Archive for November, 2010



Countess Natasha welcomes your questions and comments about wine experiences. Although she is sure you have a must-ask question you’ve always wanted the answer to. She’ll do her best to answer.



Countess Natasha will answer your questions and read your comments about wine.

Here are some suggestions.
The countess wants to hear about your best wine experience. Ditto for a holiday wine/food pairing. Any wine related question is welcome.
How do you know to serve to guests?
What should you drink when you are just you? Stick to an old fave, or try something new?



Banners in wine shops announce the yearly arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau with fanfare on the third Thursday of November in the nick of time for the holiday season. Wine lovers of a serious sort may turn their noses up at this wine, questioning whether a light wine is as enjoyable as its big, bolder brothers. The answer is a resounding YES, especially when our palates are challenged by an overabundance of holiday foods, and we recoil at wines with intense flavors. That’s when it’s time to turn to Beaujolais Nouveau. This light and fruity wine with a lovely aroma is produced from the Gamay grape on granite soils. The Beaujolais region lies just to the south of its more famous neighbor, Burgundy, whose wines are ranked among the best in France. The region has been producing wine since the time of the Romans, and many of the vineyards were planted centuries ago, proof of its longevity and popularity.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine, often referred to as “refreshment in a bottle.” The wine is young and fresh, hot off the wine press, bottled two months after fermentation, and ready for immediate consumption. It’s meant to be drunk without intense examination. Think of them as adolescents in a glass, a treat for wine quaffers who prefer white wines as well as red. Best of all, these wines are a step away from grape juice and since their alcohol levels normally range between 10 and 10.5, it is suitable for a range of guests for kiddies (diluted with water, of course) right up to grandparents. It solves the problem of whether to pour red or white. They complement a variety of food, don’t require decanting, or a certain temperature for serving.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be thin and lackluster, but finding a lovely Beaujolais is a worthwhile venture. It is inexpensive, is widely available, reasonable in price. Reliable bottlers are Bouchard Aîné & Fils, George Duboeuf,and Louis Jadot.
For those willing to climb a little higher up the price ladder, explore more distinctive wines from Beaujolais-Villages, made from grapes grown in the northern Beaujolais appellation. Be on the lookout for wines from the little villages of St-Amour, Juliénas, Moulin-À-Vent, Chénas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Each showcases a particular terroir and style of the vintner.
Beaujolais Nouveau will make a happy holiday even happier!




Can there still be hundreds of wines we haven’t yet heard about? It seems there is a constant supply of “new” wines entering the marketplace. Not exactly new. Only new to us.  France alone grows 600 of the 5,000 already recognized varietals around the world, including some of the world’s most notable wines.

Many French wines are consumed by the home market, including the wines of southwestern France that compromise twenty-five percent of the country’s total production. Locals with a great imagination draw an imaginary line, resembling a rugby ball, around a mosaic of small areas, each with its own specialty of sweet, dry, and sparkling wines. Ninety percent of the total production are red. “Unfortunately, they are often pigeon-holed as hard and tannic, but some are soft as a Beaujolais,” says importer Charles Neal, a k a  armagnacman.

Few outside Southwestern France will recognize the unfamiliar, locally popular, indigenous grapes of Southwestern France: Négrette, Duras, Braucol, Mauzac,and Tannat. “These wines are artisanal, soulful, and honest, perfect matches with duck and stews.  They’re great with shellfish, particularly oysters. They have distinct personalities, and best of all, perfect for Americans exploring new wines with quality and value,” says Neal.

Three historic links tie the region together. The first is the rustic region’s geography, lying between Bordeaux to the west and Languedoc to the east, and bound by the Massif Central to the north and the Pyrenees Mountains to the south. The maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby rivers, as well as rain and humidity from North Africa, play a significant role in the development of local wines. The second link is the centuries’ old pilgrimage route to Santiago de Campostella in Spain. Pilgrims from the Middle Ages on traveling across all corners from Europe made these wines famous long before those of Bordeaux rose to prominence. The third link is the production of artisanal wines made from indigenous grapes that are the backbone the particular flavor profiles of these distinctive regional wines.

Winemakers are proud of their history while looking towards the future. Some vintners are exploring the inclusion of international grapes, and  adapting different practices for trellising, rootstock, experimenting with unique grapes, and row spacing. Desiring more global visibility, many small wineries took pragmatic steps and bonded together in cooperatives to be represented under one banner.

These wines represent good value. It pays to seek them out, so pay attention to Domaine Duffour Cotes de Gascogne White 2009, made with mostly Colombard with a little Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng. This wine is aromatic and crisp, with zippy grapefruit flavors and a delicious herbal touch. ( $10) Domaine Berthoumieu Madiran 2006 is inky red is full-bodied, rich and intense on the palate, with notes of dark fruit and vanilla-scented oak made from predominately Tannat, the king of Southwestern grapes.  Great with grilled meats, thick steaks and stews.  ($24) Domaine Ilarria Irouleguy 2006 from the Basque country bordering France and Spain is a blend of Cabernet France, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, It is deeply colored with good acidity and pairs well with food. ($19) Chateau le Roc Fronton 2008. This red wine comes from just north of Toulouse, and is made mostly with the local grape, Negrette with some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its aroma is somewhat surprising, reminiscent of violets and crushed red berries.  An outstanding value, this wine is a good partner for grilled sausages or lamb chops.  ($11) Domaine des Tres Cantous Prunelard is an inky red with bright acidity with pomegranate and red berry flavors, an interesting partner for pork or roast chicken. ($22)


November 2010
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