Ask Sid: Where to discover the Bourboulenc grape?

July 8th, 2020
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Question: I am drinking some white CNP with several grape varieties in the blend including some Bourboulenc. Where might I get a chance to discover the best expression of that grape by itself?

Answer: Interesting thought. Yes the Bourboulenc (using many other names too) is a late ripening grape with lower pH & fair acidity that is being used more recently in popular Cotes du Rhone blanc mixes as well for better structured wines. However probably the best expression of it can be found in the newer La Clape AOC (starting with vintage 2015) in Languedoc reaching from Narbonne to the Mediterranean over 17 kilometers (ironically 80% out of the total 768 hectares is red) where there now is so much more planted by 25 Estates & 3 Co-ops often used as the majority varietal in their white blends. Do you notice some maritime salty notes from the sea breezes in that wine? Recommend you search out a good example from say from Chateau d’Angles, Chateau de la Negly, or Gerard Bertrand among others. Enjoy the unique experience!

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July 6th, 2020

Côte-Rôtie in the northern Rhone has certainly established itself as one of the most coveted spots in the world for producing high quality distinctive wines. The history goes way back including the oldest house of Vidal-Fleury from 1780. Certainly legendary Joseph Vidal-Fleury (1906-1976) deserves a lot of the early credit for showing that very good classic Côte-Rôtie was possible. Also does Etienne Guigal their winemaker until leaving in 1946 after 22 years there to start his own winery. Since the seventies his son Marcel Guigal has done a really fantastic job of raising the overall quality level of top Côte-Rôtie. A big part of that success story has been due to the key acquisition of the faltering Vidal-Fleury firm in 1985. Earlier Marcel had patiently and cleverly assembled for Guigal over 10+ years some 17 small vineyard holdings of La Landonne in the Côte Brune. The result of these coups are 4 great wines: their regular Côte-Rôtie, an iconic since 1966 La Mouline in Côte Blonde, his new consolidation of La Landonne vineyards from 1978, and the latest from 1985 La Turque in Côte Brune (from Vidal-Fleury).

Early wine publications helped as well in promoting how special Côte-Rôtie could be with John Livingstone-Learmonth (with Melvyn C. H. Master) in 1978 on The Wines Of the Rhone and revised editions including his tome The Wines of the Northern Rhone in 2005 providing outstanding background detailed information. Also Robert Parker’s first spotlight on Rhone in 1987 revised & expanded in 1997 hyped Côte-Rôtie by Guigal with many 100 point scores in those earlier days when high scores and especially perfection was much harder to come by. La Mouline from 1976, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1991 plus La Landonne 1985, 1988, and 1990, & La Turque 1985, 1988, and 1990 all received 100 and many more were rated in the high nineties. This got the consumer’s attention and helped push the present prices to the stratosphere. Thankfully there are many other up and coming top Côte-Rôtie wine producers now in the market as well.

What a treat to have a dinner featuring older Côte-Rôtie treasures and actually get a chance to drink them again – rather than just admire their auction prices. This happened for your scribe at Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver on June 30, 2020 with 9 memorable bottles briefly highlighted as follows:

A few laudatory words first about the overall culinary excellence at Blue Water headed by Executive Chef Frank Pabst but also Chef de Cuisine Raimund Hauser (off his talented finalist performance on Firemasters TV) who is producing some classic yet innovative dishes that pair so well with top wines. Even the hors d’oeuvre featured an interesting soft crusted ravioli inspired by Sardinia “culurgiones” and his white fish halibut with bacon, fresh porcini and ramp pistou matched divinely with a red wine! Well done.

1. 2013 RENE ROSTAING CUVEE AMPODIUM – Purple shades showing some stems from whole bunch fermentation of nearly all syrah (less than 1 % viognier) with oak notes almost like young Hermitage in style. Needs more time.

2. 2006 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Red with a paling edge having an open best textbook nose in first flight of three with enticing bacon fat, smoke, black pepper, cloves complexity at first and evolving into more medicinal as it aired. Enjoyment forwardly but no rush.

3. 2003 RENE ROSTAING LA LANDONNE – Deep dark ruby with a herbal most dramatic black currant cassis bouquet – like pure currant juice – and making a ripe syrah concentrated statement.

4. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA MOULINE – What an experience in this second flight to have all three La Las from 2001 to compare their differences – and similarities. This is only 1 hectare on a terrace of very old vines producing 5000-6000 bottles with 11% viognier so lovely, charming, and refined with floral cherry notes plus intense round supple seductive length on the palate. Is that violets? Easy to admire and respect. What a wine.

5. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA LANDONNE – Larger property with 2.1 hectares on clay-limestone soil rich in iron producing 10000-12000 bottles of 100% syrah with no viognier. Darker deeper look but still rather tight closed in at nearly 20 with a powerful structure and big meaty flavours. Opened more earthy with airing and truly impressive. Obviously the low yield quality is there but expect it will improve with more cellaring.

6. 2001 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Only .95 hectares on a steep 60-70 degree slope of silico-limestone producing some 5000 bottles with 7% viognier in the blend. More towards La Landonne with a rather deep closed concentrated style again impressive but not totally singing. Logically has harmony in between the charming La Mouline and powerful La Landonne in style with silkier tannins. All three improved with airing in the glass. Recommend wait a few more years for their best. What a flight! Surprised (and delighted) that all three are still somewhat primary wow fruit and have everything there to still develop more tertiary character of earth, spice, floral, and other dimensions coming to show this terroir off to best advantage. Still hard not to enjoy them presently as well – especially La Mouline – if the opportunity arises.

