Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Let's go back to Beaujolais for a minute....


What Beaujolais represents for most consumers? A young, simple, fairly nondescript red fruity is somewhat true for a tiny, negligible part of the Beaujolais production...However, it is wrong to think this way about Beaujolais wines, because they have some much more to offer.

You see, the "mediaticommercial" (overly-marketed by the press) event of the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau, each year on the third Thursday of November, make this just fermented wine a symbol and the flagship of Beaujolais. However, the fame of Beaujolais Nouveau is declining a bit more each year for lack of quality and consistency, somewhat dragging the Beaujolais name in the mud. To stop it, we have to inform people that there is more to Beaujolais, its wines, its people, its villages and its region, than Beaujolais Nouveau. We have to revamp the stained image of Beaujolais.

First thing first, whether you trust me or not, and I can already hear you say:"I usually stay away from Beaujolais!" or "I don't like these fruity wines" or "Beaujolais never really please me...", you have to know and be aware that Beaujolais wines, like in the rest of Burgundy (yes, yes, Beaujolais is the southern part of Burgundy, monsieur!!!), can also be rich, complex and authentic wines of character and personality, with "Crus" (designated by the village name of origin on the label) able to match and rivalize in depth, length and age potential, many wines from other reputated French appellations. Now that I triggered your interest about the subject, you can't ignore Beaujolais anymore. Let's develop a bit.

The appellation lies on the left bank of the Saône River, between Mâcon and Lyon, in the Rhône Department (can be translated as a County). And here again, you say: "The "Rhône department" but I thought we were talking about Beaujolais?" I know, I know, it is confusing for most people even for the French. It became so confusing that it is only lately, over the last few years, that some producers, who used to write on their labels the name of the town (where their winery is located) followed by the name of the department "Rhône", stopped doing it, especially for the American market (and export in general), to stop and definitely avoid the consumers' confusion. So, get it, Beaujolais is a wine region, part of Burgundy, within the Rhône Department....

To even create more confusion, I will even say that only Beaujolais wines are produced in the "Rhône department", only Beaujolais and no Rhône wines you get it? Go figure...this is the French way: "Why make it simple, when you can make it more complicated?" In fact, Rhône wines are only produced in the Rhône Valley commencing about 20 miles south of Lyon, from vineyards planted all along the banks of the Rhône River, North to South, from Vienne to Valence (see my previous post on Côtes du Rhône). So Beaujolais are produced in the Rhône Department (county) and the Rhône wines are produced in most of the other Departments following the Rhône River valley, except the Rhône Department itself...(any question?...)

Back to our Beaujolais and its various type of soils.

In the northern part of the appellation (south of Macôn, in a triangle between the town of "La Chapelle de Guinchay", "Beaujeu" and "Belleville"), the ancient vineyards, some dated from the 10th century, are planted on rolling hills of granitic-schist based soils. It is the land of the "Cru(s)" (Brouilly, Morgon, etc...) where the wines have more structure and complexity.

The southern part, is flatter with richer, sandstone and clay based soils with some limestone patches. The Gamay grape ripens differently in both regions-producing more structured, complex wines in the north and lighter, fruitier wines in the south.

The climate here is quite remarkable, the whole region, protected from the west wind by the Massif Central, has a temperate continental character influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and the geological corridor of the Rhône and the Saône River. Beaujolais is a different world regrouping some of the best characteristic of both neighboring wine regions, the south of Burgundy and the nothern Rhône Valley, under the same roof.

Beaujolais produces many different wines in three colors: Red and Rosé made solely with Gamay, and White made predominantly with Chardonnay and a touch of Aligoté. The whites and Rosés only represent a small amount of the entire production, Beaujolais are mainly red.

Gamay is the red grape variety of predilection for Beaujolais. Thin skin and fruity, this grape offers its best expression when grown in the Northern part of the appellation, where the Crus come from.

Beaujolais are elaborated under a very specific vinification method, called carbonic Maceration, which consists to macerate the whole berry usually for a short period of time: 3 to 6 days, 7 max for Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais AOC, sometimes longer for higher level wines like the "Crus". The fermentation occurs in the berry itself, at an intracellular level, which helps to develop fruit and aromas.

Usually fermented and aged (resting) for a few more months in stainless steel tanks, Beaujolais may also be aged in used large oak barrel to add dimension and texture. Some producers may also use newer and smaller barrels to add flavors and volume, but it is a practice which is still rarely or partially used. Beaujolais producers are mainly traditional and the quality of the fruit is the main concern.

Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais Superieur AOC: usually fruity, simple and balanced, the Superieur may have a bit more depth, but usually these wines remain pretty fresh, young and have poor ageing potential. To drink shortly after bottling.

Beaujolais Villages AOC: slightly richer (don't get me wrong, we are still talking about Beaujolais....) and more structured, they are usually more representatives of the particular terroir they come from.

Cru du Beaujolais AOC: the highest rank in Beaujolais classification, the Cru Beaujolais represent the best of what Beaujolais can offer. The Cru(s) are named after the 10 Cru villages (or areas of origin) and do not necessarily mention the name "Beaujolais" on the label. Compared to other regions, like Burgundy, a Beaujolais Cru isn't a single vineyard or a parcel, it represents a much larger area of production with many vineyards surrounding a specific village (i.e: Morgon).

