France


The focus on cabernet franc nowadays aims at Argentina, where the grape is ubiquitous and too often of cookie-cutter quality. The original area where cabernet franc thrives as a single variety is France’s Loire Valley, particularly the appellations of Saumur, Bourgueil and Chinon. (The grape is also essential in Bordeaux, but as a factor in the blends, featured prominently on the Right Bank.) While the Alain de la Treille Chinon 2016, our Wine of the Day, doesn’t reach the profound heights and depths of which cabernet franc is capable in the hands of producers like Bernard Baudry, Charles Joguet and Olga Raffault, it offers true cab franc quality at a bargain price. The Alain de la Treille Chinon 2016, which sees no oak, offers a deep ruby-purple hue and penetrating aromas of blueberries, gravel and tar, with notes of raspberry and raspberry leaf, and a concentrated core of violets, black olives and bittersweet chocolate. These aspects segue smoothly into the mouth, where the wine displays plenty of silky tannins for structure, lip-smacking acidity that whets your taste-buds for another sip, and spicy black and blue fruit flavors. A few moments in the glass bring in hints of smoke, leather and rosemary, with a touch of that herb’s slightly resinous character. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with braised short ribs or veal shanks, meat pies or just good old cheeseburgers. Excellent. About $19, representing Good Value.

Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.

Well, here’s a milestone of sorts: The 300th entry in the Wine of the Day series. My Readers may remember that I started the Wine of the Day in May 2015 when a broken right arm interfered with my writing abilities and I was able only to type in short, erratic bursts. Like Topsy, the thing just grew and two years and three months later, here we are at No. 300. Shall I continue? I would like to hear from you about this issue, bless your little pointy heads and may your tribes increase.

For this 300th posting in the series, I’ll nudge across the line to a celebratory mode and offer a new label and product from the distinguished Champagne house of Laurent-Perrier. This is the Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée NV, which replaces the former Brut NV — “non-vintage” — in the house’s roster. Composed of 55 percent chardonnay, 35 percent pinot noir and 10 percent pinot meunier, the Champagne contains 30 percent reserve wines and attains 94 percent premier cru rating. It spends a minimum of four years in bottle on the yeasts before disgorgement. The color is very pale gold, and I’ll say right here that this was the most energetically effervescent bottle of Champagne I have ever opened; tiny, glinting bubbles surged in what seemed to be an endless foaming fountain in the glass. Aromas of slightly roasted pears, peaches and quince are incredibly fresh, clean and enticing, with touches of just-baked brioche and almond skin and a lightly honeyed aspect of bee’s-wax and white flowers. Incisive acidity cuts a swath through a chiseled texture that feels like the transfigured quintessence of limestone and chalk; paradoxically, on the palate this Champagne also delivers an element of talc-like softness, the resulting tension between the dry, honed quality and the powdery lushness providing a great deal of excitement as you drink. Ultimately, the Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée leaves the impression of fine-boned elegance matched to dynamic power. 12 percent alcohol. Cellarmaster is Michel Fauconnet. We loved drinking this one. Excellent. About $50.

Imported by Laurent-Perrier USA, Long Island City, N.Y. A sample for review.

At just under three years old, the Helfrich Riesling 2014, from Alsace, is drinking beautifully, with promise of increasing its burnished character for four to six more years or so — such estimates are always inexact, though based on knowledge, experience and intuition. Fashioned all in stainless steel, the wine offers a very pale straw-gold hue and sprightly aromas of green apples, ginger and quince, with notes of petrol, heather and hay and more subtle hints of lychee and mango; as the moments pass, the floral element of honeysuckle and jasmine burgeons and blossoms. The entire effect is of a crystalline, chiseled substance, equal parts limestone and steel, propelled by scintillating acidity and buoyant flavors of spiced pear and lime zest. The finish delivers a bracing hit of apple peel, almond skin and pure shimmering minerality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink with fresh oysters, grilled trout with capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, or, as we did last night, miso soup. Excellent. About $16, representing a Top Value.

Imported by Advantage International Distributors, Miami, Fla. A sample for review.

