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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Trevallon, 3 Years of Blogging, & Some Strange Descriptors

It’s still really cold, so I’m by the fireplace tonight with Cotes du Rhone and Jacques Pepin and Julia Child on in the background.  This winter has brought some wonderful wines my way - and as I’ve mentioned via Facebook, Twitter, and probably Instagram, I’ve been working (over some time) on a collection of both Domaine Tempier La Tourtine and Domaine de Trevallon, both exquisite producers from Provence.  This past weekend, I got to open a bottle which was a recent find - the 2000 vintage of Trevallon, and I’m happy to report that all of the excitement I felt before opening the bottle was well founded.

I should also mention before getting into the blog post that Champagne Taste turned 3 years old this month!  Thanks for reading my wine ramblings (and also my food ramblings via Champagne Taste’s younger sibling, Here, Taste This!).  It’s been fun sharing my tasting notes and more recently my wine philosophy and thoughts with you.

Anyway, I think that telling you about the experience with Trevallon might help you understand the other thing I’ll touch on - my “strange” wine descriptors.

So about the Trevallon - big reds from Provence (often made from Mourvedre if it’s from Bandol, like Tempier) can be a little too much on the palate if they’re opened too young.  It’s why I like holding the bottles quite some time.  Trevallon is a little different - it’s about 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. But it needs to be enjoyed once it’s been waiting a little while in the bottle.  So I happened upon some vintage 2000 and bought it, and opened it this past weekend.  It’s still quite a big wine but it’s softened and on the elegant side now - clean and lovely.  It’s still a dark red in the glass but with a brickish rim to show its age a bit, and the aromas and flavors were fascinating - plenty of red fruit (and a touch of dark fruit) including red plum skin and wild berry, autumn baking spices, savory herbs, dried petals, olive, and (drumroll please) pastrami sandwich.  Yes, I said it.  Why pastrami?  Well, it had the ground black pepper notes of the Syrah that you find with pastrami, the seeds in the rye bread with the savory yet somewhat baking spice sort of thing, and the salty almost briny meat.  (I even told my boyfriend as we drank it, it reminds me of pastrami, and fortunately for me, he didn’t tell me I was completely crazy.)  The wine is elegant and soft at this age, with a lovely finish.  It still has a warmth about it, but it’s nicely balanced.  I can honestly say that it pays to be patient with your wines, and the ones that need to age a while - well, let them age as long as they need to.

And now, regarding strange descriptors for wine...apparently I’m a bit notorious with this.  I come up with tasting notes that surprise even industry veterans (perhaps you’ve heard my story about the nosebleeds that plague me, and how I’m sometimes turned off by a Rioja that has too much iron minerality toward its finish because of the sanguine characteristic?) - anyway the Trevallon reminded me a bit of a pastrami sandwich.  It’s ok to let the wines speak to you and remind you of just about anything you’ve smelled or tasted at some point - it’ll help you understand the characteristics of the grapes and the soils and climates.  So whatever you smell or taste, take note of it, no matter now peculiar it may seem.  (And I’m also a believer in assigning personalities to the wines, but that’s another story!)

Saturday, January 18, 2014


I enjoy pouring wine tastings.  Even when I’m pouring somewhere other than my regular Friday gig, if someone asks me something ridiculous or takes a cheap shot at a wine I’m showing for no legitimate reason, or gets drunk at a grand tasting on the 100+ wines being shown, etc. - I still enjoy pouring most tastings.  That’s no secret.

The other thing that’s no secret, particularly to those who know me (and my palate) or who read my blog with some regularity - the other non-secret is that I’m a Sud-Ouest wine devotee.  I love those wines.  They’re so honest and expressive and delicious.

That said, something I noticed, especially when I’m pouring some of my tastings, is this...

If I say Malbec, what’s the first word to come to your head?
Malbec based wine from Cahors, France

If you said Argentina, ok, I understand and to an extent I agree, but being a Francophile and lover of wines from Sud-Ouest, unfortunately you’d probably get a bop on the head from me if you did indeed say Argentina.


