Category Archives: France

Two Fall Reds: 2010 Bartenura Rosso di Montalcino and 2005 Coume del Mas Collioure Quadratur

Just some tasting notes today. Work continues to be crazy, but I had these two quite different wines lately and wanted to share my impressions…with fall approaching, we’re all looking for soothing reds, right?

The first was the 2010 Bartenura Rosso di Montalcino DOC. Rosso di Montalcino, the little brother of Tuscany’s famed Brunello di Montalcino, can be an affordable and good choice if you are longing for some Italian earthiness in a younger wine. Made from 100% Sangiovese (like Brunello) and grown in the same area, the main difference is that a Rosso only needs to spend six months in oak (compared to two years for Brunello) and one year of total ageing before release.

Bartenura is a big, Italian-wide producer mostly known for its Moscato in a blue bottle (which I was not aware of when I picked up the bottle…) and its current website does not list the Rosso di Montalcino. We bought the bottle at Costco where it retailed for $12, which is definitely on the lower end for a Rosso di Montalcino.

In the glass, the wine showed a lighter red color. The nose was full of pecan pie, slightly burnt cookies, blackberry, cherry and unidentifiable vegetables. That left quite the impression! On the palate, the wine was weirdly bubbly (which was not noticeable when looking at the glass), with initially strong acidity. There were some earthy and cherry pie aromas, but in the middle it showed surprising bitter aromas. The finish was so, so. I don’t know. Something seemed off balance with the wine. The acidity was too strong for me. There were moments that were better, but overall I don’t think I will buy this again…

2005 Coume dell Mas Quadratur

2005 Coume dell Mas Collioure Quadratur

The second wine we had was a 2005 Coume del Mas Collioure Quadratur from Languedoc-Roussillon in France. I bought this wine during a blow out sale on Last Bottle Wines mostly because of its logo. I loved that! The price was right ($12). According to the wine guide Gault Millaut it retailed for 24 euros (over $30) when they reviewed it.

The winery is the opposite of Bartenura, owning a mere 8 hectares planted with red vines, 11 hectares in total. I was looking forward to trying this aged mix of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre and 20% Carignan.

In the glass, I found a very dark red wine, with hints of rust on the sides. The nose was perfumy with raspberry and blackberry aromas. Nina noticed butter and cookie aromas as well. On the palate, I got jammy berry aromas to begin with which soon gave way to tobacco and wood, with vanilla interspersed. The wine had decent acidity and the tannins seemed nicely integrated. The finish was a bit short and thinnish for me. I think this wine might be on its way out. It is still good, especially the beginning and mid-palate with its earthiness and rounded aromas. But the finish just wasn’t up to par. If you have a bottle, you might want to start drinking it soon…

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The Wine Raconteur: Chateau Latour 1961

Somewhere, beyond the Sea...on Zanzibar.

Somewhere, beyond the Sea…on Zanzibar. 

This is the first installment of my summer 2013 guest blogging series with the theme “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”. Let me briefly introduce today’s blogger. John “The Wine Raconteur” was new to blogging, like me, when I stumbled on his writing. We both had started our blogs in May 2012. His was actually one of the first blogs I came across and followed. We have since interacted on numerous occasions and met in person. I consider him a friend. In his blog, The Wine Raconteur, he explores restaurants, foods and wines. For John, wine and food is about moments and memories, not scientific analyses or tasting notes. With this approach, he covers an under-appreciated side of wine and food writing. His undying curiosity and vast knowledge in wine as well as the combination of fresh and old memories keeps me coming back to his blog again and again. This post was originally published in July 2012 and revised for this series. Thank you, John!

Chateau Latour 1961

“Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”

These are the opening words to the lyrics of a song that Bobby Darin immortalized years ago.  Some may ask who Bobby Darin is or was, but that is not germane to this introduction or article, but it is how my brain works, in a “stream of consciousness” style of writing that I tend to do.  Allow me a brief moment, to introduce myself, I am John and I am guest writing this article, as a favor to a new friend Oliver “The Winegetter” who has become an old friend, which I have met since I have started writing my own blog “The Wine Raconteur.”  If the readers have not met me before, that is understandable, and they may ask, what a “Raconteur” is in so many words.  Words have fascinated me, and I first learned this word, from an old board game, I played as a child, and one of the characters was called the “Raconteur” and I had to look up the word, and it means a teller of stories or tales, and I liked the word, and it has remained in my vocabulary ever since.  Meanwhile, back to the lyrics, that is the theme that Oliver gave me, in his request, and I shall abide.  As I pondered the words, I presumed that he would like for me to discuss a wine that is not domestic product, and that is fine, since the first wines I encountered were from overseas, which started me off on a tangent that I have never left, the enjoyment of wines.   I am not as eloquent, erudite or as professorial as Oliver, so I shall write this, in my own humble style.