The 10 Cru(s) are:

  • Fleurie: Usually light-medium bodied, fruity and floral yet harmonious and easy going. Check out a few of my favorite producers (in the US market): Chatelard, Clos de la Roilette, Henri Fessy and Domaine des Grands Fers.
  • Morgon: Usually a bit earthier and robust, medium-full bodied and more fruit forward than Fleurie. Some of my favorite producers include: Chateau de Pizay, Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton and Potel-Aviron.
  • Moulin-à-Vent: Usually the most structured and age worthy of the Cru, balanced with very good fruit expression, medium to full bodied. Some of my favorite producers: Henry Fessy, Domaine Diochon, Pascal Granger and Vissoux.
  • Juliénas: Usually quite rich and fruity with a spicy touch, medium to full. Interesting producers to check out: Pascal Granger, Michel Tete, J.J. Vincent and Potel-Aviron.
  • Chénas: next to Moulin a vent, similar yet a bit lighter and more floral, light to medium bodied. Interesting producers to check out: Hubert Lapierre, Domaine de Côtes Rémont and Jacky Janodet.
  • Saint-Amour: Medium to full, a bit earthy, with spicy and floral touch. Not so exported in the US market. Interesting producers to check out: Jean-François Trichard, Pascal Berthier and Domaine Cheveau.
  • Brouilly: the largest cru of Beaujolais, light to full bodied wines depending on the producer, mostly recognized for their easy going attitude, fruity character and wild red and dark berry aromas. Interesting producers to check out: : Henry Fessy, Chateau de la Chaize, Chateau des Tours and Chateau de la Terrierre.
  • Regnié: Full bodied, age worthy and forward with usually riper fruit characteristic. Interesting producers to check out: Henry Fessy, Christian Ducroux, Charly Thevenet.
  • Chiroubles: light to medium from high vineyards, mineral, delicate and perfumy, floral and red berry aromas. Interesting producers to check out: Coquelet, Trenel, Cheysson.
  • Côtes de Brouilly: medium to full, concentrated, usually less earthy than Brouilly, mineral and fruit forward yet not too heavy. Interesting producers to check out: Chanrion, Chateau Thivin (Claude Geoffrey), Jean-Paul Brun "Terres Dorees".
There are quite a few more very interesting producers to discover in Beaujolais, some imported in small quantity to the US market and most of the other producers sold only on the local French market and in Europ.

Among some of my long time favorites in the US market, I would like to say that Jean-Paul Brun "Terres Dorées", Pascal Granger, and Chatelard remain some of my personnal Beaujolais go-to wines for quality and value.

As you may have notice, I voluntarily avoided putting the name of Duboeuf, Louis Jadot and Drouhin. As the grand son of a winemaker myself, I will always try to support the small, artisan winemaker who strives all year long in his vineyards to craft and produce the best wines his terroir can give. As some of you may have understand by now, I do have nothing against branded name but I do have no real interest to promote them.

To finish this post on Beaujolais, I should also remind you that exquisite, supple, refreshing whites and rosés wines are also produced in Beaujolais. Many from all the above producers are worth trying and will suit any occasion.

As always, continue to enjoy sharing and drinking wine with family and friends, with or without food, in moderation of course. Wine often put back a smile on your face and animate the conversation. It is a good source of happiness and it is very healthy (in moderation of course).


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Domaine La Manarine: exquisite, balanced Côtes du Rhône wines

After my little homage to Neal Rosenthal, I would like to introduce you to "Domaine La Manarine", an estate from the Rosenthal portfolio producing exquisite, balanced Côtes du Rhône wines.

Côtes du Rhône

But first, I need to say a few words about Côtes du Rhône (or CdR in short). There are many Côtes du Rhône wines in this market and they are not all good, as one may think. People often ask:"Do you have a good Côtes du Rhône?" Well, it is a very vague question and fortunately wine boutiques and specialized cavistes like us usually narrow down their selection to the best and the more expressive ones that they can find.

You see, Côtes du Rhône is a huge and long appellation that emcompasses 2/3 of the Rhone Valley. Starting in the south of Lyon and produced roughly everywhere from Viennes to Avignon, which is quite a long drive, CdR wines can be made out of many different grape varieties (blended or not), predominantely Syrah and Grenache for Red and Rose and Grenache blanc for white, through out about 170 villages and communes.

Along that long hilly road following the Rhône River, Côtes du Rhône wines are made out many different terroirs, type of soils and micro-climates, and sun expositions, that really influence their taste, texture, intensity and complexity. More over there are different levels of quality. Let's say that usually the step up in quality (and price) from a regular CdR is the Côtes du Rhône Villages, with or without the village name on it, although it is better and offer more depth and character when the village name is on it, like Rasteau or Sablet (both extremely different, the former being stronger, bolder and riper, the latter being slightly more rustic and earthy, with higher acidity and juicier fruit) or Cairanne.

Like in Burgundy and Loire valley, knowing your Côtes du Rhône producers is the best way to make the best and safer choices. This way, you will find more regular satisfaction level and less annoying variances in taste and flavors.

As for any other wines, ask your local wine boutique for more details about which style of Côtes du Rhône Red you want to drink: juicy, earthy and not too heavy or riper, medium to full bodied, with more structure.

