Top Three Wines of April: Alsace, Rhone, and Loire
With a clean sweep of “Top Wines of April”, I am reminded that if I could only drink wines from one country for the rest of my life, it would be France. These April winners prove that despite a weakened dollar and skyrocketing prices for in-demand Bordeaux, Burgundy, and top Rhones, it’s still entirely possible to drink wines made by great French winemakers showing off head-turning style and unique terroir without taking out a second mortgage. Best yet, as much as these wines are completely yummy now and worth consuming with immediate gusto, they will all benefit from cellaring.
***1/2 2007 Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux, Loire Valley $21
I drank this bottle with my son at Harold Dieterle’s very highly recommended Kin Shop, where the food can only be described as skilled and hedonistically delicious. Chidaine wines continue to represent some of the most impressive white wine values in the world. As notably, so many of Chidaine’s Chenin blancs I have tasted deftly tuck residual sugars underneath crisp acidity in supporting roles. The sugar is important, but stays in check to the extent a demi-sec like this comes off quite dry and fully food appropriate. The Les Tuffeaux (a name I assume derived from the long-mined Loire valley stone “Tuffeau”) bottling, a blend of Chenin Blanc from multiple terroirs, is representative of Chidaine’s Montlouis work in the shadows of Vouvray. The 2007 on Kin Shop’s list is a vintage behind, but you should feel comfortable buying the 2008′s and beyond. Every vintage of Chidaine has something unique to offer with a consistent overall style at ridiculously fair price points. With tangerine peel, mango, nuttiness, and a rich full mouthfeel of just the right amount of bright acidic structure, I embrace this wine because of its alluringly delicious fruit and impeccable balance. Its classy flavors can stand up to all kinds of food because of the great acidity that also holds the underlying touch of sugary sweetness in check. Don’t let its off dry nature spook you, it is barely noticeable….one of the consistent beauties of Chidaine’s Chenin Blancs.
***1/2 2009 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine $14, Rhone Valley
Thanks to producer Maxime Bernard and importer Eric Solomon, we have the chance to drink a wine that can transport our imaginations back to France’s countryside, sitting around scarred 200 year old wooden tables, eating simple but delicious hearty foods of the region, and drinking a corresponding local wine that is expressive of everything you can smell and see around you. All for $14. Showing the spice and authenticity we crave in typical Cote du Rhone and adding in a rich black cherry fruit core, this wine is a mind blowing value sitting somewhere in between a rustic and modern style. There is no excuse not to fill your cellar or kitchen rack with a dozen of these wines. Domaine La Garrigue can comfortably sit on your summer grilling table just as naturally as it will accompany more serious, finely prepared, and flavorful dishes.
No, I didn’t lie about this month’s fair pricing. I understand that the Zind Humbrecht is now selling for somewhere around $250; anything but a value. But, it originally sold for $60. Considering it’s just as good as any white wine you can imagine drinking after ten years of bottle age, $60 is a steal. And the fact that you can buy or order your ’09 for slightly less than $60 makes this wine a very, very strong value at its current release price point. If you are really smart and live in Boston, you will head over to Radius and order the wine for about $80 off the wine list. Grab a Lobster BLT and a bottle of ’01 Clos Windsbuhl and transport yourself to a better place. Rich apricot flavors integrating bright lime notes are present in this orange colored wine that offers a mega rich mouthfeel that has just enough weight and sweetness to remain elegant. Zind Humbrecht wines are at the center of so many great personal wine memories and always feel special, especially when they have sat around the cellar for meaningful chunks of time. While $50-$60 can appear expensive for a bottle of Pinot Gris, I can assure you that stashing away these noble wines will create evenings that will last in your palate’s and guests’ memories forever.
Happy May wine trails!