Touring Wine Regions Of France, Part 2

This is the second of a two-part recap of my recent visit to France (read part one here). These are my general sentiments of each region. However, there is always more in the details, and I hope to highlight particular successes if they are worth the exception.


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Olivier Clape of Domaine Clape in Cornas

In the Beaujolais region, I tasted both 2012 and 2013. The 2013 reds seemed to have higher acidity than 2012, and their tannic structures seemed to be stronger than the 2012s at the same time. I also thought that the 2013s were more inconsistent than 2012. At one end, the wines were overly tannic and not generous of fruit. At the other, the wines were well-balanced with very good and ripe fruit. Overall, the quality was high, just not as fleshy and carnal as, say, 2009 or 2010. But there are some exceptional wines in both 2012 and 2013. There are quite a few 2013s that I think are worth cellaring.

Domaine Robert-Denogent in Pouilly-Fuisse was hit terribly by bad flowering, and quantities are down 60 percent across the board in 2012. I joked with Jean-Jacques that the glass I was drinking was my entire allocation of his wines! But what he did produce was really fine – his Old Vine Cuvee Pouilly Fuisse “La Croix” bottling is both ripe and zesty, and for my palate even better than the 2009. It is highly concentrated and accentuates the min-erality of the vineyard. We will be lucky if we see much of this wine in Hawaii, and we will be even more fortunate if we ever see his 2012 Cuvee Claude, which, for me, is what I might call a “grand cru Pouilly Fuisse” – a thing of beauty.

For the Beaujolais, my favorites include Domaine Jean Foillard 2013s. Both his Morgon Cote de Py and Fleurie are at the top of the class. Chateau Thivin’s Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly are head-turners in 2013. (It also makes an absolutely delicious rose that is a great value.) I wrote when I tasted the 2012 vintage from this estate that it might be the best I had, and the 2013 is its equivalent in quality but has even more extract, and it will be a wine that repays cellaring. Chignard turned out a wonderfully delicious and elegant Fleurie from the 2013 vintage, as well. It has just the right harmony of charm and structure to be exceptional.

The producers I visited in the Northern Rhone Valley were all happy to say they were spared much of the inclement weather that Burgundy and Beaujolais received in 2012. Their yields were down, but nowhere near those in Burgundy and Beaujolais.

The wines in general were solid and earth-driven. There were no problems getting grapes ripe; at issue was the structural content that the growers had to deal with in the cuverie. Those who did not over-extract fared best. My quick shout-out of favorites are Domaine Faury, whose 2012 line was an absolute pleasure to taste – from a delicious St. Joseph Blanc to a gorgeous and hedonistic Cote Rotie, the wines are well-proportioned and sexy, even.

At Domaine Clape in Cornas, the 2012 Cornas reds are not only delicious, but they are “invincible.” They are wines that should be held onto for some time, as they are solid and will take years to show their true glory.

To double the bad news of having very little wine, the prices are going to be up 10 to 15 percent on average.

These small family producers really have no choice but to raise prices, as they have so little wine to sell. Thankfully, what will be coming to Hawaii will be very fine wine indeed, and will be quite pleasurable for all of us to share.