[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Hand Picked Selections tasting
For a variety of reasons that included meeting friends and tasting good wine, it was a special pleasure yesterday to welcome fellow wine lover Gary Kahle to town and to join him for a trade tasting at Party Source in eastern suburban Louisville, one of my favorite wine shops. Gary represents Dan Kravitz's "Hand Picked Selections" of Warrenton, Va., in the Midwest, and he was in Louisville to show samples of the firm's current line.

Hand Picked Selections represents primarily wines from Southern France, and the selection of about two dozen samples that Gary brought along definitely enhanced this importer's reputation with me. The wines ranged from good to very good, and their suggested retail prices place most of them firmly in the value department.

Here are my relatively sketchy notes from a quick midday tasting. Prices are estimated retail based on current wholesale prices:

Languedoc Sauvignon Blanc

Y & D Delmas 1997 La Noble Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays de l'Aude ($6) - Bright brass color. Grassy aroma, citric, tart and crisp flavor. Good wine and a very good value.

Martine 1996 Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays d'Oc ($7) - Clear brass. Citrus and a tutti-frutti whiff of bubble gum; grapey and a touch off-dry. Crisp and tart, very full and ripe, wins points for its intensity, although I'm not wild about the style.

Languedoc Chardonnay

Y & D Delmas 1996 La Noble Chardonnay Vin de Pays de l'Aude ($6) - Pale straw color. Shy floral and apple scents. Crisp apple flavor, focused on fruit. Very good value.

Martine 1996 Chardonnay Vin de Pays de l'Ile de Beaute ($7) - Bright gold. Forward aromas, chestnuts and apple butter. Soft, juicy fruit flavor, consistent with the nose, dries out with snappy acidity in the finish.

Comte de Margon 1996 Chardonnay Vin de Pays des Cotes de Thongue ($12) - Very bright gold. Delicate apple and yeast aromas. Tropical fruit and off-dry on the palate, noticeable oak, California-style.

Provence Rosé

J. P. Rusan non-vintage Vignes de Soleil ($10) - The bright, enameled bottle makes this one look like a White Zin, but what comes out of the bottle is surprising and pleasing. It's a very pale salmon color with a perfumed herbal scent and a crisp, fresh flavor that's complex, dry and long. A quality Provence rosé.

Languedoc Merlot

Y & D Delmas 1996 La Noble Merlot Vin de Pays de l'Aude ($6) - Clear garnet color. Ripe black-cherry scent, characteristic Merlot. Bright, juicy fruit follows the nose, soft and easy, light, fruity and fresh. For those seeking this style of Merlot, this one could be a real winner at a bottom-end price.

Martine 1996 Merlot "Unfiltered" Vin de Pays de l'Aude ($7) - Dark garnet, with lovely perfumed cherry aromas and a full flavor, balanced and complex, with dark-chocolate and appropriate herbaceous flavors mingling with ripe black fruit. Could pass for a St.-Emilion, and a much more "serious" wine than the La Noble. Outstanding value.

Prosper et Louis-Marie Teisserenc 1996 Merlot de Arjolle Cotes-de-Thongues Table Wine ($7) - Ruby with an amber hue. Black cherry and spicy oak aromas; juicy fruit and sweet oak flavors, a hint of herbaceous "greenness." Another good value, but not up to the Martine.

Bordeaux, Merlot-based

Chateau La Renaudie 1995 Bordeaux Superieur ($9) - Clear dark garnet. Perfumed black fruit and spicy oak aromas. Full, structured fruit laced up with soft tannins.

Clos du Pain de Sucre 1995 Cotes de Bourg ($9) - Dark reddish-purple with tasty cherries and sweet oak on the nose and palate. Dries out a little in the finish. Impressive wine.

Chateau Tayac 1995 Rubis du Prince Noir Cotes de Bourg ($12) - Sour-cherry and "green" herbal aromas. Flavor consistent, fruity and structured; oak present but integrated. Well-balanced wine, could use a little cellar time.

Languedoc Cabernet & Related Blends

Y & D Delmas 1995 La Noble Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays de l'Aude ($6) - Dark garnet, with oak and vegetal fruit; a bit too "green" and herbaceous.

Martine 1996 Cabernet "Unfiltered" Vin de Pays d'Oc ($7) - Very dark ruby with an amber edge. Vegetal and a touch of burnt rubber. Sulfur? Raisiny, pruney, odd. This and the above were probably the least appealing wines on the table, a little surprising in that all the other La Noble and Martine labels showed such exceptional value.

Cuvee de l'Arjolle 1996 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Thongues ($10) - Very dark reddish-purple. Marked "barnyard" and "garrigues" (Provence herbs) aromas and full, earthy flavors, lots of juicy, tart-cherry fruit and barnyard notes. Delicious if you like the style (as I do), but doesn't speak of Cabernet.

Bordeaux, Cabernet-based

Chateau Tayac 1995 "Prestige" Cotes de Bourg ($25) - Tayac's high-end bottling, and you can tell. Very dark reddish-purple, with delicious cassis aromas, very ripe and appealing, leading into a big, layered and complex flavor. A boatload of tannin, but also a boatload of fruit; it's drinking very well now, but time is on its side.

Provence Reds

Cuvee Miraval 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays du Var ($13) - Very dark reddish-purple, with pleasant leather and barnyard aromas. Juicy sweet fruit, full and warm. Delicious, but utterly unlike any Cabernet I've ever tasted.

Commanderie de la Bargemone 1995 Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence ($9) - Clear garnet. Jammy red fruit and spicy oak aromas. Bright fruit and fragrant black-pepper flavors.

Languedoc Varietal Blends

Cuvee de Peña 1996 Vin de Pays des Pyrénés Orientales ($6) - Vinous aroma suggests higher alcohol than the 13% listed; earthy red-fruit aromas and flavors, soft and juicy, a good quaff.

Chateau de Peña 1995 Cotes du Roussillon-Villages ($8) - Inky dark, almost blackish purple. Odd perfumed scents, leather and herbs and wildflowers. Fresh, simple fruit flavor, seems a little closed.

Chateau de Lancyre Pic Saint Loup Vieilles Vignes ($12) - Purple-black, opaque. Big black-fruit aromas with intriguing notes of anise and leather. Full, juicy and tart flavor with a whiff of black pepper, consistent with the nose. A bit short in the finish, but still, an impressive mouthfull of wine.

Southern Rhone

Domaine de Pegau 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($24-$34) - Dark ruby color. Earthy barnyard aromas are very dominant, but the presence of rich, ripe black fruit holds them in perspective, at least for those who like this style of red Rhone. Big, sweet fruit fills the mouth, with fragrant black pepper and earthy notes that mirror the nose; the fruit fades somewhat, leaving mostly "barnyard" in a long finish. Pushing the edge, but those who love Beaucastel will love this. Oddly, it's in dramatic distinction from the 1995 (tasted last month), which is fruit-based and tannic, without any obvious barnyard elements.

Have you tasted these wines?
E-mail me your tasting notes,
and I'll consider adding them to this page.

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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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