Well, Malbec isn’t originally from Argentina.

Think of it this way.

I live in New York.  Not to brag, but lots of people want to live in New York.  So plenty of people move to New York, from other parts of the United States and other parts of the world.  If someone moves here from elsewhere, do you think that now that he lives in New York, he’s suddenly going to worship the Yankees, automatically know how to fold a slice of pizza correctly, and understand the subway system overnight?  Doubtful.  And for good reason - he’s a transplant.  He’s not a native New Yorker.

Malbec is not Argentinean.  I repeat - Malbec is not Argentinean.  He’s French.  And I’m not just saying that because I have a special devotion to French wine.  The truth is, Malbec is French.  He’s as French as the Eiffel Tower, Cassoulet, and Louis Vuitton.

I pour a Cahors at lots of wine tastings.  People in attendance look at the label and see Malbec clearly printed on the label.  As I go through my spiel, I mention that it’s a Malbec FROM FRANCE.  And people look at me and say, “Malbec from France?  Are you sure it’s not from Argentina?  Because Malbec is from Argentina, and I’ve never heard of a Malbec from France.”

Ok, for starters, I represent this portfolio, so yes, I know this wine, and yes, I’m sure it’s from France.  And another thing - you’re wrong.  Malbec isn’t from Argentina.  It’s from France.  It just happens to grow well in Argentina and the winemakers in places like Mendoza have been quite successful in producing Malbec based wines.  But Argentinean Malbec isn’t quite the same as the original French Malbec.  It doesn’t have the same characteristics.

And that makes sense.  A person from Boston moves to New York.  He eventually learns to fold the pizza correctly, bagels become his regular breakfast, and Chinese food becomes his midnight snack.  He learns when to take the 123 and when to take the NQR.  He learns never to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  And he embraces Billy Joel.  But in all likelihood, however, he never learns to love the Yankees or any of our other teams.  It’s because he’s technically Bostonian.  But he sure can thrive and become quite successful after his move to New York.  And aside from his accent and his Red Sox hat, he appears like a New Yorker.

Malbec is from France.  Whether his origins are northern Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Cahors (in Sud-Ouest) is somewhat disputed, but he’s definitely from France.  Some time later, probably around the mid-1800s, Malbec arrived in Argentina.  Over time, winemakers discovered the potential for success in Argentinean wine regions, and Malbec from Argentina has become very popular, while French Malbec has diminished in popularity.

Malbec from Argentina is round and rich and luscious with characteristics of stewed blueberry, dark chocolate, and purple blossoms.  Malbec from France (oftentimes Cahors but sometimes Bordeaux or Loire) is drier and shows characteristics of more tart fruit, leather, and savory herbs.

My point is, Argentinean Malbec has its own unique style, but it’s not the original Malbec.  So it’s completely ok if you had never tasted a French Malbec until you had it at one of my tastings.  Just trust me when I tell you that French Malbec is the original Malbec.  And Malbec from Argentina, I agree, can be absolutely wonderful.  But try to remember who Malbec really is, and that, much like many other grapes grown around the world - well, he’s actually from France.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year’s Eve 2013-2014

My mood, for some reason, definitely calls for some of my favorite French songs today - and right now it’s a duet by Francoise Hardy and Etienne Daho, and I could listen to this song over and over (in fact, sometimes I do).  It’s something I love listening to when times are good.

I’m so glad the holiday season is over at last and it’s time to return to normalcy - eating healthier, more time for exercise, working on some of my wine resolutions (that’s probably going to get some coverage this year, because I chose some good ones - I’ll tell you about them), and just getting back on track.  Christmas can be wonderful but most of us I’m sure can agree that it can be a stressful and insanely busy time of year.  I’ve got some really fun wine events to look forward to in the near future which I’ll tell you all about when I attend them.

