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Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Robin Garr » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:08 am

Yes, you read that right: It's France, all of France, all France all the time for December Wine Focus! Happy holidays indeed as we explore France and French wines all around the Hexagon, from Alsace to Champagne to Burgundy, the Rhone, Languedoc and Bordeaux and the Loire and lots more smaller appellations in-between. Dig out your old favorites, explore rarities less known to you, and let's see if we can discover that elusive character that places France at or near the top in production and reputation alike.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Patchen Markell » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:56 am

Hard to find in my area. ;-)
cheers, Patchen
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Robin Garr » Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:34 pm

Patchen Markell wrote:Hard to find in my area. ;-)

:lol:
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:59 pm

2015 Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas.

Tasted last night at a Rhone tasting . I wonder how higher the price for quality Gigondas will go. This one was $45 Cdn!
Nose had red and dark berries, cherries and obvious Mourvedre tones. On the palate soft tannins, nice length, good cherries, good acidity, a touch of sweetness. Heard comment of "modern fruit forward". A good start to the evenings tasting but due to price did not fly off the shelf.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jenise » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:35 pm

Oh gosh, could have started this out with my Beaujolais report! We drink mostly French wine anyway, so more to come.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jenise » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:22 pm

Okay, here's one. Two nights ago Bob and I were sampling a 2015 CdP a local retailer believes to be a very good value at around $25. I need a CdP to pair with a 2012 St. Emilion for serving at my wine club Christmas dinner in two weeks. I tasted it in the store but just couldn't find the body I thought the Bordeaux needed for a flight mate--it tasted like a light and fruity Cotes du Rhone I would expect to pay $15 for, and there was nothing about it that read Chateneuf so he sent the bottle home with me figuring it would grow on us. I planned to open something from my stash to compare it to. For the dinner I had no other viable local alternative and was about to turn to wine.com.

On the way home we also stopped at Trader Joe's for a cheese I needed. The route to the cheese took me through the wine department which I virtually never look at, and specifically the foreign wine display which is a smaller standing thing away from the long exterior wall of domestic wines I saw a CdP, a 2014 for just 19.99, and it appeared to be from a real Chateneuf Producer and not one of those Trader Giotto type things. Another data point! I bought it.

So now we had two CdPs open and the Bordeaux. And I was right. Much as I would so much prefer to buy from the indie wine retailer, if you didn't know CdP that wine would teach you nothing about it--it's just a decent 85 pt level wine. And the richer Bordeaux emphasized its shortcomings. But the real revelation was the other Chateauneuf. It was excellent, truly excellent, wildly beyond expectations especially for a Trader Joe's purchase. Drinks like $40+. I needed a case for the tasting; I got on the phone the next morning and ordered two.

2014 Caves Saint-Pierre Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Fiacre du Pape Red Rhone Blend
Medium to full bodied, perfumed nose, great rich fruit and peppery spice from the grenache on the palate, might have some mouvedre--there's a bit of blood and iron in there. Tastes like what it's supposed to be with a good sense of place. Balanced acidity and silky tannins, great finish.

Best wine I've ever purchased from Trader Joe's, best off-the-shelf Rhone value I've ever had, too.

Back up the truck!
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:50 pm

Used to see CSP up here, very good value. Think would blow away this one!

2013 Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Les Launes.

$26 Cdn, good natural cork. Black fruits and cherry on the nose, plus some woody tones, light cherry color.
Big pepper wine here especially on the finish. I was not a big fan at all, "too much spice and oak" from over the table. I am not sure why I do not get on with Crozes-H. This wine was not good value at all.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jenise » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:52 pm

Bob, Crozies usually present a lot of green olive. Some people don't get along with that, would that be the case for you?
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Tim York » Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:38 am

Gosh :shock: . How am I going to be able to bring a focus onto France? Its production makes up 90-95% of my consumption and is incredibly diverse, arguably the most diverse of any country including Italy, the nearest contender in that respect.

To try and coarsely categorise the wine types coming out of France, I see three broad categories - the Atlantic, northerly inland (in which I include N.Rhône) and Mediterranean. Each has a climate type and typical grape varieties and taste profiles although there is quite a lot of blurring between the first two. Vintage variations are much more marked in the Atlantic and northerly inland categories but, with improved husbandry in the vineyards and techniques in the wine-making cellars, much less so quality-wise than a few decades ago. As recently as the 1960s, most Bordeaux in 63, 65, 68 and perhaps 69 were a complete write-off, whereas in the 2000s no vintages were as poor as those.

International grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Gamay all made their name in specific French places for centuries before they were exported to other countries. The rise of Mediterranean varieties like Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre was shared with Spain and Italy and Riesling with Germany and Austria. However one of the fascinations of the French wine scene, Italy’s and Spain’s too, is the number of lesser known local grape varieties associated distinct regions. The South-West is rich is these, e.g. Tannat and Madiran, G&P Manseng and Jurançon, Mansois and Marcillac, and Savoie too with several grape varieties all its own.

