Delving Into The Wine Regions Of France

This is a continuation of my last column with more impressions of current vintages from some of the classical growing regions of France.

As hard as it is to believe, 2011 is another success in Chablis. The 2011 vintage really lent itself to the intrinsic character of Chablis. There is plenty of ripeness in the wines balanced with that knife’s edge of acidity and seashell vineyard expression that many of us really love. I really loved the 2011 Domaine de Costal Chablis “Les Truffieres,” which is organically grown with beautiful fruit and a long and laser-like finish. And don’t sleep on the 2011 Lavantureux Chablis. This AOC Chablis has plenty of grip and intensity of fruit.


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The Geoffray family of Chateau Thivin in Beaujolais (Cote de Brouilly) with their antique Renault

In the Cote d’Or proper, the 2011 whites of the Cote de Beaune are more than worthy of exploration. They are zesty, ripe and classic. I like them a lot! The 2011 reds of the Cote de Beaune (Pommard and Volnay) require more diligence in seeking out top juice. The Cote de Nuits has some very attractive wines. As the saying goes, the cream always rises to the top, and the top Domains showed why. The year 2011 in the Cote de Nuits will not be regarded as one of the best, but there are definitely some great wines to be found. I thought that Nuits St Georges, Vosne Romanee and Gevrey Chambertin were most successful in 2011.

The 2012 is a fabulous vintage for the Beaujolais. There, I said it. The unfortunate thing is that you will have much less to find, and prices are up slightly. Most domaines were down around 40 percent in production. Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly, Marcel Lapierre Morgon and Foillard Morgon Cote de Py are of the highest level in 2012. In several cases, I whispered to myself that this may be the best juice that I’ve ever tasted at the estate. Do not sleep on Beaujolais Cru. They are some of the most compelling and delicious wines that you will find in Burgundy. On top of that, they are a fabulous bargain in comparison to their counterparts in the Cote d’Or.

The 2011 in the Northern Rhone is very good. The growers will tell you of the challenges of the vintage, but the results are much more satisfying than they would let on. The wines are classically oriented with plenty of fruit and rich in tannin. These wines are vins de garde – wines with good aging potential. I am particularly impressed with Cote Rotie and Cornas.

Louis Barruol’s single vineyard Cote Rotie’s were particularly impressive. They combine the regal essence of Syrah and the beautiful terroir like the proverbial velvet hammer.

The 2011 Southern Rhone wines were equally successful. I can’t wait for the 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape wines to be released. They were juicy and warm, but they also were refreshing with balancing acidities. They are very charming wines, perhaps not for the long haul, but wines that will surprise many for their generosity over the course of their evolution. Gigondas faired very well also. Vacqueyras is not as homogenous, so look out there. If you are looking for the warmth of the 2010, you may be disappointed. Instead, look for freshness and elegance.

The more I look at vintages, the more I am convinced that producers can triumph even in the face of difficult growing seasons. But this gives you a good starting point to delve into the wine regions of France.