Wines from France are the main feature in this weekend’s Vintages release. Thirteen so-called benchmarks from Alsace, Loire, Burgundy the Rhône valley, Bordeaux and southern France are included in the selection. In this case I think benchmark refers to the appellations, not the wines themselves. A couple of the wines make my recommended list, nonetheless.
This feature is accompanied by two others: Chilean Carmenère and a small selection of Irish Whiskies in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.
Wines from the features figure prominently in my recommendations this week.
France, Alsace – AOC Alsace Grand Cru Turckheim Hengst Gewurztraminer 2007
There are two Alsace Grand Cru wines in this release – very unusual but something to check out. The Grand Cru appellation is reserved for wines made from a set of some 51 vineyards and these wines may be made only from four noble grapes: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer or Muscat. These wines are often off-dry or medium dry and always profit from ageing. This first wine is made by a well-regarded co-op and is an intense, almost unctuous beauty with white flowers, lychee, honey, spice, minerals and smoke on the nose and palate. There is some bright acidity to balance with the residual sugar and the finish long. Serve with spicy, hot Asian foods. Will age for another 7 – 1o years.
Medium dry, white wine – $24.95 per bottle (France feature wine)
France, Alsace – AOC Alsace Grand Cru Joseph Cattin Hatschbourg Pinot Gris 2009
This is a complex, medium-dry wine that punches well above its weight, if price is a measure of weight…yet, another example of the value that Alsace delivers. The nose is rich with citrus, lychee, smoke and spice. The palate is medium in body with melon, honey, lemon, peach and dried fruit flavours. Serve with smoked fishes, creamed cheeses or spicy Asian fare. This wine will go for the next 5 -7 years.
Medium dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle (France feature wine)
France, Southwest – AOC Bergerac Château La Brie prestige 2009
I wanted to describe this wine as a Bordeaux, but corrected myself. Bergerac is as close to being in Bordeaux geographically and from a grape perspective, but it isn’t part of the club. Hence, the amazing price for a wine that is everything a Bordeaux left bank wine could be. This is a wine that will do well with a few more years in the bottle but it has great potential. There is concentrated black fruit, spice, some minerality and bright acid and firm tannins.
Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle
California, Mendocino County – Bonterra Merlot 2008
Made with fruit grown in the cooler confines of Mendocino County this wine is complex, with fine Merlot typicity. There are oodles of dark, concentrated fruit on the nose and palate, accompanied by an appealing earthiness along with vanilla, herbs and spice – a fine Merlot. The finish is long and juicy. It is mature and probably has a few more years in the bottle but don’t expect further development.
Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Organic)
California, Sonoma County – Ridge Three Valleys 2009
Here we have another wine from Ridge, making it two releases in a row…This wine is a blend dominated by Zinfandel with some Carignan, Petite Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre – all there to provide structure and complexity. Made in the well-established understated style developed by founding winemaker, Paul Draper, this wine is not your everyday blockbuster Zin. The alcohol is a modest – for a Zinfandel -14.1%, the fruit is ripe and intense but not overpowering and the structure is sound with zesty acid and round tannins. This is a well-made wine, from a major Sonoma maker, at a very good price.
Extra dry, red wine – $34.95 per bottle
The Collector’s Item this week is a modestly-priced Chilean icon made with Carmenère:
Chile, Colchagua Valley – Montes Purple Angel 2009
Once a part of Bordeaux blends, Carmenère is now the signature grape of Chile. Often mistaken for Merlot because of its low acidity and round tannins, Carmenère has a green pepper character, even when fully ripe, harkening some palates to Cabernet Franc. Confused? You should be, as most blind tasters are when they encounter this grape. In any case this wine is a blend of C. with Petit Verdot which makes a wine of great intensity and complexity not often associated with C. You will find a fragrant nose of black fruit, spice, wet earth and smoke followed by an intense and rich palate, with bright acid and firm tannins. The wine has seen a lot of oak for some 18 months in barrel so there is a good deal of smoke and vanilla which will take some time to recede. Cellar for the next 3 – 5 years.
Extra dry, red wine – $56.95 per bottle (Carmenère feature wine)
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