The Veritas Studio Wine Club
July 2016 – French Wines
Last month we focused on the great and sometimes rare varietals of
Italy, where you can find 100s of grapes used commercially for wine.
This is one of the reasons we love Italian wine so much, is that you’re
likely drinking a wine from a grape that has been vinified in that region
for 100s if not 1000s of years. We now turn our attention to Italy’s
neighbor to the West – France. France is not immune to the odd grape
variety indigenous to a specific place – but what we love about
France, is her love for noble varietals. These are the grapes that are
grown and used for wine production around the world, but are often
best in France. And unlike Italy – where you only find certain grapes in
certain areas, you can find the same grape in many areas in France
and used beautifully.
The trouble with the French wine industry and perhaps the French
themselves, is they don’t like to disclose too much on the label – why?
Because you’re supposed to know! If I say BORDEAUX – you should
know what that means. Likewise, Burgundy, Champagne or specific
towns in Loire. You’re supposed to know – and if you don’t – well, then
you’re likely American, or at the very least, not French. Regardless of
this snobbery, don’t turn your nose up at these bottles.
FRANCE – WHERE NOBLE VARIETALS REIGN!
Chateau Coulonge, Entre Deux Mers, Bordeaux Blanc, Khalkhal-Pamies, Kalys, Minervois, Domaine du Jas D’Esclans, Rouge, Provence, Bordeaux Provence Minervois
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape thought to have originated
in Bordeaux, but some believe it comes from Loire. Though likely more
famous in Loire for making Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and the like, it is a
well-established grape in Bordeaux. Most people think of Bordeaux in
terms of Red Wine – but the whites are nothing to turn your back on. In
most cases, these whites – or Bordeaux Blanc Sec – offer up big value
for what you’re getting in the bottle. Sauvignon Blanc is often blended
here with Semillon and of course, made into the greatest sweet wine in
the world – Sauternes. Sauvignon Blanc can be found throughout
France including the Southwest, the Rhone and even in Burgundy,
where it is permitted in a single village – Saint Bris. The style ranges
across the country – from flinty to fruity to funky – you will find and enjoy
Sauvignon Blanc in all of it’s forms from around this great wine country.
Chateau Coulonge, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, Entre Deux Mers.
Bordeaux Blanc, 2013
Chateau Coulonge has been around since 1802, but the Benauge
family have been working these fields and making wine for three
generations. More specifically, this estate is located in Entre Deux Mers,
or Between Two Seas – where they make elegant, lighter wines then
their more prestigious neighbors like Marguax, St. Julien and Pomerol.
The area is not bound by two seas, but rather two rivers – the Garonne
and the Dordogne. Historically the region has been best known for it’s
white wine production, but red wine has gained in popularity in the last
decades. This wine is fresh, and just fruity – lean and clean. Expect slight
citrus notes with raw almonds and sweet herbs. Crisp, but not flinty like
Sancerre, these wines are great paring with fish, but perfectly suited as
an aperitif. Very elegant in style – you could easily put a bottle of this
down by yourself.
Grenache is another noble varietal you can find in many places
around France, but more often then not – it is found in the South along
the Mediterranean Sea and north through the Rhone Valley. The grape
can also be found in abundance in Spain, Australia and the US – but
basically anywhere where you have a long growing season and hot
weather. Generally Grenache holds berry flavors and soft on the palate
and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs
careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavor profiles on
Grenache include red fruit flavors (raspberry and strawberry) with a
subtle, white pepper spice note. Here, as it often is, it is paired with two
good friends – Syrah and Cinsault in equal amounts. (Syrah also being a
Noble Varietal). It is a fantastic grape and plays a starring role in many
of the most famous wines in the world including Châteauneuf-du-Pape,
Priorat and Barossa Valley bottlings.
Domaine Du Jas D’Esclans, Cru Classé, Rouge, Provence, 2013
Domaine du Jas D’Esclans has been in existence since the 13th Century
and producing wine since the 19th Century. Since 1955, the Domaine is
one of a handful of Cru Classé domaine in Provence, meaning it has
consistently produced some of the best wines – which of course
includes a rosé wine as well. For the last 30 years, the estate has been
run completely organically and is certified ECOCERT. This is a fantastic
little wine showing lots of strength and power. This is actually the byproduct of the Domaine’s rose wine production leaving behind an
assertive wine, but one with lots of subtleness. Think black plum,
blackberry, red tea and ramble – just slightly wound up – this wine gives
way when accompanied by food. Not tannic – this can pair well with
seafood dishes like tuna, mackerel, salmon, but probably best with a
tomato-based dishes and lighter stews
Carignan though not as well knows as some other Noble grapes it is
nonetheless on the list and can be found all over. A bit difficult to
pronounce, the grape, like it’s friends Grenache and Syrah can be
found anywhere it is hot and dry. Carignane in the US, Carignano in
Italy, and Cariñena in Spain. Carignan is a curious red wine grape that
provokes strong reactions in those who know about it. Yet, despite the
fact it was the single most common vine variety planted in the world’s
most important wine producer France until it was overtaken by Merlot
at the end of the 20th century, most wine drinkers have never heard of
it. Like Grenache, it’s origins are thought to be Spanish and also like
Grenache it has done well throughout the world. In Minervois, it is
widely embraced and made into exceptional wine as it is here.
Khalkhal-Pamies, Rouge, Minervois, 2014
The 12 hectare Domaine Khalkhal-Pamies is situated in Vialonove at La
Caunette in the Minervois.The estate is run by Danielle Khalkhal and
David Pamies who bought the domaine in 2000 and have subsequently
turned it into one of the leading producers in the region. The Revue du
Vin de France puts this estate *among the top four” in the appellation.
The color is deep, dark and purplish. It’s a blend of Carignan, Grenache
and Syrah made traditionally without new oak contact. The aromas at
this stage are very primary–blue plums and spice, youthful and bold. I
taste lots of crunchy black pepper along with the dark fruits. A country
wine with dramatic flavors. The wine is gentle but still big in style – and
could easily pair with BBQ, a big peppery steak or anything grilled for
All three wines – $53 for $45 – a 15% savings.