Category:French wine

Wine of the week: Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Rose 2014

pigmentum roseForget all this foolishness about brose and the hipsters drinking rose and the Wine Magazines giving 90-plus scores to rose. We’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, and what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a $10 bottle of rose, like the Pigmentum rose?

That’s because the Pigmentum rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%), made with malbec from southwestern France, does everything a great cheap wine should do. It’s bone dry, crisp, low in alcohol, and more refreshing than you’d think possible — a burst of just ripe raspberries with some minerality on the finish.

It’s a steal at this price, especially since so many roses that cost more (and sometimes one-third more) don’t offer this much value. Highly recommended, and another terrific wine from the Vigouroux family. Drink this wine chilled, on its own or with any Labor Day weekend picnic, barbecue or cookout, and even think about keeping a few bottles for the fall and winter. It’s that well made, and will almost certainly earn a spot in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

Expensive wine 76: Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003

Chateau Pontet-CanetHow silly are Bordeaux wine prices? The Big Guy, who bought the Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003 (13%) almost 10 years ago, should have kept it in case he needed to top up his grandchildren’s college fund. The wine has doubled in value since he paid $60 for it at a Dallas wine shop.

Wine as investment is an alien concept to the Big Guy and I. We buy wine to drink, which is why any review of the Chateau Pontet-Canet has to take into account its ridiculous run-up in price. What’s the point of a $120 wine, even from a producer as reputable as Pontet-Canet — a fifth-growth estate in the 1855 Bordeaux classification that’s often compared to second growths — that doesn’t make you shiver? Because, as well made as it was, and as well as it has aged, and as much as we enjoyed it, it was worth $120 only if the person buying it wanted to flip it like a piece of real estate.

Which you can’t tell from its scores — proving, sadly, that the idea of the Emperor’s New Clothes is never far from wine and that scores can be as corrupt as a Third World dictator. That’s because the only way to keep the market going is to keep throwing lots of points at the wine, which seems to have happened here. I found lots of mid-90s, with nary a discouraging word.

If you get a chance to try it, the Chateau Pontet-Canet has more fruit in the front (blackberry and raspberry) than you’d expect, and which explains Robert Parker’s fondness for it. The tannins were very soft, and the acidity was muted, almost an afterthought. If you sniff really hard, you can smell graphite, which makes the pointmeisters go crazy. The finish is long, but not extraordinarily so, and the impression is of a quality wine that would be a steal at $40 or $50. But memorable, as one reviewer described? Hardly, unless you’re marveling at the demand for a $120 wine that was made 12 years ago.

Again, this is not to criticize its quality, but to note how little the Bordeaux market has to do with reality. You could buy four terrific bottles of Chablis for the same price; three bottles of a Ridge zinfandel, maybe the best value in the U.S.; or two bottles of Pio Cesare Barbaresco, one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.

If and when the French understand this, they’ll understand why 90 percent of the world is priced out of Bordeaux. Until then, I’ll somehow live without it.

Wine of the week: Guy Saget La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc 2014

sagetThe crisis in the French wine business — too much overpriced wine, and too often crappy and overpriced wine — doesn’t apply to everyone in France. A variety of producers, who focus on the wine and not what the marketing department tells them to make, deliver quality and value. Guy Saget, whose family business dates to Napoleon and the French Revolution, is an excellent example.

The winery, like many of the best French producers, combines tradition and post-modern winemaking to make wine that actually tastes like wine and not grape juice with alcohol. The sauvignon blanc ($13, sample, 12.5%) demonstrates how successfully they do this. For one thing, it’s varietally correct — French sauvignon blanc that tastes like it came from France, with just enough citrus to be noticeable, but mostly minerality and a pleasing green quality that the tasting notes call fern.

For another, the grapes come from throughout France and not just the Loire, which lowers the price by about a third without substantially reducing quality. This is an everyday practice in California (see the Joel Gott sauvignon blanc), but isn’t nearly as common in France, where centuries of tradition make it more difficult to do.

Highly recommended, and especially for past vintages, which cost as little as $10. Serve this chilled with almost any summer salad, grilled chicken, or boiled seafood.

Wine of the week: Ch teau Martinon 2011

Ch teau MartinonDear Bordeaux wine wise guys:

You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your wines are too often overpriced and of middling quality, and if you want to fix the problem, talk to Chateau Martinon’s Jerome Trolliet. You might learn a thing or two.

That’s because the Chateau Martinon ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is classic white Bordeaux, the kind of wine you made when you were the envy of the wine world, but gave up in favor of chasing trends, raising prices, and courting the Chinese. In this, it tastes like white Bordeaux, and not sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or Chile.

That means more minerality than citrus, but enough lemon-lime citrus to be pleasant, plus a richness many other white Bordeauxs don’t bother with anymore. Credit that to using more semillion than sauvignon blanc in the blend, a not common practice. And that this was a prior vintage just made the Chateau Martinon more interesting. Who knew an $11 wine from the very ordinary Entre-Deux-Mers region would age this well?

Highly recommended, and you should be proud that someone in Bordeaux remembers how to do things the right way.

Your pal,
The Wine Curmudgeon

 

Mini-reviews 68: French wine edition

French wine reviewsReviews 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. For January, four French wines:

? Macon-Villages Les Tuiles 2013 ($10, purchased,13%): This chardonnay from the Macon region of Burgundy is another winner from Cave de Lugny, which specializes in quality cheap wine from that part of France. This is a richer, less crisp style, but still with green apple, and even though the wine doesn’t have any oak.

? Ch teau Jacquet Blanc 2013 ($11, purchased,12%): Nothing special about this white Bordeaux, made of sauvignon blanc and semillon. It’s sort of jumbled together, without enough minerality and some sort of citrus and honey combination.

? Ch teau Rauzan Despagne Reserve 2013: ($13, purchased,12%): Overpriced white being sold in Dallas as a private label that doesn’t especially taste white Bordeaux, with too much citrus and sweet fruit. Very disappointing.

? Hugel Riesling 2012: ($20, sample,12%): This Alsatian white comes from one of the region’s finest producers, and it’s impeccable — some oiliness, pear fruit, and minerality, as well as bone dry. But for all of its quality, it doesn’t come close to delivering value for $20. This is the problem the French wine business faces that few people want to admit.

Beaujolais Nouveau and the crisis in French wine

Beaujolais Nouveau ? Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 12%)

? Thorin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($8, purchased, 11-14%)

These Beaujolais Nouveaus were two of the worst professionally-made wines I’ve tasted in 25 years, practically undrinkable and as bad as some of the amateur regional plonk I endured in the local wine movement’s early days. The Duboeuf, from one of France’s major producers, was thin, watery, and almost devoid of fruit save for the faint taste of overripe bananas. The Thorin was even more offensive — more thin, more watery, and without any fruit at all. The Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, which I tasted with the nouveaus because I was afraid this would happen, cost a dollar less and was of a quality the nouveaus could only dream about.

Beaujolais Nouveau hasn’t been good for a while, but these wines were past even that. That anyone would have made them, let alone sell them, is an embarrassment to wine and to the glory that is French wine. More, after the jump: Continue reading

Wine of the week: Guy Saget Pinot Noir La Petite Perriere 2012

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.