Archive for the 'French wine' Category

Rockin’ Rhone: Gentaz/Verset/Jamet/Clape edition

Thanks to social media, you can always tell how badly you’re drinking compared to everyone else. And on this Monday night, when I didn’t think I was doing too badly with some delicious Indian takeout and a pint of Sweet Action. But, whoa, was I wrong.

Tonight there’s a big northern Rhone dinner going down at Bar Boulud. Sommelier Mike Madrigale tweeted from the scene that it was the “Greatest wine dinner ever put on here.” Now that is saying something. He also tweeted the menu that included four vintages of Joseph Jamet, Auguste Clape, Verset & Gentaz-Devrieux. These are pretty rare, especially since Marius Gentaz retired in 1993 and died last year (read more on his rare wines); Noel Verset stopped making wines in the early 2000s. The event was billed as “The Golden Age of Cote Rotie and Cornas,” featuring 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991.

Okay, stop drooling now!

Beaujolais Nouveau day – ditch the Nouveau

What if Beaujolais Nouveau day–the third Thursday in November–turned into a celebration of Beaujolais writ large or even larger, wine? According to a report in a British wine publication, that’s what happened yesterday in parts of London.

It’s a good idea. While a friend who just left Paris after living there for several years recalls Beaujolais Nouveau day as the most wonderfully exciting wine day of the year, overseas, the decades-old marketing idea is tired. It’s contrived. It has a unnecessarily large carbon footprint. And 99% of the wines are underwhelming tutti fruity concoctions that serve to qualitatively undermine the name of the whole region. A few shops and restaurants in New York City dutifully stock some bottles of Nouveau but few take too many since what they say about white shoes after Labor Day has an analogy in Beaujolais Nouveau after New Year’s Day.

So I say capture the fun, the celebration, and ditch the nouveau. While slaying the region’s sacred cash cow may seem radical, and recognizing the economic difficulties in the region, after the success of the Summer of Riesling, maybe we need a November of Beaujolais to help the region transition away from Nouveau?

Did you attend any launch events yesterday? What did you think?

“Freshbag” – French for wine kegerator

Have you ever noticed that box wine doesn’t chill itself? Or thought the fridge somehow seems too full or plebeian for such a majestic thing as box wine? Or you are nostalgic for the kegerator days of yore? Well, then, say hello to Freshbag, a mini wine fridge, just for box wine.

The Freshbag has three settings, one each for rosé, white and red. Keep em all chilled and ready for when unexpected guests drop by. Fitting both three or five liter formats, Freshbag has got you covered. And when it’s not in use, it takes up space in your cabinet. All that for a mere $250 at stores in France.

Pimp my ride: La Gramiere’s wine truck

La Gramiere’s wine tasting truck (see inset of truck before Amy pimped her ride)

Have you eaten lunch or ice cream from a food truck and thought there was something missing? I have. Where’s the wine truck? It has been found in the south of France.

Amy Lillard, an American who is living the dream of making wine in the Rhone under her La Gramiere label, recently posted a picture to Facebook of her newly refurbished wine truck. She details the conversion of the Citroen on her blog saying that the truck will serve as a mobile tasting room:

We’re going to do evening tastings with tapas and wine, sometimes in our vineyards as the sun goes down, sometimes in the surrounding villages! We are also going to be inviting guest “vignerons” to pour their wines along with ours, and guest chefs to cook for us! Sounds fun doesn’t it?

Good to see that the turn in French wine policy toward the puritanical hasn’t prevented such creativity. Of course, licensing laws in the US give this a 0.0001% chance of ever happening here. So get your fix in France. The Super Camion de Dégustation was last seen at the evening market in Uzès…

Related: Food Trucks in Paris? U.S. Cuisine Finds Open Minds, and Mouths [NYT]

Thirstday: vin de soif, Christian Ducroux, “Prologue”

Vin de soif. The term captures a wine style–thirst-quenching, gulpable–that delights in the pleasures of drinking wine, not worshipping it. It has to also be somewhat light in body and easy on the wallet to make it really thirst-quenching for me. When I tweeted the term yesterday, Howard Goldberg replied that he only drinks vin de soif on Thirstday.

