You know who I am. Say my name

I have a confession to make, I like maps. I mean I love maps, love them. I have a few wine related maps decorating my apartment, I don’t know why, I just like maps, I think they look cool. I recently found a nice one on Wikipedia. It’s a map of Europe with the name for wine in several languages.

wine names

As you can see, pretty much everybody got on board with using some version of the Latin word, vinum. I’ll give a pass to Turkey and other countries that formed their words from the Arabic root. The Greeks used ancient Greek, ok fine, they invented democracy, I think they earned a freebie. But seriously, Hungary? I mean get on with the program would you? Bor? What kind of name for wine is that? You make Tokaji for Christ’s sake. I want to like you, why won’t you let me?

Wine Rescue Ranger, Pommard Les Epenots

Les Caves du Palais, Pommard 1er Cru, Les Epenots 1999

Region: Pommard AOC, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir

Price: around 90 euros / $120 for this vintage

Yup, this was my Monday night

Yup, this was my Monday night

We have a problem in my family, a problem which, I think, is fairly common among wine lovers. We buy wine, a lot of it, a lot of every day wine and some special bottles that we swear we’ll keep for a special occasion. Of course, many occasions, more or less special arise, and we do not open the bottles, and we keep buying new wines. And of course, after a few years, our special wines are way past their optimal opening time. You open a bottle and the wine is dead. No mouth to mouth will bring it back to life. I happened to me a few times while I was in Paris and it’s pretty sad…

So, in order to save a bottle or two, on a Monday night, with no special occasion in sight, I went down to the cellar and decided to find a special bottle nearing or possibly just past its peak, and see what it had to say for itself. I found one, a Pommard 1er Cru from 1999. Pommard is in the Côte de Beaune but is known for its red wines. Pommard wines have the reputation of being the “manliest” of Burgundy reds with intense tannins. It seemed like a good idea to see if this manly wine stood the test of time.

Eye: pale ruby

Nose: Clean, medium + intensity, raspberry, strawberry, wet leaves and ferns with woody notes

Palate: Dry, high acidity, medium + body, very structured and present tannins, long finish.

Red fruits aromas with raspberry first and strawberry and fraise des bois close behind. Then the typical Burgundy red sous-bois flavors hit. I call them Fall flavors as they automatically make me think of this season: wet leaves, fern, mushroom,… There were also a lot of woody flavors, tobacco mostly came to mind. The body and intensity were a little disappointing at first, which made me worry that I had found a DOA wine again, but the wine woke up after an hour or so and the aromas nicely expanded. The Pommard trademark tannins were there, definitely more so than on other burgundies and along with the long finish they made this wine something special.

Food pairings: I had it by itself but I think it would be a great cheese wine

Overall opinion: I’m glad I saved it, and I’m glad I gave it time to open up and give its best (the cellar might be a little cold). It was a great wine with complexity and structure that helped it last 25 years. A very special bottle in my opinion.

Wine Trivia : what’s in a name?

Congratulations to Confessions of a Wine Geek for answering the previous question correctly. The Dukes of Burgundy banned Gamay from their territories and the Chevaliers du Tastevin hold their meetings at the Chateau de Vougeot.

This week, here is a language related quiz. I listed a few English words that are a rough translation of grape varieties names from different languages. Can you find the grape variety and the language it was translated from? Some are really easy, some are trickier.

my name is

1)      Fog

2)      Spicy Traminer

3)      Little sweet one

4)      Black pinecone

5)      Black black (2 languages)

6)      Little green one

7)      Little early one

Violets and leather : Guigal Crozes-Hermitage AOC

Guigal, Crozes-Hermitage 2009

Region: Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone Valley, France

Grape: 100% Syrah

Price: around 15 euros / $20

crozes hermitage

I couldn’t spend a mo0nth in France and not have some Crozes-Hermitage. It’s one of my two or three go to wines when at a restaurant because, there is always some on the wine list and it’s usually affordable. Another great reason is that it goes really well with most food. Crozes-Hermitage shares half a name with Hermitage, a top-tier other AOC of the Northern Rhone. It was named this way to indicate that, to some critics, wines from this area tasted close to those from Hermitage. Crozes-Hermitage is however a much larger AOC (almost accounting for half of the Northern Rhone region) and its wines sell for way less than those of the Hermitage AOC.

It’s a cheaper but not cheap alternative to Hermitage wines. The same variety rules apply for both appellations, helping reinforce the taste similarities between them. In both AOCs Syrah is the only red grape allowed, winemakers can however use white varieties, Marsanne and/or Roussanne up to 15%,

Picture : Wikipedia Commons

Picture : Wikipedia Commons

Eye: Deep ruby

Nose: Clean, intense nose, violet, plums and prunes with something meatier alongside, leather comes to mind to describe it.

Palate: Dry, medium acidity, medium + body, intense tannins, medium + finish.

Violets and red fruits like plums, candied and dried fruits like prunes with meaty undertones and definitely some oak. The finish is quite long with the wood notes lingering for a while. Tannins are quite present, a little harsh at times. The wine feels balanced but I would mostly have it with food, it’s not a sit around and drink it kind of wine. I felt like it was a good example of what Syrah tastes like, since this Crozes-Hermitage is straight Syrah. The violet tones and meaty side I expected were definitely there, I like it when my expectations are met!

