Fifteen new French releases
It was a pleasure as always to get together with wine importer David Schildknecht when he came through our town again this week, this time bearing a selection of 15 newly arrived French wines to show local merchants.

One maker in particular - De Boisseyt-Chol of the Southern Rhone - impressed me as it had done in the past. In a visit last autumn, David introduced me to this property, then new in the U.S., with its De Boisseyt-Chol 1996 Saint-Joseph ($18.99), which prompted me to an enraptured tasting report. This time he presented the 1997 Saint-Joseph (also excellent, if not quite up to the better 1996 vintage), and an even more remarkable wine, De Boisseyt-Chol 1997 Côte-Rôtie, which isn't cheap but is a wonderful, gamey, "chewy" red that's built to last a decade or more but very hard to keep from drinking now. You'll find these reviews below, along with my quick notes on the other wines in the tasting. Prices are the importer's suggested retail; "street prices" may be somewhat lower.


Jacques Guindon 1999 Muscadet Coteaux du Loire Sur Lie Cuvée Prestige ($9) - Watery pale. Yeasty, fresh and mineral aromas. Flavors consistent, fresh and very acidic; bright white fruit, a wine that calls for a seafood match.

Chateau de Villeneuve Saumur ($11) - Very pale brass color. Melon and light floral aromas, crisp, ripe and clean. Fresh and acidic flavors, showing mineral qualities in a long, tart finish.

La Tour St.-Martin 1999 Menetou-Salon Morogues ($14) - Very pale greenish-gold. Grassy, herbal aromas leap from the glass, followed by mouth-filling, aromatic flavors that follow the nose, grassy and citric with an almost oily palate-coating effect. Almost reminiscent of the "outrageous" New Zealand style, but more firmly structured, with Loire minerals and acid.

Domaine de la Réméjeanne 1999 "Arbousiers" Cotes Du Rhone Blanc ($10) - Clear straw, with rich floral and spicy aromas. Crisp melony fruit and tangy white pepper on the palate, mouth-coating and long.

Verget du Sud 1999 Cotes du Luberon "Terres de Pierres" ($10) - Clear straw color, breathes aromatic scents of flowers and peaches. Citric and tart with tropical fruit palate notes, interesting and complex. Dry and tart in a long finish.

Chateau de Cary-Potet Bourgogne Aligoté ($12) - Pale straw. Chalky mineral aromas, almost reminiscent (in a happy nostalgic sense) of library paste from school days past. Chalky, spicy and buttery flavors, full-bodied and rich; kiwi fruit and lemons. Aligoté may be the much-maligned "second grape" of Burgundy whites, but this one is first-rate.

Verget 1999 Chablis "Terroir de Poinchy" ($20) - Clear pale straw color. Classic Chablis aromas, chalk and fresh apples. Crisp, steely and full flavor, fresh apples and lemony acidity, very fine.

Verget 1999 Chablis "Terroir de Chablis" ($20) - Light brass color, with light apple scents entwined with more volatile aromatics, almonds and conifer. Tart and ripe, steely fresh-apple fruit and minerals; white fruit and elusive almonds linger in a very long finish.


Foreau non-vintage Vouvray Brut ($17) - Pale gold, with a frothy mousse that falls back fast. Delicious aromas, yeast and tropical fruit. Creamy and rich, with a faint sweetness cloaked by fresh-fruit acidity. A fine alternative to Champagne, and by that lofty standard, a good value in price.

Champagne Gosset-Brabant Brut Reserve ($40) - This excellent Champagne, made by a near neighbor of Bollinger and using the same traditional method of bottle-fermenting its wines under natural cork and not metal "crown caps," isn't widely distributed in the U.S., but if word gets around, that might change. Pale gold in color, it shows a frothy mousse and a lasting stream of bubbles. Showing forward and intriguing aromas of blackberries and a woody note that comes not from oak aging but the cork process, it's big, full and rich, an old-fashioned Champagne, with good berry flavors and almost sweet, tart fruit.


Domaine Rimbert 1999 Saint-Chinian Les Travers de Marceau ($12) - Dark reddish-purple. Peppery, earthy red-fruit and spice aromas; bright and juicy fruit flavors, mouth-filling and tart.

Domaine la Monardière 1998 Vacqueyras Deux Monardes ($16) - Very dark ruby. Spicy and peppery, jammy black-fruit aromas and flavors; full and ripe, balanced and fruity. Delicious.

De Boisseyt-Chol 1997 Saint-Joseph ($22) - Very dark ruby. Earthy, grilled-venison and smoke aromas; flavors consistent with the nose, earthy, peppery and ripe. As noted above, it's not quite up to the amazing 1996, but it's similar in character and still a very fine wine.

De Boisseyt-Chol 1997 Côte-Rôtie ($55) - Inky reddish-purple, almost black. Wonderful Côte-Rôtie aromas, smoke and meat, faint "horsey" notes and unending black fruit, heady and complex. Big and chewy fruit flavors follow the nose, tannic but approachable, structured and balanced, open up in layers, a wine that you just want to keep on smelling and watching it change. David says this wasn't the greatest vintage - 1996 was better, and 1998 will be. That's hard to believe, though, because this is remarkably fine.

Piere Gonon 1997 Saint-Joseph Mauves ($22) - Dark reddish purple, black at the center. Big, ripe grilled-meat and smoke aromas surround deep blackberry-compote and spice. Mouth-filling and ripe, delicious black-fruit flavors are well balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. A fine wine and an excellent value.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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