This Week’s Wine Tasting
French Wines from Various Regions
Southwest France (Gascony, Cahors), Loire Valley, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley
Domaine de Ballade Gascogne Blanc 2012
Gascony (Southwest), France. A blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Colombard. “Domaine de Ballade is located in the heart of Gascony, the birthplace of d’Artagnan, the famed hero of the Three Musketeers. Gascony is located at the border of the Lot and Garonne and the Gers. Hidden away in the heart of the AOC Armagnac, Gascony has been called the “new Tuscany”. Owned by the Morel Family since 1927, the estate stretches over 90 hectares. The Morel family works carefully, every day to bring you the very best wines they have to offer. They ensure the quality of their work, by carrying out the work on vines and the vinification process as a father and-son team.
A fresh and lively dry white wine with an incredible balance between minerality and acidity. The nose is fresh with fragrances of lemon curd and white flowers, and its flavor profile is dominated by shimmering creamy citrus notes, crisp acidity and a cleansing finish.”
Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet 2012
Muscadet, Loire Valley, France. “100% Melon de Bourgogne from 25-50 year old vines planted on mica and schist. Heavy triage before press and slow, controlled fermentation. Aged in stainless steel tanks for 7-9 months. Muscadet, although not as well known in the United States as it is in France, is the largest white wine appellation of the country. Several smaller appellations make up the general area of Muscadet including Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, and Muscadet Coteaux des Grands Lieux. 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, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie only comes from the best parcels of the region and must follow strict guidelines. The Melon de Bourgogne grape, also called Muscadet, was brought to the region centuries ago from Burgundy. It flourished in this new environment and became famous in France for its ability to complement to saltiest of oysters and shellfish of the region.
The village of Chateau-Thébaud sits on a hill overlooking the Maine river as it winds through the soft, rolling hills of the Nantais, just south of Nantes. This fertile area of France is particularly blessed with extraordinary mineral deposits, and Chateau-Thébaud profits from this perhaps more than most. From its vantage point at the top of the hill, Domaine de la Fruitière overlooks its holdings of old vine Melon planted on soil filled with granite, mica, and schist.”
Domaine de L’Enchantoir Saumur Blanc 2011
Saumur, Loire Valley, France. “100% Chenin Blanc fermented and aged in cement tanks. Pierre & Brigitte Van den Boom (French, of Dutch ancestry) work 16ha of vines that includes 10.5ha of Cabernet Franc, 4.5ha of Chenin Blanc, and 1ha of Chardonnay. Their first vintage was only in 2009, but they have already made a strong impact with their wines already winning gold medals at the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers and getting attention from French wine press such as Blanc & Rouge.
The winery is working towards organic certification, and they try to avoid the use of chemical products as much as possible. The products they use are organic (copper hydroxide or sulfate, sulfur solution or powder) and they avoid insecticides (relying instead on other insects for pest control) or anti-botrytis sprays (grape bunch aeration and manual leaf removal help to control humidity). They leave the grass between the rows to help maintain biodiversity and limit erosion, and mechanically weed.
In the cellar, they follow the same principles: few or no additives and a minimum of intervention, because good grapes always make good wine. At harvest, they sort and destem, adding neither yeast nor enzymes. Fermentation usually lasts an average of 3 weeks in cement tanks. They try to avoid fining and don’t use metatartaric or ascorbic acids (favoring cold-crystalization of the tartaric).”
Savory, appealing aroma. Some herbaceous notes with deep golden apple and honey undertones. Juicy entry with mineral and wet stone hints. Textured.
Chateau Vincens L’Instant Cahors 2011
Cahors (Southwest), France. 100% Malbec. “Minimal pesticides are used for grape growing. Mechanical harvest, hand sorting. Cold maceration, fermentation in stainless steel tanks. All stainless steel maturation. Harvested from vines growing high in the Cahors region of Southwest France by the Vincens family, who started the winery in 1919 and has continued on for 3 generations. L’Instant is a delicious example of balance of fruit and earth that French Malbec can attain.
The Vincens family has been rooted in the region for several centuries but its history mingles with that of Cahors wines in the early twentieth century. For three generations, bit by bit, year by year each of them has contributed to the expansion of their holdings. Today their wines are some of the best examples of classic style, from Cahors region.
Cahors is the capital city of the Southwest French Arrondissement where they used to bring the wines to Bordeaux for export. This region is still fairly undiscovered wine country, as generations of Bordeaux merchants wrote off the wines of this area as awkward, large, tannic reds of little to no character; obviously this is far from the case, as the finer Cahors reds are as elegant, ageworthy, and enjoyable as their better known cousins from downriver.”
Opaque purple with a very inviting perfume of ripe blueberries, crushed rocks, and juicy, sweet berry fruits. Full, fresh and approachable. A great value.
Chateau Lavagnac La Grande Dame 2011
Bordeaux, France. “90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. After traditional vinification in thermo-regulated vats for over 20 days, this wine is aged 1 year in new oak barrels and then bottle-conditioned for 9 months before release. Owner Philippe Riviere had noticed in the past that certain areas of the vineyard were more ripe than others, this is the first time he has separated those grapes from the rest of the vineyard to make a special cuvée, and what a spectacular wine it is.
Situated in the commune of Sainte Terre about 10 miles southeast of the center of Saint Émilion, the vineyards of Château de Lavagnac are planted in a clay and sand soil with gravel subsoil, typical of the area near the river and the Côtes de Castillon.
This wine has a lovely intense purple color, with red and black fruits on the nose and palate. Rich with oak and fruit, with ample tannins, it is round and velvety, showing excellent balance, with an incredibly long finish. Although it drinks well now when allowed to breathe a little, this wine will shine after a few years in the bottle and could keep upwards of 10 years.”
Domaine du Gour de Chaule Cotes du Rhone 2012
Southern Rhone Valley, France. “A small amount of Cotes du Rhone is produced from the vineyards owned by the estate in the communes of Vacqueyras and Violes. As with the more noble Gigondas, this cuvée is based almost exclusively on the Grenache grape (approximately 90% of the blend annually). There is an extended cuvaison with stems included, malolactic is done in cuve and the wine sees a brief stay in large foudres before being bottled eighteen months after harvest without fining or filtration. 200 cases imported.
The Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, situated in the heart of the village of Gigondas, was founded in 1900 by Eugene Bonfils, the great-grandfather of the current proprietor, Stephanie Fumoso. All the wine produced at the estate was sold in bulk to negociants until 1970. The domaine comprises 15 hectares, 10 of which are within Gigondas with the remaining 5 hectares situated in the surrounding communes of Vacqueyras and Violes. Aline Bonfils believes strongly in Grenache as the heart and soul of Gigondas and she has transmitted this philosophy to her daughter, Stéphanie. Thus, 85% of the vineyards are planted to Grenache, with approximately 10% dedicated to Syrah and Mourvedre and the balance planted to Cinsault. Further, this family has always conducted their affairs with the understanding that minimal intervention in the vineyards and in the cave is essential to preserving the essential character of the wines of this important appellation. Note, particularly, that the red wines here are produced from grapes that are not destemmed, an approach that we believe is essential to provide the classic character of Gigondas.”