For those of you who missed Part 1, check it out if you're interested. Housekeeping part 2 will focus on three more wines, and will finally deliver what I've promised since I started this blog: wines that are excellent QPR picks. The danger of drinking a lot of wine (apart from cirrhosis of the liver) is that only some of the wines are truly memorable. These tend to be (though it's by no means universal), the more rare, more expensive wines. While, as I mentioned before, there's no direct correlation between price and quality, there is a loose correlation. While a $15 bottle is probably not going to be distinctly "better" than a $12 bottle, a $150 bottle is hopefully going to be noticeably better than a $12 bottle. The three wines that follow here are excellent value plays, and the most expensive was $18 (a splurge for me).
First up is the 2009 Clos de la Vierge Jurancon Sec. As I've mentioned before on this blog, don't be intimidated by confusing/obscure names or regions in your wine choices! AOC Jurancon is located in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees and Spanish border. The region is most famous for its sweet wines made from botrytized Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Corbu grapes. This wine, however is completely dry, which we can discern from the word "sec" on the label. This wine is primarily Gros Manseng, a grape that is seldom grown outside Jurancon.
The wine pours a light golden color and shows honey, pear, and lemon peel on the nose. The palate shows a honeyed characteristic as well, wrapped around citrus fruits and wet stone. There is a viscous, oily texture that I associate with white wines from the Rhone, which makes this unique. This wine is perfectly at home as a stand-alone sipper or with food. I could see this pairing well with anything from cider braised pork shoulder to seared scallops. It's a very versatile wine. For those in the Boston area, I sourced this bottle from Brookline Liquor Mart on Commonwealth Ave in Allston.
2009 Domaine de Fenouillet Beaumes de Venise "Terres Blanches" (link goes to the 2010 vintage) was another affordable gem that I dug up recently. Beaumes de Venise is located within the Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC in the Rhone Valley. The Villages system means that the French government has determined that certain sites within the Cotes du Rhone make wine that is unique enough to warrant them placing the name of the village on the bottle (overview here). This can be tricky for consumers, because unless you have memorized all the villages, you won't necessarily know that you're buying a wine from the Rhone. I picked this oddball up from Winestone, and didn't know what I had until I asked Patrick, the owner to tell me whether I wanted the wine.
The blend is a typical southern Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. In the Rhone valley, the southern end makes wines dominated by Grenache, and the northern end makes wines dominated by Syrah. 2009 is universally lauded as being a terrific vintage in the Rhone (along with 2007), and the wines are drinking very well even now, so quickly after vintage. This wine showed typical Rhone characteristics of saddle leather and dusty raspberry fruit with smooth tannins and some acidic presence. There were some notes of bacon fat from the Syrah, and a good peppery finish from the Grenache. My friends and I enjoyed this wine with carnitas, fried plantains, and mustard greens simmered with linguica. It was a wonderful match.
To go on a little tangent inspired by this wine, it's incredibly hard to pick up a basic Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Rhone Villages that won't be an excellent wine for the price. It might be the single greatest area (besides the Loire of course) for values, and it's also a reasonably simple area to navigate. So, drink more Rhone wines!
2009 Domaine de Veigneau-Chevreau Vouvray "Cuvee Silex." Vouvray is located in the Loire Valley and is, by far and away, my single favorite region for white wine in the world. Even better, it's dramatically underappreciated, allowing one to buy stunning wines, like this one, for under $20. The AOC Vouvray stipulates that wine must be made from 100% Chenin Blanc, which along with Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, is one of the 3 major white grapes of the Loire Valley. In my opinion, the best examples of Vouvray are fermented in stainless steel tanks, allowing the pure fruit and piercing acidity of these wines to dominate.
This wine poured a very pale gold and showed a huge nose of meyer lemon, fresh limes, and some honeysuckle. The palate matched the nose, with screaming acidity and a long finish of meyer lemon that made it a perfect match for a dinner of Trader Joe's crabcakes on greens. This wine is seafood's best friend and would be amazing with raw oysters, sushi, or even something like old-school baked cod. It's incredibly versatile.
So, three examples of wines that, in my estimation, over deliver for their price. In the case of the Jurancon, the price is low because there isn't much name recognition for Jurancon. In the case of the Beaumes de Venise, the fact that the grapes are grown outside a more famous appelation such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, or Costieres de Nimes makes it a strong value play. And the Vouvray, as so many of them are (thank goodness), is just dramatically underpriced.
I'll be back soon with a write-up on some beers I've been drinking recently (yeah, yeah it's a wine blog, but I do what I want, so there).