Happy 4th of July!
A STUNNING BEAUJOLAIS, LOVELY CHINONS, AND VALUE PRICED SPANISH WINES INCLUDIING SOME TERRIFIC 2011 ALBARIÑOS
I am a huge fan of Beaujolais and particularly the Cru Beaujolais. They are some of the best red wine values in the world and are extremely versatile. They can be consumed young or cellared for an extended period. With age they can begin to assume Burgundian characteristics. I have written many articles on Beaujolais (to read an article explaining Beaujolais click here ). Here is a note on one of the best and most consistent of all the Cru Beaujolais and one that I buy every year. It is also always one of the last to arrive. So, if you still have not discovered Beaujolais, this is a great place to start!
Domaine du Clos du Fief
Very few growers in the Cru Beaujolais region bottle their own production. Michel Tete is one that does and, moreover, his family has been doing this for two generations. The formal name of the estate is Domaine du Clos du Fief and is made up of some of the best vineyards in Julienas. The top cuvee, called Cuvée Prestige, is made from a selection of the oldest vines.
2010 Domaine du Clos du Fief Julienas Cuvée Prestige.
Dark in color with a deep black cherry perfume accented by a floral undertone this is a stunning Beaujolais with great purity. The wine has luscious supple fruit with flavors of cherry and floral spice nuances. It has depth and intensity yet is harmonious and balanced with a lovely crisp undertone. This is consistent and true to form as this wine always delivers great fruit, balance, and an ample dose of the delicious factor. This 2010 is bright and pure with great elegance yet has the underlying structure to keep for many years. Drink it now or drink it later. This is a win win – Outstanding Plus. $25 Best Buy Louis/Dressner Selections Imported by LDM Wines, Inc. New York, NY.
Chinon is an area from the historic town of Chinon and 17 surrounding communes in the Loire Valley of France. This area is the birthplace of Rabelais, a great 16th century French writer and humanist. He was a lover of Chinon and reportedly once owned Clos de l’Echo, a famous vineyard in Chinon. Technically Chinon is in the Touraine district which is the area around the city of Tours. However, it is different and is grouped together with its neighbor, Bourgueil, along the left bank of the Loire river and along the Vienne river.
Chinon has the distinction of making predominately red wine and is one of the very few areas (along with Bourgueil) in the Loire Valley to do so. The red grape grown here is Cabernet Franc (although up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon may also be used). Cabernet Franc is believed to have been established in the Loire Valley when Cardinal Richelieu brought vine cuttings to be planted at the Abbey of Bourgueil under the care of an abbot named Breton. Over time the grape became locally known as Breton. By the 18th century Cabernet Franc was well established in the Fronsac, Pomerol, and St. Emilion areas of France. In recent years, DNA evidence has established that Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon. .
For me, Cabernet Franc is an underappreciated, aka Under The Radar, red wine. One reason is that it is generally thought of as a blending grape. But, that’s not the whole story. The wines of Bordeaux utilizing the grape are very different than those of the Loire Valley. There are several reasons for this. First, the soil and climate in each area is different. Second, in Chinon Cabernet Franc is either 100% Cabernet Franc or very close to it, whereas in Bordeaux it is a component of a blend that is usually mostly Merlot and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. And, the wines made from Cabernet Franc in California are different from those of the Loire Valley or Bordeaux. But, they can be extremely good and also Under The Radar. (To see my article featuring the 2009 Cabernet Franc Historic Vineyard Series from Ridge Vineyards click here ).
Domaine Bernard Baudry
Bernard Baudry purchased his first land in Chinon in 1975. The plot totaled five acres and in subsequent years the land holdings have grown to 50 acres. His son, Mathieu, joined him in 2000. They work vineyards that are located in 5 distinct soil types and each of their cuvees utilize the different soil types and vinification methods. The wines are made utilizing traditional methods and aged in old and new barrels. The production is mostly red wine with a small amount of rosé (to read my article featuring the 2011 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé click here ) and white wine also produced. The wines below were tasted over a period of a week. They benefit greatly from air and should be decanted if consumed now. The reds will certainly benefit from at least several years of bottle age. The wines of Bernard Baudry are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA.
2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon.
This is a lovely wine made from grapes grown in a 10 acre plot of 30 year old vines. It has a deep color and a gorgeous floral blackberry perfume accented by very faint hints of spice and herbs. This is a wine with very pure fruit and great structure. The flavors are deep and there is a firm underlying structure and some tannin that will soften over time. To drink now, decant for 2 hours before serving and serve with a slight chill – Highly Recommended Plus. $22 
2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges.
This is the domaines largest vineyard with nearly 23 acres of 20 year old vines. The color is dark and there is a deep perfume of black berry and cherry with faint hints of chocolate. The wine has great fruit and is balanced and flavorful with great purity. This is a wine that really delivers and it does so with 12 ½ % alcohol! Again, this wine will evolve beautifully over time – Outstanding. $19.95 Best Buy
2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon Grézeaux.
