FRANCE - ALSACE, CHAMPAGNE, LOIRE
Author:  M.A. de la Mata
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ALSACE

1992 Gewurztraminer, Zind Humbrecht, Alsace ($25.99). A very well made wine with finesse and elegance. It was opened perhaps a bit too young. The Gewurztraminer character was not very powerful. In fact, it tasted more along the lines of a Pinot Blanc D’Alsace than a Gewurztraminer. However, and with time, this wine may evolve to a fuller flavored, true Gewurztraminer. This wine was perfectly paired with steamed mussels in garlic broth.

1992 Riesling Rangen Clos St. Urbain, Zind Humbrecht, Alsace ($??).  100% Riesling, no wood aging?  Deeply floral aromas with nutty hints.  Full flavored palate wise with intense flavor extraction and weight.  Very long and pleasant finish of cashews and spice.  Could use another 2 years aging.  Best with seafood.

1993 Pinot Blanc, Trimbach, Alsace ($14.99).  100% Pinot Blanc.  This is a great white with weight, character, complexity and a long finish,  Leachy, spicy aromas and flavors with deep floral notes than keep coming back from the back of your palate to your nostrils…Recommended.  Salmon.

1993 Gewurztraminer Domaine Weincbach, Alsace ($45.99).  100% Gewurztraminer late harvested, no wood aging.  Very elegant and distinguished floral aromas with notes of leechy nuts and spice.  In the palate this Gewurzt was a bit different than most other Alsatians previously tasted, with wholesome roundness and weight.  It offered spicy and caramelized almond flavors, and even a hint of botritys.  Well balanced with a very long finish.  It is definitely a beautiful and complex wine with unquestionable aging potential.  Best with hearty seafood dishes and strong-flavored cheeses.  Highly recommended.

1994 Gewurztraminer, Dopffs Au Moulin, Alsace ($11.99) (not to be confused with Dopffs & Irion).  100% Gewurztraminer, no wood aging.  Finally! A decent Alsatian Gewurzt makes it to NC.  This is a fantastic wine miles above from anything else from Alsace currently in our market.  It is profound and full of character, aromas and flavor.  Its aromas are of flowers, azalea/camellia, with spicy and leachy nut notes.  In the palate, it becomes almost chewable, with deep flavors of allspice, cinnamon, leachy nut, and floral qualities that last and last.  Steamed lobster/shrimp, steamed muscles on tomato sauce.  Very highly recommended, particularly at this price and considering its aging potential of at least 5-7++ years if properly cellared.  Get It!
 

CHAMPAGNE

1985 Heidsick & Co Monopole Champagne, Champagne ($159.99). This has to be the most elegant and delicately balanced Champagne that I have ever had. Toasty, nutty flavors that keep on coming back from the back of the palate together with lemon peel and spicy hints has earned this Champagne my number 1 rating. Best with steamed langostinos and crawfish in lemon sauce.

NV Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne, Champagne. An old, unfounded?, biass of the trade toward "known" brands makes the availability of excellent quality "new and not so new comers" difficult. If you are tired of the same old three brands, here is a reliable, ultra high quality Champagne. There are plenty of reviews on this one if you rather go that way too.

NV Baget-Jouet Brut Champagne, Champagne. This Champagne is very well made with accent on the richness and finish, while maintaining an excellent fruit to acidity ratio. Long finish and lasting fine bubbles make this a deliciously citrusy Champagne to try. Depart from the old traditional and established brands. Also, you may want to try places other than the local supermarket for wines and Pizza Hut for your pleasurable needs this Christmas.

NV Champagne Brut, Philopponnat, Champagne ($26.99)**.  100% Chardonnay, Methode Champanoise.  This Sparkling wine comes from a very small house in Champagne, and obviously made with a lot of care.  It is aromatic and concentrated, with toasty nose and palate.  Long pleasant citrus-nutty finish and fine bubbles.  Quality high, price very low (actually lower than the NC Moet’s White Star and Bollinger’s Brut cuvees).  Best with foi-gras, caviar-toped appetizers, and steamed shellfish. Highly Recommended
 

LOIRE WHITE

1989 Vouvray, Chateau Moncontour, Loire. I have heard many people say that this is the finest Vouvray they had ever tasted. They may very well be right. It is complex and deep. It starts with truffles flavors that turn into floral, minty, cinnamon and on and on...just like a multi-layered pastry of wine flavors and with a great finish. Definitely a seafood and fish wine.