Just remember that Côtes du Rhône is an AOC that covers both the northern and southern sub-regions of Rhône. Wines from the high quality and major Northern and Southern AOC are rarely declassified into CdR wines, it will not make sense for the producers. Typically Côtes du Rhône is produced when the wine does not qualify for an appellation that can command a higher price (due to young vines or declassified wine, etc...) and when the vines are not in the appellation. Therefore, almost all Côtes du Rhône AOC wines are produced in the much larger southern Rhône, since the northern sub-region is mostly covered by well-known appellations of higher quality and standard and also is much smaller in terms of total vineyard surface.

Northern Rhône

The northern Rhône is characterised by its vineyards planted on steep slope overlooking the Rhône River, but also and more importantly by a continental climate with harsh winters and warm summers. Its climate is influenced by the mistral wind, which brings colder air from the Massif Central. Northern Rhône is therefore cooler than southern Rhône, which means that the mix of planted grape varieties and wine styles are slightly different than the Southern Rhône .

Northern Côtes du Rhône reds are predominantely made with Syrah, often mixed up to 15% with a touch of white grape varieties like Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane, to add freshness and balance. Somewhat lighter in color with earthy, dryer tannins, they usually have good acidity, touch of spice and a good structure, most are definitely age worthy, fairly fullbodied and somewhat more rustic than in the Southern part of the Rhone, with characteristic aromas of olive, meat and smoky bacon.

Southern Rhône

The southern Rhône sub-region has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem in the area, and depending on the vintage and the necessity, limited irrigation is permitted. The differing terroirs, the steep slopes giving way to a broad valley floor, together with the rugged hilly landscape which partly protects the valleys from the Mistral, produce microclimates which give rise to a wide diversity of grape varieties and wines. Due to diurnal temperature variation, one major feature of the cultivation of the region is the use of large pebbles, also called "gallets", that cover the ground around the bases of the vines (and most of the vineyards of the plateau like around Châteauneuf du Pape) to absorb the heat of the sun during the day to keep the vines warm and restore the heat at night, because there is often a significant drop in temperature.

The southern Côtes du Rhône reds, made with Grenache predominantly, can appear fleshier, bolder, riper, rounder, somewhat more agreable and approcheable, with more integrated tannins. They are often characterized by their aromas of ripe black fruit, chocolate and "Garrigue" (represented often by the small wild bushes and herbs growing in the harsh soils and hot climate of the Southern Rhône and Provence, it is somewhat a concept or a notion that encompasses the Terroir itself, influenced by the Mediteranean wind and climate, combining earthy scents of undergrowth or wild bushes, herbs and plants like Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, etc... and wild berry).

Once again, every palate is different and wine tasting is very subjective from one individuel to the next. More over, the producers' style may vary a great deal, so as I said earlier , like in Burgundy and Loire Valley, (it may be true for other regions in France, but more especially for these two), once you've found your style(s) and your producer(s), stick to them or you may end up spending a lot of money for nothing and be very disappointed.

Therefore, I bought 3 excellent little wines, good value for money and perfect for the approaching summer. All of this writing about Rhône make me thirsty, let's talk about Domaine La Manarine

Domaine La Manarine

Created in April 2001 by Gilles Gasq, and run with his wife Sylvie, Domaine La Manarine is a small owned family estate. The 9.5 hectares of vineyards are located within the commune of Travaillan, on a splendid plateau northeast of Orange, called Le Plan de Dieu (God's workfield). Gilles is a talented young winemaker who has honed his skills working as an assistant to Paul Jeune, the proprietor of Domaine de Monpertuis and Chateau Valcombe.

Gilles learned his lessons well. Using traditional winemaking, the resulting wines have excellent balance and high acidity, with great earthy notes and juicy fruit. They are less earthy and to some extend brighter than Domaine de Monpertuis and they are not as opulent and rich as Chateau de Valcombe, yet they match both in depth and complexity (in my opinion). Gilles surely applied techniques that he mastered in both estate, add a touch of that traditional viticultural heritage inherited from the older generations and adapted it to the microclimates and Terroir of his vineyards, in order to craft the best possible wines. And it shows.

As I explained it earlier, the round-oval limestone rocks or pebbles (called "gallets") are a distinct feature of the soil here. They impart character, facilitate drainage, and retain and radiate back heat during the cooler nights. Therefore, despite the lack of rain and the heat of the Mediterranean climate, Gilles is in a region blessed by Bacchus and Dyonisos (even if they are the same and unique wine god) where the quality of the Terroir, the characteristic of the soils and the diverse microlimates provide enormous potential to craft high quality, ripe and expressive wines.

Grenache Noir is the main grape variety of the region. It performs particularly well on this type of soil and gives wines with more elegance and aroma than is otherwise common (which also explain the elegance of his wines). Gilles has recently acquired one hectare of Syrah vines that will enter into the 2002 harvest which will then enable the Manarine wines to bear the appellation: Côtes du Rhône Villages ­ Travaillan.

Gilles vinifies two different cuvées from separate plots of vines. Both are 100% Grenache Noir. His first cuvée, the Côtes du Rhône, is made from his younger vines (average 25 years old). The second cuvée, destined for aging and called "Terres Saintes", is made from a selection of lower yielding old vines (average 45 years old).

