A French four-pack for the freezin’ season
By Mike Rosenberg
Photo: The Macon region of southern Burgundy, France
It’s cold and dreary. The sun barely peeks out, and when it does, it’s not much help warming things up. These are rich food days, my friends. For me, richer food calls for wine with a backbone of earth, and that leads me instinctively to one place: France.
My French wine palate perks up in the winter because those wines go so nicely with foods that have some heft to them. Butter, mushrooms, rich meats and root veggies – French wine is a lovely accompaniment to those sorts of flavors, generally.
Before I really get into it here, I should admit I do try to cook in at least a reasonably healthy manner. It’s not beef bourguignon every night of the week, and what the Sweet Partner in Crime and I consider rich these days might be a bit of a stretch. It’s rich to us, though, so there.
The good folks at Bourgeois Family Selections – one of my favorite importers of reasonably priced French wine – recently sent along a four-pack of their latest offerings. Bourgeois does a good job finding solid biodynamic and sustainable wines. So, for a quick review of some common French varieties, we knocked the chill off our bones and cracked these over the period of a week or so.
Domaine des Gerbeaux 2012 “Le Clos” Macon-Solutre – Macon-Solutre is an area in southern Burgundy. If you have a bottle of white wine from Burgundy, 99 percent of the time, you’re holding a bottle of Chardonnay. You may have seen a wine labeled “Macon-Villages,” as well. This is Burgundy – and, thus, Chardonnay – sourced from some combination of 30 different villages within the Macon region. Solutre is one of those areas. If a wine carries a specific name of a village, that usually connotes a higher quality of juice, and this bottle is no exception. This wine reminded me of lemon custard – rich and citrusy on the nose and body, but the finish leans out into a grapefruity, minerally denouement that becomes more pronounced as it gets some air. There’s a hint of smokiness, as well – even though this is an un-oaked wine. I liked it quite a bit. You should find it for around $17-20.
Chateau Les Ancres 2010 Bordeaux – Red wine from the Bordeaux region is almost always a blend of five grapes: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Most value-priced Bordeaux tends to be made with a backbone of merlot. The Les Ancres is no exception – it is about two-thirds Merlot, with the rest mostly cabernet sauvignon, with about 2 percent cabernet franc to round out the flavors. This wine really needs decanting. At first sip, I thought there was very little flavor. If you try it, have patience. After a little time in air, it started with a light flavor of blackberry and cocoa, widened out across the midpalate with some nice smoke and earth and then landed with a tannic bag of hammers on the back of my tongue. Once it opens up, there is a surprising richness. With stews it is superb, especially for $11-13. It also goes better with chocolate than many Bordeaux.
Chateau La Faviere 2009 Bordeaux Superieur – If you see a wine with “Bordeaux Superieur,” you’re not necessarily getting a superior wine. The term refers to a slightly different winemaking process. Reds with that moniker have somewhat higher alcohol contents, are aged a little longer and tend to be a little more complex than standard Bordeaux. In general, I like them a little bit better, especially since they are not that much more expensive. I honestly did not get a chance to write many notes on this one. The SPinC and I opened this before our dinner of roasted chicken in a tarragon and butter sauce, and it was a splendid accompaniment. So splendid we got to talking and laughing for a good long while and the next thing we knew, we’d killed off the bottle. Take that for what it’s worth. I’d snag this again for around $15.
Domaine de Chateaumar 2012 “Cuvee Bastien” Cotes-du-Rhone – Cotes-du-Rhone are from – surprise! surprise! – the Rhone region of France, and the grapes can come from anywhere in the region. These red wines are, again, blends of up to 20 different grape varieties, but the main grape variety is almost always grenache. In most cases, there has to be a minimum of 15 percent syrah and mourvedre in the blend. This wine, however, is a rarity among Cotes-du-Rhone. It’s 100 percent grenache. I’ll say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the difference. Without the heavier syrah involved, what you get is a somewhat lighter-styled red, which flexibly works with almost any food pairing. I found nice plum and berry flavors with enough weight and structure to be interesting. We had this alongside a pecan-crusted trout with sautéed cabbage and a cream sauce and it worked quite nicely. Again, well recommended at $13-15.
Be careful out there and make sure you keep your cellar stocked!
Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at MikeRosenberg@DaytonCityPaper.com or visit his blog at www.TheNakedVine.net