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The Cellar: Fumé Blanc + French Fusion

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


To a lot people out there wine is a very serious thing. For these people a bottle of wine is not just an alcoholic beverage, it’s an intimate affair with every bottle of wine being unique. It's a reflection of the place where the grapes are grown, the climate during the growing season and the people who made the wine. To these people, thinking about all these things constitutes half the pleasure of drinking the wine. Another important element to many wine enthusiasts is that the wine is a natural expression of the inherent flavors of the grape (or the blend of grapes) that the wine is made of and that the practice of using of oak and other practices that manipulates the wine are minimized.

And then there are the people to whom none of this matter; to whom it is all about what the wine tastes like, the price and nothing else. If you fall into this last category of wine drinkers, this edition of ‘The Cellar’ is dedicated to you. Enjoy these two quirky finds without big stories to tell, and save money doing it!

2010 Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California ($13)

A Fumé Blanc is a style of Sauvignon Blanc made famous by Robert Mondavi who in the late 1960’s started experimenting with the varietal, fermenting the wine dry and aging it in oak to add a depth of flavors and body. It was unusual because Sauvignon Blancs at the time were either sweet (desert style) or fermented completely dry in stainless steel (Sancerre style). While the thought of a dry Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak was met with a lot of skepticism, the category has since caught on and is very popular, especially with American wine drinkers who are sensitive to too much acid, but like the subtle flavors of oak in their wines and enjoy a rounder and softer mouthfeel.

If you have never had a ‘Fumé Blanc’ style Sauvignon Blanc I recommend you try one of Chateau St. Jean’s bottlings. Located in Sonoma County, Chateau St. Jean was founded in 1973 and has grown into one the County’s larger producers, making solid everyday wines, as well as some great higher-end single vineyard bottlings. Their 2010 Fumé Blanc from is a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon and 1% Viognier. This wine is barrel fermented and aged in a mix of French and American oak for 5 months. It is a great representation of the Fumé Blanc style, readily available and less than $15.

2009 Ninety Plus Cellars, Lot 21 French Fusion Red, Languedoc, France

This week’s other oddity is a red blend from France. What’s odd about this wine is not the wine itself, but the company that brings it to us. While the practice of purchasing grapes or finished wine and bottling it under one/s own label goes back hundreds of years, Ninety Plus Cellars has taken the practice to a whole new level, importing and bottling only wines that have received expert ratings of 90 points or more. The wine comes from various producers worldwide who have leftover product, but does not wish to devalue their brand by lowering their prices. As a wine drinker you are left to trust the ratings and the Massachusetts based company with no way of fact checking or attaining more information about the wine or the people who makes it.

The 2009 Lot 21 is one of their latest releases. While we don’t know who the producer is, we do know that it is a red blend made in 2009 from 60% Syrah 30% Grenache 10% Mourvedre. Ninety Plus Cellars also tells us that the wine comes from a family owned Estate located in the Languedoc region of Southwest France and that the wine is aged for 14 months and bottled unfiltered. At around $15 this medium bodied wine is a great everyday value. It displays a nice mix of red and black fruit and ends with a firm and acidic, yet spicy finish that lingers nicely. 


Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocalProv’s Wine Cellar on Facebook and sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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