Gilles destems the entire harvest and uses cement tanks for fermentation. The Côtes du Rhône undergoes fermentation and maceration for 18 days; the "Terres Saintes" (structured as a "vin de garde") benefits from a longer "cuvaison" of 30 days. During the "elevage" both wines go through "delestage" and "remontage" (a technique whereby the tank is completely emptied and the wine pumped back into it on top of the layer of skins) to extract color and flavor. In addition, 20% of the "Terres Saintes" is aged for 8 months in "demi-muids" or large barrels. Gilles also produces a Côtes du Rhône White and a Rosé.

2008 Domaine La Manarine Côtes du Rhône White Travaillan France
Suggested retail price $13-$15
Distributed by Rosenthal in NYC

A blend of predominantly Grenache Blanc and Clairette, La Manarine white CdR is clean, fresh, very mineral with bright acidity, which is somewhat rare yet desired to avoid flabiness. The nose combines white fruit, peach blossom and light touch of golden apple. The palate is fairly light, vivid, balanced with an excellent texture and minerality. Lighter, brighter with less fat than previous vintage, but it works for the better in this case, especially with the summer approaching. Super summery and probably one of the most interesting white rhone that I tasted since Chateau L'Ermitage White (except that L'ermitage is a fuller wine, better for colder season, see my post on it).

2008 Domaine La Manarine Côtes du Rhône Rosé Travaillan France
Suggested retail price $10-12
Distributed by Rosenthal in NYC

A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, La Manarine Rose CdR is also light and bright with racy acidity and a very good balance. Floral with light notes of wild red berries, quite harmonious with good depth, elegance and freshness, it is a really enjoyable wine that has a nice way to coat the palate. Here again mineral and brighter rather than being full or super fruity (like some CdR rose can be). Love it. Simple and thrist quenching. To enjoy as an aperitif with charcuterie, cold cut, raw vegetable.

2006 Domaine La Manarine Côtes du Rhône Rouge Travaillan France
Suggested retail price $12-14
Distributed by Rosenthal in NYC

A blend of predominantly Grenache and the other usual suspect red Rhone grapes, La Manarine Red CdR is a nice, healthy, clean, earthy, juicy Côtes du Rhône with great acidity and light garrigue character. Here again, fresher rather than being full or over ripe, it is a traditional, earthy, gentle wine with personality. It displays red and dark cherry, touch of spice, earthy note, good juicy fruit and a versatile mouthfeel.

My overall view of these wines and the "Domaine La Manarine" is "balance and harmony", nothing too opulent or over extracted, just plain, simple yet balanced, harmonious and bright Côtes du Rhône wines. Definitely a good value on the shelves. A Domaine to follow, presenting straight forward, versatile attitude and solid consistency.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from and

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hey Neal Rosenthal, any bad wines in your portfolio???

Hey Neal Rosenthal, any bad wines in your portfolio???

Once again, he did it again. Neal and his teammate Blake surprised me again with the quality of their wines.

I've been working in the wine business for the past 17 years and I've been buying the wines from many Negociants, wholesalers, distributors, Chateaux and artisanal winemakers, including well established pioneer wine discoverers like Rosenthal. And I'm always amazed by Neal's palate and his selections.

During all these years, I've tasted between 3,000 and 5,000 wines a year and drunk quite a few of them, in France, in Spain, in UK and now in the US (for the last 7 years), and I can confidently say that the Rosenthal portfolio is by far (in my opinion and for my palate) one of the best on the market.

It is quite simple, every time Blake come to the store to introduce me and the team to some new wines, he always go back home with an order from me. He never comes for nothing and always succeed to make a sale, which is not that easy for most of the other suppliers and distributors. Example: he came a few days ago with 5 wines and, funny to say, even to my own surprise, I bought them all (I will describe them soon on some other posts).

You see, I like balance, harmony, depth, richness, fresh acidity, integrated tannins and complexity (without heaviness, jamminess, over ripeness or oakyness) and even more balance in my wines and the Rosenthal porfolio seem to correspond the most to my palate. Most Rosenthal wines trigger an interest in me and seem to excite and please my taste buds like only a few wines (and a few portfolios) can do.

As I often say, not everybody can be a Neal Rosenthal, a Kermit Lynch, a Joe Dressner, a Jorge Ordonez, or (even more recently) a Savio Soares, a Jenny & Francois (in their own special organic and Biodynamic way) ... (you want more?) ....

I can even extend the list by saying that not everybody can be a Douglas Polaner, a Michael Skurnik, a Leonardo Locascio, a Mark Lauber, a David Bowler, a Christopher Cannan, a Bartholomew Broadbent, a Becky Wasserman, a Peter Weygandt, an Eric Salomon, a Francis Kysela, a Robert Chadderdon, a Jose Pastor, a Dan Philips, a Peter Click, a Terry Theise, a Martin Scott (although they are 2 different persons), a Neal Empson, a Marc De Grazia, a Liz Willette, a Eric Dubourg, a Kenny Ohnish, a Jan D'Amore, a Peter Matt, ...(and many more)....

As for not everybody can be a Robert Parker Jr., a Steven Tanzer, a Jancis Robinson, a Hugh Johnson, a Michael broadbent, a Bill Blatch, a Nancy Rugus, a Pierre-Antoine Casteja, a Michel Bettane ... (and many more) ....

