Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South, just across the Loire

The North vs South theme I proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday provides bloggers with certain guidelines (use the same grapes, so you can compare), but also with a lot of leeway. Thousands of miles of leeway, really.

If you wanted, you could pick similar wines from the other side of the world. The antipodes, really. Spanish vs New Zealand pinot noir. Or Finger Lakes vs Australian riesling. That’s as far apart as it gets.

I wanted to raise the challenge for myself (more…)

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Vinho Verde by the Pool

Had a lovely pool party at one of my best friends’ house, last weekend. Lots of swimming, lots of sun, great barbecue (scrumptious filet mignon) and, of course, some wine. I’d brought a bottle of Hurluberlu, a nice, fresh cabernet franc made by natural wine producer Sébastien David in the Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil appellation: it’s such an easy-drinking, delicious summer wine with bright fruit and a lovely cherry-red color (visible through the transparent glass bottle) that it didn’t last long in the bottle. I took a glass, walked away from the table for fifteen minutes, and the rest was gone in a flash.

Thankfully, my friends had more wine in store, including (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday (Thursday?) #44: Chinon Thélème 2003, Alain Lorieux

So here I am, this morning, recovering from my shift at the paper last night, deciding to hop on the Wine Blogging Wednesday bandwagon, for edition number 44, and I check out when in April it’s going to take place, and when I look at Gary Vay-Ner-Chuck’s Wine Library to get details, I find out that it’s supposed to be done on April 2nd. Oh Great. I’m late and I haven’t even started.

But hey, the theme was irresistible: French cabernet franc, which I’ve always loved. So I just flew to my neighborhood SAQ store and immediately looked for (more…)

Kiwi (or is that grapefruit?) overdose

I really can’t stand it anymore. The grapefruit-fennel-green-pepper creature they call sauvignon blanc, in places down under. Really. I’ve had it. It’s like I’ve just had too much chocolate cake or sugar pie. The simple idea of eating more is repulsive.

I had some Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, the other day, and now I’ve just been drinking some Klein Constantia 2006 sauvignon blanc from South Africa, and you know what? I feel like I’ve just switched from Canada Dry ginger ale to Schweppes ginger ale. The wines are dopplegangers. Same feeling, same fruit-surrounded acidity, same set of aromas, same taste overall. It’s flavorful, for sure. You can get why it’s attractive to so many people. But this impression of getting the same wine under two different labels has just done it for me.

I can’t help feeling that getting twin wines from two different countries – and one from a vineyard that is responsible for the incredibly distinctive and superbly elegant Vin de Constance – means that there is more chemistry at work here than geology and biology. Kiwi sauvignon blanc is doing well? By all means, let’s do the same! Add a little B254F yeast here, control temperatures this way, and voila, the recipe is reproduced. Forget individual character, this is globalized wine at its best (and worst).

I really should explore this more, but I will do so reluctantly.

Not all the New World falls under the spell of kiwi-grapefruit sauvignon, thankfully. I remember To Kalon vineyard fumé blanc (different name, same grape) from Robert Mondavi as a superb, refined experience, with a a whole different character and set of flavours. And Chilean sauvignon blanc, though playing in the same fruit leagues, has its own angle on the whole game.

If anybody out there knows a New Zealand or South African sauvignon blanc that goes off the beaten path, that has some mineral character, a different citrus fruit, or something different or other, please let me know. I’ll gladly amend myself.

In the meantime, I’ve just poured myself another glass of the Klein Constantia. The bloody thing just drinks itself.

Tasting note: Savennières Les Genêts 2004, Damien Laureau

Chenin blanc is a varietal I love every time I taste, but which, for some reason, I haven’t made a regular part of my wine-buying and tasting. As I tasted Les Genêts 2004, a Savennières from Domaine Laureau, made by rising star Damien Laureau, I told myself that I really had to change that.

The wine shows terrific, intense aromas of acacia honey, almond and wool or lanolin (a typical aroma of chenin blanc, at least for me). You can taste loads of fruit(apple sauce, in particular), with honey and beeswax, and although the wine does show 14% alc./vol., it doesn’t fall over into heaviness, thanks to a decent level of acidity and mostly, the mineral structure typical of the Savennières appellation. It leaves a very fresh aftertaste as it lingers in the mouth for a long time.

You can easily see why this cuvée, made from young vines, seduced jurys and critics all over the place. It is charming and accessible, more easy-going than many other savennières. Great fun.

I just hope that it won’t lead savennières winemakers to go over the top and move towards fruitier styles and overly seductive wines. Laureau did some really lovely work, here, but I wouldn’t want to push it any further into the “modern” approach of exalting fruit over everything else. The minerality of the Loire white wines is what makes them great: overwhelming that character with fruit would throw them out of balance, it seems to me.

I’ll pour myself another glass of Les Genêts as I ponder all that…

Published in: on September 16, 2007 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

A whole other kind of sangria (and a drop of rosé)

OK. A real short, fun post, here. My friend Duncan over at the Code Kitchen spends more time cooking virtual stuff (say, e-mail and web apps) than actually cooking. But when the heat is on, he gets out of the kitchen to make this lovely sake-based sort of a sangria, which sounds absolutely lovely. He points to this favorite cocktail recipe of his on the Kitchen’s blog.

Why mention this here? Well, sake is a wine of sorts – a rice wine, to be precise.

And it’s also a good way to discuss summer drinks, like, say, rosé. I started thinking about that because of a funny blog post from Eric Asimov, the NY Times wine expert, called Rosé Reluctance. It’s a nice bit of skepticism about recent hype surrounding rosé: he points to some really serious ones he’s had, including a Sancerre by amazing producer François Cotat (I’ve tasted it, it’s truly exceptional, with its straight-as-an-arrow mineral character and sharply refreshing acidity, and has little to do with the fruity stuff usually called rosé). I must say that I’ve had the same type of rosé fatigue as Asimov, something that a recent tasting of Castello di Ama Rosato, a bone-dry yet very fragrant rosé by this renowned chianti producer somewhat cured.

Yet what is surprising about the Asimov blog is the amount of reaction it got. Even the fun-loving rosé drinkers take their stuff seriously, it seems.

I feel I’m getting carried away. I’ll go ponder that some more over a glass of cucumber-ginger-sake sangria…

In praise of Pineau d’Aunis

There really are some amazing, virtually unknown varietals out there. Take Pineau d’Aunis, for instance.

I’ve had a chance to taste this rare varietal (a little over 400 hectares cultivated, only in the Loire region) three times over the last few months, at Pullman, in Montreal, and at L’Utopie, in Quebec City. In both places, the wines were from Jasnières-region winemaker Jean-Pierre Robinot under the label L’Ange Vin.

The wines were truly remarkable and completely surprising. Intense yet subtle, pale yet earthy and concentrated. Like some pinot noirs (though they are not related), they tend to be pale wines, even close to a rosé. Yet the Regard du Loir cuvée I had most recently was intense with underbrush aromas and flavors of dried orange with a nice touch of red fruit, all with surprising persistence and length. It went great with some smoked bison, and I’m sure it would work well with some trout or poultry as well.

Mind you, although this varietal can be used in wines of the Anjou appellation or in Crémant de Loire sparkling wines, it is vinified in a remarkably serious and uncompromising style by Robinot, a fiery proponent of natural, organic wines. Whether you like it or not, it won’t leave you indifferent. Wine never should.