D&R (GAEC) Vernay 1998 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Feral and yet weirdly elegant, like some jungle primitive dressed up in a tuxedo and somehow making it work. Except the tux is made of meat. And I guess a from-left-field elegance isn’t all that unusual for a Côte-Rôtie. The “fruit” (the scare quotes are always necessary in this appellation) is a dark and dried berry residue stomped by herds of somewhat leaky cattle, violets in the barnyard, and some leather as well. It’s a little chunky and obvious, but it is full of typicity, and that’s not someone one can always say about wines from here. (8/07)
Delas Frères 1997 Côte-Rôtie “Seigneur de Maugiron” (Rhône) – Silky, though a bit obvious in its play for affection, with meat powder and a big, somewhat bewildering spike in the middle. The finish is short. And is that wood, or just syrah’s famous faux-oakiness? Whatever it is, it grows more prominent with air. (4/08)
Ogier 2000 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Corked. (4/08)
Jasmin 1996 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Subtle and pretty, as is Jasmin’s wont, with very smooth, supple, softened meat-stone “fruit” and delicate dustings of thyme, lavender and dried mushroom. It’s long, but a large part of that length is one solid, pure note. I think more time will bring forth additional complexities, but it’s a most affable dinner companion right now. (10/07)
Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. These were difficult tasting conditions, where speed and distraction were the norm rather than the exception. Thus, notes are brief at best, somewhat superficial, and cannot in truth be otherwise.
(Unless otherwise noted, the wines are red.)
Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (Rhône) – Very shy but clean, showing stone fruit and cement. Too light, despite the road-building material. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2006 Lirac Blanc (Rhône) – Flowers and freshly-cut apricot and peach. Pretty. There’s something so appealing about fresh, fruity and young white Rhônes. It’s only later that they become controversial. (2/07)
Guigal 2005 Condrieu (Rhône) – Floral (of course), in that intensely aromatic way that makes partisans and enemies in equal measure. Honey-drizzled nuts (though the wine is quite dry), spice, and a lightly drying skin tone. Nice. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Ermitage (Hermitage) Blanc “Ex Voto” (Rhône) – One of the single most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth (other than bacteriological disasters), with the nastiest possible raw wood and dill comprising the pathetic whole of this dreck. This is horrid. This is absolute crap. This is a macabre parody of liquid evil. This is an abomination against good taste. This wine should be destroyed for the good of the planet. I didn’t care for it. (2/07)
Guigal 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé (Rhône) – Raspberry, bubblegum and pink peppercorns. This is nicely balanced. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Tavel (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum pie (if one can imagine such a thing) with a sugary feeling to the palate and finish. Just a little too desserty for its own good. (2/07)
Avril Vin de Table “Le petit vin d’Avril” (France) – Sharp, direct raspberry. Acidic and short. This is a wine I want to like, but even its desperate cry for food might not bring it back into balance. (2/07)
Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Vin de Pays des Côteaux de l’Ardèche “Marselan” (Ardèche) – Very aromatic, showing big flowers and boisterous raspberry blossoms. Nice. While there’s some structure, this is mostly about fun. (2/07)
Diffonty “Domaine de Brès Caseneuve” 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc (Languedoc) – Dark plum, black licorice and bubblegum. Rough but balanced, with a bit of sourness that somehow seems oak-derived. This has a future, but I worry about that sour note. (2/07)
Decouvertes & Selections “Domaine des Rozets” 2004 Côteaux du Tricastin (Rhône) – Gentle strawberry, raspberry and light bubblegum with a short, countrified finish. Eh. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Plum, bubblegum, leather and a drying anise quality that coarsens into a brutish finish. It will probably improve with a little age, however. (2/07)
Guigal 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Fresh strawberry and red cherry. Very upfront, yet there’s a little bit of structure as well. A fair value wine. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Tannic and hard. There’s a little softening in the midpalate, but this is a perfect exemple of the vintage’s too-common flaw. (2/07)
Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Sour cherry and dill, with some other herbs floating around in the background. Next. (2/07)
Dorthe “Domaine de Couron” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône (Rhône) – Strawberry and sand with a light structure. There’s a lot of minerality bubbling underneath, here. Not bad. (2/07)
Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages (Rhône) – A gorgeous nose, full of sweetly rich, ripe red/purple fruit. However, it falls completely apart after that, leaving a dry, dead palate and hard finish. Very disappointing. (2/07)
Lafond 2004 Lirac “La Ferme Romaine” (Rhône) – Soft at the edges, but with a core of plum, blueberry syrup, raspberry liqueur and strongly floral notes. Thick coffee and vanilla round out the finish. It’s good, though it grows increasingly internationalized as it persists, and I suspect the temptation to smooth it out with new oak is one that might better have been limited. (2/07)
Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2004 Lirac (Rhône) – Big black coffee and plum with raspberry liqueur. This is obviously a “lesser” wine than the Ferme Romaine, and yet I think it’s both better and has a more promising future. (2/07)
Guigal 2004 Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône) – Thing and insubstantial, showing faded leather and little else. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 St-Joseph (Rhône) – Blackberry and some vegetal notes. Simultaneously light and hard, which is not the most pleasant combination. (2/07)
Stehelin 2004 Gigondas (Rhône) – Heavy and strong, with black earth, asphalt and thick, licorice-like fruit running from dark purple to black. Structured and pure, and very, very impressive. Lovers of sheer size above all else will want to drink it now, but everyone else should let it age. (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Gigondas (Rhône) – A great nose of strawberry seed, licorice and dark earth. It’s massively, overwhelmingly tannic (no surprise), with a hard, drying finish. Almost… (2/07)
