Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Wines of South West France: Part Three

Of course, talking about the wines of South West France is rather uninteresting, so we need to drink. But despite some gentle reminders from my friends, I have been so busy that I have not had time to work through my pile of SW France tasting notes. But their time has come, and this should lead in nicely to this week's Wine Blogging Wednesday, hosted by none other than Dr. Vino.

These notes have been collected over the past month and a half, and I hope they give you a flavour of the region and its treasures. I think a key theme in this piece is VALUE - this region is the source of many great values...

Bergerac / Bergerac Sec / Monbazillac

As per my previous posts, this is a great place Bordeaux-like wines at not-so-Bordeaux-like prices.

My Bergerac red was the 2005 Chateau Grinou Reserve. Bright purple in colour, with leathery black cherry and pleasant green pepper, liquorice, cedar and mint notes. Very nicely balanced, very dry with firm tannins, a nice round texture and copious leather and black pepper fruit, oaky. Hard to resist now, but should keep for a few more years. Try and find this good a bottle in Bordeaux for C$16.45 (-10% off). My Montreal friends should buy up every bottle in town.
14% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20

My white, a Bergerac Sec, was the 2005 Chateau Tour Gendres, Cuvee des Conti. White gold in colour, this semillon-dominated white was almost all pink grapefruit on the nose, but later showed faint floral, toast, apricot and nut aromas. On the palate it had a rich, luscious texture, but remained crisp and focused. Great deal, C$16.
13.5% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20

The stunning value was the Monbazillac. The 2000 Chateau Septy is an AWESOME alternative to a pricier Sauternes. Bright gold in the glass, this liquid treasure showed sweet caramel and apricot, followed by tar and petrol notes. A beautiful texture on the palate, a golden almond extract like finish. This is a great value (C$22), and an excuse to drink more dessert wine.
13% alcohol, Score: 17/20

Gaillac / Fronton

Probably the rarest and quirkiest appellations in the SW, as discussed in my previous posts, but very rustic and food friendly - try these as an alternative to some Italian country wines.

From Gaillac I tasted the 2000 Domaine de Pialentou "Les Gentilles Pierres". Deep ruby red in colour, the Pialentou started like a smelly sock, in a good way...ripe berry fruit, almost cranberry, with white flowers, mushrooms, oak, leather, cinnamon and cloves. Gorgeous. On the palate this medium- to full-bodied red was supple and well balanced with fresh acidity, raspberries, very oaky. A bit over-oaked, but otherwise perfect. At $21.80 a great deal for the quality. For my Montreal friends, the SAQ website lists the 2002 (bad vintage) but I keep finding 2000s in the store - buy them all up now - a beefy red in its prime.
12.5% alcohol, Score: 17.5/20

My notes describe the two Fronton selections as "Loire meets Italy". I tasted two wines from Chateau Montauriol, the 2004 Montauriol "Tradition" and the 2004 Montauriol "Mons Aureolus".

The pricier Mons Aureolous was my preferred wine, with an interesting nose of ripe blackberry fruit, green olives, cedar, black pepper and liquorice - very earthy. On the palate it was rich, with black cherries and some chocolate, very different. Juicier and better balanced than the Tradition, C$19 (-10%).
13.5% alcohol, Score: 16/20

The Tradition was a dark purple, with a simpler nose of green pepper, mint, earth, and almonds. Bracingly acidic at first, thin and dilute, it settled down over the evening to pair nicely with a meal, but never acheived the balance and complexity of its pricier sister wine. C$13.25 (-10%)
12.5% alcohol, Score: 15.5/20

Madiran / Cahors

These are my favourites from the region, and the main reason that South West France has my attention. The Cahors wines have the burliness of Argentine Malbec, but with a touch more finesse. Madirans have a rustic, tannic complexity that I love, but require patience. Perhaps an interesting substitute for a Barolo. I will lean on some old material here, as I have blogged a few of these.

Click here (1,2) for some red Cahors wines, and here (1,2,3,4) for some red Madiran ideas, and here for white Madiran.

