This week we have a fantastic line-up of six French wines from various regions including Languedoc, the Loire Valley, Burgundy and the Southern Rhone Valley.
Le Paradou Viognier 2012– Languedoc, France. It is reasonable to think “Paradou” means “Paradise” in the old language of the “langue d’oc”, as it is magical to live in the south of France. Yet, “Paradou” actually refers to the old watermills that once dotted the landscape. It is in homage to these majestic giants, built on the banks of streams since Roman times, that we have created these fresh and pleasing wines.
The vineyard plots of the Paradou receive an exceptional amount of sunshine because of their situation in the Languedoc region which is characterised throughout by a Mediterranean climate: warm winters and very dry and hot summers; there is a lot of sun and very little rain, but when it rains it is often in the form of sudden downpours occurring mostly during the winter. The dominant winds that sweep the region are the “tramontane”, a cold and dry wind that chases the clouds away, and the “marin”, a humid wind that attracts the clouds.
The exact origin of the Viognier is unknown, but it is the vine of the mythical Condrieu of the Northern Rhone Valley. Even though it almost disappeared in the middle of the twentieth century, it is now famous around the world. It grows best on lime-stones and chalky soils and needs some cool temperatures to preserve its elegance. In a climate which is too hot, its aroma becomes heavy and denatured. The Viognier is very fragile during growth and during the wine-making process, it is characterised by low yields and very elegant aromas: apricot, pear, violet and white flowers.
Jen’s note- Very perfumed and scented. Pineapple/tropical, very pretty with sweet honeysuckle/floral. Good texture but lean. Some wet stone qualities. Dry finish. $9.99
Imported by Jon David Headrick Selections.
Domaine Elisa Gueneau ‘Les Griottes’ Sancerre 2012– Loire Valley, France. Elisa Gueneau, winegrower in Sury-en-Vaux, works on the family estate spreading over 15 hectares of A.O.P. Sancerre wine. Today, Domaine Gueneau’s estate covers around 15 hectares of sloping vineyards mainly situated in Sury-en-Vaux, Sancerre and Chavignol. Elisa has joined her father, Alain, who succeeded his parents, Suzanne and Maxime; originating from Sury-en-Vaux, and works together with her father managing the property and creating the highest quality Sancerre wines possible.
White and rosé wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks. During fermentation, the temperature is controlled by a thermoregulation system which preserves the best aromas and fineness. These wines are very pleasant to taste a few months after vinification but can also be kept for 4 to 5 years, and even more for the great vintages. Produced from Sauvignon, white Sancerre is dry and fruity. It is delightful as an aperitif! It can also be served with seafood and poultry dishes.
This limited production cuvee is made from older vines growing on “caillottes’ soils in the village of Chavignol, one of the best terroir in the Sancerre region. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is aged in stainless steel tank for 8 months on its fine lees. A perfect expression of Sancerre, bright and crisp, with aromas of citrus, white flower, green apples and peach. On the palate, the wine is vigorous, with an excellent minerality and balance and a lingering citrusy finish.
Jen’s note- Griottes Vineyard filled with small stones. All tank. Wet stone, lanolin; very fresh leesy nose. Not citrusy. Gentle, friendly and approachable. Juicy finish. $23.99
Imported by Bourgeois Family Selections.
Domaine des Gerbeaux Macon-Villages 2011– Burgundy, France. Domaine des Gerbeaux is a small estate created in 1896 by Jean-Michel Drouin’s grandfather Jacques Charvet, thus the high end cuvee in his honor. Domaine des Gerbeaux was created by his son Xavier, the 5th generation of winemakers within the family. An estate of 17 acres located in the village of Solutre, dependent of the commune of Fuisse and the small village of Pouilly. The average age of the vines is between 35 and 45 years old with parcels as old as 90 years.
The main part of the estate is in the appellation Pouilly-Fuisse with 12 acres. A small parcel is in Saint Veran and the rest is in Macon Village, with the addition of some common vines. The vineyards have several exposures:South/Southeast, East and Northern, mainly on hillsides with up to 40% inclination. The estate is farmed organically following traditional methods. Harvests are done by hand, in small lots, and are received in temperature controlled rooms. The vinification and aging are done in a temperature controlled environment. Most of the wines are aged in French oak barrels which are renewed at 20% every year with a 7 to 8 years cycle. The top cuvees are aged for up to 18 months.
Jean-Michel Drouin, owner and winemaker, controls his yields in the vineyards with a very short cut in “Guyot”. Harvests are done at prime maturity with balanced alcohol and acidity producing wines with finesse and freshness.
Domaine des Gerbeaux, which has been regularly awarded for more than a decade with a few Decanter selections, applies passion, a constant drive for perfection, and innovation in their winemaking process to bring us wines of exceptional quality, often superior to its neighbor in northern Burgundy, for a fraction of the price.
Biodynamic Estate. Wine Maker: Jean-Michel Drouin
A wine of pleasure that is best enjoyed at any time and greatly enhanced by the presence of friends. Very fruity, refreshing, and elegant. This pure Chardonnay will complement appetizers, salads, light meals, and any of your social events!
