WT101 - French whites
Bastille Day is coming up on July 14, and most people have pretty much put that embarrassing "Freedom Fries" thing behind us, so there couldn't be a better time for a toast to the international ideal of freedom that just about everyone shares.
And while you're at it, you might want to drop by our Wine Tasting 101 Forum, where this month's topic covers the rather broad territory of "French white wine," with Boston-based wine writer Thor Iverson as the guest host and expert.
Iverson has penned a brief overview of French white wines and a quick regional overview of Loire Valley whites for your enjoyment. He'll be adding more information about other French white-wine regions, and he and other experts will be on hand throughout July to respond to your questions and comments.
A key purpose of Wine Tasting 101, of course, is to help you gain confidence in tasting wine and sharing your thoughts about it with others by providing easily digestible information and useful advice as you try your hand at writing wine notes in a friendly, supportive environment. I hope you'll grab a glass of something French and white and drop by the forum to give it a try.
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M. Chapoutier 2002 Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc ($11.99)
This clear, light-gold wine shows the intriguing minerality and pleasantly oxidative character that often begins to show in Rhône whites even after just a year or two in the bottle: White fruit, beeswax, honey, a hint of almond, a whiff of banana oil and a sense of wet granite, so complex and shifting that it takes a while to sort it all out. It's a bit more straightforward on the palate but very pleasant, white fruit and stony minerality; tart acidity builds a firm structure and lasts into a long finish. U.S. importer: Paterno Imports, Lake Bluff, Ill. (July 4, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: I'd suggest it as a classic match with freshwater fish or goat cheeses, but it also made a great cross-cultural pairing with vegetarian Chinese dim sum dumplings.
VALUE: Belleruche, an "affordable" Northern Côtes-du-Rhône from the excellent Chapoutier, is generally an excellent buy in both the red and the white, and this one is no exception.
WHEN TO DRINK: The oxidative nature of Rhône whites makes aging a bit iffy, as rich complexity can tip into Sherrylike oxidation with time; while they stay on the tightrope, though, they can be great, and at this price you can afford to risk saving one or two for the sake of science. Note that the 2003 vintage, which is likely to be a fatter, fruitier wine, is now available, but the 2002 (which was not as disastrous a year in the Northern Rhône as the South) should still be widely available in wine shops.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2005