Category: Wine Tasting Notes

The Two Invisible Forces Shaping Southern French Terroir

Life has a way of constantly reminding you that ‘You don’t know until you do something. Similarly, you can’t really understand a wine region until you visit it.

Avignon_Panorama

Take Avignon, the stunning, walled medieval city near the Châteauneuf du Pape vineyard, which has served as a cultural center for the Southern Rhône ever since popes and antipopes made it their home during the Whack-A-Mole-like papal succession crisis (ca. 1350).

There are no decorative flower pots in Avignon strewn over window ledges. There are no signs of life; no shoes, laundry or rugs set out. There is nothing at all, really, on display outside of the tightly closed windows of Avignon.

That’s because for 150 days each year, Avignon is a wind tunnel. A surreal test chamber for residents — so many fleshy vessels woefully undesigned for its brutal, drying forces.

Like me, you may have heard about the mistral, and imagined it was some gentle breeze which helped vines stay cool. Ha!

This is what we really mean when we say mistral:

You don’t have to be atop Mount Ventoux for the winds to reach up to 80 mph. When pressed, locals typically confess ‘I’ve lived here my entire life, and I’ve never (Click to Read more)

Flying Blind At Frenchie in Paris

What an exquisite dance we had with the sommelier at Frenchie last Wednesday! The head sommelier Aurélien Masse unveiled a stunning series of wines, which we were given the tantalizing task of identifying blind alongside our carte blanche1 tasting menu dinner.

blindfold

It started like this: ‘I’ve got some stuff that’s not on the wine list, as well.

‘Any Jamet Côtes du Rhône?’

Yeah, I’d REALLY like to have that on my list, but unfortunately…

‘Tribut Chablis?’

No; there’s some Dauvissat that’s not on the list, but no Tribut. Too hard to get! I’ve got some Anne-Claude Leflaive Bourgogne blanc …

‘Hmm. Although would the oak élevage get in our way? Oh — how about Roulot Bourgogne blanc? Or, ooh! Any De Moor Bel Air et Clardy Chablis?’

Suddenly the sommelier leaned back, and his expression transformed into a serene contentedness. ‘Very well. I now perfectly understand your palate. No need for that wine list any more, here — I’ll take that. So. We’re going to stay within a budget of say 40-50 Euros a bottle, yes? And you’re going to just trust me.

So, carte blanche for the chef that evening, and carte blanche for the sommelier. Why not?

I’ll admit, at first I was worried. Sommeliers don’t always (Click to Read more)

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  1. ‘just trust the chef’ []

Making Up With Sancerre

SANCERRE is the word on the lips of nearly every young woman that strikes a pose in front of the wine fridges. Sancerre sells itself.

It’s easy to spell and retain. Even if it’s dead simple to pronounce and flows from the tongue like a short sibilant song, one feels a tiny sense of pride in pronouncing it, as if one knows it’s coming out properly.1.

Along with shitty industrial Pinot Grigio, boring inexpensive Malbec, and that last refuge of shaky-handed, broken souls that is vodka, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the major drivers of a wine and spirit shop’s sales that gradually evokes a deep hatred in salespersons. With each request, a stake is further driven into an angry heart that’s grown tired of ushering folks to a selection of beverages which evoke the opposite of excitement.

Having to taste through oceans of mediocre Sauvignon Blanc with sales reps proves the first breaking point.

Not unlike a smelly cat reappearing at one’s door, nearly every single day, a Sauvignon Blanc makes an appearance. And the telltale signature of feral pyrazines or perhaps thiols — let’s call it ‘Sauv Blanc stank’ — makes its indelible little mark. You can smell it from 5 feet away, and it’s going to cling to your palate as you try to move forward and taste other wines.

The smelly cat.
That smelly cat is back.

What I have always had a hard time grasping is just how Sauvignon Blanc conquered the world, particularly given (Click to Read more)

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  1. Perhaps the average consumer glows a bit in trumping the foreign wine name pronunciation bugaboo that plagues, say, Gewurztraminer, or German and Austrian Riesling vineyard names, or Blaufrankish []