Guigal 2003 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Rough and hard, with tannin running roughshod over strawberry seed and horse-scented leather. Not bad, considering the challenges, but not that great either. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Soft and acrid, with better-constituted elements drawn forth on the finish: graphite and asphalt. I suspect this might be somewhat closed, but I also think it might be fundamentally frayed. (2/07)
Guigal “Château d’Ampuis” 2003 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Big, ripe black fruit and herbs with an earthy, mixed-nut underbelly. Despite the size, there’s an appealing softness and unquestionable balance here. A very good wine. (2/07)
Guigal 2001 Hermitage (Rhône) – Structured graphite with a fierce aspect…yet there’s balance, albeit the wine is just edging towards acid-dominance, with atypical raspberry and red apple apparent on the finish. An odd wine. Perhaps partially closed? (2/07)
Jasmin 2001 Côte-Rôtie (Rhône) – Elegant violet-studded pork, with far too much soft-bodied restraint…though the finish lingers on and on, showing a gentle persistence of absence. The next day, it tastes like nothing. The day after that, it’s the void incarnate, actually removing existing tastes from the palate. The most logical conclusion is that it’s impenetrably closed, and while there are a few nice elements that can be teased into revelation, there seems little point in drinking this now. Let it age in the manner it deserves. (2/07)
Yalumba “Y Series” 2005 Viognier (South Australia) – Simple, relatively clean stone fruit with floral enhancements. It lacks exoticism and complexity, but neither is it heavy. A decent wine. (8/06)
Viognier’s appeal lies in its overtly floral, honeysuckle-and-peach fruit…but to achieve these qualities, it’s often necessary to let the fruit hang, which leads to its most significant problem: high alcohol, lending any resulting wine a heavy, ponderous texture. Unfortunately, it’s a rare site and winemaker than can avoid the latter while achieving the former. Thankfully, the wine is at least pleasant when presented in its less ripe form…as long as it’s not buried in new wood, which this wine is not. Alcohol: 14.5%. Closure: screwcap. Web: http://www.yalumba.com/.
Cane 2004 Dolceacqua “Superiore” Vigneto Arcagna (Liguria) – Compelling but slightly harsh red fruit, tarted up by sour cherry acid and wet bark, but stuffed with fruit dust aromatics. It’s a particular, almost dying sort of style that might not find purchase in our modern world…but with higher acid food, it really shines. People tend to decry the existence of “food wines,” but this – properly paired – is the sort of thing that makes them look foolish. (8/06)
This is made from rossese grown west of Genoa, right up against the French border. Ligurian wines don’t make much, if any, impact on the international marketplace – even the fame of Cinque Terre can’t change that – so it’s interesting to see this on local shelves. The internationalization of wine works its nefariousness in two ways: by forcing wines of this type into new wood and smoothing textural deformations, and by keeping wines of this type out of the marketplace entirely. But this…this is what wine used to taste like. Not a cocktail, but a partner at the table. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Adonna.
Texier 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème (Rhône) – Extremely sweaty leather and beef juice with sun-charred rocks and spiky, jarring acidity. It smells terrific, but the acid – even when one is expecting it, which anyone familiar with this wine should be – is occasionally shocking. Still, it appears to have reached some sort of peak, and with the inconsistencies introduced by its synthetic cork I wouldn’t dare hold it any longer. (8/06)
100% syrah. Texier’s Brézème is the only wine from this site that I’ve tasted, though I’ve been led to believe that high acidity is a site characteristic. It’s certainly jarring, and definitely not for everyone…even acid-lovers like myself. With the right food – something higher-acid than the normal syrah fare, perhaps game or a roast with onions or tomatoes in the mix, or why not lamb in a Greek-style avgolemono sauce? – things improve quite a bit. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM. Web: http://www.adonkeyandgoat.com/texier/.
Guigal 2000 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde (Rhône) – Solid and dependable, showing mild animalistic funk smoothed over by dark, earthy, baritone fruit and a few alto incursions of blackberry residue. Everything is very strictly in place here, and the wine is aging nicely, but one perhaps wishes for a bit more verve, and certainly for a good deal more aromatic enticement. Nitpicking, I know. (8/06)
96% syrah, 4% viognier. Guigal, long a dependable producer of representative wines (aside from their expensive and frequently overwooded luxury cuvées), goes through ups and downs. Lately, they’re on a definite upswing, with qualitative improvements obvious almost across the board. Name the appellation and there’s certainly a “better” example, but the wines are once more steady-handed representatives of their terroir. (Note, though, the usual caveat: be wary of 2002/2003 wines, which are difficult for different reasons.) Closure: cork. Importer: Ex Cellars. Web: http://www.guigal.com/.
Milan Champagne Sec “Grand Cru” Blanc de Blancs “Tendresse” (Champagne) – Lightly sweet melon and yellow raspberry, gently oscillating in a dish of pure, sweet sunlight. There are hints of complexing minerality here, but this is really one of the nicer sweet Champagnes I’ve ever tasted. (8/06)
100% chardonnay. Despite the literal translation of the word, “sec” in terms of Champagne means relatively sweet. Though it’s often-rumored (and occasionally confirmed) that Champagne houses sweeten all their cuvées for the American market – because after all, you’ll never go broke selling sugar to Americans – categories other than brut (dry) and extra-dry (slightly less dry…yeah, yeah, go figure) are exceedingly rare in the States. This is probably because Americans like to think they’re drinking dry, even when they prefer sweet. (If you think about it, this is the same concept behind Starbucks and Trojan eschewing anything labeled “small.”) It’s too bad, too, because I think this wine would be very, very popular in the States, if people would only try it. Closure: cork. Importer: Theise/Skurnik. Web: http://www.champagne-milan.com/.