7. 1991 CHAPOUTIER LA MORDOREE – From older best vines on Brune & Blonde near the Chapoutier sign on the hill. Controversial with scores from 86 to 100. This bottle has some black olives and raspberry but seems outclassed here showing rather simpler with softer acidity and a drying finish. Prefer the 2015 or even 2012.

8. 1988 E. GUIGAL LA TURQUE – Wine of the Night! Sensational showing where all the elements have come together in a most impressive bottle. What you can expect and perhaps even more from the 2001s with some patience. Too many complex elements to list but include coffee, chocolate, ripe blackberries, bacon, beautifully seasoned black pepper and dazzling pizzazz. Thrilling.

9. 1983 PAUL JABOULET AINE LES JUMELLES – Quite light elegant and stylish. Less body and complexity but rather good. Gerard Jaboulet always proud of their 1983. Drink now.

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Ask Sid: Where does the Tramontane wind affect grape growing?

July 1st, 2020
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Question: Where does the Tramontane wind affect grape growing?

Answer: In some grape growing regions of Southern France. Tramontane is the locally named wind from the north particularly in the lower north western part of Languedoc & Roussillon. There is also there a moister warm Marin wind coming from the Mediterranean Sea in the south. The more widely known Mistral wind brings somewhat the same influences to the Rhone Valley extending to the more north eastern parts of Languedoc (and even Provence) as the Tramontane does.

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June 29th, 2020

This persistent Covid-19 pandemic is resulting in the most challenging of times for close personal social interaction. As a result we are not getting together with friends over meals to discuss our shared passion for food and wine. One novel idea we have embarked on successfully over these past weeks is to plan a supper party date with a theme, invite some friends, coordinate for each to provide an appropriate food course & surprise wine and all share in the meal. The logistics get a bit tricky but we meet outside at the home of one of us at 6 pm socially distanced enough to enjoy some choice bubbles and catch-up on the current buzz. Meanwhile the host for the evening takes the individual prepared packaged food courses from everyone and the wine pre-poured into “jam jars” with identifying stickers of provider/recipient and puts these together for take-away. We all go back to our respective homes and reunite on line (we are using Zoom) around 7:15 for our wonderful social event sharing an identical dinner with wine pairings. What a lot of fun!

The theme last week was Loire with a diverse selection of so appropriate food and wine provided. Fresh mussels with vibrant excellent 2018 Muscadet Sur Lie La Tarciere from Bonnet-Huteau, tomato tart & wild mushroom soup with pure fruity charming 2018 Rose Sancerre Chavignol from Domaine Delaporte of 100% pinot noir, and chicken vol-au-vent (puff pastry ready to pop into your own oven) with treasured complex 1995 Grand Mont Bourgueil Val de Loire by Pierre-Jacques Druet. Finished up with a delightful walnut cake plus roasted apples perfectly matched with 2004 Clos De La Guiberderie Coteaux Du Layon Saint Aubin from Domaine Philippe Delesvaux. Memorable dinner party among friends.

The one before that was on a Rhone theme with Bouillabaisse, stuffed peppers with ratatouille, Tian of eggplant, roasted tomatoes, pecorino cheese & herbs, and the main of Avignonnaise Daube (Provencal lamb stew). Some interesting Rhone wines included outstanding 2010 Chave Hermitage Blanc, 2013 Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet, and powerful 1998 Ch. Beaucastel all poured by you from the jam jars into your favourite wine glasses to study blind and discuss. The next one scheduled early next month features California cab and chardonnay.

Try putting together one of these yourself. Worth the trouble. What other new ideas have you come up with presently to get together with friends virtually over wine and food?

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Ask Sid: What is the difference between pinot noirs from Russian River & Sonoma Coast?

June 24th, 2020
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Ask Sid: What is the difference between pinot noirs from Russian River & Sonoma Coast?

Question: I have been enjoying some pinot noirs coming from both Russian River & Sonoma Coast. Would you kindly tell me the main difference?

Answer: Boy that is tough one to give you a helpful simple answer. Both Russian River Valley (RRV) & Sonoma Coast (SC) are in Sonoma County California under the influence of foggy conditions. Both are a large AVA (American Viticultural Area) with lots of producers showing different styles. Soils are becoming a big factor with lots of alluvial types in RRV but both regions continue to seek out those special Goldridge sandy loam on a sandstone base from decomposed sea beds to terroir advantage. SC is closer to the Pacific Ocean often at higher elevation and generally is cooler, wetter & more windy – resulting in a key difference of lower night-time temperatures. Not really fair because of the wide style variations to summarize the resulting wines from the 2 AVA regions. However I will try to help you a little bit nonetheless. IMHO a simple explanation of the wines from the 2 regions might be summarized briefly as follows:

RRV tends to be riper richer deeper in colour of black cherry & cola notes with a lush velvety texture.

SC often shows more herbal varietal fruit of brighter acidity with a lively structure all with a mouth feel of silky tannin grip.  

What do others think?

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