Tag Archives: France

Pascal Bouchard Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010

pascal-bouchard-fourchaume

France, $54 

The greatest white wine in the world has been announced! Well, announced by me, but still. Last week the Chablis gang was in town and I couldn’t have been more excited had the Beatles gotten back together (maybe a little more surprised I suppose). The fact is that notwithstanding my excitement at tasting new wines from new regions, the honest truth is that no white wine region is closer to my heart in Chablis. It’s beautiful, it’s hellishly hard to grow grapes there (it gets so cold that they will often water the grapes so the water will freeze and forma protective barrier) and the wines that come out are a relative bargain given all the factors they deal with. You can get a basic Chablis for $25—cheaper than any California Chardonnay with any sort of connection to an identifiable plot of land—a Premier Cru starting at about $40 and a Grand Cru at about $75 (and up). And for that money you get the purest most nuanced handling of the Chardonnay grape in the world. I’m choosing a wonderful Premier Cru from Pascal Bouchard from the Fourchaume vineyard (there are 89 Premier Crus and I don’t pretend to know the difference between all of them) and it sees some time with some used oak, enough to impart some structure but not make it okay by any stretch. Instead you get a wave a crisp, green apples, both fresh and serious with asmall linger of white fruit. What a wine, what a region.

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Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante Alouette

hermitage-blancFrance, $76

Michel Chapoutier has become one of the giants of the wine world and his early and large-scale adoption of biodynamics in winemaking is like Nixon in China big for the wine industry. What’s amazing about Chapoutier is that they’ve been able to bring such artisanal quality control to an enourmous wine operation. You’ll be reading a lot about him in the coming month—he’s what amount to the keynote speaker at be this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival—but unlike other titans, there’s a Chapoutier wine whether you’re spending $15 or $750. Try asking for a $15 wine from Angelo Gaja and see how far you get.

Choosing a wine to highlight here is a trick—there’s just so many worthy candidates. For me it comes down to the question: what do you look for in a wine? It’s a simple question that elicits answers that anything but. Usually it’s some combination of taste, value, prestige, but when it comes right down to it, there an x-factor that I’m looking for, that frisson of excitement as to what is to come when the cork (or cap) comes off. This week’s wine has that spark in spades. Hermitage is one of the benchmark wines of the Rhone, but Hermitage Blanc (its pale-complexioned brethren, hardly gets any notice). Not a lot of it is made and the stuff that is is relatively expensive. But what you get in this bottle is something you don’t get elsewhere—an amazing amalgam of a waxy texture cut with citrus notes, and more than any wine I can recall, a pure expression of quince. It works well in winter—this is the antithesis of a patio wine in the very best sense.

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Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Millesime 2002

pierre-paillandFrance, $79

I appreciate that the first newsletter of 2014 should probably start on a more affordable, approachable note—but let’s save that for next week. This week I want to brag about great bottles enjoyed over the holidays. Like vintage Italian sports cars, aged Champagne is one of those things that’s equally enchanting and generally unattainable. And while there’s no denying the charm of a bottle of the recent release from one of the prestige houses, it’s also true that Cremant from France or Cava from Spain offer a pretty excellent facsimile of the experience at a fraction of the cost. There’s no replicating the taste of aged champagne—the yeasty, toasty, soul warming yellow-hued glow that replace the zip and freshness after a few years simply doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Champagne. The downside: You can imagine the costs of buying a bottle of Dom Perignon—which hovers around $200+ on release— that’s been aged. Crazy. Expensive. But for New Year’s my brother-in-law Clarke showed up with the above bottle. Small producer, great pedigree, 12 years of bottle age. It was amazing with a gorgeous deep golden hue and a long rich finish. I wasn’t familiar with the bottle, so I had the good grace to wait until Clarke left to look up the price, which at $79 isn’t cheap, but it’s a bargain for all these elements coming together in one bottle.

