Gravner in the morning, arvine at noon, Sagrantino for dinner – and some thoughts about Swiss drinking and driving laws.

What an interesting day in wine tasting yesterday was.

It started out almost accidentally, when I stopped by the tasting room of Christophe Abbet, an excellent vigneron based in Martigny, in Switzerland, to get a couple of bottles of his wines to bring home to Quebec (including a bottle of the delightful Ambre, a slowly-matured dessert wine made from arvine and marsanne – but more on that later).

Christophe and I, along with my father-in-law and my brother-in-law and other friends and guests of his, had tasted several of his wines, two days earlier, and (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46: The Whiter Side of Rhône

White wines are certainly the neglected side of the Rhône vineyards. The reputation of the whites is greatly overshadowed by that of reds like Cornas, Côte-Rôtie or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

It might just be a question of math, mind you: according to official statistics, red wine represents 86% of total Rhône wine production. White is only 5%, a little more than half the production of rosé (9%). In Australia, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, all together, represent less than 2% of the total area planted in white varietals, according to government statistics (see page 17 of the publication). Same thing in California, where the 15,757 tons of viognier crushed in 2007 are the only noticeable white Rhône blip among the 1.37 million tons of white grapes produced in 2007 (see page 6 of the California Department of Agriculture grape crush report). I’m beginning to agree with James, who started a discussion on the Open Wine Consortium about the most underrated white varietals, and put roussanne as his choice of underdog.

Mind you, the varietals can be challenging. When overripe, they quickly get heavy, overly sweet and overloaded with tropical fruit. I know, some people might call that luscious and rich, but I find it all gets a little cloying. Which is why I appreciate the balance found in, say, (more…)

Tasting note: Tahbilk Marsanne 2004

They’re no longer a Château, but the wine is still as good. I’ve loved Tahbilk‘s Marsanne for years and years, and I’ve even laid down a few bottles over the years, to see how this inexpensive, well-made, original wine evolved over time. I had great fun drinking a 1994, two or three years ago, and found its nutty, candied orange flavors quite seductive. I still have an orangey 1995 and an pale gold 1997 in the cellar, which I’m waiting to be surprised by… someday.

With vines dating back to as far back as 1927, Tahbilk is a rare Australian producer of this lovely Rhône varietal, and I was amused to read on their web site that they recommend aging it – something I’d started doing well just out of curiosity.

The 2004, which is starting to turn to a lovely pale gold colour, displays rich and plentiful aromas, with notes of honey, star-fruit, apricot and a touch of toasted bread on the nose. On tasting, the bright acidity and light but smooth texture immediately strike you, before nutty, honeyed flavors emerge and roll around for a nice, long time around your mouth. At 13% alcohol, it is remarkably balanced and restrained – and here, the word restrained hardly means that you are missing out on anything. I found it lovely with some cheese, and would recommend it with salmon or poultry dishes.

The Marsanne’s great balance also means that the wine indeed has a good aging potential. At just over 15$, around these parts, I’m surely going out to get some more, and setting it in the cellar. If I can convince myself to wait.

Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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