And for portfolios, not everybody can have such an eclectic, carefuly selected gems as: Savio Soares, Polaner, Vias, Vinifera, Tempranillo, Winebow, Wineberry, Bayfield, Martin Scott, Fruit of the Vines and its many small importers, Domaine Select, Baron Francois, Lauber, Monarchia-Matt, Opici, VOS, Wildman, Admiral, Ibanez Pleven, Wilson Daniels, Wineberry, The Wine List, Maximilien selection, T-Edward, Skurnik, Monsieur Touton, Little Wine Company, Folio, and many more ....but more especially Rosenthal.

Except one or two (or three) persons among the people cited above, I've met, at least once (for some much more than that) most of these fine wine lovers, discoverers, pioneers, drinkers and promoters (and too many other people in the wine industry, owner and winemakers included, to list them all...) in many places from Bordeaux to Marseille to Lyon to Strasbourg to Bourges to Orleans and Paris (and everywhere in between), Barcelona to Haro to Valladolid to Madrid; from Edinburgh to London; from Mendoza to Santiago; and from San Francisco to New York. I have a lot of respect for these people and I think without them the wine industry will surely be less interesting and will definitely lack of aromas, flavors, depth, richness and palate diversity.

However, this post is a little homage to Rosenthal and to finish with a word about the man: It is because of people like him (and only a few others), that I've been enjoying my work as a Sommelier-Caviste and especially wine buyer for the past 17 years.

It is somehow because of passionate men and women like him who have unmatched patience, determination and assiduity to bring exquisite, balanced wines that people like me continue to believe that they still are lot of undiscovered small great wines and producers, and to search and find these rare little gems usually lost in an ocean of often undrinkable, disjointed and unbalanced wines.

Thank you Neal, keep up the good work! And Blake too!


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dolin, Mixologist's favorite Vermouth

Dolin, Mixologist's favorite Vermouth
Suggested retail price $15-$17
Distributed by Haus Alpenz in NYC

Dolin is the last independent company still producing Vermouth de Chambery. Made with same recipe since 1821, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry has long been the benchmark for fine French Vermouth. Made with fine wines of the region, herbs and other botanical treasures found in the Alpine meadows above the village of Chambéry, in Savoie (France). Together, these unique selected components impart a fresh and elegant nose, with a subtle and complex palate.

Ideal as an aperitif and great to enhance cocktails. In the late 19th century, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry won medals in Paris, London, St. Louis and Philadelphia and in 1932 earned Chambéry France's only Appellation d’ Origine for Vermouth.

Often quoted as Mixologist's vermouth of choice, Dolin crafts somewhat lighter, drier yet soft textured and more complex, less pungent vermouths than their other French and Italian cousins. Once again, it is important to stress that the particular mixture of plants found near Chambery are responsible for the fresh, distinct and elegant nose, complementing the subtle, complex bittersweet palate. Dolin Blanc and Rouge reveal great balance, with the sugar never cloying, and just enough bitterness to whet the appetite.

Dolin produces the 3 worldly established type of vermouth: White Dry (Dry), White Sweet (Blanc) and Red (Rouge). My favorite being the "Blanc" that I enjoy more particularly on warm afternoon and drink with a few ice cubes and a slice (or the peel zest) of orange or lemon.

Dolin Blanc is soft, delicate and elegant yet complex and rich, and flavorful. A refreshing drink to mellow your mood after a hard day at work, just before dinner, on ice or as an addition of flavor to your favorite Martini.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from the importer and from Christopher Cannan's Europvin website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

2006 Tempus Two "Melange" white Pewter Label Australia

2006 Tempus Two "Melange" white Pewter Label Australia

The roots of this wine are firmly planted in one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, and one of Australia’s best known wine families. Founder Lisa McGuigan is the fourth generation of a dynasty of celebrated vintners, the McGuigans. The iconic cellar door nestled in the foothills of the Hunter Valley’s Brokenback Ranges, just outside Pokolbin, reflects their determination to blend the essence of tradition with the magic of innovation. In 1996, the pull of the vine outweighed Lisa’s determination to strike out on her own, and she returned to the Hunter Valley with a mission – to re-interpret the traditional cellar door, and to provide a tasting experience which was sophisticated, innovative and contemporary.

Her goal was to create a boutique range of wines which stood out from the crowd. Armed with her frontline understanding of what customers really want; Lisa finessed her approach. Launched in 1998 as Hermitage Road, in honor of the street on which Lisa grew up, the brand started small, in the corner of the McGuigan winery. The business grew rapidly, propelled by Lisa’s unique approach to marketing – success which brought the brand into the sights of the French Appellations body which took issue with her use of “Hermitage”, a protected wine region in the Rhone Valley.

And so, Tempus Two, which is Latin for “second time” was born, creating a truly Australian iconic brand. Built on Lisa McGuigan’s passion to create an ultra-premium wine brand, Tempus Two uses innovative winemaking techniques to create modern wine styles. The Tempus Two philosophy of selecting the finest fruit from its most renowned region ensures that the brand applauds those who appreciate quality wine. Award-winning and unique packaging embodies the innovation, elegance and finesse that are the hallmark of Tempus Two.

Tempus Two offers three distinct and unique ranges:

Pewter label: Elegant and pure, the Pewter range with its distinct bottles and unique pewter labels sources its varieties from Australia's premier wine regions to ensure each wine is a benchmark of its style.

