Category Archives: Côtes du Rhône

A couple of “Goes down well” wines

I once had a South African wine, I cannot remember which one, several years ago that I enjoyed quite a bit for its ease of drinking. It was smooth and uncomplicated, just a good quaffable wine. The back label stated as a summary of the usual wine descriptors: “Goes down well!” I absolutely LOVED that term and have adopted it since for fun, easy drinking wines.

I have decided to use that “label” for a couple of wines that we have been drinking over the last weeks and for which I did not take any notes because they were basic wines accompanying food or just had while watching TV. I still thought some of you might be interested in these rather affordable, decent wines which is why I am sharing them here. (Ignore my bad photos, I still have not come up with a way to replace Instagram…)

2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto

2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto

First up is the 2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto, a Portuguese red blend comprised of the grapes Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Syrah and Alicante Boschet (YAY, two more grapes to tick off the Wine Century Club application).The wine is from the Tejo region in Portugal and has an agreeable 13.5% ABV. It was a bit heavy at first, but then opened up to a nicely herbal and soothing red, full bodied and well integrated tannins. Not much primary fruit going on, but just what I’d expect from a Portuguese red. Great for a winter evening. I have yet to be really let down by a Portuguese red. Bought for $11.

2010 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

2010 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Next up the 2010 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve, a French red blend from the well renown Perrin & Fils winery. A blend crafted from wines all over the region, it has 13.5% ABV and garnered some praise in the wine world for whatever that is worth. According to The Wine Advocate the wine is made with Grenache and Syrah grapes from Perrin estates and contracted wineries. I really enjoyed this wine. It was light and simple without being dull, very fruit forward and accompanied our mushroom ragout with mashed potatoes and goat cheese very well. I can see this work on its own as well. It reminded Nina of summer, what a great compliment for a wine. Bought for $10.

2010 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone

2010 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone

The best value by far was the 2010 Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône, another French red blend from Southern France. Another big producer, another goes down well wine. It is made with Grenache and Syrah grapes, with Syrah being the dominant grape in the mix. The wine also has 13.5% ABV (if you see a pattern there, you are right: I prefer lower alcohol reds). The wine is very fruit forward, great red berries and currant. On the palate it is nicely smooth, has low tannins and is super user friendly. It might be a bit too sweet, but that really is just a bit for me. Bought for $ 6 (there is currently a manufacturer mail in rebate possible that brings it down to $4 per bottle!).

I hope you find this helpful. Nothing impressive, but rock solid, good everyday wines.

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2011 Rhône Valley Vineyards Luberon AOC Blanc “La Ferme Julien”

2011 La Ferme Julien Vin blanc

I bought this wine for two reasons: First, fellow blogger Talk-A-Vino had given this particular wine an honorable mention in this post. Second, Nina and I have been on a mission to become Wine Century Club members. For those not in the know, you can become a member in this club once you have tried 100 (hence the century) different grape varieties. It is completely based on an honours system of reporting and membership is free. While I am pretty certain that I have had more than 100 grape varities in my life, I am only counting those that I actively remembered, so I am still a bit short. This wine is a blend of four grapes that I did not have on my list, so it brought us closer with even just one sip…I think it is a fun way to expand our knowledge of grapes and horizons by trying to get to the magic number.

Let me start by saying that I am not the biggest white wine fan, aside from Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon blanc. I find a lot of the other whites I try uninspiring and lacking in exciting flavors and aromas. That said, we were excited to try four grapes we had never heard of: Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc, Ugni blanc and Roussanne.

For short, I will just call this La Ferme Julien blanc. I bought the bottle at Trader Joe’s for $5.99. The wine has 13.5% ABV, and, according to its back label, has been blended by the Perrin family, a well respected French négociant. You can find their wines on all levels of pricing and quality. I was surprised to find their name on this wine!

The wine showed a light yellow in the glass, with hints of green. On the nose, it was incredibly fruity: initial notes of yellow apple, peach and floral aromas. Later on I got banana (I think; Nina agreed). It was a really appealing and refreshing nose. On the palate, light bodied wine was dry, rather bland with light citrus aromas and a certain creaminess to it. There was slight strawberry, I think, but for me it was all overpowered by the alcohol, which also left me with some bitter notes at the finish, which I did not enjoy much.

In a way, this wine seemed to highlight my problem with higher alcohol white wines (not reds!): they become too heavy on my palate, when I want something fresh and clean. I felt like this wine would have been great at maybe 12% ABV, but that bit more made it hard for me to like it. The nose was fun, but the taste – not for me.

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2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône

It was our anniversary this weekend, so we decided to try a restaurant in Ann Arbor that is focused on using local ingredients. It was our first time there, so we tried their five course tasting menu to see what the chef was capable of. The restaurant offered an accompanying wine pairing for half of what dinner cost. While I sometimes have had good experiences with these restaurant offered pairings, this is usually only the case if the restaurant has a sommelier and is as devoted to its wine menu as it is to its cuisine. Somehow, this place (and their wine menu) did not give off that impression, so I was reluctant to take it.

Given that the tasting menu was a surprise menu, it was not the easiest thing to decide what wine to go for then. Given that there was no riesling on the menu (shame on them), we decided to go with a lighter red wine that could complement most of what was possibly going to come, and sit out on the wine when it did not match at all. I find Côtes du Rhône wines to usually be a good companion when it comes to this. They are not as heavy bodied as other French reds, and at the same time offer an interesting mix of spices and earthiness. The only Côtes du Rhône the restaurant had was this one, so we decided to go for it.

Today I found out that Kermit Lynch is a major wine merchant in the tradition of French négociants from California. They offer a whole variety of wines from France and Italy with a gazillion of producers working for them. This particular Côtes du Rhône blend is vinified by Jean-François Pasturel from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan grapes from 40 year old vines on 36 hectares around Avignon.

The wine had a medium ruby color. Its nose was nicely perfumy with wooden and earthy notes, Nina detected some blueberries that were definitely there. On the palate, the wine was on the lower end of medium bodied, and it showed a nice fruitiness of red berries and herbal, foresty aromas. The finish was of medium length, with a nice peppery note to it. It was pretty yummy to guzzle at dinner, and was just the right weight.

It also paired nicely with our – quite disappointing – dinner. The first course was a duck liver paté, to which the earthy notes paired well. The second course was a very nice salad with pan-seared (over-peppered) local trout, where it sort of worked. This was followed by uninspired “gnocchi” (which had nothing in common with gnocchi any Italian would serve) in a tomato sauce – the wine worked again. The next course was pork loin with potatoes (talk about uninspired again), where the wine complemented the roast aromas on the pork and went nicely with the onions. The dessert was an abomination of a panna cotta, made with buttermilk which destroyed its texture and taste (hardly any vanilla, and not even a reminder of the creaminess a panna cotta should have) and topped with a horrible concord grape syrup that tasted as bad as a Welch grape juice (which I completely detest)…luckily, I had the wine to clean my palate from the few spoons I ate before I abandoned the dish.

It was kind of a sad thing, this dinner. While I want to support locally sourced restaurants and like the idea, using these ingredients does not absolve you from making dishes that taste good. It is like organic wines. There is no inherent goodness in making wines in an organic fashion. They have to taste good first and foremost. If the two go together, the better. If not, I will relinquish ingredients over taste at any moment.

The wine was nice, so I recommend it.

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