In a remarkable demonstration of excessive regulatory zeal, we learn that the Ohio state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has forbidden the distributors of Bonny Doon's "Cardinal Zin" to bring this wine into the Buckeye State with its standard label, a Ralph Steadman cartoon depicting a Cardinal of the church wearing wine-spattered red robes. Change the label or keep the wine out of Ohio, the steely-eyed bureaucrats ruled.
Why? Ohio's state code on wine labeling reads that labels on alcoholic beverages may contain "no advertisement or representation portraying pictures of ... children [or] religious subjects," among other things. Although not clearly stated in the law, it appears that decisions on the ban depend on the judgement of ABC officials as to whether a specific label is in bad taste.
In this light, the importers of Domaine Rimbert 1999 "Le Chante de Marjolaine," an appealing red wine from Saint Chinian in the Languedoc, have filed for Ohio label approval on the acceptability of this wine's label, a seemingly benign depiction of a woman in medieval attire walking with two children.
Will Ohio's liquor authorities require that this artistic label be required with a blank square containing only the wine's name and other legally required text? We'll report on their conclusion when it becomes available.
This wine was one of a group of 20 French wines, recent or coming arrivals, presented for a recent trade tasting by David Schildknecht, with Vintner Select, a Cincinnati-based importer.
Here are my quick notes. The prices listed are the importer's "suggested retail," and may be lower in many markets. Vintner Select distributes in Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Where wines are represented in the U.S. by other importers in addition to Vintner Select, it is so noted.
Jacques Guindon 2000 Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire "Prestige" ($8) - Pale straw color. Light, pure musky melon scent. Crisp, citric, a whiff of peaches, minerally and tart.
Chateau Villeneuve 1999 Saumur ($10) - Clear straw color. Delicate peaches and cream aroma. Crisp, fresh expression of unwooded fruit, very nice.
Francois Chidaine 1999 Montlouis "Les Tuffeaux" ($13) - Bright straw. Bright citrus and chalky notes on the nose and palate; tangerines, floral, a surprising whiff of truffle oil, earthy and intense.
Jean Vesselle Champagne Extra Brut ($32) - Earthy, mushrooms, mixed nuts - classic descriptors of Champagne from Bouzy - and good creamy fruit. Very appealing bubbly.
Gosset-Brabant Champagne Brut Tradition ($32) - fresh and clean, balanced and citric, crisp and refreshing fruit.
Egly-Ouriet Champagne Brut Tradition ($34) - Aromatic, idiosyncratic, beeswax and a pleasant medicinal hint of witch hazel. Similar on the palate, nuts and tropical fruit. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Hervé Arlaud 1999 Bourgogne Roncevie ($15) - Clear garnet, exceptionally pretty color. Lovely spicy ripe black-cherry scent, full and appealing. Velvety and smooth, beautiful Burgundy at a surprising price.
Jean Raphet 1999 Morey-St.-Denis ($38) - Clear garnet. Meaty, spicy black-cherry and tomato aromas and flavors. Light at first, seems to blossom on the palate.
Hervé Arlaud 1999 Morey-St.-Denis 1er Cru Les Millandes ($45) - Inky garnet, dark for a Burgundy. Very ripe cherry fruit with pleasant leathery notes, full and intense. Lots to enjoy here, if a bit "new world" in style. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Georges Viorney 2000 Brouilly ($12) - Dark garnet, delicious scents of strawberries, licorice and cinnamon. Lightweight but abundant fruit, an exuberant Beaujolais. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Mas de Gourgonnier 1999 Les Baux de Provence "Cuvée Speciale" ($12) - Inky blackish-purple. Earthy, barnyardy and full black fruit, big and intense. Would never be mistaken for a California wine. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Domaine Dragon 1999 Cotes de Provence "Cuvée Saint Michel" ($12) - Dark garnet, black at the center. Perfumed and floral, peppery and ripe. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Chateau de Pibarnon 1998 Bandol ($24) - Very dark ruby with lovely Bandol scents, linden and tree bark and leather and dark, plummy fruit. Big, young, closed but showing great promise. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Domaine Rimbert 1999 "Le Chante de Marjolaine" Vin de Table ($13) - The wine with the controversial label (pictured above), it shows perfumed and aromatic plum and raisin aromas, big fruit flavor with slight stemmy notes - it could pass for a Zinfandel! Although it's grown and produced in Saint Chinian, it's listed as a vin de table, not qualifying for the appellation because it's made from Carignan grapes.
Domaine Peyre Rose 1996 Coteaux du Languedoc "Clos Syrah Lé one" ($50) - Opaque blackish-purple. Strong barnyard aromas, horsey and leather and grilled meat. Sweet black fruit and firm acidic structure. Remarkable and complex, not cheap, but finds takers even at this price. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Domaine Peyre Rose 1996 Coteaux du Languedoc "Clos des Cistes" ($50) - Blackish-garnet, big raspberry aroma with light barnyard notes. Sweet and earthy, balanced and intense; substantial tannins, but fruit punches through. (Also imported by Michael Skurnik, NYC, North Berkeley Imports and others.)
Domaine Réméjeanne 1999 Cotes du Rhone Villages "Genevriers" ($13) - Black. Brooding, pepper and plums. Full and intense, blockbuster style. (Also imported by Steven Grant, with distributors in many states.)
Domaine Réméjeanne 1999 Cotes du Rhone "Eglantiers" ($21) - Inky blackish-purple, plummy and peppery. Fat black fruit and buttery oak, big and ripe. (Also imported by Steven Grant, with distributors in many states.)
De Boisseyt-Chol 1998 Saint Joseph ($20) - Dark garnet, black at the core. Barnyard and black fruit, ripe and full. Very complex, "earthy."
De Boisseyt-Chol 1998 Saint Joseph "Les Rivoires" ($28) - Clear, dark garnet. Earthy, big plummy fruit, complex and balanced. Beautiful wine.
De Boisseyt-Chol 1998 Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde ($50) - Blackish-purple. Delicious grilled-meat and game aromas. Structured and balanced, fresh and long. Perhaps on the light side for a Côte-Rôtie, but sweet fruit and structure carry it through.
Have you tasted these wines?