Tag Archives: French wine

Expensive wine 33: Mo t Grand Vintage Brut 2002

MoetVintage Champagne — that is, Champage with a year instead of NV for non-vintage — isn't especially common; when a Champagne house announces one, it's to mark an exceptional year. Which makes perfect sense with the Moet ($70, sample).

This is as well made a bubbly as the Wine Curmudgeon has had in a long, long time, and reminds me why I enjoy Champagne so much. Frankly, as much as I like sparkling wine, too many Champagne makers long ago stopped caring about price as it relates to value. They have a brand that they can charge too much money for, and so they do. It doesn't seem to matter whether the wine is worth that price.

That's not the case here. If you want to spend $70 for Champagne, the Moet is money well spent. It's subtle and charming, like a woman you meet at a party who stays in your head and you think about at the oddest moments. There is a bit of yeast and lots and lots of clean, fresh green apple fruit, as well as bubbles that never, ever end. Drink this on its own, to celebrate a special occasion, or with a fancy holiday dinner, for it's a terrific food wine.

Quick note: If you're confused by some of the terms used here, since sparkling wine can be confusing, check out this post, which explains the basics of bubbly.

Wine of the week: Chateau de Riviere Chinon 2009

Chinon2One of the difficulties with deciphering French wine is a label that looks like this one. It's old-fashioned, with nary a hint about what's in the bottle. And what is a Chinon?

Even wine types who are moderately familiar with France are likely to be confused, because Chinon is just not that well known. It's a red wine region in a part of France, the Loire, that is known for white wine if it's known at all. So when someone sees this bottle in a store, it's not surprising if they walk past.

Which would be a mistake. The Riviere ($8, purchased) is fabulous cheap wine, and raises the question yet again of why we don't see this kind of effort from California more often. The Rivere, made with cabernet franc, is a simple wine, but not insulting like so many of its West Coast brethren. Look for some red fruit, maybe a hint of violet, some sweet tannins, a little pepper, and enough acid to balance that odd combination. The wine, also, is not green or unripe in any way, which is often the case for cheap cabernet franc.

It's red meat wine, but also easy enough if you want to drink it on its own. Highly recommended and almost certain to make the 2012 $10 Hall of Fame.

Mini-reviews 29: Stag’s Leap, Flat Creek, Le Grand Nor, De Bortoli

Reviews 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:

? Stag's Leap Merlot 2004 ($35, sample): Cleaning out the wine cellar, and found this gorgeous, beautiful wine. Tastes like Napa, with deep, luscious black fruit, but with other qualities that make for a wonderful wine, including a long chalky finish and a full, rich middle.

? Flat Creek Estate Pinot Grigio 2010 ($18, purchased): Texas white wine that sits between tonic Italian pinot grigio (has more lemon) and fruit forward Oregon pinot gris. There was something odd in the back that bothered me, but may not bother anyone else. And it would be a better value at $14 or $15.

? Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2009 ($8, purchased): French white with too much badly done fake oak and without enough fruit to cover up the oak. Not very interesting one way or the other.

? De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc Emeri NV ($11, sample): Very odd, but intriguing, Australian bubbly made with sauvignon blanc. Sweet tropical fruit but not as much citrus as one would expect. Less tight and bubbly than cava, but not as soft as some Italian sparklers. Keep in mind for the holidays.

Wine of the week: Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir Les Oliviers 2010

Tortoise Creek wines have always been a favorite on the blog, almost making it into the $10 Hall of Fame one year. The problem with the wines has never been their quality, but availability. A couple of years ago, I met Mel Master, the Englishman behind the label, and we spent most of the discussion lamenting how difficult it was to find his wines. And, in one of those ironies that proves the point, this wine was shelved with the red Burgundies at the store where I found it, almost guaranteeing no one would buy it.

Master makes French wine, using grapes from the Languedoc in the south of France. Quality can often be uneven from that part of the country, but Master's wines are always varietally correct and delicious. In this, the Les Oliviers ($12, purchased) may be his finest achievement. It is the closest thing to traditional pinot noir the Wine Curmudgeon has found for under $20 in years.

