A Tasting Tour Of France

I just spent 10 days in France visiting some of the classic growing regions. It was cold and rainy for many of the days, but the wines in the glass and the warm food on the table was more than enough to keep me going. Believe me, there was plenty of really good food, and truffle season was still going strong in January! But I will save those stories for another time. Here are my impressions of some of the recent vintages in the areas where I think I was able to doe enough sampling of the wines to be able to evaluate.

I began in the Cote d’Or of Burgundy, where we tasted the 2013 vintage. The recurring theme here is the Cote d’Or again had a difficult growing season, peppered by rain at flowering giving an uneven fruit set, then hail in July that brought yields down again for the third year in a row to the tune of between 30 to 40 percent less than normal yields. Thankfully, August came with warm and sunny conditions and helped to save the harvest. I was more impressed with the white wines than the reds overall, especially from the Cote de Beaune — in particular Meursault and Puligny

Montrachet. The best are quite pure and have very good ripeness. These wines will be for near to mid-term drinking. They’re not long-agers.

I thought the reds from the Cote de Nuits were more variable with some less than fully ripe aromas and flavors creeping into some of the wines. But what was nice was the textures they presented. There was definitely some chap-talizing going on for the reds, but at their best they represent some very good wines that again will be pleasing to drink in the near- and mid-term. Real standouts were Domaines Roulot, Jobard and Chartron.

Heading south, the 2014s for Beaujolais were outstanding. This vintage is marked by really nice fruit, not over the top ripeness but plenty of sunshine in the glass. For the reds the tannins are rich but fine. No trouble with color either. The top wines will age very well. In fact there were several “super” cuvees that are being made from the 2014 harvest, and that’s a good sign as these cuvees are only reserved for the best vintages. My standouts include Domaines Guy Breton, Lapierre, Foillard and Chateau Thivin, whose rose is a knockout.

I made a stop in the northern Rhone, but not enough tasting to take in the big picture. But for the southern Rhone the 2014 vintage is one to crave and will delight Rhone drinkers for some time. We tasted some 2013s but the attention was really on the 2014s.

They have a sense of richness along with freshness that makes it a classic vintage — classic in terms of vineyard expression and longevity, not necessarily just ripeness and alcohol. I think both critics and classicists will have plenty to enjoy in the southern Rhone with the 2014 vintage for many years to come. Domaine du Durban, Vieux Telegraphe, Catherine Le Goeuil and Domaine Joncier were all quite successful.

Similarly the Languedoc region basked in the sunshine of the 2014 vintage, literally. The Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah vines were all generally happy in 2014, and they truly showed through in the wines. The reds are lush and exuberant with their fruit character. The structures are smooth and plush. This area is already a hotbed for fabulous values and 2014 will prove it again. Chateau La Roque, Domaine d’Aupilhac and Chateau de Deux Rocs will be at the top of my seek-and-destroy list.

Recommendations: 2013 Chateau la Roque Pic St Loup Rose ($15) Joyous rose is one of the simple pleasures of life and this is a perfect example. It sings with red and citrus fruits blended with melon and flowers. It is perfect for sipping or with charcuterie and cheeses. Try it with steamed mussels with garlic and rosemary — yum! You can find this at Fujioka’s Wine Times.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.