You are currently browsing articles tagged france.

Grape 86: Duras

photo 2
Rare Grape, for all the wrong reasons
Rare is the grape that this wino comes across that fails to inspire in one shape or another. Perhaps due to a Pollyannic outlook on life or a natural proclivity to new experiences, it is likely a personality fault of some sort or other. Nonetheless, today is the day when a grape failed to inspire. That grape is Duras.

Duras – too similar sounding to Duress for enjoyment
Duras is a grape from the SW part of France in Gaillac AOC where it is reportedly required to be planted to preserve the indigenous grapes from the invading internationals like Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. And that is likely to the credit of those looking to protect their heritage and protect the wines that they (hopefully) love to quaff. For an ignorant outsider however, the wines are alcoholic juice boxes. Suitable for that special someone’s 40th birthday party with sippy straws but not to be paired with much beyond birthday cakes and pencil-esque amounts of frosting.

Caveats abound of course – maybe this wine from 2011 was supposed to be drunk much earlier, maybe this is not repreesentative of the grape overall, maybe (definitely) this is the entry rung of this producer, maybe (probably) this wino chose the cheapest bottle of this wine with this grape because it was a new grape, maybe, maybe, maybe. And yet, the fact remains – this wine was only better once slightly oxidized and past any semblance of its prime. And with little knowledge and a minuscule geographic footprint for this grape, this grape is bearing the brunt of that sippy cup angst. Because birthday cake should be eaten on its own. Never paired with wine.

* Day of opening (curmudgeonly reviewed before flying away from home) — Juicy and harsh, lots of alcohol throughout. Those who like it will probably call it rustic.
* Several days after opening (begrudgingly reviewed again, after a flight to home) — Smoother after a few days – still juicy but less like a high-alcohol young Beaujolais and more like a young California Zin. Meaty pasta is a good pair.

Detail Up!
2011 Initiales by Domain Rotier (apparently now called Rouge as they have a White and Rose too) – made with 80% Duras grapes and 20% Braucol into a 14.5% wine from the Gaillac AOC in SW France

Random Googles:
* At first, I thought this wine had two new grapes – Duras, along with Braucol. Turns out, that grape has many names, one of which is Mansois that was reviewed previously. Kinda glad to have this blog in moments like this.
* Duras grapes are only found in the Gaillac region. Understandably.
* Duras grapes are typically blended with other grapes. A wise move.

Tags: ,

Piquepoul from Languedoc – not famous or spell-able
Piquepoul is the grape, but Picpoul de Pinet is the wine made from the grape if made exclusively from Piquepoul grapes. At least, that’s the rule in the really southern and untrendy part of France known as Languedoc. But then again, Piquepoul has a long history in the region, dating back to before there were monks and chateaus.

Minor Napoleon Love
Napoleon III loved this wine, but that was way back in the 19th century, and nobody is quite sure what Napoleon III did other than inherit a name. P.S. Was there even a Napoleon II? Ok, thanks wikiworld – there was a Napoleon II, who died of tuberculous at the legal age of 21 after calling his mother “kind but weak” so he doesn’t feature in the Piquepoul tale. Sorry little dude.

Round full body – long clean finish. Some acidity but supporting cast. Fennel smell says bartender. Perfect for barbeques says the well-known importer Kermith Lynch.

Detail Up!
Picpoul de Pinet 2010, imported by Kermit Lynch from Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue in Langedouc, France

Random Googles:
* Picardan, a historical sweet wine from the 17th and 18th centuries, was from Languedoc and Piquepoul was one of the grapes used to blend that sweet, extinct wine.
* Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the expensive wine from the Rhone, has Piquepoul on the list of 13 permitted blending wines. The last time anyone counted, in 2004, about 0.15% of the region planted Piquepoul.
* “Lip-stinger” is the original translation of the grape, referring to the high acidity of the grape in the Mediterranean.

Tags: ,

Grape 67: Gamay

Wine Importing Fantasies
Amateurs might fantasize about opening their own importing company, one where they enjoy a life of tasting amazing wines (for free!), traveling to all the best vineyards and bringing exciting new products to the market that eagerly awaits the next big thing in the wine world.

Few Importer Fanboys
Sadly, I get the sense that the day-to-day of wine importing is far from the fantasy. Not knowing any industry insiders, this is all speculation but have a look at the “List of Wine Personalities.” Zero wine importers listed for the US, and only one wine importer listed anywhere (Englishman Pat Simon, RIP). Fame and fortune? Maybe fortune, not fame.