Food pairings: This wine would work with most meats dishes, I had it with a pork cutlet and it was awesome. It will go well with any hearty fare; pizza and pasta come to mind actually.

Overall opinion: A solid, reasonably priced Northern Rhone wine that goes well with a lot of dishes, brings a little sun into a cold winter and displays all characteristics of a “pure” Syrah wine.

Exploring my wine database

It’s been a more than month since I arrived in Paris and I’m now a week away from flying home to Boston.  “Back in good old Boston, home of the bean and the cod. Where the Lowells only talk to Cabots, and the Cabots only talk to God.” I apologize for this moment of pretentious culture; I do love my Boston Brahmin lore.

But, as I often do, I digress. Even though I’m more than ready to go back, I had a great time in France. Family-wise, friends-wise and of course, wine-wise, everything went well. I use an app called Vivino to track what I drink, it’s pretty convenient and it helps structure and document my wine journey. I decided to do a little analysis of my Vivino log for the last 30 days. I had more than 45 different wines over that 30 days period. Granted, it covered the holidays period when it is more socially acceptable. I’m not concerned about this overall number.

What is interesting is the fact that, except for one bottle from Lebanon, one from South Africa, and one from the Priorat, 42 wines out of 45 were French. It is not a bad thing but it illustrates a point I made a few months ago, French people, and people in France tend to drink French wine. The offer in foreign wines in basic wine shops remains minimal, with the notable exception of Italian (Chianti) and Spanish (cava, Rioja) wines.


It’s not particularly surprising. It’s also not just an elitist or snobby thing, it might be simple economics. France is either the first or second producer of wine in the world depending on the year (Italy being the other biggest producer). And even though we export a fair amount of wine, roughly a third of our yearly production, we still consume most of it domestically. At this point it’s demographics combined with economics: We produce 20% of the wine in the world and we consume two thirds of this production which means 13% of the wine produced in the world is drunk in France.

By comparison, Australia’s wine industry is geared towards exportation. Only 40% of the wine produced in Australia is sold locally, the remaining 60% are exported (mainly to the UK where Australian wines lead all other countries in terms of sales).

Considering that drinking locally is easier because you avoid transport and importations taxes, it’s often a better bargain to drink local in France. And of course, there is the protectionist and patriotic reflex. Lack of choice however is a real thing.

That’s one of the many reasons I’m ready to go home. I want to drink some Australian Shiraz I read about, I want to try more Napa Cabernet; I want to compare them to French wines from similar varieties. I want variety, I want new things, I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep. Eh, no, scratch the last one, I got carried away in my own rambling. I don’t like New-York that much. Give me an non-rhotic accent over a nasal one, it’s easier on the ears.

Anyway, more wine this weekend, I have a bottle of Hermitage I have to get into. I told you, there is nothing wrong with French wine.

Wine Trivia : Burgundian History X

It’s time for the results of the previous trivia question:

If we exclude Burgundy from the equation, what is the smallest AOC in France?

What is this AOC? Which region does it belong to? What’s the main / only variety used there? Within which other AOC is it enclaved?

All answers were found by the Drunken Cyclist, congratulations! The smallest AOC outside of Burgundy is indeed Chateau-Grillet, enclaved within Condrieu and using the same variety, Viognier in the Northern Rhone region.

The new question should be easy of you have read some previous entries from my blog. What grape variety was banned by the Dukes of Burgundy because it was “disloyal”? Subsidiary questions: which wine tasting knightly order was founded in Burgundy? Which castle is their basis of operations?

Wine Music : Gewurztraminer and Beaujolais

It’s time for a second wine / song pairing. Today I’ll match two wines that I had recently : Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives from Alsace and wines from the Beaujolais appellations like Fleury or Regnié.

Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives : Kokomo, The Beach Boys, 1988

Any pairing with Gewurz had to include some kind of tropical them. This song qualifies. Granted it’s a little cheesy and considered a minor hit from a great band, but there are a few other points that make it a good match. The tropical, Caribbean sounds, like a steel drum, are here but they alternate with softer, mellower parts. It reminded me of the more delicate lychee giving the pineapple a run for his money. I also like the line “we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow.” It made me think of the grapes waiting on the vine until they are ready and their sugar level is high. They definitely took it slow here. Oh, also the video is super eighties; it’s a good added bonus!

Beaujolais, All I Wanna do, Sheryl Crow, 1993

This one hit me like a ton of bricks. I was racking my brains for another match and then this song came on. An ode to taking it easy, a song relating a bar side conversation on a lazy Tuesday afternoon, that’s a Beaujolais song if I ever heard one. There isn’t a more effortless wine in the world, it’s unpretentious, all it wants to do is have some fun, and who are we to refuse it its fun? Seriously, I hear the first notes and Sheryl setting the tone and background of the song with a few spoken lines and I crave a bar stool and a glass of Morgon. I know they drink beer in the song’s story but I prefer to focus on what it’s really about: taking a step back let the world pass you by for an hour or two and look at it with amused eyes. Also, like Beaujolais, this song is catchy.

So what do you think? What song would you have matched with those wines instead?