Let me start by saying Happy National Wine Day! Like I need a reason to drink wine every day!
On Monday night, we started off what has become an insanely busy week with a casual wine and cheese ‘meetup.’ For my international readers, a ‘meetup’ is an event created on meetup.com. This is a site where anyone can organize an event to bring people with mutual interests together whether its movies, bowling, or wine. My wife and I have joined a few of these particular to wine to learn more and enjoy our love of wine with others in our area, and make some new friends. This one had a local wine shop, cheesemonger, and wine importer team up to provide all the wine and cheese and choices, as well as discounts on the wines at the shop if you were part of the event.
It was held at a brand new wine bar in my hometown in Connecticut, not far from where we live now. The organizer chose French wines as the theme, and paired them all with French cheeses. There were three whites (well 2 whites and a rosé) and 3 reds, 2 wines of which I had never had. Care was taken in each case to properly pair the cheese to the wine, with great results.
The first wine was one I had not had before, a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (this means it was left on the lees for a period of time, adding some more complexity), from the coastal Nantes region of the Loire. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, which has become synonymous with Muscadet. This is touted as ‘the perfect oyster wine.’ Unfortunately, I don’t eat shellfish, so the goat cheese (Chabichou du Poitu) did the trick, and I really enjoyed the crisp, refreshing citrus and peach flavors of this wine. Though probably not my favorite white, it was nice to experience something new. This was one I remember studying in my class, but that we hadn’t had in a tasting. It was a Pierre-Luc Bouchaud 2010.
Next up was a wonderful Vignerons de Correns Croix de Basson Côtes de Provence Rosé – made with Grenache, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. This was only slightly different than the other rosé I had this week which saw Carignan in place of the Cab. Both were very good, and it was interesting to have both in one week to be able to compare the flavors. This one, using Cabernet for structure, was a little chalkier than the one with the Carignan. It was paired with a Saint-Angel triple-cream which was to die for, and definitely one of the best cheeses there.
Third was a 2008 Pfaffenheim Alsatian Pinot Gris. There were 3 magnums from the importer’s own cellar, and if you thought these bottles were a fun shape to begin with, you should see them in this size! A beautifully rounded wine with light body, and the expected floral, apricot and orange flavors. Paired with a Fromage de Meaux Brie, it was a perfect match. Though to echo the organizer’s sentiments, this wine would go with just about any cheese.
The reds started off with a Domaine de Dionysos Côte de Rhône “Le Deveze” 2010. This was your typical CdR with all the classic flavors of black cherry, plum fruit and vanilla (from the oak) from the usual suspects of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Carignan. Straightforward but satisfying and paired with a Morbier, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that was a bit plain but perhaps appropriate.
I was more than happy to try the next one, a Domaine du Grand Montmirial Vacqueyras 2009. It is also a southern Rhône, but a step up to a recently-promoted vineyard site, Vacqueyras (in 1990). I have never had one of these, and just learned about this and neighboring Gigondas during my last WSET class. Gigondas requires a further 30% of Grenache and are considered even more refined than this. Being of a higher appellation, one would expect a better wine than the regional Rhône I just had, and you’d be right in this case. A powerful, punchy blend of Grenache and Syrah, ripened beautifully to a thick purple hue, with help from the ‘galets roules’ (or ‘pudding stones’), also found in its famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The steep southwestern-facing hillside vineyards also provide the perfect amount of sun exposure and drainage for ripening, as does the Mediterranean climate and a long hot and dry growing season. This purple is clearly the Syrah showing, and it had a nice full body, well-integrated tannins, low acidity, and some cassis and blackberry aromas. It paired beautifully with the Abbaye de Belloc sheep’s milk cheese provided. This was probably my favorite wine of the night, being such a fan of reds, Rhône reds among them.
Last was a Château de Macard Bordeaux Supérieur (means higher quality and can age better, aged a minimum 12 months before sold) 2009, paired with a Bleu d’Avergne. I’m nuts about blue cheese, and Bordeaux is a brilliant match. The cheese really cuts through the tannin so well. This was a well-balanced wine with the typical blackberry and blackcurrant flavors and tobacco and baking spice notes from the French oak. What I really enjoyed about this one is that the Cabernet Franc dominated at 50% and there was no mistaking it on the nose especially. I’ve been loving Cab Franc lately, having had many on the North Fork that were made brilliantly on their own. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon fill out the remainder of the blend.
All in all this was a fun, delicious, and educational social gathering for wine lovers, especially once I loosened up a little from the wine and felt more chatty. If you live in the states, definitely check out meetup’s website. There are a lot of new groups popping up all the time, and we have since signed up for more wine-related events in our area including the Connecticut Wine Festival, which we are really looking forward to. This weekend I also plan to play our wine nerd game, and pick up some top Sancerre and a 99-point Pinot Noir and share my experiences with you next week. Have a great weekend and Memorial day if you are in the United States!