Saturday, March 15, 2008

Springtime in (the general vicinity of) Paris

Spring's my favorite season.

Watching the world come back to life after the long, cold winter is a personal favorite pastime. In addition to this wine thing, I also have learned to garden a little bit along the way, and watching the tulips come popping out of the ground always give me a sense of accomplishment.

Springtime means we get to be outside again. We get to bask on porches, in parks, on roofs, wherever. I feel a rush of energy and thankfulness when the sun is finally warm on my face again. Here in Vine-land, this winter seemed harder than many. Just seemed to be cold forever, despite our relative lack of snow (until the ten inches we got the first week of March).

Springtime also means we start turning away a bit from the big, bold tannic reds that help fight off the winter chill. It starts to make sense to crack lighter-styled wines again. (Unless you're my uncle Alan who drinks Amarone in the furnace of midsummer.)

The French figured this out a long time ago. Since they've got a wine for any occasion as is, it makes sense to me to look Gaul-ward to celebrate the springing of spring. Admittedly, most of these wines aren't produced within a couple hundred miles of the City of Lights, but work with me, people. Just close your eyes and imagine that you're sitting on a bench in the Jardin de Luxembourg with a baguette, some meat and cheese, and one of these bottles (which, in Paris, you could probably get for less than you paid for the baguette…).

Verget 2004 Bourgogne -- I'm a big fan of Verget wines. For the price and the ease of carrying (since they're all, to my knowledge, Stelvined), you can't beat them. Jean-Marie Guffens, by all accounts, doesn't adhere to many of the "traditional" French winemaking rules, instead finding grapes from all over France to concoct very solid offerings. This white Burgundy (chardonnay) is a very refreshing wine. The nose is apples and flowers, with an undertone of yeast, indicating that the wine has "laid on the lees" (WineSpeak for "sitting on the yeast after fermentation is done") for some time. The flavor is crisply fruity and slightly creamy from the yeast. There's no oak here whatsoever, and the finish is a little acidic. Delicious just to drink on its own, but soars when paired with roast chicken or any kind of lighter soup. $10-12.

Domaine Guindon Coteaux D'Ancenis 2006 Gamay Rosé -- This wine is made from the same grape as Beaujolais. I'd never had a Gamay as a rosé before, so I was curious. This Gamay comes from the Loire valley rather than its traditional home in Burgundy. It turns out to be a very fruity, medium-bodied rose. Nose of raspberries and a little bit of a floral scent. Flavor is berry and cherry with a nice, balanced acidity and some mineral flavors. The finish is clean but not extraordinarily sharp. There's nothing complicated about this wine and it's not as acidic as I've found many of rosés to be. It's simply an extremely pleasant patio or picnic wine -- a great pairing with cheeses and cold meats. $10-12

La Noble 2005 Chardonnay -- Not a true white Burgundy, since it's from the south of France, but it's definitely put together in that tradition. There's no oak to this wine whatsoever, going instead as a crisp, clean sipper. The wine has a somewhat appley nose. The taste is classic French chardonnay -- a little sour apple, a little citrus, and a little mineral coupling with a medium body. The finish is minerally and very dry. Another great choice for a picnic, since it'll pair with just about anything that you can pack in a basket. An excellent choice with shellfish or chicken, also. I've found this regularly for $8-9 -- simply a great value for a wine like this.

Georges DeBoeuf 2006 Morgon Cru du Beaujolais -- I would have preferred to do a pinot noir based wine here, but I couldn't find a Burgundy for $15 or less. George DeBoeuf has enough of my money as it is with my Beaujolais fetish, so what's one more bottle, right? If I had to find a Beaujolais to stand in for an inexpensive pinot, this one will work. I've shied away from GDB wines for ahile, since they seem to have such a corner on the market these days. I think they've started to realize that they can't just put out generic plonk anymore and have started taking a little more care, especially with their "cru" wines. DeBoeuf makes these in a bigger, fruitier style than my summertime staple Beaujolais-Villages. The nose is full of cherry and vanilla. The body is slightly fuller than "regular" Beaujolais, but considerably more complex. Nice balance of fruit and acidity with a little bit of oak at the end. The finish is fruity and pleasant. You could have this with a spicy Thai meal or chicken parmesan. Or just have it on its own as a porch wine. For $11-13, a solid offering.

Enjoy the sunshine…finally!

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