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A Case of Summer Wines - 2009
For the wine lover, beginner or expert, it is now time for a pleasant seasonal errand. Go to your wine retailer, and lay in a case of twelve reasonably priced French wines that will go perfectly with your summer dinners. Make sure that they are good wines, and that you don’t spend over $125.00, taxes included.
Impossible? Not at all. This is the time for light wines, of recent vintages. Trotting out your treasured vintage bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild for a barbeque is like reading Dostoievsky at the beach! Summertime is the time of year for enjoyment of uncomplicated, flavorful wines that go particularly well with hot weather menus.
Let’s find a dozen that you’ll enjoy. Some may even led you to explore new wine regions, or to try more upscale wines from a producer that you have just discovered.
White wines first.
Here on the Eastern Shore, I began the case with a bottle of 2007 Château de la Chesnaie, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie 2003 ($9.19). This Muscadet is straightforward and unpretentious, just right for seafood. It is produced in the northern Loire region near the sea, and the wine goes particularly well with crabs, either fresh from the traps or in the form of crabcakes. Why the sur lie designation? The Muscadet grape is not strongly flavored, and over the years, French winemakers have found that keeping contact with the crushed grapes and their skins and seed pips for a time during fermentation yields a more satisfying wine. This method of production has now become standard for quality Muscadet wines.
Next comes a bottle of Willm Gentil Reserve 2007 ($9.19), a giveaway price for this excellent blend of noble Alsatian grapes, from a trusted producer. Again, this would go well with seafood, but you might want to try it with Chinese takeout. And once you have discovered Alsatian wines, it is a pleasure to go up the ladder and discover Riesling, Traminer, Sylvaner, and other refreshing Alsatian varietal wines. I’ve heard that Alsace is the only wine region to produce wines as varietals, as is so often done in the United States. That may make it easier for American wine lovers to become familiar with this fine region.
Then I saw some bottles of a family favorite, Monsieur Touton 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. This is a good quality Bordeaux white wine, selling for $7.79. The wine is fresh and fruity, without the grassy taste that Sauvignon Blanc sometimes has, which I find objectionable. And as opposed to many oakey California wines, this is a flavorful wine with no needto shout its presence. With freshly steamed mahogany clams with garlic butter, it would be delicious.
The Château Fages, Graves de Vayre 2008 ($9.19) should also be refreshing. With the Graves region, you are moving into a traditional area for fine Bordeaux white wines, and one that still is relatively unknown in our country. That goes up and down the quality scale. Also worth searching out, and similar in their flavorful appeal, are the wines of the Entre-Deux-Mers. They tend, in that region east of Bordeaux between the Gironde and Dordogne Rivers, to be dry and refreshing wines, with some heft to them. Either wine would be a good choice to accompany grilled chicken, or perhaps, a Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp.
For a flavorful wine from Gascony, try the Tariquet 2007 blend, 70% Ugni Blanc and 30% Colombard grapes. They suggest that this wine, well chilled, would go well with shellfish or charcuterie. By that, I imagine they mean a pâté sandwich on a French baguette, or possibly, a grilled sausage dinner. Either would be fine with this robust white wine. The grapes, by the way, are the same varietals used by this estate to produce its better known Armagnac.
You may want to try and serve some wines that your guests may not have tasted before. The Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2008 ($7.39), is a Portuguese tradition that as its name states, has a greenish tinge. It is light and refreshing, an entry level wine for people who enjoy new flavors. And let’s not forget the field of rosé wines. You will enjoy the Domaine des Nouelles Rosé d’Anjou 2008 ($8.69), just right with grilled hamburgers. At just 10.5% alcohol, it is light and dry, avoiding the sweet taste that many of these wines display.
And of course, the world of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais wines is a delightful part of summer. They are red wines, but perhaps the only ones where chilling is preferred, as with rosé wines. The Beaujolais Villages 2008 ($9.69) is a good introduction to a highly enjoyable array of quality wines.
Now let’s add some more red wines. For many, the tried and true red Bordeaux wine that always seems to satisfy will be the 2007 Mouton Cadet red ($9.19). This is a classic, blended Bordeaux wine, first introduced in the 1930s by Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild. The grape varietal blend is Merlot 65%, Cabernet Sauvignon $20, and Cabernet Franc 15%. This wine always gives good value, and an authentic taste of Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. They also make a fine Mouton Cadet white wine at the same retail price, which gives you the authentic white Bordeaux blend (Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc) at bleacher seats prices.
But there is another fine and reliable Bordeaux red wine available at an inexpensive price. This is D’Estournel 2005 (formerly called Maître D’Estournel), produced at the grand Cos D’Estournel classified estate in St. Estèphe in the Médoc, and a bargain at $10.99. You could serve this wine all year as an inexpensive, tasty and flavorful Bordeaux.
Barbeque brings forth rich flavors., and of course, pork ribs come to mind. Here you have a treat in store. The 2007 Côtes du Rhône wines have been lauded for their quality, and I have two for you to try. The Domaine La Grande Ribe Côtes du Rhône 2007 ($9.59) advances organic wine cultivation, and is said to do so while retaining great flavor. And then you should treat yourself to a bottle of Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône 2007 ($10.09). It is a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah grapes, and would be a bargain at twice the price. My wife and I recently enjoyed this wine at a restaurant dinner, and it held its own with much pricier bottles.
Your case of wines, six white (including the Portuguese vinho verde), five red and one rosé, comes to $110.98. My local wine retailer gives a 10% discount for mixed cases, which takes care of the taxes. In any event, we have a fine case for under $125.00, tax included.
Futures Prices Descending - At Last!
For years now, we have seen prices for fine Bordeaux wines go up and up. It has reached the point where people starting to enjoy wine are, unless they are well off, unlikely ever to have the experience of tasting the most celebrated wines. But a series of vintages that have been overhyped, and the worldwide recession, have resulted in buyer remorse, and inaction. Wines from the 2007 vintage were even shipped back to Bordeaux!
The result is that for the first time in years, futures prices, which are the prices for which wines are sold after they are bottled but long before their actual shipment, for fine Bordeaux wines are beginning to tumble to more reasonable levels. The days of $25 classified Bordeaux may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean that the starting price for fine wines, even fine wines from mediocre vintages, should be triple that amount, even with the euro steadily gaining value on the dollar.
That is why I was glad to see that prices for the 2008 Bordeaux vintage have been cut back sharply. One of my favorite Bordeaux wines from the Margaux region, for example, Château Brane Cantenac, is now available for a futures price of $36 a bottle. Let us hope that the days of $500 a bottle first growths will also disappear. It would be nice for our readers to enjoy fine wines all the way up the scale of excellence, forming their own conclusions as to both quality and price.