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Taittinger Nocturne Series

France, $90

 

There’s no wine I’m more conflicted by than true French Champagne. On the one hand, it’s by definition expensive and its creation doesn’t follow the rules of vintage and terrior that we expect from everybody else. On the other hand, there’s nothing more exciting than getting a bottle of great champagne as a gift. And choosing your brand is no small choice. In this way it has more in common with cars and fashion that it does with other wine. Are you a BMW or a Bentley person, Boss or Zegna, Dom or Cristal? My personal choice was birthed by two occasions—the privatization of liquor stores in Alberta in the early 90s which made it, for a while, one of the cheapest places to buy Champagne in the world. And my childhood love of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Forget what you see in the movies —especially the Roger Moore ones—James Bond drank Taittinger.

Can one man be so shallow you ask? Sort of. I love drinking other brands too, Krug and Veuve Le Grand Dame are also faves, but if you ask me what brand I identify with the most its Taittinger. So how happy am I that we now have these two new bottles just in time for Christmas? The Nocturne Rose for BC and the Sec for Alberta. Both have the same blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier but the rose gets an extra shot of red to get the rose colour (Champagne’s unique way of making rose). Both have been laid down for four year, and let’s be honest, both pretty much say it’s time to celebrate now at a fraction of the price of an Aston Martin.

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2011 Romain Duverny Vacqueyras

France, $26

I hate how much we have to pay for wine in Canada—we call a bottle under $15 a “bargain” wine. But it’s not all hopeless. In the midst of our rough misery there diamonds, like this week’s wine. It sort of has everything you want. For starters, it’s priced less here than it is in most states. If you’re the type who loves high scores (which, if we’re being honest, is 98% of us) Parker has given the last two vintages 93 & 91 pts respectively. And it looks great—a beautifully understated label married to a substantial bottle. And I’m not sure there’s a wine I like ordering more, by which I mean actually saying the name than Vacqueyras. “I’ll have the Vah keh rahs.” Only its neighbor, Gigondas, holds a candle to it, linguistically speaking.

And then finally, there’s the wine, a Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre joint venture. It’s heavy duty. Big and brawny, with dark licorice and black cherries. It’s juicy without being sweet and could handle being open for three days without wilting.

In short it’s a bottle that says all is not lost BC and Alberta wine lovers.

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Jeffalin Aligoté 2008

Jeffalin Aligote

France, $19

Classic white Burgundy–by which I mean Corton–Charlamagne‚ Meursault‚ Montrachet–is not my first choice for a summer wine. It’s too rich for the ice bucket and it costs too much to let me relax on a patio when it’s around. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the region entirely when the weather gets balmy. There’s Chablis, which at premier cru level and below is a great summer wine, although the price is still rarified. There’s the Sauvignon Blanc–based St. Bris, but it’s tough to find. And then there’s Aligoté, the white–headed stepchild of Burgundy. The Aligoté grape is like Chardonnay’s little brother: it’s lighter, it usually has more acid and it not meant for aging–all of which make it perfect for summer. This Jaffelin is widely available–it likely the only Aligoté you’ll be able to track down. Don’t expect the easy, approachable tropical fruits of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc–from start to finish this wine is resolutely old world with restrained palate of citrus and green melon and a solid core of acidity. It’s lively and unique and, at under $20, a great opportunity to explore the uniqueness of Burgundy without cashing in your kids’ RESPs..

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Louis Jadot Combes Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages 2010

Louis Jadot Combes Aux Jacques Beaujolais Villages 2010

France, $20

We’ve just finished a multi-page survey of all that is great in Burgundy (look for it in our June Issue) and this week’s selection riffs of that. Beaujolais—and in particular Cru Beaujolais that come from one of 10 designated areas—have been all the rage with sommeliers in the past few years.

But while there are some stars out there, sadly my experience is that given the high prices (often in the $40 range) they attract in Canada, I’d rather spend my money elsewhere—like two bottles of this exquisite bottle from Jadot.

It’s a category down from Cru, Beaujolais Villages, but who cares when you get this fresh, balanced wine with floral and
strawberry notes?

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