Importing the Right Way
And yet, wine importers deserve respect and sometimes even receive it. Last year, the wine importer Joe Dressner (of Louis/Dressner) passed away and the outpouring of grief came from some of my favorite names in the wine industry: see here and here (and how he rocked my world with Vouvray). He was apparently a pretty atypical guy who cared enormously about the quality of his wines and cared a great deal about putting his name on wines, which is really what every importer should be striving for.

Stentor Lynch
Typically though, importers have their name in tiny font on the back label, underneath anything else that people will actually read. Surgeon general warning, alcohol content, long and boring description of the wine – oh, there’s the importer, right after all that. But then there’s Kermit Lynch. He’s an importer who’s not afraid to throw his name front and center on the FRONT of the bottle and announce with stentorian charm that “This bottle is approved by Kermit Lynch.” Kermit Lynch is a name worth paying attention to, not just because bloggers loved Kermit, but because he shows surprising, sometimes shocking wines.

Kermit Lynch Approved this Wine
Beaujolais is the wine of the day, and I’m convinced it will take years before I’ve mastered the art of spelling it correctly. Beaujolais is also a wine that Kermit approves, at least the kind of Beaujolais wine made by Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Files (Dupeuble Wine Estate, Father and Sons).

Light body, almost no tannins to annoy, round cherry taste, fun and fruity without being too sweet, slightly spicy on the end.

Detail Up!
2009 Beaujolais Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils from Beaujolais, France

Random Googles:
* Gamay’s full name is “Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc,” which means “Black Gamay with White Juice.” Surprising to no one, the grape is black and the juice it produces is white.
* Sparkling Gamay exists and is just as polarizing as the regular Gamay (h/t Beaujolais Nouveau hatred).
* Dukes are allowed to just flat-out ban grapes for being “a very bad and disloyal plant.” Imagine what they would do to disloyal duchesses.

Tags: , ,

Grape 57: Cinsaut

Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah

Adopt a Parent, Please
Think which grape you would want to adopt. Riesling? Cabernet? Maybe even Muscat, the original grape of grapes? Chances are Cinsaut isn’t the grape you’re adopting. You’re descended from a noble, regal, princely grape, not Cinsaut, not Bastardo (an actual grape!) – a fashionable, avuncular grape with name recognition. Sorry, South Africa – you just adopted Cinsault. No backsies.

All my legal advice comes from wine blogs
But Cinsaut is a PARENT grape, not a CHILD grape – it can’t be adopted! Babies are for adoption, children are for adoption. Parents are not for adoption. Wrong. Parents are for adoption too, and Cinsaut is your adopted parent, South Africa.

Are You My Mother?
South Africa loves to shine the spotlight on its famous grape – Pinotage – because the grape is truly an African grape, having been created in South Africa in 1925. And because Pinot is so popular, Pinotage is a great name to have on your bottle. Pinot, he’s so hot right now.

Photo Credit to Red Bubble (they sell t-shirts of this?)

Suffix Shame
But shhhhhh, don’t mention that -tage suffix hanging off the end of Pinotage. That’s the part you’re not supposed to notice. Because -tage comes from Hermitage, which is what 1920s South Africa called Cinsaut. And Cinsaut isn’t popular or really, really ridiculously good looking.

Clash of Consonants
Cinsaut grows all over the cheapest part of France, down in the south where even the name is meant to discourage wine consumers: Languedoc-Roussillon. No American has ever pronounced that correctly. It’s just a disaster of consonants.

Halfling Cinsaut
And Cinsaut doesn’t stand on its own – producers blend it in with other grapes (usually Grenache and Carignane) to make balanced, smooth wines. Think of it as the halfling minstrel at your D&D party – it’s not exactly Cinsaut leading the charge into the dragon’s lair.

African Wine Denoument
In a strange twist however, Cinsaut is the perfect grape for adoptive parenthood in South Africa. It performs spectacularly in drought conditions and Algeria loaded up on Cinsaut for exactly that reason. So in a strange twist, Pinotage – that hallmark African grape – owes a very large debt to its adopted African adult Cinsaut since Cinsaut hails from (among others) Algeria, nicely alliterative with Africa. Welcome Home Adopted African Dad!

