An Addendum: More Rhone
This recent post on the Binny's Wine Blog sparked little conversations here and there - about importer styles, about winemaking techniques, about the nature of vintages, especially in the Rhone, and other geeky topics us wine nerds get into. In the comments section of that post, Bill points out that some of what I say is overly simplifying things. I think he's right. It's easy to invent categories so things can fit into them. But then wine - and a bunch of other things in real life that actually have nuance and complexity - don't really fall into such neat categories. I should remember that.
Anyway, with the topics of importers and the Rhone in my mind, I thought it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the excellent little importer Wine Adventures, owned by Steve Gaucher. If Mr Gaucher's portfolio carries a common theme, it would have to be that of value. The Wine Adventure wines are thoughtful, complex and structured, and more often than not at breathtakingly affordable prices. Like, comically low prices. We tasted some of his stuff recently.
Let's start off at the top: Wine Adventures imports a good Rhone producer, Chateau Beauchene. Their 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Grande Reserve is excellent: light, fresh fruit - more strawberries than cherries or plums - with a little spice and a good tannic frame (some of the 2007 Grande Reserve is also still available too). Its $30 price tag puts it on the value end of the Chateauneuf aisle. Still, it would be a stretch to call it a "value." It's a value for Chateauneuf.
By comparison, consider the 2007 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Premier Terroir. This is an incredible value at $12.99. It has crazy complexity for a wine at the price, with a really spicy nose and lots of tertiary notes beyond the simple, easygoing fruit of the usual Cotes du Rhone. The '07 Premier Terroir is almost gone now, so if you see some, grab it up. By the way, the 2010 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Rose is another really nice value - exactly what you're looking for in a rose from the Rhone: light and refreshing grenache fruit with enough frame to keep it alive. Great stuff for a Chicago summer.
A couple others that stood out were two reds from Portugal.
A friend of mine came over to talk to me toward the end of the tasting, and with a purple grin, he pointed at a bottle of Beato Nuno. "What is that stuff?" he asked me. "It's awesome!" I told him we sell it for $7.99, and he got a jaw-dropping look of disbelief. It's crazy how good this stuff is for eight bucks. It's packed with fruit, but balanced out with a structured tanninic backbone that leaves the impression of a bottle at least twice the price. I want to say it's a balance of old-world texture and new-world fruit, but again, that would be missing the point. Another, also from Portugal and also $7.99, is the slightly more fresh, fruit-forward Evidencia. It's a shocking value, full of fruit, more polished and graceful, with the tannin laid-back and classy.
See, these are exciting values, appreciable for their nuance and complexity and defiance of categorization. Also, they're good and theyr'e cheap.