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Posts Tagged ‘Cahors’

The Region Which Started It All

May 15, 2018 6 comments

The wine had been made in the Southwest of France ( Sud-Ouest in French) almost forever – in terms of human life, 2,000+ years well classified as “forever”. The region is considered one of the “cradles of winemaking” in Europe, and it maintains its uniqueness and diversity today – for example, out of 300 grape varieties used in the winemaking in the region, 120 are not found anywhere else.

Of course, we know that winemaking started about 8,000 years ago, and not in the Southwest of France. So what’s up with “started it all” claim? Glad you asked! Let me explain.

We live in the times when the wine is a part of daily life of many. Drinking wine is a norm and normal, simply a part of the daily routine for many, not a luxury or a weird exception anymore. Yes, that’s how it was in Europe forever – but now I’m talking about the rest of the world, countries such the USA, and even China now heading that way. The demand for wine had been constantly increasing since the late 1990s, and even Great Recession of 2008 didn’t kill it (just shifted the “acceptable” price ranges). Is it all just a normal course of events? We can, of course, settle for this. However, I believe that on a deeper level, there are exact reasons, “tip the scale” moments for many things which seem to happen just on its own – however, sometimes it is not easy to identify those “reasons”.

Remember the impact of the movie Sideways on consumption and production of the Merlot in the USA? That movie was the reason for a huge slump after 2004, and production and interest to Merlot are still in the recovery mode even now, 14 years later.

Late in the 1980s, the world started talking about The French Paradox – French eat cheese and foie gras, cook with butter and duck fat daily, and nevertheless, the coronary disease rates are much less than in the countries with comparable living standards and much lesser fat consumption. Possible explanation? Red wine. French consume lots of red wine, and resveratrol, one of the prominent substances found in seeds and skins of the red grapes, acts as a defense against clogging of the arteries. That was the outcome of the extensive medical research study conducted in France, which became known in the world as French Paradox.

In 1991, CBS in the USA dedicated one of their popular programs, 60 Minutes, to the French Paradox, and you know how Americans are, right? We are always looking for an easy way out, so wine sounded like an easy enough cure, and I believe this became a pivotal moment which triggered a renewed interest in the wine. Almost 40 years later, it seems that the wine successfully keeps the momentum. And before you will attack me with all the facts from the latest research – yes, I’m aware of many articles pointing to the issues with the study. Whether French Paradox study conclusions were medically solid I have to leave to professionals to debate and decide on. But it was still that pivotal “tip the scale” moment which changed the perception of the wine for many in the world.

At this point, I’m sure you want to see the connection between the title, the Southwest of France, and the story of the French Paradox, right? Here it is. While attending the tasting of the wines of Southwest France, I was listening to the presentation by sommelier André Compeyre, who mentioned that Southwest France has the biggest number of centenarians in France and it was one of the main regions where the French Paradox study was conducted – here we go, now everything is connected and explained. Is it time for a glass of wine?

The tasting took place at the little store in New York called the French Cheese Board – what can be better than wine with a little cheese, right? Especially if both come from the same region, where they trained to live together for a few thousand years…

We started tasting with the sparkling wine, moved to the white and then red. As usual in such events, there was not enough time (and desire) for the formal notes, so below is the best I can offer. However, overall, the word is “outstanding” – the wines of Southwest France are well worth seeking – and you will not be disappointed.

NV Domaine du Moulin Mauzac Méthode Ancestrale Gaillac AOP (12% ABV, $15, 100% Mauzac) – very nice and simple. 7+

2017 Domaine du Tariquet Premières Grives Côtes de Gascogne IGP (11.5% ABV, $14, 100% Gros Manseng) – semi-sweet wine. It appears to be a traditional wine in the Southwest of France, which people are accustomed to drinking. It is possible that the wine was not cold enough when I tasted it, but I really didn’t appreciate it. If you like sweeter wines – this might be the one for you.

2016 Héritage Blanc Saint-Mont AOP (13% ABV, blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, Arrufiac) – excellent, bright, crisp, but very complex and thought-provoking. A touch of grass, vanilla, ta ouch of honey on the palate, green apples, wow. Excellent acidity. Great complexity. 8. And let’s not forget 2 new grapes – Petit Courbu and Arrufiac

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

2012 Château de Haute Serre Cahors AOP (13.5% ABV, $22) – superb, ripe berries, blueberries, round, delicious, acidity, vanilla, the backbone of minerality. 8+

2012 Château Montus Madiran AOP (15% ABV, $32.99, blend of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon) – smoke, campfire, tobacco, great concentration, powerful, excellent, great acidity, outstanding. 8

