Friday, January 30, 2015

Eastern France: La Coeur du Vin

Motivated by the French sweep in my ultimate 2014 wine list, I continued to drink French wine like it was going out of style. I have fallen in love with regions like Chablis and Alsace, where the quality of the wines shine year after year. This post focuses on the eastern wine regions of France, including Alsace, Burgundy and Beaujolais.

Alsace is the French white wine love of my life. Located close to the border of Germany, the variety and complexity of the soil, along with the longer growing season, allows the grapes to reach a ripeness that creates beautiful, expressive wines. The four noble varieties of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat, are the heart of Alsatian wine.

One of my favourite producers, Pfaffenheim, makes an expressive Gewurztraminer that starts with a bouquet of honey and blossom. Pear and ginger feature on the palate, with a sleek texture and a citrus backbone. I paired a spicy seafood salad with the Gewurz; the smoothness of the wine harmonized beautifully with the spiciness of the dish.


Domaine Eugene Meyer produces a dry Riesling that shows flavours of underripe peach, lime zest, green apples and a steely minerality with their 2011 vintage. Lively acidity brings intensity and carries through the long finish. This domaine focuses on organic and biodynamic viticulture, and would also make a great gift for the vegan winelover in your life!

Chablis is the northeastern wine region in Burgundy. Wines produced here are made from the Chardonnay grape, but thanks to the fossil-rich soils of Kimmeridgian clay, Chablis wines tend to consist of high acidity, little to no oak flavours and show ripe fruit and minerality.

Herve Azo's Chablis 2012 is an elegant, polished wine with zesty acidity and notes of green apple, apricot and lime. There is a whisper of flint on the finish. Excellent with goat's cheese, crudites or grilled chicken. 

Farther south in the Burgundy region lies Pouilly-Fuisse. Chardonnays from this region are known to be rich and full-bodied, with flavours consistent with oak aging, like hazelnuts, toast and coconut.

Bouchard Pere et Fils is a well known producer throughout the Burgundy region. Their 2013 Pouilly Fuisse is an exception to the Pouilly Fuisse stereotype as only a fraction of the grapes are aged for 6 months in oak barrels, offering a lighter mouthfeel and creamier texture. Pear, ripe pineapple and lemon essences mingle with a hint of brioche that marries well on the palate. Crisp acidity adds intensity without overpowering the flavour profile. An ideal accompaniment to seafood.

Red wine country is featured south of Pouilly Fuisse with the Beaujolais region. The grape varietal grown here is Gamay Noir, which tends to produce fruit-forward wines with an added zip of pepper. There are 10 "cru" villages of distinction, one of which is named Morgon. Winelovers who are looking for a more robust, complex Beaujolais will likely find what they are looking for in this area.

George DuBoeuf's Domaine Mont Chavy Morgon 2013 expresses these characteristics well. A bouquet of cherries and granite follow through to the mouth alongside strawberries and a spicy cinnamon finish. Mouthwatering acidity and chocolate tannins cast intensity and spine. Unique and complex, this wine would pair well with gourmet burgers and pork loin in a berry sauce.

Winelovers really can't go wrong when it comes to Eastern France. The emphasis put to both the viticulture and vinification techniques ensure that the end results are of sound quality and taste. Your palate will thank you!

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Favourite Wines Tasted in 2014

Happy New Years!

My 2014 was a roller coaster ride of joy and sadness. Many life lessons were learned, and with that came much personal growth. My love and passion for the wine world was a great source of comfort and perseverance through the tough times. The major highlight was branding myself as the Wine Concubine. I also attended a Joseph Drouhin tasting as well as a vintage port tasting earlier this year. And I continued to expand my knowledge of the wine world through a lot of self study. Can't let those text books go to waste!

Let's face it: I can't drink every bottle of wine out there in one year. But I did find some beautifully expressive wines of the ones I did taste. Below is the list of the wines I felt were the best in quality, which became my personal preferences of the year.

Top Red Wines
I was spoiled with bottles of red this year, and my top 3 picks are all in the high-priced category, ranging from $45-$90 CDN. These wines are excellent splurges when celebrating a momentous occasion or want to impress! The Rodney Strong Pinot Noir retails at under $25 CDN.
1. Chateau de Clinet: Fleur de Clinet 2011 - Bordeaux, France
2. Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010  - Valpolicella, Italy
3. Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches Beaune 1er Cru 2011 - Burgundy, France
HM:  Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir 2009 - California, USA

Top White Wines
It was a French sweep in the world of whites this year, with the exception of a California Chardonnay receiving my honourable mention of the year. Prices range from $25 to $45 CDN.
1. Jean-Michel Gerin "La Loye" Viognier 2007  - Northern Rhone, France
2. Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer Steinert Grand Cru 2009 - Alsace, France
3. Joseph Drouhin Vaudon de Chablis 2012 - Burgundy, France
HM: Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2012 - California, USA

Top Sparkling Wines
The Jura is a lesser-known wine region in Eastern France, and their wines can be hard to find here in Alberta. Once I discovered that some local stores and restaurants carry Cremant du Jura, I spent all my "bubbly" energy tasting as many bottles as I could! The Jurancon wines are priced here between $20 and $25 CDN.
1. Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils Brut Cremant du Jura Rose N/V - Jura, France
2. Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne N/V - Reims, France
3. Domaine Baud Cremant du Jura Brut Blanc de Blancs N/V - Jura, France

Top Sweet Wines
It was the year of vintage port! Not only is the 2011 vintage considered to be one of the best ever, but I attended a vintage port tasting in May and fell in love! Although the prices of my top 2 picks are very high, the bottle of Cave Springs retails here at under $30 CDN. It is interesting to note that Hetszolo made my 2013 list with their 6 puttonyos Tokaji.
1. Warre's Vintage Port 1983 - Portugal
2. Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1977 - Portugal
3. Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2001 - Hungary
HM: Cave Springs Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2010 - Niagara, Canada

Top Values
Since my top reds are ideal splurges, this is where I focused my value picks this year. Spain offers a lot of complex, robust wines at the $20 price point, and Chile makes the list with both a red and white offering.
1. Tommasi Maremma Toscana Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2011 - Tuscany, Italy
2. Bodegas Los800 Priorat 2010 - Priorat, Spain
3. Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2008 - Rioja, Spain
4. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto 2012 - Puente Alto, Chile
5. Quintay Clava Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - Casablanca, Chile

Top Food and Wine Pairings
Two of my top wines this year also shone with food. I focused the rest of year on pairing richer dishes with the zesty acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. The Montes Classic listed below, from Chile, retails at under $20 CDN!
1. Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils Brut Cremant du Jura Rose with Charcuterie
2. Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer Steinert Grand Cru 2009 with Spicy Smoked Chicken
3. Chateau Guiraud Le G de Guiraud 2008 with Grilled Salmon on Pesto
HM: Montes Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2013 with Clam and Bacon Linguine

Hopefully you'll find this list useful-maybe there's a wine here that you've been wanting to try, or one that piques your interest. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!