This is a simple wine and will never been confused with $50 red Burgundy. But that's one of its advantages. It means the Les Oliviers doesn't have any silliness — no jammy fruit, no extra tannins, no bonus alcohol. It tastes like French pinot noir should taste: light, low in alcohol (13 percent), with easy tannins and some blackberry fruit, though not nearly as much as comparably priced California wines. Most importantly, it had some earthiness, which has long gone missing in pinot at this price. Or, frankly, at French pinot at twice the price.

Serve this on its own (even slightly chilled) or with almost any food that calls for a lighter red wine. Highly recommended.

Expensive wine 32: William F vre Chablis Champs Royaux 2009

The Wine Curmudgeon is not a big vintage guy. The charts and ratings that are supposed to guide us through the maze that is vintage aren’t really necessary for $10 wine — or for most wine, in fact. Remember: 9 out of 10 bottles of wine that are made aren’t made to age. They’re made to drink.

Having said that, when I find wines that are worthy of age, I pay attention. And it looks like the 2009 vintage from Burgundy is going to be one of those vintages. I reviewed a Macon in August that was amazing (and for only $13), and the Fevre ($22, purchased) is even better. The 2009 vintage in Burgundy should keep those of us who like that style of wine happy for a long time.

Why do I say style of wine? The Fevre is white Burgundy, which means chardonnay (and one from one of the best producers in the region of Chablis). But it’s not New World style chardonnay, with oak and butter, and, in some cases, tropical flavors. It’s very Old World — no oak at all, with lots and lots of minerality, a steely character, and very tart green apple fruit. But it’s very well put together and not a simple wine by any means. Best yet, look for this to add character over the next couple of years and become even more interesting — which, for $22, is saying a lot.

Serve this with roast chicken (which I did, with chicken cornbread dressing) or almost any grilled seafood. It’s also a handy wine to have around as the holidays approach, whether to pour at dinner for guests or to save for yourself after a long day. Highly recommended.

Mini-reviews 28: Los Vascos, picpoul, Sledgehammer, Re Midas

Reviews 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:

? Los Vascos Chardonnay 2010 ($10, purchased): Not what it once was, and can’t be the same wine that several readers suggested I try. Some green apple, but heavy and oily — not good characteristics in a $10 chardonnay.

? Bertrand Picpoul-de-Pinet 2010 ($10, purchased): Extremely disappointing picpoul, more like a white Bordeaux. Mostly citrus fruit without picpoul’s mineral character.

? Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($15, sample): Big, fruity, unsubtle and straightforward. This is a simple wine that delivers chocolate cherries and caramel for those who like that sort of thing.

? Cantina di Soave Re Midas 2010 ($10, sample): Not much there, even for $10. Almost heavy, with little of Soave’s crispness or minerality. Made in more of a New World, chardonnay style.

Wine of the week: Petit Caprice 2009

This wine has been taunting the Wine Curmudgeon for months, daring me to try it. And I would walk past it, ignoring it, refusing to be tempted by what I thought was a previous vintage from an ordinary part of France made by just another producer with a label that seemed to be trying too hard.

So what happened when I finally succumbed, and bought the wine (mostly out of necessity, since finding red wine to review is so much more difficult than finding white wine)? It was a nifty little bottle, proving once again that one should taste the wine before one judging it.

The Caprice ($9, purchased) is a previous vintage, and the current vintage  costs more in France than I paid for this in Dallas. But that doesn't mean it's not a quality $10 wine, offering more value than expected. It's a blend of grenache, syrah and merlot that is a little fruiter (red raspberry?)  than many similar Rhone-style wines, but it's not New World fruit by any stretch. The Caprice has easy tannins, and a dark, earthy middle. Even more impressive: Since it is a previous vintage that it has held up so well. This is fall wine, as the weather gets cooler, to enjoy with soups and braised beef and chicken.