The theme for this occasion was French wines from the Atlantic coast to the geographical heart of France, in particular the Beaujolais appellation. You can read more about these regions further below in this post. As an indication of the value and appeal of these wines, every wine in this tasting was a "winner" such that no single one stood head and shoulders above the other, each incorporating delightful tasting profiles and reflecting its particular terroir.
I encourage you to seek out wines from these regions at your favorite wine shop, especially the Cru Beaujolais for you red wine lovers. They offer excellent value and quality, and can pair with a wide variety of foods. All wines in this tasting are available at Wine Works in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
1. Domaine de la Pepière Muscadet 2014 (about $14, plus tax)
Varietal: Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)
Classification: Appellation Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie Contrôlée
Production/Tasting Notes: 40 year old vines; organic grapes; natural yeast fermentation; extended lees contact; deep, vibrant bouquet eliciting aromas of lime, green apple; crisp, dry, lemon-tinged; floral & briny scents; tangy citrus and oyster mineral notes across palate; full- bodied for a Muscadet.
Food pairings: quintessential shellfish wine- oysters, clams, mussels; fish, risotto; cheese
12 % Alcohol
- Apud Sariacum Sancerre Domaine Philippe Raimbault 2014 (about $20, plus tax)
Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Classification: Appellation Sancerre Contrôlée
Production/Tasting Notes: Terroir composed of limestone soil, fossilized shellfish; intense mineral flavors, citrus tones, tropical notes; vibrant acidity, crisp, complex. (One of Eric Asimov's “20 under $20” selections)
Food pairings: starters; seafood; sushi; cheese
3. Jean-Paul Brun "Terres Dorées" Morgon 2013 (about $19, plus tax)
Varietal: 100% Gamay
Classification: Appellation Morgon Contrôlée
Production/Tasting Notes: Natural yeast fermentation; aged in Burgundian barrels; granite soil; nose is nicely focused with bright red cherry and wild strawberry fruit; veins of orange zest and citrus lending more vigor; palate is medium-bodied with strong backbone; finish is long and persistent. (93 points, Wine Advocate)
Food Pairings: breast of duckling; poultry;charcuterie; pizza
- Domaine Filliatreau “La Grande Vignolle” Saumur-Champigny 2012 (about $20, plus tax)
Varietals: 100% Cabernet Franc
Classification: Appellation Saumur-Champigny Contrôlée
Production/Tasting Notes: Organic; terroir is tuffeau (tufa-stone) outcrop, limestone; fermentation in stainless steel; unfiltered; rich, mouth-filling with ripe flavors of red fruit laced with an undercurrent of minerality; touch of tobacco, earth; excellent aging potential
Food pairings: burgers, salmon; artisan pizza, savory crepes
- Bernard Baudry “Le Clos Guillot” Chinon 2012 (about $30, plus tax)
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes: Terroir: limestone, clay (argilo-calcaire) with stones and underlying sand; no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Fermented 15 days in in wooden vats with regular pigeages (French term for "punching down or stomping" the grape/juice mixture). Aged in barrels that have seen 2 to 5 vintages for 12 months. Hand harvested; unfiltered; bright, energetic, sheer sap belies young vine; bittersweet floral notes; persistent ripe blackberry, walnut oil, savory minerality; good for aging up to 10 years.
Food Pairings: Roast chicken, roasted lamb; braised veal
Beaujolais: Misconstrued and Misunderstood
Overshadowed by its Burgundian cousins to the north, Beaujolais is often dismissed as “not serious” and lacking the gravitas of a great wine, and, in the US, it is generally misconstrued as “Beaujolais nouveau”, that frilly, frivolous, fruity wine which is produced, bottled and released just weeks after its harvest. “Serious” Beaujolais actually comes in three distinct types or classifications:
- Beaujolais: the region's most basic, least expensive, light-bodied, fruity wine
- Beaujolais-Villages: middle category that offers great value with a slightly fuller body and more fruit intensity, produced within 39 selected communes
- Beaujolais cru: top category from 10 different villages that are also the appellations, including Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St.-Amour
Other factoids about Beaujolais:
- Only the Gamay grape is permitted to be used, and accounts for 98% of all plantings
- The Gamay grape thrives in the stony, granite-based soil
- Carbonic maceration is used to vinify grapes, that is, grapes are not pressed, but loaded on top of each other in full bunches and allowed to ferment inside their skins, reducing tannins and intensifying the fruit and perfume
- The 10 Beaujolais crus have individual styles, are more perfumed, luscious, concentrated and more complete and complex
Factoids about Loire Valley and its Wines
- Loire Valley wine producers are at the forefront of the natural or biodynamic movement which uses minimalist techniques to make wine.
- The largest wine region in France, the Loire Valley extends from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in the Nantais to the central regions of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé through the heart of the famed Châteaux of the Loire
- The Loire River runs 625 miles
- If not for the River, vineyards could not likely grow well so far north
- There are over 60 different appellations in the Loire Valley ranging in style from bone-dry to intensely sweet, including some excellent pétillants (sparkling wines)
- Crémant de Loire and Vouvray pétillant are the sparkling wines of the region made from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc
- The Sancerrois is home to the best Sauvignon Blanc from villages such as Sancerre, Pouilly, Quincy, Menetou-salon and Reuilly
Common Grape Varieties of the Loire Valley
CHENIN BLANC – Vinified for wines ranging from dry to sweet, from still to bubbly. Predominant grape of Vouvray whites
SAUVIGNON BLANC – Principal grape of the famed Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé AOCs
MUSCADET (alias MELON de BOURGOGNE); THE grape of the Nantais region, renowned for its pairing with shellfish, especially oysters, and seafood.
CABERNET FRANC – The workhorse red grape of the Loire; if it's a red wine from the Loire, it's most likely Cabernet Franc.
Other reds grown in the Loire: Cot (Malbec), Gamay, Pinot Noir, Pineau d'Aunis, Grolleau