I am often surprised by the difference in opinions that we can have, even between experienced professionals, about the same wine. We had a good example last week on this site when my eminent colleague, Marie-Louise Banyols, lauded a Pomerol (Château de Sales 2017) that I had tasted separately two days before with another colleague and which we both disliked. We exchanged comments on this and agreed that different situations and temperature conditions can make a huge difference. Even so, such extremes in judgements between professionals are quite rare and still amaze me. I have accepted to tase another bottles if this wine to see if my first impressions will be confiremed or if that bottle has a defect.
Finally, apart from factual information, in tasting terms one can only talk about one’s own taste, and on a particular moment even at that. Today I am going to write about some recent likes (first) and dislikes (second) in some random tastings of samples that arrived recently. Of the likes, two are white and one is rosé (deep in colour, thank goodness!). They come from very different parts of France. The five dislikes are all rosés: one is from Alsace and the other four from Provence.
This glorous Riesling also has a label that elegantly combines the traditional with a touch of modernity in the graphics
Number one, including in overall preference, is a totally wonderful, knocked-my-socks-off level of Riesling from Alsace. It is from the Grand Cru vineyard called Rosacker and the 2014 vintage. The producer is Eblin-Fuchs. Not being an Alsace specialist (in fact I am a specialist of nothing at all), I had not previously heard of them so I did a bit of research. Like so many families in Alsace, their roots go back over the centuries. The double name is the result of an association between two families, and Fuchs can be translated as Fox. The estate comprises just eleven and a half hectares and is spread out in small plots among several villages : Zellenberg (where lie their cellars), Hunawihr, Ribeauvillé, Beblenheim and Mittelwihr. They farm this according to organic and biodynamic principles for which they are certified.
The wine is (was, as I drank it all in a couple of sessions) just terrific! It has intensity and style with succulent, mouth-watering acidity and lots of depth to make this more than just a pleasurable experience (Al Green singing « Take it to the river » or else a Beethoven quartet maybe ?). I won’t even attempt to describe the aromas and flavours. They are multi-layered and complex, intensely satisfying. The wine is also amazingly stable in time as I first opened it at least a couple of weeks ago and kept the bottle, about half-full, in the door compartment of my fridge. I finished the bottle last Wednesday and it was even better than on that first tasting. Length, perfect balance for a dry wine, and all the zing that I love from this grape. It can be found in France for just under 20 euros par bottle, which makes it a bargain too.
Lots of small print on this otherwise elegant label. Makes it very hard to read, at least for me!
The other greatly enjoyed white wine surprised me even more as I am rarely knocked out by whites from Southern France. This is from an estate called Villa Beaulieu and the 2016 vintage. It carries the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation. The estate lies somewhere up in the hills above Aix-en-Provence. It is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Rolle (aka Vermentino) and is vinified in large oak vats of 40 hectolitre capacity. Its flavours are truly interesting, combining zesty lemon freshness with some depth and excellent acid/fruit balance that has just been guided into a smoother textural stage by the ageing process. The sauvignon component is obviously well suited here as it appears gently aromatic with none of the more agressive, sometimes grassy overtone that often comes into play in cooler-climate wines using this grape. Closer perhaps to the Austrian style than to that of the Loire, and of course the blending with Rolle changes that framework also. It is very drinkable (well, more than that actually) and costs 29 euros, which is not exactly cheap but it is worth the money.
Here we take another step away from fashion. How I hate fashion and especially its dictatorial consequences! I think that if one waits for ten years or so, anything out of fashion will come back in, so, you lovers of proper rosés with colour and non-chemical-like flavours, just be patient or else go looking for Tavel, Bordeaux Clairet or perhaps this rare bird which comes from Collioure, down near the Spanish border.
There are several Parcé families operating in this area. This one founded (in 1984) and runs an estate called Domaine La Rectorie that produces white, rosé and red wines in the Collioure appellation as well as several types of the fortified wine called Banyuls, all from spectacular and hard-to-work vineyards between the mountains and the Mediterranean. The current family member in charge is Jean-Emmanuel, who is also a seriously talented painter. His uncle is a very good photographer, so artistic and wine-producing talents run side-by-side in this family whose modesty also does them credit.
The rosé I tasted is called La Goudie 2018 and there were just 2000 bottles made, so better hurry up! It is very deep in colour for a rosé by current fashionista standards, and that, to me at least, gets my interest right away as I nearly always find that such rosés have more natural and deeper flavours and avoid that chemical, grapefruit-juice style that makes so many of the paler ones taste all the same. It is made from Grenache Noir and has been fermented/matured in barrels with lees stirring. The result is a fairly rich and ever-so-slighty tannic style that has good texture and length. Very savoury and I’m going to buy a few bottles so that I can serve friends and families a decent rosé! Retails for 24 euros but this is something else and there are now many rosés that go for even more. Just think of the work on those slopes, not to mention the winemaking.
And now for the dislikes
Sorry, but they are all rosés, although there were other candidates last week of other colours too. I should emphasize that I am not dismissing this colour category, as I have tasted some good rosés (witness the one above from Collioure). I am just fed up with the look-alike, taste-alike thing and wanted to make a point about how « chemical » and generally artificial (boiled fruit drops made from synthetic grapefruit extract anyone?) the flavours of so many rosés seem to have today. Not to mention their wishy-washy colours.
Here are the names of this lot of suspects, none of which I liked at all: Château Grand Seuil 2018 (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence), Château du Seuil 2018 (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence), Olivette Absolu 2018 (Bandol), and Studio by Miraval 2018 (IGP Méditerrannée), to which I add an Alsace Rosé produced by the Cave de Pfaffenheim and sententiously called « Les Griffes du Diable » (the devils claws). The devil is quite welcome to all of these.
All tasted pretty much the same and what there was was not pleasant to me. So let’s stay with the good stuff, more of which will be coming next week.