The Wine Curmudgeon ?s photography skills are severely limited, kind of like asking one of my dogs to do a stint as a nuclear physicist. Hence a tip o ? the wine glass to the great Louise Jordan, DWS, who took these terrific shots during our trip to Bordeaux.
This is the red wine bookend to Sacha Lachine ?s La Poule Blanche ? a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and grenache, It, too, is a fine value, though I liked the cleaner, crisper lines of the white a little more than I did the red.
The Le Coq Rouge (about $12) is fruity, more Spanish than French (probably from the grenache). And it ?s much easier to drink than more tannic wines from Australia and California. Drink it with barbecue, meatloaf and and just about any mid-week red wine meal you can think of.
Yes, I had a wonderful time. Yes, I found cheap wine, and yes, I found really good cheap wine. The full account is here (though, at 1,100 words, you might want to read it in stages). Hopefully, I'll also be able to get some pictures up in a slide show over the next week or so.
What's worth noting now is something that I think many of us in the New World forget about French wine. They have been doing it a very, very long time, and that makes a difference that is almost impossible to understand.
The modern California wine industry dates from the end of World War II, or about 60 years. Many of the 14 chateaux I visited had vines that old or older. In Texas, where so many winemakers and winery owners are eager to hurry up and make great wine, our vines are 20 years old at best. The average age of most of the vines at the dozen or so chateaux I visited is almost 10 years older than that.
Age brings experience which brings quality. Jean de Cournuaud, the ninth generation of his family to make wine at Chateau Mazeris, told me he had to pull out some vines a couple of years ago because they were too old and had stopped producing. The vines had been planted at the beginning of the 20th century, when France had been devastated by phylloxera. That's like finding out your grandfather played baseball with Babe Ruth. France just doesn't make wine. It makes history.
Or, for those of you whose French is a little rusty, chicken white wine.
La Poule Blanche ($11) comes with an excellent pedigree. Sacha Lichine, the man behind it, is the son of Alexis Lichine, one of the legends of the French wine business. And the wine is that good.
It ?s a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier that combines a New World fruitiness (very ripe apples, maybe) with French style. That means crispness, minerality and not a touch of oak. I drank it with roast chicken (big surprise, huh?), but it would work with seafood pastas, white pizzas and cheese courses. If it cost $1 less, it would make the $10 Hall of Fame.
3. Bordeaux is quite pretty. Richard Carleton Hacker, who is on this press trip, said it looks like the kind of wine country that defines the term, the kind of ambiance that the rest of the world aspires to.
Wine doesn ?t get much snootier than pinot noir. The grape is troublesome to grow, it ?s difficult to turn into quality wine, and the wine is almost always pricey. In fact, save for the Burgundy region of France, a stretch of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and parts of California, most of the rest of the world has given up on pinot noir. (And, frankly, a lot of pinot from the rest of the world should be given up on.)
Plus, pinot drinkers ? as demonstrated by the movie Sideways ? can take their enthusiasm for to unreasonable lengths. This produces a clubbiness that rivals that of red Bordeaux or Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, two other leading causes of wine snobbery.
Screw top. No oak. Lots of viognier peach fruit. Less than $10.
Excuse me while I catch my breath. I couldn ?t believe how much I liked this wine, since cheap chardonnay, even from respected cheap wine producers like Tortoise Creek, is rarely worth writing about. It ?s either too oak-y (or too fake oak-y) and the lesser quality grapes that are used are often bitter or not quite ripe.
But that ?s not the case with this French wine, which is 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent viognier. I drank it with takeout Indian — spiced lentils included ? and it was one of those pairings that made me think I actually know what I ?m doing.