Category Archives: France

Duparc Pineau des Charentes “White”

Pineau des Charentes AOC, France; 17% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Sonoma, CA
$5 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store

When I ordered this, I thought it was just some French white wine I’d never heard of.  When it arrived, I was completely baffled, so I looked up Pineau des Charentes in Wikipedia: It is “a regional French aperitif … a fortified wine (mistelle or vin de liqueur), made from either fresh, unfermented grape juice or a blend of lightly fermented grape must, to which a Cognac eau-de-vie [twice-distilled spirits] is added and then matured.”  So, of course, I had to try one.

I think this is delicious!  It’s sweet from the fresh grapes, but a little less sweet than a dessert wine.  I’m not satisfied with my description here, but what comes to mind is honeysuckle / honey and yellow-grapey canned oranges, peaches, and pears.  The flavor of purified alcohol is also prominent.  I prefer it chilled.  For me, at least, this aperitif, with its delicious sweetness and high alcohol content, is a bit dangerous.  🙂

Chateau Haut Pougnan 2014 Bordeaux

Bordeaux AOC, France
imported by Aquitane Wine USA, LLC
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on around 24 Feb

I believe I bought this after a couple customers recommended it.  I thought it was good but not especially remarkable.

I decanted the wine and left it alone for a couple hours.  The fruit became more accessible, showing earthy red cherry / redcurrant, darkening over time to include a little blackcurrant / blackberry.  It struck me as tasty Bordeaux, but nothing exceptional.

A number of days later, the saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle showed its fruit a little more soft and sweet, and was much more immediately pleasant, but was otherwise much the same.

The gold-colored sticker says “Concours des Grands Vins de France a Macon, Medaille D’Or, 2015.”

Chateau Simon Carretey 2008 Sauternes

Sauternes AOC, Bordeaux, France; 13.5% ABV
imported by Halby Marketing, Inc., Sonoma, CA
$7 for 375ml at the Richmond, CA, store on 27 Feb

chsimoncarretey_2008_sauternesOn the nose and then on the palate, the wine shows full-flavored but delicately delineated honeysuckle, yellow pear / apple, pineapple, ripe Asian pear, very slight (if any?) botrytis, and ripe apricot.  This is not the most amazing Sauternes, but it is an outstanding bargain.  Like most such sweet wines, this could probably develop well for at least another ten years in good storage.

The next day, the flavors were much the same, with the flavors more delicate and “liquidy.”

Château de Bensse 2012 Médoc

Cru Bourgeois from the Médoc, Bordeaux, France
50% Cabernet (presumably Sauvignon), 50% Merlot; 13.5% ABV
$12 at the Richmond, CA, store on 17 Feb

chdebensse_2012_medocThis wine had intrigued me for a few reasons — it was designated from a specific region of Bordeaux, the Médoc, not just from Bordeaux; it was imported by Max Beverage, whose previous Bordeaux I’ve tasted have been quite good; and two customers, including a Frenchman, had recommended it — but I had been deterred by the high (by GO standards) price until yesterday.

I thought it was pretty good after being decanted for about an hour, showing elegant purplish dark red cherry fruit with subtle complexity of plum, in a structure that was tight but not punishing.  It continued to improve the next couple hours, darkening and becoming only slightly more accessible.  Around three hours after opening, some of the darker purple fruit did seem to soften up a little, but along with the structure breaking some, not just relaxing.  So far, I liked it, but I wasn’t impressed it was worth $12 at the GO.  I wanted to soften it up a bit more, so instead of storing the rest in a completely filled small bottle as usual, I just put the cork back in the top.

Expat reviewed, and very much liked, the 2011 Ch. de Bensse here.  (His taste tends toward the very dry, earthy, and tannic.)  Wine Advocate rates 2011 Left Bank (which includes Médoc) as 88, and 2012 as 87, not much different.

On the second and third days, the wine was about the same as on the first two days, never really opening up very much.  I suspect I would prefer this with a few more years of age, but some may enjoy it now with a bit of air.

2013 Puydeval Red Blend, Pays D’Oc IGP

Pays D’Oc IGP, Langeudoc, France; 14% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on November 27th

puydevalThis wine caught my eye with its attractive label and the fact that it contains a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (which I love). The blend breakdown is 58% Cab Franc, 28% Syrah, and 14% Merlot, from vineyards in the cooler regions of the Languedoc. The wine is aged 10 months in oak (90% French, 10% American) and fermented with native yeasts. The tech sheet for the wine can be found here.

A brief web search showed this wine has a pretty loyal following and routinely scores in the high 80’s to low 90’s from major wine publications so I was excited to try it. The wine pours an opaque, deep red, and on the nose I got some blackberry and plum as well as some barrel spice and just a hint of savoriness (I’m guessing from the Syrah). There was definitely some heat as well, but that blew off after about 30 minutes.

