Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part III

Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil continues with his notes from the Rhone. Find previous entries on the Binny’s Blog here and here.

 

Domaine Saladin

 

We visit Domaine Saladin located in Saint Marcel d’Ardeche. This is a new label for Binnys, just arriving in stores a few weeks ago. Another impressive operation managed by patriarch Louis Saladin’s daughters, Elizabeth and Marie-Laurence Saladin. These ladies produce beautiful, pure, understated wines from hand picked grapes on land that has been farmed organically pretty much since the dawn of time. Meaning, they farm the same way they always have, organic before organic ever got popular. The wines are bright and remarkably restrained. The 2011 Paul, a co fermented blend of grenache and clairette blanche, shows the lift of fresh red berries with hints of citrus and spice box. The Cheyveron is also nicely balanced. The Per El (“For Her”) blanc, created by Louis for his wife who prefers white wine, is a sublime blend of 5 varietals aged in stainless steel vats.

 

Domaine Saladin

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part II

A group of Binny’s wine people traveled to the Rhone Valley in France, joined by legendary importer Peter Weygandt. Check out day one from Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil here. He continues to share his experience:

 

Wine Barrels

 

We spend time at Domaine Les Aphillanthes, near the village of Rasteau, with vigneron Daniel Boulle. We tasted several interesting wines – the 2011 Rasteau 1921 Cuvee is epscially good (2010 here). The name refers to the year the vines were planted – aromas of blackberry, licorice and Provencal herbs abound. The finish is long and the flavors complete across the palate.

 

Wines of Domaine Les Aphillanthes

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Hot New Vintages From France (That Aren’t Bordeaux)

   For several months the 2009 Bordeaux en primeur campaign consumed the spotlight. Now that the fervor has died down, we can again focus on French wine that mere mortals can afford (meaning me … French wine that I can afford). The good stuff:

 

2009 Cru Beaujolais

   I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all the press Beaujolais has been receiving lately. The region holds a special place in my heart despite (or because of?) the fact that it has this uncool quality with wine snobs. Outside of Beaujolais Nouveau and Villages, there’s some really interesting wine coming from the region.

   2009 was a pretty amazing vintage throughout France, Beaujolais included. The warm and sunny summer allowed the gamay grapes of the region to fully ripen, balancing gamay’s signature acidity with full fruit notes. One of our esteemed wine guys describes the vintage: A game changer. No one has had gamay as good as this in ages.

   We do have a fair number of the ’09s in now, and expect more when they’re available. Will the 2009 vintage save the region’s reputation? Probably not, but you still don’t want to miss out on these exceptional wines. Compared to the monolithic, heavy, tannic wine coming from so many other regions around the word, Beaujolais offers something fresh and new, or at least tremendous values to rediscover.

 

2008 Burgundy

   Also hot in the wine press and just arriving at Binny’s are the 2008 Burgundies. A scary vintage at the time, 2008 started with a rainy spring that stretched into a rainy summer. Mold growth threatened the grapes until a dry Indian summer, offering plenty of time for grapes to ripen late into the fall. The result? When 2008′s are good, they’re great.

   I’ve only been able to taste a few, both red and white, mostly from Louis Jadot. These wines are spectacular, showcasing complex herbaceous notes (in the reds) with tight fruit and focused acidity (in both the reds and whites). The reds show tightly wound red raspberry fruit and brambly, drying herbaceous qualities integrated with medium tannins and acidity. The whites are monolithic, focused like laser beams. I’d love to tuck away a few bottles of the amazing Gevrey Chambertin les Estournelles Saint Jacques or Corton Charlemagne, but with my budget, the Cote de Beaune Villages and Santenay Clos de Malte Blanc both offer great insight into the vintage’s personality at more affordable prices.

 

By the Way

   Though the energy of the campaign has passed, we do still have select 2009 Bordeaux futures available. So if anybody out there is asking about my wish list this year, futures would be a pretty cool stocking stuffer. Just sayin’.