French Wine- Loire Valley, Rhone Valley, & Bordeaux

This week’s tasting features wine from three very important regions of France; the Loire Valley, the Rhone Valley, and Bordeaux. The wines are imported by four different importers including Rosenthal Wine Merchant, William Harrison Wines, Bourgeois Family Selections, and Jon David Headrick Selections. These importers all represent small, traditional producers, who make wines that display a sense of place (or terroir) within their corresponding appellations.

The tasting specifically will include two whites from the Loire Valley; a Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine and Melon de Bourgogne from Muscadet. From the Rhone Valley we will try two reds; a Cotes du Rhone that is a “declassified” Chateauneuf du Pape and Vaucluse Vin de Pays from the Cotes du Ventoux AOC of the Rhone Valley. There will also be two Bordeaux, a Bordeaux Superoir and Canon-Fronsac, both from the heralded 2009 vintage.

To read more about the Loire Valley, click here; you will find an overview about the region, important grape varieties and wine styles, as well as details regarding the appellations of Muscadet and Touraine on the Wine Education page of our website.

The Rhone Valley is located in the south-eastern portion of France, just north of Provence. They are known for powerful red wines that can be made from a combination of numerous grapes, although the most important are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan. One of the Cotes du Rhone is a “declassified” Chateauneuf du Pape, meaning that the Grenache grapes are grown in Chateauneuf du Pape, but come from young vines, therefore the producer chooses not to blend the grapes into their high-end wine but instead use them to create an entry-level wine of great value; the other is from the department of Vaucluse within the Cotes du Ventoux, it is a vin de pays, or country wine, that’s made from a blend of the hybrid grape “Marsellan” (a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) and Merlot, and is imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant* (see the bottom of this page for information regarding Rosenthal’s new website and blog).

2009 was an outstanding vintage in Bordeaux. The wines are just starting to arrive in the States, but already they have received some great press. Robert Parker gave the overall vintage in Bordeaux an average of 96.7 points (which is slightly higher than 2005!) and says that the wines are “early maturing and accessible.” The Wine Spectator gave the vintage an average of 97.5 points, stating that the wines on the Right Bank are “rich and powerful yet round and friendly, with velvety texture and loads of fruit” and those on the Left Bank are “tannic, structured and glorious reds, with beautiful polish. Cabernet Sauvignon shines.” The two that we will sample tomorrow night are great values, priced at $15.99 and $18.99 for the tasting.

We hope to see you there!

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet “Petit M” 2010– Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley. 100% Melon de Bourgogne from 25-50 year old vines planted on mica and schist. Aged in stainless steel sur liefor 7-9 months. From the Jon David Headrick website, “The most famous is Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. One of the only appellations to require ageing on the lees and to name this requirement in the name of the appellation… [the wine from this area] only comes from the best parcels of the region and must follow strict guidelines.” It is aromatic, friendly and approachable with a gentle, textured palate filled with tropical and melon fruit flavors. The finish is lingering and substantial. To clairify: Muscadet is a place and is in no way related to muscat or muscadine wine grapes. Imported by Jon-David Headrick. Tasting $12.99

Francois Merieau Hexagonales 2010– Touraine, Loire Valley. Made from 100% young vine Sauvignon Blanc planted on chalk, schist, silex, and clay. Aged 5 months in stainless steel. Crisp and delicious with aromas and flavors of wet stone, mineral, and citrus. “’Les Hexagonales’ is a new brand from Jean-François Mérieau, one of the new stars of the Loire. Representing tremendous value, these wines reflect the winemaking philosophy of Mérieau: single varietal bottlings, often from a single parcel; a terroir-specific approach; and clean, crisp, delicious wines.” “This Sauvignon rivals many of the great Sancerre wines being produced today at half the price.” Imported by Jon-David Headrick. Tasting $11.99

Domaine de Fenouillet Vaucluse 2010– Vin de Pays Cotes du Ventoux, Rhone Valley. “This lovely “bargain” is a blend of the hybrid grape “Marsellan” [a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache] and Merlot, a curious concoction that produces a silky wine redolent of red fruit mingled with “sous-bois” [such as underbrush, forest, or woodland, i.e. garrigue].  The grapes are crushed, destemmed and then macerated and fermented for a week or so before being racked into cement cuve for six months before bottling.  We import 7500 to 9000 bottles per year for the US market.” Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant*. Tasting $12.99

Domaine de Chateaumar Cotes du Rhone “Cuvee Bastien” 2010– Rhone Valley. This custom cuvee for Borgeois Family Selections is made from 100% single-vineyard old vine Grenache. “A true “declassified” Chateauneuf du Pape (meaning that the Grenache grapes are grown in Chateauneuf du Pape, but come from young vines, therefore the producer chooses not to blend the grapes into their high-end wine but instead use them to create an entry-level wine of great value), the wine is a deep, nearly opaque purple, bringing confident aromas of raspberry, strawberry and blackberry to the nose, with eucalyptus, black pepper, licorice and floral notes. Touches of cinnamon and spice follow onto the medium to full-bodied juicy palate. The tannins are firm, ripe, and well integrated. It all makes for delicious fun.” Imported by Bourgeois Family Selections. Tasting $13.99

(I couldn’t find much technical information about either Bordeaux, so the following tasting notes are the ones I wrote when I tasted the wines for the first time.)

Chateau du Barry 2009– Bordeaux. Merlot-based. Aged in stainless steel. “Bordeaux Superieur aromas- green pepper note and briary fruits; opens with juicy cherry and plum. Medium-bodied with good acidity and a juicy, tangy palate. Spice notes linger on the finish. Great value.” Imported by William-Harrison Imports. Tasting $15.99

Chateau du Gazin Canon-Fronsac 2009– Canon-Fronsac, Bordeaux. Merlot-based. Aged in neutral oak. “Darker color [than Chateau du Barry], slightly cloudy. Blackberry and blueberry fruits dominate the nose; juicy and bright. Spice notes and full-fruit flavors on the palate. A very generous Bordeaux.” Imported by William-Harrison Imports. Tasting $18.99

*Rosenthal Wine Merchant has recently launched a new website that is both informative and educational (with great maps, pictures, and information about his producers and products, including imported gourmet food items). Neal Rosenthal is writing a blog now called “Occasional Thoughts“. Check it out!

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