Champagne, The Ethereal World Wine

Veuve ClicquotHow can we conduct a brief survey of French wines without highlighting champagne?  Champagne is an experience bathed in romance.  It breathes into our minds an atmosphere of excitement before it even meets the senses.  Wines can do that, but none do it so convincingly as Champagne.

No where else in the world do the elements of soil, climate and latitude combine to allow a true replica of this wine.  As we find in this Veuve Clicquot Brut, Champagne is vigorous and brisk while delicate and, at times, it can also be spicy.  Champagne is a wine on the move, effervescing and tickling the tongue while it dances around the palette, stimulating our gustatory cells and creating immediate emotional delight.  (Wine is emotion in a glass!  Remember?)

A racy attack, with verve, seeks to hide the gossamer aromas and flavors.  Apple and lemon dominate in this one.  A chalky texture that is not offensive but feels like it belongs to the wine confirms our expectations of Champagne’s expression of its terroir.  Firm acids create a vibrant freshness.  A biscuity note hangs around the edges of the flavors.

I’m enjoying this glass with oysters.  Their brininess marries well with the chalkiness of the Champagne and the lemon livens and frees the richness of the oysters.

The glass is warming up now and acids have tamed somewhat, as they do with rising temperature.  The evening is warm with a whispering breeze, but soon the air will chill at this high altitude and reflect the vibrancy of the champagne.  The mental world Champagne creates and in which we enjoy it so much is ethereal.  The real world fades and the virtual world of thoughts and feelings emerges as I sip.

Some Champagnes are full and bold, such as Bollinger, but this one expounds the meaning of delicacy, freshness and nerve.

Rating:  92

Emotional rating: Stimulating and, at the same time, reflective.

Widely available.  Veuve Clicquot

fullsizerenderFrench Roussanne — Brézème 2014

Departing from the noble grape varieties provides many new and interesting experiences.  The French have a tendency to blend this grape with many others including Marsanne and Viognier.  Here we have a Roussanne as a varietal and made in a natural way, with as little intervention as possible.  The wine is not filtered, giving it a fullness that is more noticeable here than in many white wines.  Some sulphur dioxide is added at bottling for stability.

The appellation is northern Rhone and in the mid 19th century, its wines rivaled Hermitage.  Rather than being a record of the influence of the terroir, this wine emphasizes the effect of winemaking and vineyard management.

Strong apricot, pear and floral notes meet and greet you.  Noticeable is the bright gold color.  Beeswax, cream, baked apple and honey also feature and these are representative of the grape.  The wine is also harmonious, smooth, with a medium length finish.  It is very well made.

Of note for our education: Along with the varietal aromas, this wine shows some ‘fat’ with a lower acidity.  Although it still refreshes, when combined with rich foods it would not cut through the richness and leave you longing for more.  It will appeal to those who like a lower acid.  As a sipping wine, it can be tiring after a glass or two.  I suggest you taste it along side the Creekside Cellars Roussanne (which we evaluated in a previous post).  The styles of the two  wines will come into strong contrast.

Rating: 87

Emotional rating:  Rewarding to those who love richness in a white wine.

Available:  Try

This Wine Is One Powerful Grenache!

Orin Swift’s selection for a French Grenache: D66

We move from a discussion of a delicate wine (Roussanne) in my previous post to a surprisinglyDepartment 66 Grenache powerful one: a bold expression of Grenache from importer Orin Swift.  The volume and intensity of the music of wine increases dramatically with this one!

This grape loves a sauna and if you are not careful, it will run the alcoholic strength into port territory.  The wine’s name — D 66, declares its origin — Department 66.  The Languedoc/Roussillon region.

On the nose, I get a plum (perhaps a little prune) as well as deep dark fruit.  Would you say prune or grilled plum?  Licorice and leather are abundant, too.  A distant touch of rosemary may be detected.  An underlay of blackberry tries its best to support the weight of all the other flavors.  Depth, power, flavor, length — these are the words that describe this wine.  Strong perhaps, except for tannins, which are not super strong.  Thirty percent new oak barrels soften its grip.

With such high alcohol (15.2%), you would expect a wine that is out of balance, but not this one.  The depth of the fruit stands up strong and tall against the alcohol.  The reason for the prune is this wine’s home in a warmer climate compared its other notable home: Chateaunerf de Pape.  The warmer the climate, the more the plum flavors dominate.

Let’s run a profile on this wine where 1 is mild and 10 is strong.  Here are my ratings:

Alcohol: about an 8-9, very strong; but not a 10 because it does not dominate.

Fruit: about a 9 or 10.

Tannin: about a 5.