This vineyard is nearly 8 acres in size and has the oldest vines in the domaine averaging 65 years of age. The wine has a dark color and a stunning perfume of black cherries with a faint floral undertone. The flavors again show black cherry fruit intermingled with peppery floral notes. There is a lot of material here and the wine is structured and shows good backbone and balanced tannins. This simply cries out for at least a few years of bottle age. Patience here will be amply rewarded – Outstanding. $27
2009 Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée.
This vineyard is nearly 8 acres in size and the vines average 30 years of age.
This is a really gorgeous wine weighing in at 13 ½ % alcohol. And, as impressive as it is now, it will age beautifully for many years. Dark in color the wine has a stunningly deep perfume of plums and black cherries with a very faint floral undertone. It is simply loaded with gorgeous pure fruit and is impressively rich and concentrated with the structure and balance to age for many years. This is a great wine in the making and one to lay away – Outstanding Plus. $39
2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc.
This is a delicious white wine that is made in a small quantity from 2 ½ acres of 9 year old Chenin Blanc vines. So I guess you could say it is a Chinon Blanc Chenin Blanc, except for the fact that to be called Chinon Blanc it has to be made from Chenin Blanc grapes. But, no matter what you call it, it is a unique and delicious wine. Light yellow in color the perfume is gorgeous with floral citrus nuances and hints of pineapple. The fruit is very pure and has a grapefruit tinge accented by hints of pineapple and a faint underlying floral nuance. This is a bright crisp wine that has finesse and balance and very appealing subtle complexities. Oh yes, it is also really tasty and very easy to drink – Outstanding. $23
La Mancha is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines. It is located in central Spain with a history dating back to Roman times. The climate here is severe. A local proverb describes the area as “nine months of winter and three months of hell.” The temperature in the winter can bring bitter cold below zero cold and oppressive frosts. In the summer temperatures can soar well above 100 degrees with 12 to 14 hours of sunlight each day. Strangely, the severe temperature prevents vineyard diseases and pests from growing and the vines flourish. In fact, with nearly 500,000 acres planted to vines, it is the largest continuous vine-growing area in the world.
For most of its modern history the area has been mostly known for the production of bulk wine. But, beginning about 20 years ago a renaissance began utilizing modern equipment and techniques like cold fermentation and stainless steel tanks. The white grape, Airén, accounts for about 75% of the areas vineyards and produces crisp, fruity wines. The red grape Tempranillo (known locally as Cencibel) is the predominant red grape variety. Tempranillos are most often labeled according to maturation: Joven are the youngest, Crianza are aged for 6 months in oak, Reservas are aged 12 months in oak and 24 months in bottle, and Gran Reserva are aged 18 months in oak and 42 months in bottle. There are many other grapes that thrive here as well including Viura, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Merlot for the reds.
The result today is that there are many very good wines from the area that represent real value. Below are notes on three Tempranillos that fit the bill. The wines were tasted over a one week period. They all improved with air. Decanting is strongly recommended.
2011 Albardiales Tempranillo La Mancha.
This is a really gorgeous young red wine with a deep color and a floral plum perfume. It has great fruit with plum and berry flavors and a faint floral undertone. Lush, supple, soft and rounded, this is a balanced wine with great early appeal and it is also a real bargain – Outstanding. $9.99 Best Buy Imported by Misa Imports, Dallas, TX.
2011 Casa Gualda Vinos Unicos Tempranillo La Mancha.
With a deep color this wine has a lovely floral berry perfume with a hint of cedar. It has lovely berry fruit with a faint hint of cedar and spice. Balanced with a nice underlying crispness, this wine benefits greatly from air – Highly Recommended. $9.99 Imported by Misa Imports, Dallas, TX.
2008 Allozo Tempranillo Crianza La Mancha.
This wine was aged for some time in oak and now has several years of bottle age. The color is dark and the wine has a nice cedary spice tinged perfume with underlying berry fruit. It has nice structure and flavors with cedar and spice nuances and will soften with additional bottle age – Highly Recommended Plus. $11.99 Best Buy Imported by Misa Imports, Dallas, TX.
Rías Baixas is a Spanish Denominación de Origen  (DO) for wines located in the province of Pontevedra and the south of the province of A Coruña in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwest Spain. The area consists of some 7000 acres of vines. There are 6 varieties of red grapes and 6 varieties of white grapes that are authorized, although some 90% of the areas production is Albariño. It is believed that the grape was first introduced here in the 12th century.
