FROM THE TASTINGS: FRANCE

Jean Christophe has been a regular tasting host at Vino Fino for a number of years now, each time bringing a Taste of France from the excellent selection that he imports into New Zealand. Being French (he’s married to a Kiwi) he has developed very good contacts in France over the years and his selections are always very well considered.

Tonight the selection focused on wines from the highly regarded 2015 vintage. Considered one of the best vintages for many years right across France, the wines were all a delight to taste. Whilst some of the world’s most expensive wines come from France, it is also a source of some of the best values and while we may be proudly parochial it has to be acknowledged that, so long as you know where to look, France has some treasures.

All of the wines tasted can be highly recommended for value and drinking pleasure.


Languedoc – Chateau Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc ‘Pic St Loup’ 2015 $23.99

Pic Saint Loup “Coteaux du Languedoc” is the most northerly of the Controlled Appellations in Languedoc about half way between Montpellier and Nimes. At 280 m above sea level, it is subject to both Mediterranean and continental influences. Nestled along the foothills of the Cevennes, a mountain range that sits in the heart of the Midi, the vineyard is surrounded by trees and ‘garrique’- the mix of wild laurel, thyme, rosemary –  the flavours of which often comes through on the wines. This white is a mix of 50% Vermentino, 20% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, 10% Viognier fermented without oak. A pale lemon colour with flavours of citrus, green-gauge this is dry and has an almost waxy texture.


Loire Valley – Champalou Vouvray 2015 $29.99

Established in 1983, this family estate is one of Vouvray’s leading lights.  Vouvray of course is home to Pineau de la Loire which we more familiarly know as Chenin Blanc. On the chalky soils the Chenin Blanc gives a ‘tenderness’ on the palate. With a sliver of sweetness at 6gms, this has flavours of white flowers and being from a warmer vintage shows red, rather than green apple flavours. There is a softness on the palate, yet finished quite pure and fresh.


Burgundy – Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages ‘La Carte’ 2015 $29.99

From Burgundy’s southern hills, Cave de Lugny is a cooperative of over 250 members and 1,500 hectares, across 21 Mâconnais villages producing around 6 million bottles of AOC wine annually which accounts for about half of the total wine production of the Mâconnais. La Carte is selected from the best sites. Surprisingly this is un-oaked as it certainly has the richness and depth that you would expect from an oaked Chardonnay. It is quite fleshy with flavours of fig and yellow fruits. A characterfulwine with loads of flavour.


Alsace – Metz ‘Anne Laure’ Pinot Gris 2015 $24.99

Arthur Metz established the Metz winery in 1904 by joining together many of the smaller vineyards and growers around Northern Alsace’s Couronne d’Or (“Golden Crown”). Today, still family owned, they are one of the larger producers of the region.  As Jean Christophe said, ‘This wine is like the people of Alsace.. in your face at first, but very friendly when you get to know them.’ Reasonably luscious, starting with sweetness but then finishing dry.


Beaujolais – Chermette Beaujolais ‘Les griottes’ 2015 $24.99

Pierre-Marie and Martine Chermette produce their Beaujolais as naturally as possible using organic and bio-dynamic principles, with natural yeasts and minimal sulphur. Les Griottes is French for “Morello cherries’ which grow at the bottom of the vineyard, but could equally be named for the taste of the wine. This is a dark purple colour with delicious up-front fruit that is very much like Morello cherry with a fresh crunchiness. Good Beaujolais – as this is – is more akin to juicy Central Otago Pinot Noir than any notions you may have of a light tutti-fruiti wine. Naturally low in tannins this has a softness; a fleshiness like biting into a very ripe plum then finishing with a crispness. Perfect with an antipasto platter with charcuterie.


Bordeaux – Château Marcadis Lalande de Pomerol 2015 $31.99

Lalande de Pomeral is the area beside the much more famous Pomerol and the Marcadis vineyard is just separated from Pomerol by a creek – and a price tag of much much less than it would be if it had the name of Pomerol. When the vintage is a great one, like 2015, you really do get plenty of value from an estate such as this. The Chateau’s property extends over 20 ha on silty, clay and stone soils with the vines 30+ years old. In 2015 the blend was around 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5 % Cabernet Sauvignon. A deep dark intense colour this tastes ripe and modern. No farmyard here. This is all about deep black fruits with coffee, dark chocolate, grilled meats and a hint of smoke. Smooth and almost unctuous on the palate with beautifully fine-grained tannins on the finish.


Northern Rhone – Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage ‘Papillon’ 2015 $34.99

Crozes Hermitage is the area on the lower slopes of the famous Hermitage hill in the Northern Rhone, home to the most famous Syrahs in the world.  With four generations of grape growing behind him, Giles Robin started his own label in 1996.The vines are farmed organically, the fruit is picked by hand and Gilles’s underground winery allows gentle, gravitational handling of the juice and wines. The Cuvée Papillon is the product of vines Gilles planted in 1996; it is aged entirely in tank to preserve its fresh and delicate fruit. A saturated inky purple colour this is bursting with spiced plum, roasted meats, with hints of florals such as violets and dark rose petal. This is a bit of a staff favourite at the moment  – very enjoyable!


Roussillon – Domaine Bila Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages ‘L’Esquerda’ 2015 $33.99

Owned and operated by Michel Chapoutier, Bila Haut is located in the foothills to the west of Perignan.  A blend of 60% Syrah & 40% Grenache grown in the rocky, granite based soils – L’esquerda” meaning “the fault in the rock” in Catalan. Like the Roussillon white, this has the taste of the local “garrigue” with black berry fruits, a granitic mineral character that balances the sweet ripe fruit. A seriously goodwine.


Loire Valley – Baumard Coteaux du Layon ‘Carte d’Or’ 2015 375ml $19.99

A sweet Chenin Blanc to finish. The vineyards of Domaine des Baumard are planted along the Layon river, which flows northwest into the Loire and often gets autumn fog which encourages the onset of botrytis. This 2015 is from a warmer vintage and it has less botrytis influence – the flavours of the wineshow the ripe Chenin Blanc fruit flavours of apple and honey. Not overly sweet – the natural acidity balances the sweetness.  As well as less sweet desserts this can be enjoyed as an aperitif or even with savoury foods. Great value.