The Côté Mas Brut Rosé, Crémant de Limoux, barely qualifies as a rosé wine by most measures, being a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 20 percent chenin blanc and 10 percent pinot noir. In other words, 90 percent of this charming sparkling wine is white, with only a few dollops of a red grape to lend the requisite rosé color, in this case a beguiling light copper-salmon hue animated by a stream of tiny, glinting bubbles. The nose is pure raspberry, peach and lime peel; a few moments in the glass bring out notes of heather and seashell. This is crisp, dry and tart on the palate, where lip-smacking acidity keeps it lively and engaging and the minerality of damp limestone and flint delivers reasonable structure for nice heft and balance, all these elements supporting subtle flavors of roasted lemon and strawberry. 12 percent alcohol. A lovely aperitif. You could sell about a million glasses in bars and restaurants. Very Good+. About $16 and often found discounted to $13 or $14.

Limoux has an interesting history, because the first sparkling wines were apparently developed there as early as 1531, at the Abbey St.-Hilaire, and pre-dating sparkling Champagne by 150 years. These wines, traditionally made from the mauzac grape, underwent a natural process of second fermentation in the bottle in the Spring after the harvest, as the temperature warmed. The fairly rustic Blanquette de Limoux sparkling wines were supplemented in 1990 by the creation of Crémant de Limoux, designed to be more modern and to exploit the increasing acreage in the region devoted to chardonnay and chenin blanc grapes. Limoux — pop. 9,781 souls — a commune and subprefecture in the Aude department in the vast Languedoc-Roussillon region, lies a mere 30 kilometers or 19 miles south of the celebrated castle-city of Carcassonne, nestled in the French foothills of the Pyrenees mountains.

Imported by Esprit du Vin, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.

In referring to the French, the term “arrogant frog” is redundant, n’est-ce pas? Ha ha, just a little joke to introduce the Wine of the Day, the Arrogant Frog Rosé 2016, Pay d’Oc (nicknamed “Lily Pad Pink”), made from 100 percent syrah grapes for the Côté Mas label of Domaine Paul Mas. It’s interesting how grapes, like syrah and mourvèdre, that tend to produce big-hearted, two-fisted red wines, can also, in rosé mode, be fashioned into beverages of the utmost delicacy and subtlety. This one offers a lovely pale copper-pink hue and nuanced aromas of strawberries and raspberries with a hint of melon and notes of rose petals and floral-herbal meadowy elements. On the palate, a bit of peach comes into play, but this is mainly about ineffable red fruits and berries enlivened by brisk acidity and a touch of limestone minerality that comes to dominate the finish. Very refreshing and appealing and perfect for picnics and other outdoor adventures. Very Good+. About $10, a Verifiable Bargain.

Imported by Esprit du Vin, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.

Doubtless white Burgundies of more profound depth and dimension are produced in the great appellations of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune, but you would be hard-pressed to find one that offers a more beautiful expression of the chardonnay grape than the Domaine Marc Roy “Les Champs Perdrix” Marsannay 2015. The interesting point here is that Marsannay is the northernmost of Burgundy’s appellations, lying only 6 to 8 kilometers southwest of the city of Dijon. This is primarily red wine — that is to say, pinot noir — territory, as is true of the Côte de Nuits down past the city of Beaune. Chardonnay is a distinct minority in Marsannay — interestingly, pinot blanc is allowed — which is also the only appellation in Burgundy with its own designation for rosé. Domaine Marc Roy owns only four hectares of vines, just under 10 acres, which is minuscule even by Burgundian standards. Most of these are in Gevrey-Chambertin — no Grand Cru or Premier Cru vines — with a slim portion for the chardonnay in Marsannay; the estate is headquartered in Gevrey. Winemaker is fourth generation Alexandrine Roy. Grapes are hand-harvested; the wines ferment by natural yeasts and are given a very conservative oak regimen, this “Champs Perdrix” seeing only 10 percent new oak. The chardonnay vines are 40 years old.

The color is pale gold; at first, the wine delivers pure lemon in every respect, gradually adding an infusion of lime peel and heather, a hint of grapefruit, a touch of seashell; a lovely talc-like texture is riven by bright acidity that adds a keynote of crisp liveliness. The wine is quite dry, but juicy with slightly spiced and macerated pineapple and grapefruit flavors that take on a depth of loamy-damp ash earthiness and limestone-flint minerality; a few moments in the glass unfurl ethereal elements of jasmine, lilac and orange rind. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this bottle last night with seared salmon marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce and given a coffee rub-urfa-and-maresh crust. The pairing was absolutely right. A beguiling and seductive model of varietal purity and intensity. Drink through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $50.

Production was seven barrels, about 175 cases, so mark this one Worth a Search. Purchased recently at Le Dû’s Wines in New York. The label image is one vintage behind. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.

