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The Cellar: Classic Old World Blends

Friday, December 02, 2016

 

With all the full-bodied, heavily extracted red wines coming from South America, Australia and, of course, California, I thought it was time to look at the traditional home of red blends for some perspective. For that we will be visiting France’s Bordeaux and Rhone Valley.

In Bordeaux the classic red wine is almost always a blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot allowed also. While the clay-rich soils of the right bank of the Gironde estuary are better suited for growing Merlot (think Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac), Cabernet Sauvignon is preferred in the left bank’s more gravelly soils.

The Graves appellation, named after the before-mentioned gravely soils, covers a huge swath of the left bank and is an ideal place to look for values. One such value is this week’s first featured wine; the 2010 Chateau de Chantegrive Rouge. 2010 was a very great vintage in Bordeaux (as was 2009 by the way) and I find it hard to go wrong with these wines, especially ones made by good producers. This is an old school Bordeaux made from equal part Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine has a lovely grip of firm tannins but it releases you fairly quickly releasing delicious dark fruits, tobacco, savory herbs and game along the way. The finish is long and persistent.

This week’s second wine is another ‘Old World’ classic - a Côtes du Rhône. While much is said (and often deservedly so) about the Cru wines of the Southern Rhone, including Lirac, Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape the basic wines of the catch-all appellation of Côtes du Rhône shouldn’t be overlooked. There are many producers who make great wine from grapes sourced outside of the geographical borders of the famous appellations. 

One such example is legendary Jean-Luis Chave whose family has been making wine in the Rhone Valley for more than 500 years. Jean-Luis represents the 16th generation of winemakers. Unbelievable. While the heart of the family operation is focused on Hermitage, Jean-Luis also works vineyards in Visan, Vinsobres and Estezarguez whose combined the fruit makes Chave’s entry-level offering; their Côtes du Rhône rouge.

I was able to get my hand on the 2013 vintage, which is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. As with the wines of Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhônes are also usually blends, in this case made from Grenache and Syrah with Mouvedre, Cinsaut and Carignan playing minor roles. This wine is much softer than the Bordeaux with riper and sweeter fruit. The tannins are softer as well with more pronounced acidity – just a really delicious, easy-drinking medium-bodied wine. 

Both of these wines make for great food companions, so please don’t forget the classics this holiday season.

Cheers, 

Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings at the Providence Wine Academy.  

 

Related Slideshow: 10 New England Wine Getaways

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Hardwick

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