We have compiled a pack of benchmark French classics that will suit the lunch or dinner table and get you through the day. These are bright, elegant, mid-weight wines that will cross the menu, from oysters to ham rolls to beef and then cheese. They’re affordable enough to share (you know what we mean), though interesting enough for you to get involved in the wine and drown out all of that… whine.
These wines are all still table wines; we assume you still have your bubbles sorted from a few weeks back (and if you don’t, call us). Also stay tuned for our Australian Christmas drinking mix next week.
So, two bottles each of three wines, one white and two reds. Here we go;
Gerard Boulay ‘Tradition’ Sancerre 2018 – Loire Valley, France
“To my palate, Gérard Boulay is undoubtedly on the top tier of producers in Chavignol. His wines have a vibrant purity, evident ripeness, feel devoid of any raw varietal character and reflect the soils from which they are born. “ Chris Kissick, www.winedoctor.com
“Given the crystalline purity of his sauvignon blancs, he has become one of my favorite producers of the central Loire.” Joel Payne, www.vinous.com
Sancerre, at the eastern end of the Loire Valley, is the true home of Sauvignon Blanc. This is where Sauvignon Blanc is taken to its highest quality, with mineral and chalk laden wines that sit somewhere between Riesling and Chardonnay and have more in common with these wines than some of the insipid versions from over the Tasman.
Gerard Boulay’s vineyards are based on the steep, limestone soils around the small town of Chavignol. He only has 9 hectares under vine, though is widely regarded as one of the best producers in the region. The wine is produced with a high amount of ‘solids’ and fermented naturally in tank and old, upright vats, encouraging lees to build a savoury texture to complement the fruit and mineral freshness of the wine.
The flavours are long, mouth coating and palate staining. You have to remind yourself this is Sauvignon Blanc. It has intense pink grapefruit and Mayer lemon flavours, with inflects of white flowers, salt and chalk. Serve with oysters, prawns or goats’ cheese.
Daniel Bouland Morgon Corcelette Sable Vielles Vignes 2018 – Beajolais, France
“Daniel Bouland is one of the best winemakers in Morgon. Perhaps his profile is not as high as the likes of Lapierre or Foillard, but I think his wines are on the same quality level. Check out his stunning Morgon Corcelette, one of the best examples you will find” Neal Martin, www.robertparker.com
Here we are back in Beaujolais, though where we were recently in the cru of Cotes de Brouilly, now we venture north to the appellation of Morgon, and more specifically to the vineyard of Corcellete. Morgon has become an epicenter of quality, power and intrigue within Beaujolais, thanks to a collection of producers that include Daniel Bouland. Bouland makes several cuvees from different parcels on Cotes de Puy and Corcellete, and here we focus on a 1.5 hectare vineyard grown on sand with pink granite pebbles. The vineyard was planted in 1926, so it is coming up to 100 years old, which is serious, old vine material. (Note; we have now broken down the name of this wine, Morgon = the village/ cru, Corcelette = the vineyard, Sable = sand, Vielles Vignes = old vines).
Bouland’s approach in the cellar is very classic, with whole bunches used to build texture and spice, ferments are natural (no adds) and the oak is all old. It is about coaxing length and power from the old vine material and respecting the fruit. The result is a stunning, fleshy wine with ripe, blood plum, blackcurrants and a meaty/ bloody primal flavor. It has a fine Burgundian Pinot like texture but with more generous fruit and muscle. Pair this with your ham rolls, chicken, turkey and/ or soft cheeses. Serve it in a Burgundy glass to maximise the perfume and finesse on offer. If it isn’t opened on Christmas, it will last well until 2030.
94 points – Robert Parker “From vines planted in sand—which is now indicated on the label—in 1927, Bouland's 2018 Morgon Corcelette Vieilles Vignes Sable unfurls in the glass with notions of ripe plums, red cherries, smokes meats, violets and black pepper. On the palate, it's full-bodied, ample and multidimensional, with a broad attack, considerable depth and dimension at the core, juicy acids and a long, intense finish. Powerful and concentrated but framed by velvety tannins”
Domaine Marcoux ‘La Lorentine’ Lirac 2016 – Southern Rhone, France
We are now firmly in the south of France, in the appellation of Lirac. A little like the Gigondas we offered recently, the Lirac appellation sits just by Chateauneuf du Pape, except this time directly to the west (not the north east a la Gigondas). The wine is from the Armenier sisters who own and run one of the top Chateauneuf Estates, Domaine de Marcoux. With 12 hectares in Chateauneuf du Pape, and 8 in Lirac, the Armenier’s were pioneers in the region for farming along organic and biodynamic principles. In searching for quality and value in the south of France, we would rather offer you this incredible Grenache blend from a proven, top Chateauneuf du Pape estate, than offer you a less credentialled producer that has managed to get a Chateauneuf on the shelf for under $50. The proof is in the bottle.
The organic vineyard is on red clay and limestone, with some galet like pebbles that are the hallmark of neighbouring Chateauneuf. The vines are between 10 and 40 years old. The wines are fermented gently, extracting a good amount of tannin for Lirac, but maintaining a plush, silky, creamy texture. The wines are aged in concrete and French hogshead (330L) barrels. It is pushing full bodied, with rich, pure, supple dark fruits that hit the palate with intensity. The palate builds evenly, with flavours like star anise and black pepper lingering.
Serve this one with roast beef, hard cheeses or dark chocolate. Serve in large format Shiraz glasses. If it isn’t opened on Christmas, I would hang on to it until 2024.
92-94 Robert Parker – “This biodynamically run producer in Châteauneuf du Pape has been farming vineyards in Lirac for well over a decade, and the 2016 Lirac La Lorentine is easily the best yet, coming close in quality to the Châteauneuf. Aged in concrete, it's full-bodied and creamy in texture, with bold flavors of cola and singed red plum. Rich, supple and long on the finish, it delivers plenty of pleasure.”
91 Decanter – “This is very full, flowing and plush, but with ample structure to hold up the fruit. A Lirac with considerable tannic weight, good balancing acidity, and a long finish.”
Tom and Dan