In general fine French wines are labelled by place names (AOP protected) rather than by grape variety and French consumers are familiar with the taste associated with those places. Alsace is an exception to this although there is an attempt there to bring increasing prominence to the GC and lieu-dit place names. Vins de cépage (=varietal wines) is a pejorative term for French consumers and is generally associated with mass consumption down-market wines but it should be noted that grape names are creeping onto back and front labels of AOP wines in addition to the place names even where the association of grape with place is known to most French consumers. In some areas, particularly Languedoc and Roussillon, a lot of wines are being produced without AOP place names using grape varieties not authorised in the AOP; grape varieties nearly always appear on the label in these cases.

With this Wine “Focus” topic, I will try to confine my posts to bottles which seem to me to illustrate certain features of French wine production, especially the Atlantic, northerly inland and Mediterranean categories.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Tim York » Sun Dec 03, 2017 8:18 am

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Used to see CSP up here, very good value. Think would blow away this one!

2013 Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Les Launes.

$26 Cdn, good natural cork. Black fruits and cherry on the nose, plus some woody tones, light cherry color.
Big pepper wine here especially on the finish. I was not a big fan at all, "too much spice and oak" from over the table. I am not sure why I do not get on with Crozes-H. This wine was not good value at all.


Bob, I like a lot of Crozes-Hermitage, especially those from Alain Graillot, which have a quasi-Burgundian elegance and can age gracefully for 10-15 years. It sounds as if that wine has the components which I would like apart from the oak. Delas is a usually reliable négociant so that excess disappoints me.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Dec 03, 2017 9:13 am

We had 8 wines at a "best bang for your buck tasting" last night and all of them would have blown this C-H away.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Dec 03, 2017 9:19 am

Meanwhile I have stocked up on 2 more Dageneau Chasselas! Here is a previous note on the 2013.

TN: 2013 Serge Dagueneau Pouilly-sur-Loire La Centenaire.

100% Chasselas, SC, $22 Cdn. Good find just before I headed off to do my recent bird counts. Crisp, refreshing, quite dry, plenty of citrus tomes with hints of minerality (there is that word again). Stonefruit aromas with peach and orange blossom. Only one glass as the bottle was quickly emptied at campsite by thirsty counters. Believe the vines are over 100 years old.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jim Grow » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:16 pm

NV Gosset Champagne "Excellence Brut" Lot # L1351455. Much more fruit forward (poached pear) than a bottle tasted a few years ago. Opened for the OSU Buckeyes game last nite. very fine , abundant bubbles. Probably from 2008 or before as I have had these for a few years. approaching middle-age and with great potential to become really special if given at least 8-10 more years. oldest Champagne house dating back to 1584 located in Ay abv of %12
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jim Grow » Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:18 pm

2001 Pichon Baron from Pauillac Bordeaux, opened to celebrate a successful deer hunt on Friday. I was a little underwhelmed by this wine. I was hoping for more complexity but there was your basic plum fruit and a touch of herb with the tannins mostly resolved but still evident and a slight astringency on the finish. RMP thought it should be consumed by 2015 but I would disagree. It is holding up fine and may develop further complexity so I'll next revisit this wine in 5-6 years. The 2000 greatly outshines this wine. At $45 bought on futures, not a good QPR. abv of 11-14%
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Tim York » Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:59 am

This is an archetypal high-end Mediterranean wine. It is made from the full cocktail of 13 varieties allowed in the CndP appellation but Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah predominate as they do it most of the appellation reds along the Mediterranean rim with certain nuances, e.g. Bandol mainly Mourvèdre, Corbières-Boutenac with a lot of Carignan. Fruit tends to be sweeter than towards the Atlantic and the north, alcohol higher, textures thicker and acidity lower and there should be a pleasing generosity.

2001 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (12/3/2017)
Not the biggest Beaucastel but medium/full bodied+ and both generous and harmonious. It showed mature dark fruit showing good depth and length and infused with herb, balsamic touches and hints of forest floor with enough acidity for balance and still some firmness and gentle bitterness on the finish. Close to or at its peak, I guess. Very good.

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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jenise » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:18 pm

Two Beaujolais:

2015 Loic et Noel Bulliat Beaujolais-Villages Gamay
Opened this Sunday night by accident, drank it Monday night. The extra 24 hours of breathing brought out more flavor and depth than we found in the prior bottle. Very good.

2014 Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) Côte de Brouilly Gamay
First day: Nose all rotten eggs, sour on the palate. Undrinkable.
Second day: delicate, bright fruit with a little celery on the nose and palate. Prolly best drunk over the next two years.

Not that I can plan that far ahead, but both these bottles suggest that a 24 hour pre-open on Beaujolais is a pretty good idea.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Robin Garr » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:29 pm

Jenise wrote:Nose all rotten eggs, ...
Not that I can plan that far ahead, but both these bottles suggest that a 24 hour pre-open on Beaujolais is a pretty good idea.

