Friday, November 10, 2006

Vive le Difference!

I’ve read some things lately, which have put me in the mind to drink more French wines.

The first item that stirred my interest was Craig Camp’s column on French wines. He touts the quality of French wines in the value category and has some harsh words for New World producers.

I used to drink primarily French wines, particularly inexpensive Rhone wines and wines from the Southwest and Languedoc. However, lately I’ve been drinking much more from Spain, South America and Australia. That’s where I felt my wine dollars were best spent.

White Burgundies have always been some of my favorite French wines, particularly the wines of Mâcon. There are several Macon-Villages that I think are some of the best values in chardonnay.

The other night I opened a bottle of Dominique Cornin Mâcon-Chaintre 2004. Chaintre is one of the villages of Mâcon, and Dominique is a newer, but highly respected producer.

This wine was a little more upfront with the fruit than I’m used to, but it had the elegance and style that I’m used to from Mâcon. The lack of oak influence makes chardonnay really shine. For my money, it’s one of the best expressions of chardonnay in the world.

The Cornin has a lovely bouquet of apples and pears; its flavor is more of the apple and peach with a lean, stylish feel and a creamy, honeyed finish. This is really tasty stuff. It was around $16 a bottle, which is a little more than I would usually spend on a Mâcon, but it was well worth it.

My other French discovery was of an A.O.C. that I was totally ignorant of—Cabardès.

"The western-most vineyard of the Languedoc-Roussillon and the eastern-most of the south-west, the dry stony soil and growing environment are ideal for low yield, top quality wine production. Cabardès is the only Languedoc A.O.C. to blend in equal proportions Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet and Merlot) with those of the Rhone (Syrah and Grenache)."

Never heard of it.

My education in French wines hit a plateau some years back and I haven’t been aggressive about moving it to a higher level. The other day I ran across something in a wine store that looked interesting, so I gave it a try. It was Château de Pennautier A.O.C. Cabardès 2004.

The combination of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals makes for an interesting mix. The Pennautier is dark and silky with great black fruit, soft tannins, spice and a long, caressing finish. For $11, it was a smashing find, and I’ll bet it can be had for less elsewhere.

The blend on this wine is 10% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 15% cot (also known as malbec) and 30% syrah. With such an interesting mix of grapes to blend with, I am very excited about trying more wines from this region.

The other interesting article I read was in the European edition of Time Magazine. It discusses the French wine glut and how the French are handling (or not handling) the changing global wine market. Interesting stuff.


Anonymous said...

Good posting. I too like macon village a lot, and have been drinking more Rhone the last year or so for good value in red. I've also found some well priced pinots from New Zealand recently that I've written about here:

I also liked your suggestions on another site for Thanksgiving wines, I was looking to compile some recommendations and will add your to my list.

Anonymous said...

I like your site. I've linked to it on Cooking Chat, where I have a combination of food & wine articles.

John said...

Thanks for the add. I'll be adding some links to cooking blogs soon and I'll link to you.