On the palate I got dark red fruit with absolutely no vegetal notes that can be so prevalent in Cab Franc. Definitely a fruit forward wine, more in a new world style, but still with some pleasant earthiness to keep it rooted in France. Well integrated oak and pleasantly drying tannins with enough acidity and lift to keep it fresh. It shows it’s stuff best after about an hour and a half, and was fantastic with both a beef stew the first night and hearty minestrone the second night. A repeat buy and a thumbs up for me.

[ed. note: Please welcome frequent commenter DavidLikesWine to the front page.]

Chateau Grand Marchand 2012 Bordeaux

Bordeaux, France; 13% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Oct

chgrandmarchand_2012_bordeauxI thought this wine looked promising because it’s a few years old now, older than most Bordeaux we get, and the “88 points” sticker from the Wine Enthusiast.  (I’ve liked their online tasting notes.)  Indeed, I think this is pretty good for the price.

I thought the wine needed 1:40 of air in a decanter to relax and show its fruit, starting with a fairly simple earthy red cherry.  It continued to develop nicely until we finished off the first ¾ of the bottle, about 3 hours after opening.  Then, it showed complex dark fruits of ripe plum, cherry, mulberry / blackberry, purple grape, with typical Bordeaux brown earthiness, in a lighter medium body.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle still needed a bit of air, slowly developing along a similar path as the first part of the bottle, although the fruit didn’t seem to be as forthcoming.  I didn’t really give that glass long enough to air, but it did at least show that the wine will be fine the next day.

Chateau Val Joanis 2015 “Tradition” rosé

Luberon AOP, (southern) France; 13% ABV; screw cap
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 23 Sept

valjoanis_2015_roseThis wine’s pale pink color looked lovely, it is from southern France, and it is the current vintage of rosé.  It is indeed very good for the price.

The wine is at first a little closed, but opens quickly to flavors of pink grapefruit / less ripe strawberry or maybe raspberry, lavender, maybe a little yellow fruit, with a slight thickness to the body.

A couple days later, the rest left in the bottle was still fresh and delicious.

Le French Frog 2014 Moscato

southern France; about 12% ABV, IIRC
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store

LeFrenchFrog_2014_MoscatoI generally avoid Moscato, since I usually find it too sweet and cloying.  However, a customer buying a case said this one was quite dry.  Since I do indeed appreciate a dry Moscato, I was intrigued enough to try a bottle, and found it quite pleasant for the low price.

The wine shows typical Moscato flavors of perfumed flowers and melon, very smooth, with a slight softness to the texture.  I would have liked a bit more intensity to the flavors and a little more acid, but I thought it was a very pleasant quaffer, especially for hot weather.

Les Dauphins 2013 Côtes du Rhône Reserve

Côtes du Rhône AOC, France; 12.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 July

LesDauphins_CotesDuRhoneAt first, this struck me as too acid for the ripeness of its fruit.  After some air, the fruit became a little more rich, but still with a good amount of acid and minerality.  Although the flavors were rather subdued, there were nicely complex: honeysuckle and peach of (apparently) Viognier, yellow grapefruit / lemon (Marsanne or Roussanne?), yellow melon (becoming very ripe or even slightly oxidized melon with more air), white pear.  For me, it’s not very “Ooh! Yummy!”, but nicely complex and structured.  I’m hoping it will be a bit more accessible tomorrow.

Unfortunately, no.  The next day, the rest in the bottle was quite similar to how it was on the first day.  It’s well made and all, but for me, not very pleasurable.  Those who like the more acid and bitter styles of European winemaking may like it.

“Cuvée Darius” 2013 Fitou

Appellation Fitou Protégée, France
40% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah; 13% ABV
$6 on 4 July

CuveeDarius_2013_FitouThe Wikipedia entry on Fitou wine says that any Fitou AOC wine is required to be at least 40% Carignan.  This wine is clearly not AOC and has no Carignan, so it seems likely of a lesser designation.  Still, I hoped it would be a satisfying wine given how rarely southern French appellations show up at the GO.  I found it lighter-bodied, but pretty tasty.

As per my usual, I thought it needed about 1.5 – 2 hours in a decanter to open up, and it kept improving from there.  It showed the ripe, tangy, earthy / funky style I adore, pleasantly complex if hardly overpowering: black and red raspberry, purple grape, blackberry, funky black earth, slight roses close to the acid, in the finish some woody / earthy complexity / richness.  The GO “Elsewhere” price for this wine is $20, but I cannot believe this wine ever sold for $20.  It’s just not that substantial.  Online prices I found were $8.  It’s still a pretty tasty wine for $6, but it would be a better bargain for $5.

The next day, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was more soft and rich, slightly redder and more acid, less overtly complex.  It was still yummy but, especially toward the end, seemed to be falling apart.  Overall, it’s probably better on the first day.

As a word of warning, JoelA wrote about this wine:

Had somewhat high (well, medium-high) hopes for this wine, a GSM (40/30/30) blend from one of the older appellations in the Languedoc (southern France) area.
Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. On opening, a dark purple color, very fruity entry with significant tannin (it’s young, after all). But the wine quickly faded, to the point that the same evening it could easily be drunk with some broiled trout, and the next day was pretty flaccid.

This was a bit different from my experience, so there may be some bottle variation.