Category:French wine

$70 wine: When is it really worth it?

image I was drinking wine with a couple of friends last weekend and mentioned that they would enjoy the sparkling wine. One of them took a sip and said, yes, that was pretty good. But it doesn’t taste like one of your $10 wines, she said. (Now I know how actors feel when they get stereotyped.)

The wine, of course, was not $10. It was Ruinart, perhaps my favorite bubbly and not cheap at all at $70. And, to add insult to injury to my reputation, the other bottle of wine that night was Domaine Borgeot Puligny-Montrachet Les Charmes 1999, which cost around $65.

Which raises the question: Is there something to these wines that makes them worth that much money? The answer is yes, but the point is not how much they cost, but what they deliver.

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A handy guide to wine regions, part I

image This is the first of two parts looking at ways to decipher the world’s wine regions without making your head hurt. The second part will run on Monday.

One of the most difficult concepts to get across about wine is the idea of wine regions. You can get someone to acknowledge  that wine is different depending on where it’s from, but understanding that it is something else entirely. And I won’t even mention there are more than 3,200 wine regions in the world.

Yes, they’ll say, they realize cabernet sauvignon is different from merlot which is different from chardonnay. But doesn’t all French wine (or California wine or whatever) taste the same?

No, it doesn’t. But given how complicated wine regions can be — Quick: Name the sub-AVAs within the Sonoma AVA — and it’s easy to see why people give up in confusion.

Which is why the Wine Curmudgeon exists. Wine geography does not have to be a barrier to buying and enjoying wine. It’s helpful to know that the Rhone is divided into north and south, but not essential.

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Wine of the week: Chateau LesTuileries Rouge 2005

image Most wine drinkers see Bordeaux as a great black hole made up of wine speak, unimaginably high prices, and an incredibly complex system of chateaux and classifications.

Which makes this wine (about $15) all the more welcome. It's a merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend in the classic Bordeaux style, but without any of the pretensions noted above. Classic means it's not a fruit forward popsicle, full of blueberry and cola, like most inexpensive Californa merlots. Rather, it has less fruit, more earthiness, and tastes more interesting. I stumbled on this when I was looking for a red Bordeaux to use for my Cordon Bleu class tastings, and it more than filled the bill.

Serve it with most beef (hamburgers on the grill wouldn't be bad at all) and even some meatier vegetable dishes.

The Chateau Pavie controversy

image Dan Peabody, who works for Dallas’ Spirivin Group, pulled the wine out of his carrying case. It was inside a paper bag, so I couldn’t see what it was. He poured a taste.

I smelled. I sipped. I swallowed. John Bookwalter, the winemaker for Washington state’s Bookwalter Winery, looked at me. “What do you think?”

Peabody, Bookwalter and I were at lunch to taste three new Bookwalter releases (which I’ll write about later). But we were also tasting a fourth wine, which the two of them had brought to challenge my palate and tease me a little. I would taste the wine blind and see if I could identify it.

I failed miserably, which was the point.

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Wine of the week: Macon-Lugny Les Charmes 2006

Wine of the week: Macon-Lugny Les Charmes 2006 I stumbled on this inexpensive white Burgundy during my wine tasting extravaganza last week. The Les Charmes (about $11) is an example of a wine that gets lost in the cracks — a solid value that is overlooked in the rush to find new wines, hipper wines, and trendier wines. Which is too bad, because it’s well worth drinking. (The above link is in French, in case anyone feels adventurous.)

White Burgundy is chardonnay, and in the Macon (a region in Burgundy), this kind of chardonnay isn’t aged in oak. That delivers a crisper, cleaner, more fruit-centered wine than most California chardonnay. Look for green apple, a little lemon, and a refreshing finish. Serve it chilled with main course salads, grilled and roasted chicken, and even as an aperitif.

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours

A day in the life of a wine writer: One lunch, three tastings, and six hours No one ever believes the Wine Curmudgeon when he tells them that wine writing is a lot more than sipping $100 bottles in five-star restaurants in the company of mini-skirted and leather-booted PR women.

It’s work — not mining coal or repairing roofs work, but work nonetheless. Last Thursday, I attended a wine lunch at 12:30 p.m., went to two walk-around tastings, and then did a home wine tasting as one of Two Wine Guys — all in the space of six hours. And I skipped two other events. (One sales rep said skipping them proved I wasn’t manly enough. I think he was joking.) This wasn’t a typical day, but something like it happens a couple of times a year.

Why did I do it? To taste wine that I wouldn’t normally taste, and especially expensive wine. To schmooze with other wine writers, wine executives and wine makers, which is an integral part of doing this job well. And because the point of writing about wine is to drink as much of it as possible.

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