Of the 55,000 acres planted to the gamay grape in Beaujolais, 15,000 — a hair over 27 percent — are dedicated to the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. The idea is that the wines at the peak of the Beaujolais pyramid, the Cru wines louis-jadot-beaujolais-villages-combe-aux-jacques-beaujolais-france-10731842derived from 10 villages allowed to attach their names to the label, are the most exclusive and the smallest production. The vast areas devoted to the regular Beaujolais designation, the pyramid’s broad base, are the most common. Our wine of the day is the proprietary Louis Jadot “Combe aux Jacques” Beaujolais-Villages 2015. A portion of the grapes derive from a vineyard in Régnié, one of the 10 Cru villages; another portion is purchased wine; and the third portion is from purchased grapes, all in the spirit of making a balanced, dependable, enjoyable wine. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; the bouquet delivers the signature Beaujolais aromas of blackberries, currants and mulberries permeated by touches of loam, cloves and oolong tea. The wine is juicy and refreshing on the palate, satiny in texture, bolstered by bright acidity and heightened by notes of graphite and blueberries, leading to a clean, chiseled, fruit-and-mineral-laced finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink with just about anything through the end of this year. Excellent. About $13, a local purchase, on sale from $16, representing Good Value.

Imported by Kobrand Wine and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.