Jen’s note- Nutty aroma/toasty. Subtle oak notes. Good* Complex, balanced and approachable. $16.99
Imported by Bourgeois Family Selections.
Paul Janin et Fils Beaujolais-Villages 2011– Burgundy, France. While traditional Beaujolais has always been intensely fruity with sweet cherry flavors, innovative producers have been cultivating and producing more sophisticated wines which are drier, darker and more elegant. With his Le Domaine des Vignes du Tremblay, Paul Janin has led the way towards complexity and aging in Beaujolais.
Janin’s grandparents planted the estate’s gamay vineyards over 60 years ago. Now totaling 25 acres, the vines have been tended, handed down and estate expanded over three generations. Two-thirds of the estate’s wines are Moulin-à-Vent, one of the 10 named crus of appellation, and the remaining are Beaujolais Villages. All of the land is farmed using biodynamic methods. Janin and his family carefully handle all vineyard management and winemaking from pruning to the bottling.
Janin’s Beaujolais Villages is made in the traditional manner: carbonic maceration. In this method, Janin handpicks and sorts the grapes then places them in vats whole. The weight of the grapes causes those on the bottom to burst. The juice begins to ferment, warming the vat and causing fermentation inside the unbroken grapes. As the grapes burst, the skins float to the top and are then pumped over. This process takes 5-7 days. Before bottling the wine spends no time in wood. The Moulin-à-Vent begins in this same manner with an extended fermentation time of 9-11 days. A wooden grid in the vat submerges the cap of skins and pips into the juice, helping to extract the maximum color and tannin. The young wine is aged in wooden casks for 8-10 months. Unlike their simple counterparts, these wines are supple and round on the palate with deep, chewy fruit.
Jen’s note- Old vines. Very pretty color, light magenta. Brambly bright berry fruit and spice. Tart and tangy. Cranberry. Textured and lively. Long life ahead. $18.99
Imported by Martine’s Wines.
Feraud-Brynel is a promising young negociant enterprise that began in 1998 with the partnership between Laurence Feraud and Andre Brunel of Chateauneuf du Pape. Brunel is best known for Les Cailloux and Feraud is known for Pegau. Given their significant contacts in the southern Rhone Valley, their goal is to purchase wine from old, established, primarily Grenache vineyards. Before the harvest they work in the same manner as on their estates in Chateauneuf du Pape, setting the yields and the farming practices, and closely following the ripening and sanitary state of the grapes. The fermentation of each wine is adapted to the qualities of the terroir, and when they feel the moment is right, they bring the wines to their cellars. After a period of ageing the wines are bottled without fining or filtering.
Imported by Martine’s Wines.
Feraud-Brunel Cotes du Rhone Cairanne 2010– Southern Rhone, France. Cairanne is a commune in the Vaucluse department of the Southern Rhone Valley. It dates from the mid-8th century and is located midway between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine. The village economy depends largely on its production of wine that falls into the various categories of wines from the Rhône valley.
During the eighteenth century the economy of the region began to revive as wine growing increased in importance. Baron Pierre Le Roy Boiseaumarié, a trained lawyer and winegrower at heart, successfully obtained legal recognition of the “Côtes du Rhône” appellation of origin in 1937. The village of Cairanne is on the southern Côtes du Rhône wine route and its quality wines are designated Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC. Other notable wine villages nearby are Gigondas, Rasteau, Seguret, Sablet, Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueyras. Wines labeled Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC are the next step in quality up from Côtes du Rhône AOC, while those in the next highest category add the name of the village to the label. The Cairanne red wines are full-bodied, fruity and spicy (black pepper), with a smooth finish.
Jen’s note- Chateauneuf du Pape-type soil. A feminine-style of Cotes du Rhone. Lighter and brighter. Meaty, dark fruits and spice. 70% old vine Grenache, 30% Syrah. $20.99
Feraud-Brunel Cotes du Rhone Rasteau 2010– Southern Rhone, France. Rasteau is an AOC for wine in the southern Rhône wine region of France. The Rasteau appellation covers mostly the commune of Rasteau, but also ncludes some vineyards in Cairanne and Sablet. 47 hectares (120 acres) of vineyards are used for the fortified wines, with an annual production of around 1,400 hectoliter, or around 190,000 bottles.
The production of fortified wine was introduced in 1934. Dry red wines from the same area traditionally had to be sold under the Côtes du Rhône Villages designation. From 1996, Rasteau was one of the village names that could be added to Côtes du Rhône Villages. In 2002, the Rasteau winegrower’s syndicate requested that Rasteau should become its own appellation. This was finally approved by INAO in 2010, effective from the 2009 vintage. Red Rasteau is typically produced from 100% Grenache noir.
Jen’s note- Rasteau- higher altitude and more clay in soil. Deeper notes/warm spices and richer qualities. Textured and deep. Full. 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre. $23.99