Friday, March 8, 2013

Grab Bag of French Reds

I’ve been sipping a lot of New World wines of late, so I figured it was time to go back and check up on some French reds. With so many diverse regions and stellar vintages, I like to keep up with how Burgundy, Rhône and Bordeaux wines are aging. A Bandol (a mourvèdre-based wine from Provence) is thrown into this report as well because it’s too damn amazing not to write about. Cheers!

2005 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Chorey-Côte-de-Beaune (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chorey-Côte-de-Beaune)
Medium ruby colored. Aromas of raspberries and tangy red currants, along with dried flowers, sage and mushroom. With time I picked up more beet and bay leaf aromas. (Reminds me of Kyiv!) On the palate, tangy acid lines up with medium-grained but firm tannins. Flavors of tangy cherries, raspberries, mushroom, sage and pepper. There’s some toasty oak in here too — it’s aged for 16 months in 20% new oak — but it’s balanced very well. Long finish with notes of pickled beet and green coffee beans. This wine is really hitting the spot, but I could see aging it for another two years. A very impressive pinot from the relatively humble Chorey-Côte-de-Beaune appellation. I’d never heard of this producer, but they are on my radar now. (89 points)

2006 Domaine Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits Villages (France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Nuits Villages)
This pinot noir shows aromas of incense, white pepper, roses, sour cherry, sage and herbal liqueur. The palate is tangy, with firm tannins. Sour cherry and cranberry lead the way to bitter coffee, herbal liqueur, iron and rich loam. After two hours I started picking up more bay leaf and cinammon notes. Wow, for a basic Côte de Nuits Villages appellation this is showing a lot of class. Long, pristine finish. I’m really liking 2006 Burgundys right now, but they (and this wine in particular) could still stand a few years in the cellar. Serious structure here. A steal at auction at $15! A Kermit Lynch import, no wonder it’s so good. (89 points)

2001 Château Malescasse (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc)
Currants, beet root and savory herbs on the nose. The palate shows fresh acid and fine tannins on a medium-bodied frame. Flavors of currant and earth lead, but very distinct flavors of dried tobacco, oregano and dill pickle come out with air. Well-aged, perhaps nearing its peak drinking window, but a fun wine with some unique flavors. Lacking depth and intensity to be great, but I drank this with a sub after a cold day of surfing and I was happy, especially considering I picked it up for less than $20. (87 points)

2005 Château de Pibarnon Bandol (France, Provence, Bandol)
I first tasted this hearty Provencal red in 2009 and loved it. It’s only gotten better and still has an easy ten years of maturation ahead of it. Pretty brick-ruby color in the glass. A bit tight upon opening, but after two hours in the decanter, this baby started to sing. Aromas of bacon, smoke, iron, grilled herbs, menthol and a distinctly sweet note of lavender. The aromas are so complex and inviting. On the palate this wine shows tight tannins and a glycerin-like mouthfeel, but with the medium acid the wine maintains terrific balance. Flavors of blackberry puree and cranberry sauce mix with a host of earth and animal flavors, loam, graphite, roasted pork and sweet herbs. Notes of smoke and lavender linger on a very long finish. The best Bandol I’ve ever had, and it’s nowhere near the end of its life. 90% mourvèdre and 10% grenache. (94 points)
It's not every day I find a Cotes-du-Rhone that is
widely available, cheap ($12-$15) and seriously good.

2011 Saint-Cosme Côtes du Rhône (France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône)
Aromas of red and black plum, white pepper, crushed rocks and smoked meat. Absolutely beautiful on the nose, and it got more expressive with two hours of air. On the palate, this wine shows strong tannic backbone, balanced by acidic verve throughout. I love the mix of fruit flavors (black cherry, wild raspberry, plum skins) with the earthy and savory flavors of charred meat, white pepper, tobacco leaf, graphite and anise. The mineral components, the length of the finish and the overall complexity give this wine so much more than your basic Cotes-du-Rhone bottle. An unbelievable bargain at $12, this deserves some sort of Screaming Value Award. It also deserves some age, because there’s some serious flavor packed in here. I’ve read that this is 100% syrah, but I’m not 100% sure of that. (90 points)

2007 Domaine La Millière Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes (France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
Aromas of red and black plums, blackberry sauce, mixed in with roasted red pepper and notes of charred earth. After an hour, I started picking up more fig paste and bay leaf. Full-bodied, the tannins aren’t fierce, but they provide decent structure. Medium acid makes this much more balanced than some other CdPs from the hot 2007 vintage (by the way, the alcohol content is listed as 12-14%). Blackberry and raspberry flavors mix with dark chocolate shavings, toasted chestnut, earth and roasted meat. With time, flavors of fig paste and smoke came out. Smooth on the finish. Bold, but for a 2007, this is showing some restraint. I like the toast and earth notes on the finish. A very fine CdP that I’d like to taste again in two years. (90 points)

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