2011 Jean-Luc Baldès Triguedina Clos Triguedina Cahors AOP (14.5% ABV, $40, 85% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 5% Tannat, 12 months in oak) – touch of barnyard on the nose, delicious fruit, ta ouch of funkiness on the palate, great acidity. 8

2015 Domaine de Terrisses Terre Originelle Gaillac AOP (13% ABV, $16, blend of Braucol (Fer) and Prunelart) – beautiful Cabernet nose, crisp, cassis, Bordeaux style -outstanding. 8. and a new grape – Prunelart

2015 Réserve Bélingard Côtes de Bergerac AOP ($15, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot) – beautiful, warm nose, vanilla, cassis, beautiful, soft. 8

2013 Chateau Peyros Vieilles Vignes Madiran AOP (13% ABV, $18, 80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc) – excellent, soft. 8-

2017 Domaine de Joy l’Eclat Côtes de Gascogne AOP (12% ABV, $7, blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc)  – crisp, clean, superb. 8

In addition tot he wines, we had an opportunity to indulge on the local cheeses of Southwest France – Ossau Iraty, Buche de Lucay, Bethmale Chèvre, Chabichou, Valencay, and Comté. Sorry, I’m not going to give you any individual notes, but all the cheese were superb. If you are like me and accustomed to the Comté cheese from Costco – that Comté in the tasting was the whole different game (go visit the store and taste, you don’t have to believe me).

There you go, my friends. Have you had wines of Southwest France lately? Any favorites you want to mention? Let’s raise the glass to many happy wine discoveries – and some red wine as a solution to all our problems. Cheers!

Celebrate Malbec!

April 17, 2016 3 comments

This very blog exists for more than 6 years, so in my mind, I’m sure I’ve written about pretty much everything, especially when it comes to such a heart-warming subject as grape holidays.

Only it turns out I have not.

Sunday, April 17th is 6th (!) annual celebration of World Malbec Day. So how many times over those 6 special occasions I’ve written a post for the Malbec Day? Aha, you got that. Zero.

Well, this is incorrect. None for the previous five, but we are talking about Malbec today, so the problem is finally fixed.

Thinking about grapes with long and turbulent history, Malbec might be the most prolific example of such. Taking its roots in Middle Ages, being a choice wine of the kings, shining in Bordeaux and all over the France and then literally disappearing from the face of the earth, but luckily, finding its second, and very prosperous life in Argentina – not too many grapes can brag about such an adventurous life. By the way, if you are curious about the events I mentioned here, you can test your knowledge of Malbec with this quiz, or you can just jump straight to the answers.

Starting from the second half of 19th century, Malbec found its new home in Argentina. Consistently dry climate of Mendoza happened to be just what Malbec needed to strive. As there are two sides to everything, the ideal growing conditions lead to overproduction and subsequently dull wines. It was not until the 1980s that Malbec commanded proper attention for the quality instead of quantity, and slowly became one of the darlings of the wine world – depending on who you would talk to, Malbec is considered the hottest wine at the moment. Starting from the bottom of Andes in Mendoza, plantings of Malbec are now extending to the higher and higher elevations, offering new range of expression of already delicious wines.

Argentinian Malbec wines are easy to like for many palates – while appearing big and powerful in the glass with its inky, almost black color, Malbec wines are usually round, soft and mellow, avoiding spikes of tannins and acidity which often upset wine drinkers looking for relaxing glass of wine. Interestingly enough, Malbec from other regions, such as Cahors in south of France, shows totally differently and often offers very forceful personality, so if you are looking for that soft and mellow Malbec, you might want to ask for the Argentinian Malbec by name.

Rutini Malbec

Today I want to bring to your attention two Malbec wines I had pleasure of tasting recently. It is not the first time I’m talking about Rutini wines from Argentina in this blog – here you can find my interview with Mariano Di Paola, winemaker at Rutini wines, as well as tasting notes for few other Rutini wines. Here are the notes for the two Malbec wines:

2014 Rutini Trumpeter Malbec Mendoza Argentina (14% ABV, SRP $11.99)
C: dark garnet
N: freshly crushed fruit, sage, savory notes
P: clean, earthy, tart cherries with hint of licorice, touch of sweet tobacco
V: 7+/8-, nice, refreshing, round, great QPR

2011 Rutini Encuentro  Malbec Mendoza Argentina (13.5% ABV, SRP $18.99)
C: dark garnet, inky
N: roasted notes, tar, cherries, warm, inviting, touch of barnyard
P: soft, round, sweet berries, concentrated, good acidity, perfect balance. Became dark and concentrated on the day 2/3.
V: 8, very enjoyable, easy to drink; will evolve with time – you should forget few bottles in the cellar…

Here you are, my friends. Celebrate Malbec, this grape definitely worth your attention. Cheers!