My Bride, a sobriquet that I have endeared to my Wife, recently returned from a visit to her Sister and her family.  As she was going there, I made a small request, that she photograph an empty bottle of wine from a grand Birthday party, that we had the good fortune to attend, my Sister-in-Law’s fortieth birthday.  The young lady had the good fortune to have been born in 1961, which is considered by most wine authorities as being the third best vintage of the last century, especially for the wines of the Medoc.  Her husband had amassed three of the great Medoc wines in anticipation of this event, and he had a small party of ten to celebrate the event.  I must admit, that all of the revelers for this occasion were lovers of wine, so we all had something in common.  My contribution for the event was to bring all of my decanters, and to decant the three wines that were used for three of the six courses of the dinner.  Their favorite Chef was brought in, as well as his Sous-Chef, another assistant and a waiter to make the dinner as enjoyable as possible.  Each course of the meal was designed to go with a particular wine, which my Brother-in-Law and the Chef pondered until they found the proper pairing for the evening.

The three Medoc wines that I decanted and later enjoyed with each meal were; Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Latour.  Chateau Margaux is from the Commune of Margaux in the Medoc, while Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Latour are from the Commune of Pauillac.  Chateau Margaux and Chateau Latour have always been First Growths of the Medoc, while at the time Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was considered the first of the Second Growths, a consideration that did not sit well with them, blaming it on the politics of the day, and they never even mentioned the classification system, until they were finally elevated to a First Growth in 1973, where most people had agreed that they belonged from day one.  During the courses of dinner, every wine was wonderful and fully enjoyed by all that were there for the occasion.  When we arrived at the final entrée which was Grilled Tenderloin with Green Peppercorns and a Marsala Wine Sauce, something occurred which caused everyone to be taken aback.  The Chateau Latour 1961 was opened prematurely, as it was still too feisty in its youth, and this fact marveled every guest at the table, as well as the Chef.  Forty year old Claret, which still needed more cellaring time to reach its full maturity, only a few wines could achieve such a testament to the skills of the winemaker.  My Brother-in-Law smiled at me, and told me, that he still had one more bottle of Chateau Latour 1961 in his cellar and he would open it up for his Wife’s fiftieth birthday (and as a side note, since we were not there on that evening, he informed me that the wine had finally matured and was so mellow, that he hated to finish the bottle of wine).

1961 Chateau Latour Pauillac

1961 Chateau Latour Pauillac

This long rambling story, leads me back to the beginning as to why I asked my Bride to photograph an empty wine bottle, in her Sister’s cellar.  I have collected almost every label of every wine I have tried since I first started discovering wines.  I have the labels from all of the wines from this great dinner and occasion, save the Chateau Latour 1961, which my Brother-in-Law wanted to maintain for sentimental reasons, and rightfully so.  When I first wrote about this dinner, I had to use a different Chateau Latour label from another vintage for representation sake.  I can now proudly add this wine label, albeit a photograph of it, in my own article, but I am waiting until this article is published, so as not to steal the thunder from Oliver, who is abroad with his charming wife on holidays.

“We’ll meet, I know we’ll meet. Beyond the shore.”

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Traveling the Old World: A European Red Blind Tasting

Some may remember the Malbec tasting Nina and I hosted last month. We had so much fun that night, that in our drunken state of mind we all agreed to have another tasting soon. And so it was, last week, that the same group of friends gathered. We had agreed to make it a blind tasting and had chosen an area as wide as possible, European Reds, so that we could actually play around with the wines and no one would feel intimidated talking about them. Blind tastings can be a very humbling experience if you think you have some wine knowledge at least, and it is a great equalizer as everyone is free to associate as much as they want.

If you are contemplating a tasting with friends at home, here are some tips that I jotted down a while back but are still helpful, I believe.

We met at 6.30pm (I actually went earlier because I just had to play Wii with our hosts’ son). Everyone brought one bottle of wine, which added up to seven bottles because one fellow wino was sick. I had brought a Riesling to clean our palates with after the tasting, the 2003 von Hövel which I wrote about last week. One of our friends had volunteered to arrange the order of bottles and conduct the tasting so that all others were in the dark except for their own wines.

Because it worked, we had the first bottle of wine with a traditional Roman pasta dish, Pasta cacio e pepe. The first wine, a bottle of 2009 Banfi Chianti Classico (13% ABV, Italy – Sangiovese-based), poured in a medium, clear red color. The aroma intensity was on the lower end of moderate, and the wine smelled young. There was not much I could detect in the nose, very subdued. The wine tasted dry, was light with fresh acidity and low tannins which were fairly balanced. I got some cherries and an overall fresh note from this wine with medium length. I thought this was a decent light wine. My guess was a Sangiovese-based Italian, from 2010 or 2009.

