Portfolio tastings from big importers and distributors like Frederick Wildman & Sons can be daunting. Imagine 102 tables and up to 10 wines at each table, which was the lineup at the September 2011 tasting in New York. And if you limit yourself to about 60 wines, as I do, well, you have to pick your spots. So I picked mostly French wines this time around. Here are some favorites from the wines I tried.
Pascal Jolivet.This venerable Loire Valley producer has a range of Sauvignon Blancs, several of which are expressions of the terroir from which their grapes come.
- “Attitude” Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($17). The name and price are clearly aimed at the English-speaking markets and perhaps more specifically those under 30. But anyone can enjoy this good value wine’s juiciness and nice mix of fruit and herbaceousness.
- Sancerre 2010 ($27) This is Sauvignon at its best, lean and pure with wonderful minerality. Bring on the oysters!
- Sancerre Chateau du Nozay 2010 ($35). One of the terroir-driven Sancerres I mentioned, this kicks up the intensity a bit from the “plain” Sancerre, which is a blend grapes from three vineyards.
- Sancerre Les Caillottes ($35). Leaner and more herbal than the Chateau du Nozay. Try this one with an asparagus dish.
- Sancerre Clos du Roy ($35). Ripe and juicy but finishes dry.
J.J. Vincent. Best known for its pricy expressions of Pouilly-Fuisse, this producer also makes one that is quite good at less than half the price.
- Pouilly-Fuisse Marie-Antoinette 2009 ($25). Half of this wine is barrel fermented, which gives it depth and body. Yet it is still crisp and clean.
- Cremant de Bourgogne NV ($22). This toasty, bready sparkler is a delicious value for holiday entertaining.
- Julienas Dome de la Conseilliere 2009 ($22). A cru Beaujolais with ripe cherry fruit balanced by crisp acidity.
Domaine Francois Baur. I was not familiar with this Alsatian producer, so its wines came as a pleasant surprise.
- Cremant d’Alsace NV ($18). Lovely yeasty nose with ripe pear fruit on the palate and a nice foamy mousse in the mouth.
- Riesling Herrenweg 2007 ($21). Classic petrol nose. Lean and dry with grapefruit notes.
- Pinot Gris Herrenweg 2006 ($28). Another example of why I love Alsatian pinot gris. Very expressive baked apple nose, ripe and delicious.
- Gewurztraminer Herrenweg 2008 ($30). Mouth-filling fruit. Ripe and delicious.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Hard to beat this Rhone producer for good values.
- Palallele 45 Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2009 ($13). Ripe cherry fruit balanced by good acidity.
- Gigondas Pierre Aiguille 2007 ($25). This mix of 80 percent grenache, 10 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvedre is ripe and delicious and still quite fresh tasting.
- Vacqueyras Les Cypres 2008 ($20). Vacqueyras is a village Cotes du Rhone that is almost always a good buy, mostly because it doesn’t yet have the cache of Gigondas. This meaty, ripe version, with 75 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah and 15 percent cinsault is no exception.
- Crozes-Hermitage Les Jalets 2007 ($22). For those of us who can’t afford Hermitage, there is Crozes-Hermitage, which is far more abundant, very often well made and typically a top value. This version has lots of smoked meat aromas and calls out for roasted meats or cassoulet.