Adopt This Wine Producer
Andre Brunel is the grandfather who makes this wine. Not sure exactly if he actually is a grandfather but he’s eminently adoptable if he’s up for the role. Just have a look at his twinkling eyes and it’s easy to see how Lucien (co-owner of the estate) fell in love with this man. Maybe wine had something to do with it, maybe not – but he has a lot to teach in the fine art of twinkling eyes.

Rhone in The Cities
Word on Adopted Grandpa Andre is that he makes exceptional Chateauneuf du Pape, probably the most famous (and $$$!) of the wine villages scattered along the French Rhone valley – check out the long blue stretch of France on the map where the buffalo rhone. Fortunately, Grandpa Andre also makes really good cheaper wine that we halfling minstrels can down with Travail food and laughter when visiting family and adopted family in The Cities.

View Larger Map

Very smooth, almost velvety texture. Light black fruit and light spices – nothing too overpowering. Worked really well with dishes from seafood to lamb.

Detail Up!
2008 Andre Brunel from Cotes du Rhone, France (somewhere on that blue line). Sadly, the only Buzz (RIP 2010-2011) for this wine comes from one wine store in Asheville that identifies the grape as 75% Grenache, 15% Cinsaut, and 10% Syrah, from 40 year old vines. No corroboration possible on the internets but my memory recalls this a blend with Cinsaut and others so money’s on the table that this is the wine.

Random Googles:
* Cinsaut is the key grape in Lebanon’s most famous wine, which commands prices equal to small vehicles (or three months worth of antifreeze for my brother’s beater).
* Amusing yet long treatise compares (fairly convincingly) Cinsaut to Posh Spice. Warning – Posh Spice is pretty NSFW.
* Robert Parker, lawyer turned wino, might already have dibs on adopting Andre Brunel. Certainly sounds like it from all the praise.

Tags: , ,

Undervalued White
Chenin Blanc might be the most undervalued white out there. It’s a grape that can age 100 years (no exaggeration), has amazingly complex flavors and has lots of great bottles for under $15. Trouble is, only a few regions grow this grape and they’re all huddled up together in northern France and are still 3 hours outside of Paris. Certainly not the easiest place to visit.

View Larger Map

Steen from Africa
Fortunately, South Africa and California are taking up the reigns so it doesn’t require a plane ride to Paris and a three-hour road trip through bucolic hills. Sounds awful, I know. South Africa especially churns out exceptional value under the label “Steen,” which sounds a lot more like a beer than a wine. Nevertheless, Steen = Chenin Blanc, and the Africans are doing wonders with it. Plenty of good ones exist right under your nose, such as one of my staples from Man Vintners that shows up on Fresh Direct for $7.

Welcoming Wine
Today’s wine properly clobbered Man Vintners in the complexity category, even though there’s plenty more Man Chenin Blanc to be purchased. It’s just that this French Chenin Blanc was the perfect occasion to celebrate a home-coming and a reunion of sorts.

See, last year on birthday #29, the Zapatos had brought a bottle of wine to the rooftop celebration. And this wine stood out in my mind so much that I saved the bottle, looked up Vouvray on a map and went around asking town asking for the wine. We may have even discussed purchasing a case that evening up on the roof. Regardless, the case never found its way to my cellar (read: plastic tub in the basement locker) and another year passed.

Best Borough in NYC
Then, the Zapatos move to the best borough in NYC and invited this wino over to the house because that’s what neighbors do, and we’re now one neighborhood away. So I stopped over and was treated to frisbee, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (a great read if you have time), and a bottle of the Vouvray you see above.

Surprisingly sweet to the taste, there’s a lot of action happening in this wine. Starts off like green apples, but gets that sweetness in the middle like membrillo paste and then backs off the sweetness on the end. Sorta like Mohammed scaling his mountain and heading back home, never the same. Really delicious and complex.

Detail Up!
2008 François Pinon Vouvray “Cuvée Tradition” from Vouvray, Loire Valley in France

Random Googles:
* Vouvray, Savennieres and Montlouis – three of those places in the middle part of the Loire valley that made Chenin Blanc famous in France.
* The importer who brought today’s wine to the USA passed away this week. All the more fitting to be drinking his wine as a tribute.
* Some ampelographers think Chenin Blanc is one of Sauvignon Blanc’s parents.

Tags: , ,

« Older entries