Some of us live or visit states where the changing leaves are signaling a change in climate while others are welcoming more moderate warm temperatures. In either case, the cooler temperatures allow us to turn to more complex and fuller-bodied red wines that aren’t so tasty in 95-degree temperatures.
Some WINE WEDNESDAY columns are appearing late, due to the publisher’s illness. He made the decision to post them late and more frequently, to catch up with the authors. This one was intended for Oct. 21, 2020:
Even as temperatures creep into the 60s and 70s in winter months, rosé is still a good call. We like the rosés from Tavel because they offer a substantial counter point to more ample meals. In fact, Tavel rosé is one of our favorite wines for the crazy panoply of foods that grace our Thanksgiving tables.
Recently, we have recommended Chateau de Segries Tavel Rosé 2019 ($20-25). However, current vintage offerings from Guigal, Domaine Ott, Domaine Tempier, Chateau Minuty and Chateau D’Aqueria will also work nicely and are similarly priced.
One of our first considerations as we feel the first wisps of cool mornings are red Bordeaux wines. Bordeaux produces just shy of a billion bottles a year from mostly merlot grapes followed by cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.
Prices of first growth grand cru classe wines, such as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, seem to lead news coverage. But, Bordeaux grand cru classe wines only represent about 3 percent of total Bordeaux volume. Most grand cru classe wines cost north of $75 per bottle with many fetching hundreds of dollars per bottle. However, most of Bordeaux’ wine production is sold worldwide for under $15 per bottle. Look for red Bordeaux wines labeled Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superior or other of the more than 60 appellations.
Since there are literally thousands of Bordeaux chateaus bottling wine, seek out a knowledgeable wine salesman to determine local availability of these value-oriented wines. Two of our favorites are: Chateau Bellevue Castillon Cotes du Bordeaux 2015 ($16), and Chateau La Mothe Du Barry Bordeaux Superior 2018 ($11). The wines bottled under the Légende label are also reasonably priced.
Cooler weather and heartier foods are also a good match for zinfandel. The ripe, fruity nature and high alcohol make this American grape variety a good match to everything from pizza to hearty stews. We like zinfandels from Ridge, Ravenswood, Quivera, Cline and Frank.
We like to have sparkling wines on hand in the fall and winter to welcome guests. Sparkling wines don’t have to be expensive, with many Italian proseccos and Spanish cavas available from $10-$15 per bottle. Extra dry proseccos tend to be a bit sweeter than cava.
Some good value options for prosecco are Cortefresca, Laluca, and Rufino, all of which should cost under $15. Spanish Cava also offer a superb value. Brands such as Segura Viudas Cava Brut ($10-15), Conde de Subirats Cava Brut ($12-15) and Codorniu Cuvee Classico Cava Brut ($10-12), are all good.
The wines of Gerard Bertrand
Gerard Bertrand is eager to spread the word about Languedoc-Roussillon that despite being the largest wine producing region in the world is often the most forgotten. He recently launched an international campaign, “The Ultimate French Wine Experience,” to market his wines in the 171 countries his company serves.
Only until recently have producers such as Bertrand raised the bar for quality so that it can compete with more notable appellations in France. Before then this region that borders Spain was known more in terms of quantity than quality.
Bertrand’s enthusiasm and experience are steeped in history. He started his education alongside his father in 1975 in the vineyards of the Villenmajou Estate in Corbieres. When his father died in an accident in 1987, he assumed management of the estate. His father emphasized an attention to detail, a lesson he has adopted in practicing biodynamic farming.
It was a farming practice he said changed his life. “Biodynamic farming is holistic medicine on a plant.”
Bertrand is using the same classic grape varieties, but each property gives the wine its own range of terroir-inspired flavors. His 2017 Clos D’Ora — a blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and carignan – is a world-class wine with great complexity but at $250 a bottle, not everyone can afford it.
He chose not to increase his prices despite the higher tariffs. Here are a few of his more affordable wines:
- Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Rouge 2018 ($50). Exceptionally concentrated, this is a wild blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, caladoc, cabernet franc, grenache and carignan. It has black cherry aromas and ripe blackberry and plum flavors. Hints of toasted oak and spice with fine tannins and long finish.
- Gerard Bertrand La Forge 2016 ($75). This rich and hedonistic blockbuster is made mostly from carignan grapes grown on century-old vines. Bold and broad in structure, it sports strawberry and clove aromas with black fruit and spice flavors.
- Chateau l’Hospitalet La Clape Blanc 2018 ($45). Bertrand said this estate and its four-star hotel “changed my life” when he bought it in 2002. This blend is an exotic and refreshing combination of bourboulenc, roussanne, vermentino and viognier. Apricot and peach flavors dominate the palate. With surprising depth, it has citrus and almond aromas.
- Chateau l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge 2017 ($45). A blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre, this dense wine has effusive cassis and plum aromas followed by ripe cherry and raspberry flavors. Hints of licorice and a bit of garrigue give it great dimension. Accessible now if paired with meat, but can easily stand a decade or more of cellaring.
- Peju Province Winery Petit Trois Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2013 ($75). Dark in color and drenched in complexity, this amazing wine shows what cabernet franc can produce in the right hands. Layered cherry, blueberry and raspberry flavors dominate this textured wine with a long finish. Hints of vanilla and licorice it is a wine that can be enjoyed now but shows tannins to give it longevity.
- Bonterra Organic Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($14). Bonterra has been a pioneer in the organic movement and this well-honed, bright sauvignon blanc comes with experience. Melon, lime and grass notes dominate this spritely, refreshing wine.
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Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.