We’re staying in Europe for another week or maybe longer. The old European wines are much improved and should no longer be neglected.
Don’t worry — I’m not talking Kressmann, which is even worse than it was a decade ago.
Big French brands usually buy their wine from the north where the climate is marginal for grape growing. In the south however, there has never been a shortage of sun — just of skill and money. Both deficiencies have been addressed by huge outside investment in vineyards and cellars. The south now has the potential to rival the big players of Australia and Chile.
This week I’d like to showcase two separate improvements in red wine taking place in the south of France, starting with the long established Côtes du Rhône area. A big house (Boisset) does the buying and brings modern know-how to a very established large producer (Louis Bernard).
We’ve had Rhône wines for years but often they lacked spirit and flavour. That’s changed and today wines such as Louis Bernard’s offer nourishing, tasty gulping. While the wine is still very French — not too rich — it more than compensates with a friendly, good buddy quality. Depending on your mood it can taste good or really great.
French wines do that — part of the reason why they’re interesting.
My second wine (at LCBO Vintages) is from the Mediterranean coast from a region called Fitou (near Spain). Here, a consultant partnered with a local to up the quality and craft wine in a style suited to today’s popular taste. It’s more International than French — rich, spicy, plummy, and very yummy. Could “out-yummy” your favourite Merlot or Shiraz. Try it.
Billy Munnelly is author, wine critic and publisher of Billy’s Best Bottles Wineletter and Billy’s Best Wines For 2007, a guide to the best wines at the LCBO, available in bookstores or through www.billysbestbottles.com. Sign up for his free wine e-letter at www.billysbestbottles.com.
• LOUIS BERNARD 05 COTES du RHONE 05, RHONE