Category:French wine

Wine of the week: Armand Roux Carousel NV

I stumbled on this when I needed an inexpensive, French-style sparkling wine to use for the white wine tasting at my Cordon Bleu class. I was quite overwhelmed by its quality and its $8 price.

The wine, made with French chardonnay, comes from the Armand Roux company, best known for the L ?Epayri jug wines. But there is nothing jug-like about the Carousel. It’s dry, clean, and crisp with decent bubbles, and it doesn’t have any of the off-flavors or sweetness that inexpensive sparkling wine sometimes shows. It’s not as tight as similarly-priced Spanish sparklers; whether this is an advantage or not depends on how you feel about cavas like Cristalino.

I’m not quite sure that it’s as food friendly as the Spanish wines (it doesn’t have as much acid), but serve it chilled for summer porch sipping or Sunday morning brunch and you’ll be more than happy.

My dinner with Randall, part II

This is the second of a three-part series detailing my recent conversation with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. The final part will run next Monday. To see the first part, go here.

When Randall Graham sold his Big House and Cardinal Zin brands in 2006, I did two things. I sent an email to various friends and acquaintances who like wine, wailing and moaning that Big House, my favorite $10 wine, would never be the same. I also called around to find out how much he he was paid by a company called The Wine Group.

When I brought this up, Grahm cut me off: “Don’t believe everything you read — or that you wrote — about how much money I got.” The figure reported then was $50 million, so we’ll take his word that it was less than that.

Continue reading

Tuesday tidbits 16

? Wine as an investment: What’s the point of drinking wine when you can invest in it? None, actually, but that hasn’t stopped people with entirely too much money from treating wine as if it was real estate. In 2007, reports Reuters, the main British stock index rose by less than four percent. The main index on Liv-ex, where fine wine is traded, ended the year up 40 percent. At the risk of sounding much too curmudgeonly, let me say two two things: First, wine is not an asset like a house or shopping center, but an intangible with no intrinsic value. It is made to be drunk, not traded like soybeans. Second, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — see the 17th century Dutch tulip bubble.

? More wine company buyouts: The Wine Group, which already owns Big House, Glen Ellen, and Mogen David (among many others), has bought the Almaden and Inglenook brands from Constellation Brands. The transaction makes the Wine Group California’s second- and the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume. Almaden and Inglenook, though not much more than jug wine brands now, were once some of the most prestigious labels in the country. Their purchase solidifies the Wine Group’s hold on its share of the largest portion of the U.S. market — wines that cost from $3 to $9 a bottle.

? More from Champagne? The French are expanding the area in the Champagne wine region, so that more sparkling wine can be labeled champagne. The government will redraw the 1927 boundaries for the region (what the French call an AOC or appellation d’origine contr l e) to include up to 40 villages. The motive? Increased international demand for bubbly, which can only be called champagne if it’s from the champagne region of France. Quality shouldn’t suffer, though, since many of the villages that will be added didn’t want to be included when the boundaries were drawn 80 years ago.

A chance to drink some well-aged wine

image I did a favor for a friend in the wine business, and he thanked me with a bottle of 1988 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas, a quality label from the southern Rhone.

I don’t get a chance to drink aged wines often. For one thing, my cellar is only 15 years old, and most of the wines in it are even younger than that. When I started, I didn’t buy enough wine that needed to age. For another, the demands of the business call for writing about wines that are readily available, and aged wines aren’t. There were only a couple of places in the U.S. that still had a bottle of this wine for sale, for example.

But when I do get a chance, I savor it. Aged wine (and this assumes that it has been stored correctly) is a treat, a chance to taste something that is not only unique, but an adventure. Wine makers have an idea about what will happen when they make something to last for 20 or 30 years, but it’s only an idea.

So how was the Cayron?

Continue reading

Wine of the week: Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc 2006

image The French, who once supplied the world with quality cheap wine, have been mostly supplanted by the Australians and the Chileans over the past decade. This has caused not just consternation within the French wine industry, but serious financial difficulty.

Some producers, realizing the crisis, have made significant changes to their products. They use better quality grapes, have upgraded their production techniques, and have adjusted their pricing to compete with $7 bottles of Yellow Tail. They understand that consumers will not pay a 10 or 20 percent premium because the wine label has some French on it.

Case in point is the Les Jamelles, one of the finest $10 sauvignon blancs — one of the finest sauvignon blancs at any price — that the Wine Curmudgeon has tasted in a long while. This is French sauvignon blanc the way it used to be — cheap, tasty and complete. There’s hardly any citrus, because Les Jamelles understands that French wine is not supposed to taste like New Zealand wine. It does have some tropical flavor,  mostly pineapple, as well as the minerality that French sauvignon blancs are supposed to have.

Drink this, chilled, on its own, or with seafood, salads or grilled chicken.