Anyway, the New Year’s resolutions pertaining to wine are these:
(1) I’m going to invest plenty of time into exploring German wines.  I’ve been enjoying good quality German wines for the past couple of years now, but as more are becoming available and I’ve been liking them more and more, I’ve decided it would be a good idea to learn as much about them as I can.  They’re just so pure and expressive and delicious and fascinating to me, I can’t help but want to make them a bigger part of my wine racks (which are almost exclusively French at this point, and some Italian, and not much else).
(2) I need to spend some more time on Tuscany.  I’m always having fun learning more about wines form Sicily, Sardegna, Campagna, Basilicata, Puglia, and of course Piemonte, and lately it feels like I spend almost no time on Tuscany.  Strange?  Yes.
(3) I’m currently searching for good quality Rioja, but there’s a catch - I tend to get nosebleeds very often and always have.  And I don’t care much for big, huge, bold wines.  So I need really well balanced Rioja that shows more soil type in its mineral notes other than just iron overload.  When I get to the finish of a taste of Rioja and only sense the iron, it tastes an awful lot like a bloody nose.
(4) Champagne is expensive.  It’s really good and I love snooping around for grower Champagnes, but right now I’m curious to hunt down some fun Cremant from all around France that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and still shows really well and varies tremendously based on grape and region.  Who wouldn’t love fun, good quality, inexpensive bubbles from France, anyway?
(5) I will freely admit that in terms of wine (and in terms of other things too), I’m a europhile.  I love the Old World way of doing things, especially wine - I have a special devotion to South West France, as you already know by now I’m sure, and I drink mostly French wines.  I also drink plenty of Italian wine, I’ve been spending more time on Germany and Austria, and occasionally Spanish, Portuguese, and when I can find some, Croatian.  And now I think it’s time I spend a little more energy on finding some great American wines from small producers.  I don’t want that overextracted, concentrated, big stuff at 14.9% alcohol - no, not that.  I’m talking about expressive, terroir driven American wines.  I told a friend recently that my concern with many American wines (aside from price and in many cases quality) is actually that when I talk to someone in the American wine industry, the winery brags about who its winemaker is.  In a place such as Burgundy (just an example), the domaine would rather brag about which vineyard they sourced their grapes from.  That’s because you should be able to identify the wine by its grape and region, its own identity, and not the identity of its winemaker.  At least that’s the way I see it.  So I’d like to find more than just a few American wines whose producers embrace the terroir/grape type/identity of the wine, and allow the wine to tell its own story.

Enough about resolutions.  How about - what did we drink on New Year’s Eve?  (And I’d love to hear what you drank too!)

The 1999 Salon Le Mesnil was lovely.  It was my first experience with Salon actually.  I’ve eyed bottles of it year in and year out in Champagne sections of good wine shops, but it was finally time.  The soft golden hue of the wine and the beautiful bubbles were so perfect.  The aromas and flavors differed from each other - the aromas reflected an almost honeyed and toasted characteristic, some mature floral notes and a touch of Madagascar vanilla, and caramelized apple.  On the palate, it was more zesty and lively, while still majestic and slightly reserved.  It was the kind of Champagne that you need to allow to approach you on its own terms, in subtle layers of aroma and flavor and texture, and reflect on it throughout the experience, lest you forget the subtleties as each stage and layer of the Champagne comes and goes.

The 2007 Roederer Rose was great - it’s a bright salmon pink color and bursts in the glass.  It’s energetic and electric in its personality, with plenty of acidity that certainly woke my palate up late in the evening (check out the blurry photo and you’ll have a better idea of how much fun I had) - and a bright and fun Champagne like this is a great pairing with - go figure - the New Year’s Honeymooners Marathon.  Yes.  Anyway, there’s plenty of white citrus and lemon, tart red berry, barely ripened strawberry, and some green apple in the nose and palate with this Champagne, it’s mouthwatering, and it’s just a fun yet sophisticated bubbly wine from a very dependable producer.  What’s not to love?

Cheers to 2014 and all the fun wines it brings!