Copper label: The handcrafted range with its label of stamped copper represents the combination of new wave winemaking techniques and innovative packaging.

Varietals label: Pristine varietal and regional characteristics define this range of affordable and easy drinking wines.

FYI: 2006 Tempus Two “Mélange” was crafted and sold under the “Pewter label”, and only a few bottles remain on the market. However, it has become somewhat of a collector item, because if you go to the winery website at , you will realize that the 2007 vintage “Mélange” was crafted and sold under the “Copper label” and the name was changed to “Mélange à Trois”. Try not to mélange yourself between the two, or get ambushed in a mixed “à Trois”.

2006 Tempus Two "Melange" white Pewter Label Australia
Suggested retail price $17-$19
Distributed by Noble House Wines in NYC

The 2006 Tempus Two "Mélange" white Pewter Label is a blend of 58% Viognier, 37% Marsanne and 5% Roussane. Offering generous fruit, depth and complexity, it tastes like a Northern Rhone white with a bit more acidity and fatness at the same time. Pale lemony yellow in color, it offers opulent aromas of ripe apricots and orange blossom with hints of wild honey. The palate is juicy, rich, balanced and luscious with same mix of apricot, orange blossom, lemon and honey flavors tainted with a hint of minerality. The overall palate is enhanced by a clean fresh lemon acidity giving the wine length and structure. Lovely and creamy with a refreshing attitude and a full mouth-feel. To uncorked with seafood and white meat.

LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from the winery website at and from the following website:

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

2008 Tarra Warra Estate Pinot Noir Rose Yarra Valley Victoria Australia

2008 TarraWarra Estate Pinot Noir Rose Yarra Valley Victoria Australia
Suggested retail price $13-$15
Distributed by Noble House Wines in NYC

Coming from Yarra Valley, one the leading cool climate wine region of Victoria (and Australia), and crafted at the over 20 year old winery established by Marc and Eva Besen, known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this fairly simple and easy going salmon-color wine has strawberry and raspberry aromas. The palate reveals bright freshness and balance, with strawberries flavors. Nothing extraordinary, but the clean dry finish makes the wine a perfect summer drink. Serve it with appetizers for a brunch, a light meal or to enhance a warm afternoon conversation.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Find more info about this wine on the winery website at

2006 O'Leary Walker "Blue Cutting Road" Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot Clare Valley Australia

2006 O'Leary Walker "Blue Cutting Road" Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot Clare Valley South Australia
Suggested retail price $11-$13
Distributed by Noble House Wines in NYC

"O'Leary Walker" is a jointed venture winemaking company created in 2001 by David O'Leary and Nick Walker. They first became friends at the Roseworthy winemaking college in 1979. After 20 years working (separately) for big wineries and many accolades later, these two illustrious winemakers decided to take an opportunity of a life time and joined forces to control their own destiny and especailly to produce quality wines on a smaller scale to ensure high quality and consistency. "O'Leary Walker" was born.

In the late 1890's the Blue Cutting Road was hand dug by Polish settlers whilst waiting for gainful employment. Blue Cutting Road is situated in the area known today as the Polish Hill River region of the Clare Valley. Not only does this road remain a usable summer bush track connecting two main roads. It dissects the two vineyards that provide valuable, flavorsome fruit for a range of O'Leary Walker wines.

Much of the settlers' influences have filtered throughout the beautiful Clare Valley and many of the fruits of their labors are still evident today. O'Leary Walker pay homage to their enduring qualities with this wine.

The 2006 Blue Cutting Road Cabernet-Merlot blend was fermented in small (2000 liters) open stainless tanks and shows the benefits. The expressive fruity nose expresses distinct aromas of blueberry mix with cassis and mulberry spice, complemented by hints of cedar and tobacco leaf. Like a freshly crushed bunch of wild blueberry and dark berry with spice and dirt (in a good earthy way), the palate is fruity, full without being heavy or overripe, and mouth filling with balanced acidity and long, present fine tannins. To enjoy with spicy BBQ and grilled red meat.

Overall, even if it still ridges 14,5% of alcohol, this wine was enjoyable and even surprising because of its balanced attitude, its pleasant varietal character and its dryness compared with the usual and well established overripe, jammy, fruit bomb profile of most Australian red wines on the American market (no offense).


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from their website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crozes-Hermitage and 2006 Domaine Bernard Ange Crozes-Hermitage Rhone Valley France

Crozes-Hermitage Rhone Valley France

Crozes-Hermitage is the largest appellation in the Northern Rhone. Less admired and pricey than its neighbor name-sake Hermitage, the earthy Saint-Joseph and the powerful Cote-Rotie, Crozes Hermitage produces great juicy, earthy Syrah based wines. Compared to other northern Rhone appellation, Crozes-Hermitage tends to be a bit lighter and more approachable at younger age, probably due to the addition of white grapes in the blend. Marsanne and Roussanne are sometime blended in small amount (up to 15% allowed) with Syrah to add freshness, acidity and provide a little kick to the reds. The richness of the soils also procures complexity, balance and depth without heaviness. The vineyards planted on the slopes often have more freshness and minerality, and seems more complex.