So today’s Thirstday vin de soif: the Christian Ducroux, “Prologue.” Although it’s labeled as a mere vin de France, Ducroux works Biodynamic vineyards by horse in Beaujolais. This wine is a 2011, a Beaujolais nouveau of sorts; according to David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines, which imports the wine directly and where I bought a bottle for about $15, this is second bottling that has more structure than the first thanks to more contact with the lees. The wine has sediment in the bottle and is somewhat cloudy in the glass. Red berries and hint of funk permeate the aromas. Low in alcohol, this thirst-quencher has a vivacious intrigue that calls out for food.

Francesco Rinaldi, dolcetto d’Alba, Roussot, 2010

Dolcetto, which means either “sweet-ish” or “the one you drink while your Baroli are aging,” is rarely in better hands than it is with the traditional producer Francesco Rinaldi. Many dolcetti have coarse tannins but this “Roussot” 2010 has a seductive roundness to it, offsetting the notes of gentle bitterness and dark fruit.

I give it my highest rating: I’d buy a whole case of this wine. And, at only $15 a bottle, that’s actually within the realm of the possible.

Search for this wine at retail

France is a “banana republic” says Guffens

When the fraud squad raided Verget from Verget.

Jean-Marie Guffens, a winemaker in Macon who founded Maison Verget, endured a decade-long investigation by French authorities, including Customs and Fraud office. It started in 2001 after the grapes were harvested but before the winery staff had even filed the harvest paperwork. And it continued ebbing and flowing, with allegations that Guffens was blending wine from the south into his Burgundies. In the 27-minute video, Guffens declares that “we live in a banana republic” with “mafia-style” raids including a surprise winery inspection with 25 officers, and accusations of complicity against the staff. His wife and members of the staff were even held in custody for two days. Eventually, in 2010, the charges were dropped. Guffens sued to have his name exonerated and– SPOLIER ALERT!–a judge in Beaune ruled in his favor in November.

This action and the heavy-handed tactics over Olivier Cousin’s whimsical labeling, set against the backdrop of declining domestic wine consumption, illustrate the difficult days for many French vignerons. I’ll add it to my file for updating Wine Politics.

Will China buy more foreign wineries? 20 wine questions for 2012

The Mayans forecast a cataclysmic finish for 2012. My crystal wine glasses are not as clear, so instead of forecasts, I ask twenty questions relevant to the wine world in 2012.

Will dogmatism die? Sommelier Raj Parr disavows 14% as a litmus test for pinot; other somms say they are not into “natural” or organic wine movement as much as they are into the “good wine movement.”

Will prices of European wines fall if the euro weakens? Dream on.

Will India drink more wine? If import tariffs are significantly lowered, it can only help.

Will China go straight to the source and buy more wineries? The state-owned COFCO bought Biscottes in Chile in 2010, in part as a result of preferential tariffs; it could be a harbinger of things to come.

Will Americans put less wine on the table? Economic malaise could derail two decades of per capita growth in wine consumption; craft beer represents a real threat.

Will the Chinese embrace white wines? They go much better with the cuisine than reds.

Will Yao Ming’s small production wine boost all of California wine in China?

Will Bordeaux downturn morph into a free fall? Probably not but the top wines have already slowed notably.

Will box wines get better? In the category that producers and consumers like for the cost-savings, the trend is up but it has a long way to go.

Will wine writers disclose potential conflicts of interest? Transparency is key.

Will more wine blogs cease? The lack of a financial model still plagues the medium.

Will remaining wine blogs get better? Twitter and Facebook have siphoned off the “what I drank last night” posts; in order to break through the chatter, blogs have to have a strong voice, point of view, or original contribution relevant to the broader discussion about wine.

Will a wine newsletter fold? Charging anything limits audience size.

Will points self-destruct? Score inflation is rampant and remains the biggest threat to scores themselves.

Will more retailers become points-free zones? As Americans’ confidence with wine climbs, shops may not need to turn to third-party shelf-talkers.

Will freer trade in wine emerge within the US? New Jersey indicates a limited yes but the biggest unknown is what will happen with HR 1161 in the unpredictable lame duck Congress in November and December.

Will romorantin be the next hot grape variety? No, but it’s worth trying a good example.

Will malbec’s growth slow? Probably, if only because it can’t grow at 49% forever.

Will wine come from more far-flung parts of the world? Yes–crack a foreign pronunciation guide to unlock the frequent discount hidden behind unpronounceable or difficult words on labels.

Will wine remain fun? Oh yes.

Have questions of your own? Hit the comments and share them!


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