Up next was a 2011 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais (France – Gamay-based), which poured in a pale to medium red and was slightly hazed. The nose was aromatic with some age, showing tobacco, cedar wood, hay and some grape aromas. The wine was dry and light bodied, with low tannins and moderate aromas. On the palate it had quite some unpleasant heat, hardly any fruit with a harsh and disappointing finish. It tasted like it had its best days way behind it. I did not care for this wine much, and guessed 2011 Northern France or Austrian wine.

2010 Banfi Chianti Classico and 2011 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais AOC

The third wine was a 2012 Domaine Pral Beaujolais nouveau (France – Gamay-based). It showed a medium ruby red in the glass. Its nose was young and aromatic, with red fruit, jammy raspberry, gooseberry, pear mustard and roses. Quite the nose!! On the palate this dry, medium bodied wine was smooth with medium tannins and great balance. It showed strawberry and red fruit aromas, was floral and had some red currant to it. There was some heat in the end which I did not care for too much, but it was a very yummy wine with a long finish. Very pleasing. My guess was a 2010 Northern French wine.

And up was wine number four: A bottle of 2009 Andrieux et Fils Gigondas Côtes du Rhone (14.5% ABV, France – Grenache, Syrah, Mograve). Of deep ruby red color, the nose was aromatic with some age, and had plum, coffee, earthy aromas and some dark chocolate. Very different from the last wine! The wine tasted dry, with a medium-full body, smooth acidity and medium to high tannins. All in all it was very balanced and flavorful, with a very long fresh finish. It was the most complex wine of the night thus far and impressed pretty much everyone (as far as I remember). My guess was a 2010 Côtes du Rhone.

2012 Domaine Pral Beaujolais nouveau and 2009 Andrieux et Fils Gigondas Cotes du Rhone

The fifth wine, a 2010 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines (15% ABV, Spain – Garnacha), poured as a deep, ruby red and slightly hazy wine. The nose was aromatic, young and very weird: water colors, chalk, cherry and petrol. Not at all what I am used to, very intriguing. The medium bodied wine tasted dry with smooth acidity and medium to high tannins that were fairly well balanced. On the palate it was flavorful, with very ripe aromas, spice box, chocolate, and very juicy. There was a hint of residual sugar which made it absolutely fascinating. I liked this wine a lot, it was probably my favorite of the evening. Pretty early on, I decided in my head that this must be a Merlot from a Southern European area. Not sure about the age, but I kept yelling “This is a Merlot” across the table….

The sixth wine was a 2009 Az. Tilli  Concetto Terre di Chieti IGT (15% ABV, Italy – Merlot). It showed deep to dark ruby red with a slight haze. The aroma intensity was powerful, with berry compote and raisins. Very ripe, very impressive nose. I could have dove into this for longer. The wine was medium-full bodied, with fresh acidity and medium tannins, all very well balanced. On the palate, it had depth and was incredibly smooth, very likable with mostly red berry aromas. The finish was medium long. The Concetto is just a super yummy wine, I like it a lot. This one had to be a Merlot (by that point I knew that it was Nina’s wine, which she had bought in Germany at a wine store we both like with the one purpose of throwing it in at a blind tasting).

2010 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines and 2009 Az. Tilli Concetto Terre di Chieti IGT

The final wine in the tasting was a bottle of 2008 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine de la Bila-Haut L’esquerda (13.5%  ABV, France – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan). It was the wine I had brought, and it proved to be the most controversial. I had bought it during Wines Till Sold Out‘s big sale the week before and it arrived in the mail just in time. I did not have a chance to try it before this tasting. It poured in a very dark, almost purplish red. The nose turned pretty much everyone completely off, and I have to admit it was the most unpleasant nose I have come across in quite a while: dirt, sulphur, manure. That is all one got for the first 30 minutes. With a heavy emphasis on manure. It was, frankly, disgusting. I was very surprised,  had not expected that at all. After 30 minutes, there were some red fruit aromas fighting their way through, but it was still not enjoyable to smell. On the palate, the wine was extremely intense, mostly earthy. There was some cassis, but mostly dry, dusty earth aromas. I still defended it and want to see what it tastes like after an hour or two in the decanter (I have a couple more bottles). What I tasted at this tasting though, was not very enticing…

2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L'esquerda

2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda

We finished the tasting, as is fast becoming a tradition, with a bottle of German Riesling Spätlese. I reviewed that wine over here.

Overall, I was very impressed with this tasting: Most of the wines were really good, and there were some really great surprises in it for me. We all played the guessing game, and it was fun. The best surprise though was a friend from Nina’s undergrad days who just began working in Detroit. He and a friend of his joined us for some of the wines later on and oh my God, did the friend of the friend play the guessing game. He nailed the last wine, and was pretty much spot on with the others he tried. That was really impressive! Time was just flying by and  I am sure I see another tasting in the not so distant future…



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