1992 Sancerre Vielles Vignes, Domaine Christian Salmon. Elegant and beautifully made wine. Complex, aromatic, multi-flavored wine. Aromas and flavors of pear, melon, spice, tar, soft acidity, nice roundness, extremely sensuous and feminine (boy, am I getting excited writing this one or what?!). One interesting aspect of this wine is that its aromas and flavors kept changing as time went by. Best when served at 60-65 deg. F and enjoy the aromas.

1993 Muscadet Sur Lie, Ch des Grandes Noelles, Loire ($14.99). Indeed, one of the finest Muscadets available. It offers the classical fizz and mineral flavors of Muscadet, with the added benefit of complex citrus fruit and floral flavors and finish. Best with seafood, not just oysters, and thanks to the fruit.

1993 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Cuvee Des Aigles, Loire ($5.99). A basic example of getting what you paid for. It lacks fruit, yet it delivers the strong mineral flavors that Muscadet is known for. Actually, not as strong as in this wine, but similar. The finish is short and with a heavy Alka-Seltzer impression.

1993 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Ch de L’Hyverniere, Loire ($11.59). A better Muscadet than the $5.99 one. The fruit is still largely missing, but the mineral flavors are not as insulting as with the previous wine. Very short finish with light acidity.

1994 Muscadet Ch. Les Grandes Noelles, Henry Poiron, Loire. A very exciting wine from France. It is said that Muscadet is the best match for oysters. I agree. Also, I would match it with New England clam chowder, steamed mussels, calamari, steamed clams, steamed shrimp and lobster. The mineral quality and elegant fruit certainly make this wine a few notches above the rest, pure quality.

LOIRE RED

1990 Clos de L’Eco, Couly-Duthiel, Chinon ($24.99). This is an entirely different style of Cabernet Franc, the original version. It displays the beauty and the elegance that European wine makers achieve after a few centuries of fine wine making. It emphasizes the fruit without peeling the skin off of your teeth, yet its aging potential is in the neighborhood of 12 more years. Clean, and deep, almost with the delicacy of a fine Morey St. Denis Pinot Noir, but retaining the cassis character and mint finish of the Cabernet Franc varietal. Try it with smoked salmon, cajun shrimp, or grilled rib-eye.
 

OTHER  FRENCH

1993 Picpoul de Pinet, Picpoul de Pinet, FR. A great bargain for under $10.00 from Southern France. It is lively, focused and concentrated. It has excellent structure, balance and finish. This is a seafood/salads wine, do oysters with this one.

1992 Pinot D'Alsace, Zind-Umbrecht, Alsace. This is a very well made Alsatian wine. True to its namesake, this wine delivers chewy-spicy fruit with mint and balanced acidity. A lingering floral/spicy finish adds to the overall performance of this dry wine. Best with spicy light fare and garlic seasoned crustaceans. Recommended.

1993 Varichon & Clerk Blanc de Blancs Sparkling, France ($9.99). A very god value with nice toasty cashew aromas and fruity plate feel. A vintaged sparkling from France at this price is difficult to come by, other than when an importer dumps the market and/or does not pay its bills. That is not the case here.

NV Cabernet Franc Sparkling, Gratien, France ($8.99). Liquid pupu with bubbles.

1995 Boissy D’Arsac Blanc, Cotes de Gascone ($7.99).  Ugni Blanc, Colombard, no wood aging.  A refreshing wine with nice melon and spicy aromas and flavors.  A nutty and fruity finish.  Salads, seafood.

1994 Boissy D’Arsac Rouge, Cotes de Gascone ($7.99).  100% Tannat, no wood aging.  Nice fruity nose of berries and plum.  Generous fruit in the palate with a jammy feel and finish.  Truly juicy.  Greek styled roasted chicken, light fare.