Acidity: about a 4.

Balance: about an 7, because the fruit is so dominant and some features overpower others.

Body: about a 9, you may lose patience before the legs appear!

Big wines are for big bold meals and even then, they can dominate.   Are you a lover of big wines?  Then try this version of Grenache and lose yourself in its power.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating:  for the big and bold wine lovers, very high.

Roussanne, the Delicate Wine!

Wine is like music: we need both loud and soft, fast and slow, soft and dramatic, to create Creekside Cellars Roussanne 2015interest.  Life, nor music, nor wine should be all the same.  We’ve evaluated some powerful wines. My personal favorite is “King Cab.”  But some foods and occasions call for a delicate wine, and we focus on one in that category today: Roussanne.

This grape is now all over the world.  Rhone is its home and it is their expression of this grape to which all other Roussannes are compared.  Delicate, refined, and an exciting pleasure to all white wine lovers.  It can even court a red wine drinker successfully.  It is difficult to ripen, but not here in Colorado if Creekside Cellar’s version is any indication.

Apple, pear, lime, and apricot spring from Creekside’s 2015 Roussanne.  Although not noted for its full body, this Roussanne is creamy, leaving the mouth coated and gently lubricated with the above flavors that will not quickly lose their appeal.  True, the alcohol is not that high (13.7%) and the wine’s legs wash down the glass a little too quickly.  But who cares for what the eye detects when the mouthfeel is so luscious.  This is a true sipping wine to be served for its aromatic qualities and its pleasurable fruit and creamy effects.

Learn from this wine the real meaning of delicate.  No rough edges appear.  The finish, its last impression, softly fades with a touch of acid bringing its silkiness and soothing texture to life — something winemaker Michelle Cleveland is very conscious of and something much needed in Colorado, where the heat can destroy the possibilities of a delicate grape, stripping it of its acid.

The flavors in a delicate wine are transparent.  You can taste through them to layers underneath.  No muddiness should be experienced in a delicate wine and there is none here.  The texture is silky, — oh so soft — brushing your palate with a gossamer touch.  Each flavor is like a sheer fabric or like the gossamer wings of a butterfly: fine and oh, so engaging to the senses.  Does it need to be blended with Marsanne for more body?  Not in my books.  This wine should continue to brandish its own richness and delicacy.  It does not need the traditional treatment of the Rhone.  The New World has discovered its appeal.  Do yourself a favor.

Rating: 89

Emotional appeal:  increasing with each sip.

Available from the winery.

Domaines Baron de Rothschild/Lafite

Thibaut Cuisset

Thibaut Cuisset

World Wide Estates: Domaines Baron de Rothschild/Lafite.  

The Rothschild’s have made their mark in the wine world and any wine lover visiting the wines of Bordeaux, whether on location or not, should include at least one of their wines.  Consistency has been a trademark.  Quality has been another.  At times they have hit the ball out of the park and more frequently, they have produced throughout their range of wines products that demand attention and score well.

My first introduction to Bordeaux wines was the humble Mouton Cadet.  However, it had

Cellars at Domaine Baron de Rothschild

Cellars at Domaine Baron de Rothschild

enough of the real thing to encourage my exploration and love of Bordeaux wines.  But Bordeaux is changing fast.  The methods or the New World and the influences of technology are being adopted and felt as I have already remarked in other articles.  What you thought of Bordeaux may not be true anymore, but one thing will be true: Bordeaux is still a top ranking name in the world of wine.

Now to a reasonably priced but still impressive current offering: Domaines Baron de Rothschild/Lafite Reserve Speciale, Bordeaux.  It is in my glass and I will make some comments that you can add to, so get yourself a glass and evaluate with me.  The one I tasted had been on argon for a while and seemed none the worse for the passage of time.  If the delivery system is foolproof, argon can be best way to keep a wine in perfect condition.

First impression as I tilted my glass was dark, dark, almost black at the core.  Aromas!  Yes, for a Bordeaux of this price all I could have expected — blackberry and some black currant of course, blueberry, licorice, caramel, and toast all presented with an edge of minerality.  So far, not disappointing and, in fact, an interesting, complex, soft nose with promise.

It’s medium to full bodied with strong, young tannins a medium length and a pleasant finish.  If compared with a Napa Cab, I found it less fruity and, as might be expected, more of the Old World minerality showing.  Some ability to age a little can be expected.  The left bank of Bordeaux is not Cabernet Sauvignon but the famous blend of grapes dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon that makes for a distinctive wine copied the world over.

Taste!  Your comments count.  We all experience wine through the emotional bank of our memories and so, yes, you are right.  Enjoy.

Rating:  88