Wine Lab: The Wines of France

"Wine is the prism we look through to the past while enjoying the present." - @twomey Winemaker Erin Miller

I'm currently enrolled in viticulture and enology program at the Southern Oregon Wine Institute, part of the curriculum is geared toward exposing students, many of whom have scant knowledge about imported wines, to the broader wine world, as a way to give perspective, via immersion into those regions many have merely heard of before. Part of the class involves the writing of a tasting note about the wines presented, in what I consider a rather perfunctory style, notes which are not in my typical inimitable tone and tenor found on my blog. That said I hope you'll enjoy this edition of wine lab, three more should arrive over the next month or so.

Joseph Drouhin, 2011 Pinot Noir, Cote de Nuits Villages: For folks paying attention to such things, 2011 was not a banner year for wine producers in the Northern Hemisphere. So, the fact that this wine was a bit thinner on the flavor continuum should speak volumes to the summer with little if any sun at all.  In the glass, this wine was more brick colored than red, which I thought was unusual for wine this youthful. After all, 2011 was not all that long ago; I suspect some subtle oxidation is going on, perhaps at bottling or as an issue with the cork. The clarity was clear. I found this wine to be very aromatic, sadly, those aromas did not carry over to the palate. Still dancing away in abundance, aromas of barnyard funk, damp earth, freshly picked mushrooms, Bing cherries, sage, and beets.  Taste-wise, I found this wine dry, balanced, with medium minus body, medium plus tannins. Flavor descriptors were few, tart Bing cherry, roasted beets, a whiff of sandalwood and overall just a bit too austere. The finish was a medium plus. A recommended pairing with the correct cheeses and charcuterie, this wines acid would be a pleasing aperitif.  I’m a big fan of this producer, overall, but sadly on its own, this is not a bottle of wine I’d recommend.

E. Guigal GSM 2011, Gigondas: Although it was a bleak year for many winemakers, 2011 for the southern Rhone was a year for restraint. Seldom is there an opportunity for such things in the southern Rhone as temperatures average quite high during the growing season, but the modest temps of 2011 helped to keep things in check for those in search of ‘balance.' In the glass, the appearance is a medium plus, the stem, and my finger was still easily observed through the core of the wine. The color was a ruby red and clarity was clear. The aromas of meaty plums, spice, cut black tea, dried orange rinds danced above the glass, effortlessly. On the palate, the taste was dry, balanced, medium plus body, and medium plus tannins. Flavors, of black cherry, dark plum, subtle allspice, dried orange rinds and trail dust. I’m a big fan of this producer, but this wine barely registered too much in the way of enthusiasm. But if I had to pair with this wine, I’d choose some grilled meats, and picnic fixings to accompany.

Langlois-Chateau, White Sancerre, Loire Valley: I’m a huge fan of this region, even though Sauvignon Blanc made domestically is mostly underwhelming at best. That said, this bottle was textbook. A wonderful pick for the class to discover the roots of Sauvignon Blanc, focused, bright and beautiful. In the glass, the color is light, colored with a faint tinge of straw. The clarity is crystal clear, with a watery rim. Aromas of grapefruit, lemongrass and white flower wafting slowing from the glass. The taste profile; it was bone dry, very crisp, the body was light, the tannins nearly nonexistent. On the palate, more white flowers, subtle chalkiness, lemongrass, citrus and a tart kiss on the medium finish.

Joseph Drouhin, Pouilly-Fuisse: Another very fun and exciting region to explore, especially for those seeing familiar wine bearing grapes, like this Chardonnay, in a completely different style. The bottle, the flavors mostly appeared to be alien. In the glass, this was medium in appearance, a vivid straw core and the clarity was quite clear. Aromatics were plentiful, white flower, freshly sliced honey crisp apples, white smoke, and citrus. The taste profile, this was made dry, only 13% abv, it was very crisp, the body was a light plus, the tannins low. The flavor descriptors sadly did not mirror the nose, tart apples, citrus, wet stone minerality. The finish was a medium plus. A delightful food pairing choice with whole roasted chicken and linguini smothered in alfredo sauce.

While many folks familiar with the Rhone Zone, adore and admire longingly what some call the prestigious Northern Rhone regions, like Hermitage. The truth is the north only accounts for about 5% of all production of the entire Rhone Zone. The remaining 95% produced in the south under far-less-prestigious and lesser known names. Like that of Gigondas, a region which provides some mighty excellent juice itself, with somewhat affordable price tags.

When it comes to this producer, one of whom I’ve uncorked many delightful gems over the years, I think Mr. Robert Parker [love him or loathe him, you decide] sums up my point for me wonderfully.  In an interview, he commented on Marcel Guigal that 

"In the past 20 years I have spent visiting wineries and vignerons, I have never seen a producer so fanatical about quality as Marcel Guigal." 

To that praise, I give a hearty Amen! I’ve sold boatloads of this gentlemen’s wines over the years, and the price points, flavor profile, of his basic Cote du Rhone, is stupid good. Any domestically produced blend similar to its overall quality would be thrice the price. I always recommend to people, who may be perusing a wine list, if they see the name E. Guigal, just order it and enjoy. 


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