Sounds like a strong candidate for "the penny trick," dropping in a copper coin for an hour or so to bind the sulfates (?) that cause that particular smell. It won't work with modern US pennies - they stopped using copper in the '70s or thereabouts. But a Euro cent or an old penny from a collection ought to do it.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Jim Grow » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:55 pm

2005 Ch. Le Conseiller.......wine made by Philippe Janoueix, evidently a French winemaker of some reknown.....tannins about 3/4 resolved with sour cherry fruit but no secondary complexity... didn't do much for me, just a bit of grainy sediment
abv of %13.5 Bordeaux Superieur....maybe more interesting in 10 years but I'll never know
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Tim York » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:08 am

I must resist the urge to post here every day but this is another very interesting bottle. It comes from my broad geographic category of northerly inland and from the leading red grape of that area, Pinot Noir, but is typical only of itself. At the same time I think it could only come from France; where else would a red as light as this one gain admiration and command a price tag close to €40? And its producer belongs to a category more common in France than anywhere else, I think; quite small (c.13ha), perfectionist, farming biodynamically though only certified organic, minimum intervention, wild yeasts from the vineyard etc.

2013 Jean-François Ganevat Côtes du Jura Julien en Billat - France, Jura, Côtes du Jura (12/4/2017)
Of all the wines I have had from Ganevat this one convinced me the least. At cause were a slight prickle, felt on the palate but not visible, and a slightly confected note to its bouquet, which with a producer of lesser calibre I might attribute to alchemy with commercial yeasts. Both the colour and the palate were quite light but the latter was linear in shape and quite long and the young Pinot fruit was bright, fine and eloquent mingled with delicate minerality, some spice, fresh acidity and texture which I felt became silkier with exposure to air (remarks from the other side of the table disagreed). Either decanting and/or more age might help. Almost very good.

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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Robin Garr » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:16 am

Tim York wrote:I must resist the urge to post here every day

Nah, feel free, Tim. It's good to have a topic like this!
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:43 am

I guess when one has a big cellar like Tim and I that carries a lot of French wines, it can be difficult to pick something out, especially when one, like me , does not drink a lot. Jura, Loire, Bandol, Languedoc, Jurancon..list goes on.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:01 pm

So here is another Rhone tasted at last weeks tasting downtown!

2013 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

$75 Cdn, wow how prices have shot up .Color was a quite dark ruby red. Hint of barnyard on the nose with some black cherry and pepper. "Olive and tapenade" was mentioned from the floor. Initial entry thought was red berries and cherry, herbs, tea for sure. Dense finish that really lingers, oh was decanted.

Dirk one of the store owners always likes to bring out something special from his cellar for an event like this..and serve blind!

"Leather thing going on here...looks nicely aged....palate way more expressive than the nose...spice/licorice..looks like a 2004/5 N Rhone?"

The wine was the 2005 Donjon CdP!!

I have a Gaillac somewhere here in the morgue but did manage to find the 2001 Bouscasse Madiran from Alain Brumont, so decanting right now. Here is my note on the Gaillac posted earlier this year.

WTN: 2012 Gaillac Cuvee Speciale Chateau Lecusse.

12.5% alc, good natural cork, purchased this month, $22 Cdn.
82% Fer Servadou, some Duras too plus CS/Merlot. Decanted but not really required I think. Not a big name in the Gaillac region it would appear (Paul Strang book).

Berry aromas on the nose, earthy, some plum, hint of pepper. Initial entry is supple, soft tannins, earthy, berry fruits not too ripe day1. Very good acidity here, medium bodied, not a big dense wine like Cahors or Madiran. In fact "Bordeaux-ish" from across the table.
Left some overnight as usual, big transformation with much riper fruit on the finish. This went well with flat iron steak with an onion relish and bok choy. Pleasant surprise , just wish there were some of the big names in my area.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by David M. Bueker » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:53 pm

2014 Château Caronne Ste. Gemme - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc (12/6/2017)
Open bar pour at corporate party. It was nice to actually recognize the wine. It was not exactly a crowd pleaser, as it did not bring the big fruit and low acid/tannin that most casual drinkers were expecting. Instead it showed somewhat tart-edged fruit and noticeable acid and tannic spine. It was not the ripest wine, but when I grabbed some of the filet they were serving it matched up quite well. If buying, I would stick with Lanessan instead, as I think it’s a markedly better wine.
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Re: Wine Focus for December 2017: France!

by Tim York » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:58 pm

Hear is an example of a typically Atlantic wine with bright fruit, minerals and fresh acidity. And it is also an example of decent affordable right-bank Bordeaux (according to our host c.€9). Nowadays, under the combined influence of Robert Parker and Michel Rolland, a lot of higher end right bank Bordeaux tastes as if it comes from the New World, but this one was not like that.

2015 Château Changrolle - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol (12/6/2017)
Made from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this was a cheerful wine drunk at a cheerful dinner at our neighbours' place. Bright berry fruit with a savoury complexion and a leafy touch, minerals, underlying roundness, fresh acidity and firm but quite ripe tannins. Would probably not appeal to those reared on ultra ripe fruit but I enjoy a wine like this with food and conversation. Surprised to find a claret showing so approachably at about its second anniversary. Good.

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