I don’t typically recommend rosé wines from two vintages ago. I mean the point of rosé is its freshness and immediate appeal, n’est-ce pas? Some rosé wines, however, are made of slightly sterner stuff than the usual ethereal, instantly accessible, quaffable models that so delight us and can age for a year or two beyond the Summer after harvest. Such is the case with the two rosé wines from the South of France that I mention today. I encountered these examples at a trade tasting at which rosés from 2015 and ’16 were offered, and while most of the ’15s were fading, if not falling apart, this pair drank with splendid panache, zeal and deliciousness. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Le Caillou Rosé 2015, Côtes du Rhône, is an unusual blend of 85 percent counoise and 15 percent mourvedre grapes, and I CAILLOU_rose_websay “unusual” because counoise, not so easy to grow and late ripening, typically finds itself in a minority position in red wines of the southern Rhone Valley, if it shows up at all. In this very pale pink-coral hued wine, it provides scintillating acidity that runs through the structure like an electric wire, as well as a lovely hint of red plum, behind notes of strawberry and orange rind. The domaine, by the way, was founded in 1956 but the estate, surrounded by the Chateaunuef-du-Pape appellation, has a long history of grape-growing and winemaking; the vineyards are certified organic and maintained by biodynamic methods. Winemaker is Bruno Gaspard. This is a dry, taut, crisp rosé that delivers a dusty, almost powdery texture supported by lithe, chiseled flint-like minerality; the finish brings in hints of heather, sea-salt and just a ghost of melon. Drink through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $25.
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The history at Chateau Mattes-Sabran goes back a thousand years in Languedoc-Roussillon. The estate was once the seat MATTES_narbonne_rose-228x300of the Dukes of Narbonne and was well-known in the 12th and 13th centuries as a center for troubadours and the elevation of courtly love. The city itself, as distinct from the commune, dates back to Roman times and was once an important seaport. Winemaking on the estate commenced in 1733. Though made from 100 percent syrah grapes, the Mattes-Sabran Rosé 2015, Pays d’Oc — winemaker was Jean-Luc Brouillat — is unusually delicate and elegant, though possessing tensile strength that feels almost steely; the color is extremely pale watermelon-coral pink, and aromas of slightly spiced and macerated red currants and raspberries testify to its origin in the syrah grape. An aura of pink grapefruit and blood orange is allied to the wine’s crisp citric acidity, while a few moments in the glass bring out notes of dusty limestone, rose petals and dried thyme. Bring on the rabbit and duck terrine, the cucumber sandwiches, the shrimp salad! Now through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $19.
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What more is there to say after “delightful and charming”? These are wines designed to provide your weekend — or the whole week, for that matter — with pleasure, deliciousness and elegance. We range widely in this post: Greece, Germany, Oregon, California, Long Island, Mendoza and Chablis. All single-variety wines, their grapes include assyrtiko, indigenous to the island of Santinori; pinot gris, not that common in the Rhineland; riesling and sauvignon blanc; gruner veltliner and pinot blanc; semillon and chardonnay. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I largely eschew technical, historical and geographical data for the sake of quick, incisive reviews meant to pique your interest and whet your palate. With one exception, the wines were samples for review. Enjoy! (In moderation, of course.)
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argyros
Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2015, Santinori, Greece. 14% alc. This one will make you wish you were sitting in a little cafe looking out at the wine-dark Aegean Sea. It sees 20 percent French oak and was made from 150-year-old ungrafted vines. Very pale straw hue; dusty, dry marsh and seashore grasses and herbs; roasted lemon and faint spiced peach; quite ethereal and summery but displaying bracing acidity, notes of limestone-seashell minerality and an aura of yellow meadow flowers. Very Good+. About $25.
Athenee Importers and Distributors, Hempstead, N.Y.
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binz
Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinett 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany. 12% alc. Bright straw-gold color; jasmine and camellia, preserved lemon and lemon balm, lime peel and pear skin; a hint of mango-like tropical character; crisp and tart, taut with vibrant acidity, very dry yet ripe and juicy on the palate; long, lean, lithe finish. Truly delightful and lots of personality. Excellent. About $14, marking Great Value.
Winesellers Ltd, Niles, Illinois.
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brooks riesling
Brooks Riesling 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. Pale straw-gold; a direct hit of petrol and rubber eraser, followed by notes of heather and meadow, peach and lychee, with burgeoning hints of jasmine and quince and, after a few moments, ginger beer; limestone minerality offers a tremendous presence for a sense of dimension, without diminishing such fine details as bay leaf and nuances of mango and guava; the whole enterprise feels etched with bright, dry acidity. Just great. Excellent. About $20, representing Wonderful Value.
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2016SauvBlanc
Freemark Abbey Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Napa Valley. 13.4% alc. Very pale straw-gold color; notes of lime peel, grapefruit, lemongrass and spiced pear, highlighted by hints of pea-shoots, hay and heather and undertones of sunny, leafy figs; really lively, vibrant, super drinkable, yet spare, dry, lithe, nothing flamboyant or over-done; a finish chiseled from limestone and flint but wreathed in lilac. Excellent. About $24.
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Illahe Estate Gruner Veltliner 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.5% alc. 650 cases. Very pale straw-gold; classic ILLAHEHEADER_famowned notes of hay, lilac and pine, with roasted lemons and yellow plums, a hint of lime peel and peach; very crisp, lively and engaging, with clean acidity and crystalline minerality cutting through a juicy, talc-like texture; terrific personality and appeal. Excellent. About $17.
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2013ReservePinotBlanc300x300 (1)
Lieb Cellars Reserve Pinot Blanc 2015, North Fork of Long Island. 11.9% alc. And this one will make you wish you were sitting on a terrace in the Hamptons, gazing out at the cerulean Atlantic. Very very pale, almost invisible in the glass; notably clean, fresh and spare, quite crisp and vibrant, with delicate strains of peach and spiced pear, rose petals and candied lime peel and a tremendous volume of limestone minerality; slightly herbal and resinous finish. Lovely character. Excellent. About $22.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Medium green-gold hue; sunny, leafy figs Santos_SM_NV_labeland guava, apple skin and lightly baked pear; a haze of smoke and jasmine; quite clean, spare and elegant, with a beguiling texture that balances moderate lushness of fruit with zinging acidity and flint-graphite minerality, though that aspect emerges on the finish. Wholly delightful and pleasingly complex for the price. Excellent. About $16, marking Good Value.
Global Vineyards, Berkeley, Calif.
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chablis
Christian Simon Petit Chablis 2014, Chablis, France. 12% alc. Drinking beautifully at about two and a half years old. Pale straw-gold; shimmers with steel and limestone and a snap of gunflint, lustrous with lightly spiced lemon and apple; a texture both dense and powdery, lithe and supple; warms to subtle floral notes; lovely shape and resonance. Excellent. About $22, a local purchase.
Matinicus Wines, Beverley Hills, Fla.
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minuty
Here’s a splendid classic dry rosé from Côtes de Provence in the South of France. A blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah, M de Minuty Rosé 2016 displays a very (very) pale hue that’s like the faintest coral-pink of a baby’s fingernail; ethereal notes of raspberries and rhubarb, with a hint of peach, are spare and delicate, though the wine’s freshness and elegance are buoyed by a taut spine of acidity and a foundation of chiseled, crystalline limestone. Despite its initial ephemeral impression, this rosé offers surprising heft on the palate, along with the herbal earthiness of dried Mediterranean herbs (“garrigue”); a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and talc, orange rind and white pepper. 13 percent alcohol. A superior rosé, one of the best I have encountered this year. Excellent. About $19.

Imported by Treasury Wine Estates. A sample for review.

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