Jurançon / Jurançon sec / Vin de Pays Côtes de Gascogne

Last, but certainly not least, I got a chance to sample some fabulous whites from this region, but I stuck with dry whites.

My first Jurançon sec was tasted in France, and with such a nice experience I couldn't wait to try the 2004 Domaine Cauhape "Seve D'Automne" Jurançon sec. Straw yellow in the glass, this wine leapt forth with beautiful aromas - very melon, canned peaches, white flowers, apple, caramel (almost Sauternes-like), banana, toast and hazelnuts. I could have sniffed it all night, if I wasn't so busy drinking it. Silky smooth in texture, very well balanced, very apple-y, it barely showed the whopping alcohol (I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that later in the evening). A beautiful white to sip and ponder. C$28.
15% alcohol, Score: 17/20

My two VdP Côtes de Gascogne white selections were terrific values. My favourite was the 2006 Brumont Gros Manseng-Sauvignon, by one of my all-time favourite winemakers Alain Brumont. Green gold in the glass, the nose was very interesting - melon and grapefruit, limes and pineapple, mangoes?, white flowers, oak, petrol and a hint of pis de chat. On the palate it was silky, balanced, melon and grapefruit. Overall, it was surprisingly complex for the price - C$12.30.
12.5% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20

The 2006 Domaine la Hitaire "Les Tours" was also a very nice value. White gold in the glass, it was simpler on the nose - apple, lemon, banana and toast. Very dry and crisp, lemony, with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Would go great with grilled calamari in olive oil. A nice price, C$12.75 (-10% off), and very low in alcohol.
10.5% alcohol, Score: 15.5/20


Overall, this was a fabulous adventure, but it is not over. Stay tuned for more over the coming months.

It was especially interesting to taste this selection of charming, rustic wines throughout August, in parallel with the rather polished wines of American Wine Month. You can't get a better contrast than this!

Alain Brumont is a genius, and all of his wines peformed well. I think he will feature again in a future post...

I hope this is in time for you to make some selections for WBW.



Marcus said...

Five comments in one:
1. Chateau Grinou noted! I've tried the white blend, not the Merlot, which does sound like an awesome deal. (Phaneuf even says it's age-worthy which is pretty ridiculous for a bottle that cheap.
2. So this -10% is the Labour Day sale I was out of town for? I want to buy a lot and wait for another one of these sales. Should I hold my breath?
3. Despite your stalling you still beat me to the Brumont Gros Manseng-Sauvignon review. I too have notes to put up. It is one those wines that I could consider giving my "wine of the year" award because of the serious value.
4. Montauriol "Tradition" - I told you to try this a while ago. I tasted the 04 two days ago and was ho hum about it. I used to love it (mostly for its strong companionship during dinner?), and I still do appreciate the acidity more than most but I think the "Mons Aureolus" used to be better too. Still interesting wines.
5. Are you going to take credit for this WBW with your seminal Cahors/Mendoza head-to-head bout? Tyler should give you a special shout-out.

Joe said...

Thanks for the FIVE comments:
1) Not to miss
2) That was actually the July/August sale - like I said, I have been keeping these notes for a while. Not a big deal to wait for a sale, but check and see that there are lots of bottles left. If it is cheap and there are only a few bottles, they will not make the next 10% sale.
3) Brumont = god. Serious value.
4) I knew you liked that cheaper Montauriol, but I didn't know you tried the Mons. Interesting that you served the Tradition colder - I should have thought of that. I find that with many wines that I used to love - ho, hum.
5) I cannot take credit for this WBW - all Tyler.

Marcus said...

By the way, the 2006 Montauriol Tradition is already out. I was enjoying the 2001 less than a year ago and 2002s are still languishing on some store shelves, I am sure of it... very strange.

I know that 2003s never made it but did you see the 2005s blow past already? If so, then that means three vintages were distributed across the reseau in about six months!

Joe said...

Hi Marcus - I bought the '04 this summer and never saw the '05s. I know the SAQ sometimes holds back on these things to clear our old stock. Perhaps they only got a small allocation of '05s? Strange.