Domaine Bernard Ange

After co-founding and co-owning a previous Domaine in the 80's (Domaine des Entrefaux), Bernard Ange left in 1997 to produce wine under his own name and label. His Domaine is a family run operation dedicated to producing classic, Terroir driven wines crafted from very low yields, 40-50 year old vines. The grapes from the younger vines are apparently sold separately to other producers. Bernard Ange's artisanal winemaking and somewhat organic or sustainable approach enhance even more the quality and the consistency of his wines. The argilo-calcareous soils and the vineyards planted on slopes with good drainage provide harmony and liveliness.

2006 Domaine Bernard Ange Crozes-Hermitage Rhone Valley France
Suggested retail price $19-$22
Distributed by Savio Soares in NYC

The 2006 Domaine Bernard Ange Crozes-Hermitage is a great example of what this fairly unappreciated for some and unknown for others appellation can offer. The color is bright, light, red ruby hue and pinkish rime with medium to light intensity. The nose is also bright and airy, with vivid red cherry, raspberry and wild berry aromas intermingled with meaty, earthy, spicy and mineral notes. Medium in intensity and structure, the palate is really fresh, juicy and inviting, boasting rich and complex flavors of wild red berry with earthy hints of spice and stony minerality. Thanks to the vivid acidity, the balanced finish lingers harmoniously. Despite the usual fans of authentic, artisanal and traditional Northern Rhone Syrah wines, young Burgundy red wines lovers should also enjoy this Syrah based wine that has a somewhat Burgundian-like attitude. Pair it with game, poultry and even river fish.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2004 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva Apulia Southeastern Italy

2004 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva Apulia Southeastern Italy
Suggested retail price $9-$11
Distributed by Vias Imports in NYC

Think about Puglia (or Apulia), southeastern Italy, the heel of the boot. A very warm, dry place with arid soils, long flat plains and a few gentle low rolling hills here and there. Surrounded by the Mediteranean Sea on roughly 3/4 of the all superficie, Apulia is a peaceful place influenced by the Sea, the hot wind from the south, its long history and the intriguing mix of cultures.

Cantele is located in Salice Salentino DOC, a wine area located in northern part of the Lecce province which represents the most southern part of Puglia, the tip of the heel. Salice Salentino is a region that encompasses vineyards, olive trees surrounding scattered farms and a few old watchtowers (some from the medieval time). The main grape varieties are Negro Amaro for red and rose wines, and Malvaisia for the whites.

I could write a lot about the producer, but Cantele has a fantastic website full of info and it is worth having a look at it, at

2004 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva is roughly a blend of 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera, from vineyards located next the village of Guagnano. After de-stemming, crushing, maceration of 6-7 days and fermentation, the wine was transferred to barriques where it matured for at least six months, before bottling.

The robe is quite intense, dark ruby red. The expressive nose exposes earthy aromas of ripe red fruits, spices and cigar box, woody notes. In the mouth, it is fruity, quite full yet balanced by the tannins and great acidity to keep it fresh, almost crisp, with ripe red and dark fruit. Smooth and rounded in the finish, with gentle vanilla oaky notes, it is pretty easy going and perfect for simple dish and picnic.

Serve it with pasta and meat sauce, red meats including lamb. Ideal with medium to hard cheese.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

2007 Capestrano Rosso Piceno Marche Italy

2007 Capestrano Rosso Piceno Superiore Marche Italy
Suggested retail price $10-$14
Distributed by Vias Imports in NYC

After discovering last month, the Passerina from the same producer, a little fun white with fruity (not sweet) touch to drink as an aperitif and enjoy anytime. Here is its sibling, the Rosso Piceno. Made from 50% Montepulciano and 50% Sangiovese, this juicy little red wine, somewhat simple yet friendly, is very enjoyable and definitely inoffensive. It offers nice, soft red cherry aromas, very good acidity and balance, with slight earthy tannins in the finish. An excellent value and a good choice for the long awaited yet not completely there, Spring season.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

2008 Graham Beck Gamekeeper's Reserve Chenin Blanc Western Cape South Africa

2008 Graham Beck Gamekeeper's Reserve Chenin Blanc Western Cape South Africa
Suggested retail price $12-$15
Distributed by Vias Imports in NYC

I remembered when I was a young Sommelier in London, I used to serve and pour a lot of South African wines. I must say that London, compared to New York (then and even now), has a much better selection of South-African wines. There are still quite a few brands, that I still can not find in New York, that have been and still represent the benchmark of South-Africa. I guess the demand for these wines is not as high in the US as in Europe, and especially UK.

However, among the few good one that we have in New York, Graham Beck has always been a consistent and well received quality brand, usually understood and appreciated by the American consumers.

Despite some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and a few other white wines, the most well-known and respected white grape from South-Africa is Chenin Blanc, also called Steen.

Graham Beck has a great website full of info for you to explore at

Vinified at Franschhoek Cellar, this wine was made from Coastal Region grapes harvested on low yielding, 40-45 year old bush vines planted on rolling hills exposed to south eastern winds, rain and lots of sunshine (in short: great exposition). Dryland vineyards planted on very deep soils. The grapes were left to ripen fully to ensure the development of the rich and ripe flavors and complexity.

