December 8, 2011: French Wine: Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone

The wines this week are all from France, from the four most renowned regions there; Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. Three different importers bring these wines to the United States- these include Terry Theise (Michael Skurnik Wines), William Harrison Imports, and Bourgeois Family Selections. Spirits has worked closely with each of these importers over the years; Terry Theise is known for his world-class Grower Champagnes as well as outstanding Austrian Gruner Veltliners and German Rieslings, William Harrison supplies us with Bordeaux, Burgundies, and Argentinean wines, and Bourgeois Family Selections is responsible for small production French wines of great value, many from lesser-known appellations.

Terry Theise is a unique and charismatic individual who imports wine mostly from Austria and Germany, but is renowned for his outstanding Grower Champagne portfolio. Grower Champagnes are gaining popularity (as they should!) and represent those Champagnes that are produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come. Big Champagne houses such as Mumm, Moet, and Veuve Cliquot may use grapes that are sourced from as many as 80 different growers; since Grower Champagnes come from just one grower they are (generally) distinct wines that tend to be more terroir-focused, as opposed to a consistent “house style.” For the tasting we will sample two (although at Spirits we stock several of Terry Theise’s Grower Champagnes)- L. Aubry Brut and Gaston Chiquet Brut Traditional both non vintage wines priced at $…. for the tasting.

William Harrison Imports is owned by Harrison Jones who has been in the wine business for more than 25 years. They import fine French and Argentinean wines from boutique wineries. Harrison Jones had a table at our Holiday Tasting last month where he presented an outstanding selection of French and Port wines. For the tasting this week we will sample a red and white Bordeaux (Chateau Larmevaille Blanc 2009 and Chateau Fleur de Rigaud Bordeaux Superieur 2009) as well as a 2009 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits produced by Pierre Andre- 2009 is an outstanding vintage in both Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Bordeaux are both $14.99 for the tasting and the Burgundy $24.99.

Bourgeois Family Selections is a specialized French importing company owned by Philippe Bourgeois. Philippe is a sixth generation legacy in the wine, spirits, and beer industry in his native country of France. He has spent years traveling to the major and lesser-known wine regions of France seeking out small-production, hand-crafted, organic wines. His goal is to find undiscovered, passionately hand-made wines that have never before been available in the United States market. Time and time again, Philippe’s wines have proven to be just that and more- not only are the wines he represents unique and true to their origins (terroir-driven), they are always outstanding quality for the price. For tomorrow night’s tasting we will sample a declassified Chateauneuf du Pape produced by Domaine Chateaumar (Cotes du Rhone) that is an unbelievable value for only $11.99.

We hope you will join us!

The specific wines for the tasting are:

L. Aubry Brut NV– Champagne, France. A blend of 25% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier, and 5% other grapes. Vinification is in stainless steel tank. 45% of the juice is from 2008 and 55% a solera reserve from vintages 1999-2007. It is a pretty and graceful wine with an expressive nose of red fruits, rose petals, and sweet herb hints. The palate is persistent and inviting, followed by a round, lingering finish. 90 points Wine Advocate. Tasting $38.99

Gaston Chiquet Brut ‘Tradition’ NV– Champagne, France. A blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Noir from Premiur and Grand Cru vineyards in Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, Dizy and Hautvillers. It offers a fragrant and lightly sweet nose of perfumed fruits such as pineapple, pear and melon. The palate is clean and balanced followed by a long, refreshing finish. Quite accessible and attractive for the price. Tasting $43.99

Chateau Larmevaille Blanc 2010– Bordeaux, France. A blend of 33% each Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, and Semillon. A refreshing white with an aromatic nose of citrus, mineral, and white flower hints. It is rich and textured on the palate with clean flavors of mineral, wet stone, and citrus. An excellent value. Tasting $14.99

Pierre Andre Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits 2009– Burgundy, France. 100% Pinot Noir. Brilliant ruby red in color with aromas of raspberry, cranberry, spice, and earthy notes of dried leaves. It is bold, flavorful, and approachable on the palate with great balance and flavors that mimic the aromas, enhanced with smoked meat and mineral undertones. An elegant, flavorful Burgundy from what’s shaping up to be an outstanding vintage! Tasting $24.99

Chateau Fleur de Rigaud Bordeaux Superieur 2009– Bordeaux, France. An unoaked wine made from 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from vines planted on clay and limestone soil that average 25 years old. The Chateau is in the town of Sainte Radegonde just south and across the Dordogne River from St. Emilion. This approachable offering is deep red in color with aromas of cassis and currant. It is nicely structured with mild tannins and ready to drink now. Tasting $14.99

Domaine de Chateaumar Cuvee Bastien Cotes du Rhone 2009 – Rhone Valley, France. A declassified Chateauneuf du Pape that’s made from 100% Grenache. It is opaque purple in color with depthful aromas of strawberry, raspberry and blackberry fruits and notes of eucalyptus, black pepper, tobacco and a floral hint. On the juicy palate the wine is medium- to full-bodied with hints of cinnamon and spice and firm, integrated tannins. Tasting $11.99

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