enjoyable, because it is and especially for an older wine. There is more oak and fruit (black cherry?) than I expected, but there is also some earthiness and the proper balance between all of the parts. It’s a little New World for my taste, but I enjoyed it and would buy it again.

Which brings us back to price. Does the Chateau Recougne offer one-third more value than the Little James Basket Press or McManis’ gold-medal petite sirah? Not really, and that’s the dilemma: How do we decide what to buy, given the incredible selection of wine to choose from and the lack of information to help us make that decision? The Recougne label isn’t much help, though it looks very French, and since I bought it at a grocery store, there was no one to ask.

My colleagues and I regularly argue about whether Americans buy wine on price; the Recougne seems to be argument that we do. If there’s a similar $10 wine next to it on the shelf, given an equal lack of information, how many of us won’t pay one-third less?

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