With the Rias Baixas DO established in 1988 Albariño has gained international recognition and in recent years has been gaining in popularity across the world and in the USA. The wines are crisp and very fresh with a subtle fruitiness and are well suited to a wide variety of lighter foods. Albariños have rapidly become one of our favorite white wines for warm weather drinking. They are best consumed young, but as the note on an older Albariño will attest, if well cellared, they are capable of aging. The following wines were tasted over a period of a week. They remained bright and fresh. These are perfect white wines to keep in the refrigerator next to the rosés for warm weather drinking.
Adega Condes De Albarei
This Albariño is made by a cooperative that consists of 362 grower/owners who farm some 740 acres in the Valle Del Salnès area of Rias Baixas. Whereas the average producer has an annual production of around 4,000 cases, this winery has an annual production of around 250,000 cases. It is quite remarkable for the size of production, quality, and value.
2011 Condes de Albarei Albariño Rias Baixas.
With a pale yellow color this wine has a lovely floral perfume with mineral and citrus nuances and faint hints of melon. It has great purity and lovely flavors of melon and citrus intermingled with hints of mineral and a faint touch of pear. This is a delicious Albariño with style, flavor and finesse and it is a great bargain – Outstanding. $12 Best Buy Imported by C.I.V. (USA), Sacramento, CA
2011 Don Olegario Albariño Rias Baixas.
This wine is made from grapes grown on 33 year old vines. It is a gorgeous Albariño with pale yellow color and a deep perfume of melon intermingled with mineral and citrus and a faint underlying floral note. The flavors are subtle with hints of mineral, citrus, melon, and peach and the wine is flavorful with great balance and finesse and a has a lovely crispness on the finish – Outstanding. $18 Imported by Kobrand Corporation, New York, NY.
2011 ETRA Albariño Rias Baixas.
Pale yellow in color with a subtle perfume showing hints of melon and citrus this is a lighter styled Albariño. It is finesseful and rounded with an underlying crispness and melon and citrus nuances – Recommended Plus. $12.99 Imported by DM Vineyards & Partners, Oakland, CA.
2011 La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas.
Pale yellow in color this wine has a lovely floral perfume showing hints of citrus, melon, and pear. The fruit is lovely and the wine is rounded yet with a nice underlying crispness. The flavors are intermingled with citrus and pear and hint of melon with a faint floral nuance. Crisp on the finish this is a tasty yet delicate Albariño – Highly Recommended. $12.99 Imported by The Henry Wine Group of CA, Benicia, CA.
2011 Mar de Frades Albariño Val Do Salnés Rias Baixas.
Pale yellow in color this wine has a lovely floral tinged perfume with citrus and mineral tinges. It is a wine of finesse yet with complex flavors showing floral notes and hints of grapefruit with an underlying mineral and even faintly exotic nuance. With balance and great purity and freshness with a lovely underlying crispness, this is a very pretty Albariño that tastes as good as it looks – Outstanding. $19.99 Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd., White Plains, NY.
2011 Pazo Torrado Terre de Asorei Albariño Rias Baixas.
With a pale yellow color this Albariño has a gorgeous floral perfume with intermingled nuances of melon and citrus with faint tropical pineapple nuances. The wine has great fruit and is very elegant with hints of melon and pear laced with a touch of citrus. Bright and fresh with gorgeous balance this is a really delicious wine – Outstanding. $14.99 Best Buy
2011 Santiago Ruìz Rias Baixas.
This wine is made with 70% Albariño blended with 30% other white grapes of the region. It is pale yellow in color and has a faint perfume with citrus and mineral nuances. It is crisp and fresh with hints of mineral and citrus and a very faint floral undertone. Finesse is the key word here – Recommended Plus. $20 Imported by Monsieur Touton Selections, Ltd. New York, NY.
2011 Torre La Moreira Bodegas Marqués de Vizhoja Albariño Rias Baixas.
Light yellow in color this Albariño has a subtle floral herbal perfume with hints of melon and citrus. It has nice fruit showing tinge of melon and citrus and is rounded with a nice underlying crispness – Highly Recommended. $19.99 Imported by Spain Wine Collection Congers, NY.
An Older Albariño
Quite by accident, as I was looking for something in the wine cellar, I came across this bottle. Since I was in the midst of tasting these 2011 Albariños, I thought that it would be a good time to taste an older one. Besides I had never tasted an Albariño more than a couple of years old. This was a real surprise.
2006 Burgâns Albariño Rias Baixas.
Light gold in color this Albariño shows a lovely perfume of peach and citrus with a faint floral note and a tinge of burnt butter. The wine has gorgeous fruit and is supple and rounded with a nice lush mouth feel and hints of pear and peach with a citrus tinge and a kiss of burnt butter. Wow. This is a wine that is fully mature and is nothing like a young Albariño. It is much richer and rounder, yet an all together gorgeous wine – Outstanding. Eric Solomon Special Cuvée Selection European Cellars Inc. Charlotte, NC.