2008 Graham Beck Gamekeeper's Reserve Chenin Blanc: at first, the nose was a bit restraint, then it started to open after a few swirl. Aromas of tropical fruit, ripe pineapple, white peach, melon and honey with notes of white blossom started to flourish on the nose. The attack is juicy, interesting, full and very fruity. The palate expands gently with layers of ripe tropical fruit complemented by great acidity, accentuated in the long clean and crisp finish. Nice and rounded, it has an enjoyable way of coating the palate.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and Food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!

Friday, April 17, 2009

2007 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina Basque Country Spain

2007 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina Basque Country Spain

Suggested retail price $21-$24

Distributed by Tempranillo, Inc in NYC

Txomin Etxaniz is located in the heart of one of Spain’s smallest appellations: Txacoli of Getaria or Chacolí de Guetaria in Spanish.

Txakoli of Getaria (Getariako Txakolina in Basque) is a very small appellation located approximately 10 kilometers west of San Sebastian (North of Spain). The appellation encompasses 85 hectares of vineyards planted on very steep, green, terraced and ocean-washed slopes facing the Cantabrian Sea. The ocean influence and the chalky soil bring minerality and freshness to the wines. Txacoli benefits from a temperate climate, with abundant rainfall, and its people (the Basque) are traditionally hardy and proud.

Getaria is a beautiful little village located about 15 minutes driving from San Sebastian. It is a charming fisherman "bourg" with three of my favorites place in the world: the Saiaz Hotel (quint with an extraordinary view on the bay of Getaria) and Kaia-Kaipe restaurant, specialized in grilled fish, especially the Turbo for two, and it has one of the best wine list for old Rioja wines (that I know). The third one is a great restaurant, topping a cliff, with a beautiful, modern dining room overlooking the ocean, called Akelare. The food is a fusion of Spanish and Basque cuisine with a "Nouvelle Cuisine" approach and price, yet it is definitely worth it, especially if you have a spare lunch in your agenda.

Txakoli (or Txakolina) is a slightly sparkling (or "Perlant", should I say) white wine exclusively produced in the Basque Country of Spain. It is mainly produced from the local white grape “Hondarribi Zuri” but can be sometimes blended with a touch of “Hondarribi Beltza” (a local red grape variety), to add flavors and structure. It was traditionally fermented in "foudres" (very old, large oak barrels) but nowadays, most Txakolina are fermented in big stainless steel tanks.

FYI: If you happen to visit one (or more) Txokoli (Chacoli, for some people) wineries, they will surely bring you down to the cellar to appreciate a glass (or two) of this refreshing style of slightly fizzy white poured from a great height straight from the tanks (into a flat tumbler placed a few meters below). Txakolina wines are high in acidity, low in alcohol and usually served in a tumbler, with fried or grilled white fish and of course the most well-known food of Spain: tapas.

Txakolina D.O.Cs: There are 3 “Denominaciones de Origen” (D.O.) dedicated to the production of Txakolina: Arabako Txakolina (Spanish: Chacolí de Alava), Bizkaiko Txakolina (Spanish: Chacolí de Vizcaya), and Getariako Txakolina (Spanish: Chacolí de Guetaria).

Txomin Etxaniz is surely one of the best producers of Txakoli. The Chueca family has made Txomin Etxaniz the benchmark wine of the appellation. Although, their label could almost suggest that they belong to an older time, the winery is packed with the latest technology. The winery, founded in 1930, is located in the heart of the fisherman village of Getaria, in a 15th Century building.

They started as a “Caserios” (or local wine farm) and never stopped promoting the friendliness and the quality of their wines. With them, many generations of other winegrowers dedicated themselves to the culture of this wine and the elaboration of Txakoli, leading among other things the constitution in 1989 of the D.O Getariako Txakolina.

Txomin Etxaniz possesses nearly 24 hectares of vines, growing on terraced slopes creating a trompe l’oeil effect to the ocean, where the two native varieties are cultivated: 85% of Hondarrabi zuri and 10-13% of Hondarrabi beltza completed with a touch of Cabernet Franc.

After harvest, the whole grapes are gently pressed with a pneumatic press. The fermentation takes place at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. Txomin's Txakolis are elaborated in two warehouses located in the vineyards of Getaria: Gurutze & Amets Mendi. The wine rests on its lees (a bit like a Muscadet) and after several months in stainless steel tanks, it is bottled with leftovers of its natural carbonic gas; thus the fizzy feeling in the palate. The vinification his overseen by Andrés and Ernesto Chueca Isasti.

2007 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina is crisp, lively, friendly and fresh with citrus fruits, white blossom and great minerality on the finish. Excellent balance and length without being complicated. The pearling touch (or fizz) on the palate makes it fun, versatile and easy going. Enjoy at anytime.

In conclusion, I can say that I love Txakoli wines (and the Basque country where I go nearly every year). These white wines breathing daily the Atlantic ocean waves and air, are delightful all year long (although do not keep them for too long, they are meant to be drunk young). Increasing demand, small production and hand harvest (especially on the vines pouring down the cliff and braving the ocean temper), understandably raise the price up, so price could be an issue...(especially in this economy). However, these white wines are really good and you should at least try them, Txomin being one of the best ones around (with Ameztoi).

Reminder: In order to really appreciate it, the wine needs to be poured from a certain height into a flat bottom glass (in a similar way as a Moroccan tea). It needs air to express itself. Drink it fresh, young (it doesn’t age) and accompanied by seafood, fish and poultry.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Bio and Organic wines (and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment!