The True Taste

August 17, 2013 § Leave a comment


Crappy photo, incredible wine!

My latest column in the Portland Press Herald sprung from a New Yorker article on Bill Buford and Daniel Boulud, where they construct this impossible old-school dish, the chartreuse, and you think it can’t be worth it — or any good — until the usually taciturn Boulud exclaims that the dish is “le vrai goût de la France”.

That’s what I think of the wines of André Brunel. His “ordinary” Côtes du Rhône, a scant $13 retail, is the “true taste of France”. It has that inimitable French quality that makes you feel as you’re drinking it that you never want to drink anything else.

It’s bottled unfiltered, from old-vines Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah fermented in concrete tanks. The wine is a conversation among every element of the plant cycle: soil, roots, branches, leaves, fruit. It’s the whole picture, with tannins integrated, both toothsome and silken.

Brunel’s Chàteauneuf-du-Pâpe takes that conversation deeper, deeper, deeper. Yes, it costs a whole helluva lot more. It should. But the CdR is where you start. And I love the white, too, the Domaine de la Becassonne. It’s not flabby and stupid, like most southern Rhône whites. It tastes more like an Alsatian Pinot Blanc to me, and that’s a very good thing.

The article is worth reading, in my opinion, because in an interview with me Brunel talked fascinatingly about what is happening in this historic region because of global climate change. How do you maintain the “traditions of the ancients”, in Brunel’s words, in a world whose very chemistry is changing? Who’s got a more compelling question than that?

Thanksgiving in France. Nothing says “turkey” like the Loire…

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I just got an email promoting a seminar on how to pair wine for Thanksgiving that spoke of how “difficult” it is to find the right matches for America’s National Food Day. Hogwash! It’s so easy, because the foods range all over the flavor spectrum. You just need wines that have high acidity, low alcohol, and a touch of sweetness. Oh, right, for so many winemakers, wine writers and wine drinkers, that is difficult! Sorry, I forgot.

Anyway, my Portland Press Herald column today explores Thanksgiving wine by way of applauding Cynthia Hurley French Wines, an outstanding importer of wines from France. I emphasize Hurley’s Loire selections because they’re exemplary, but the portfolio represents many great French regions. Drink ’em all year, but there’s no better time than now to get acquainted…

Red wines for barbecues? Depends what you’re cooking

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

My latest column gets at that crowd-pleasing topic, “wines for the grill”. Not any Zinfandel will do, unless you’re cooking burgers or wet-sauced ribs. For the rest of us, grilling has become so much more varied than that, so you need wines capable of the variety. Lighter, better balance of minerality and fruit, etc. This column goes at it from a European side of things (Côtes-du-Rhône, Rioja, Costières-de-Nimes), next time I’ll stay domestic.

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