Crowdsourced Wine Review: 2012 Famille Perrin Vacqueyras

27 01 2015

I’m trying something new today – submitting to the will of the people:

Your wish is my command, Twitter followers!  The online community has been nice enough to read and follow this blog for over three years now, and I’ve thought off and on about ways to make Pop & Pour a little more interactive, so consider this a trial balloon for a blog responsiveness initiative.  Thanks to reader @JimSueMaddocks for the excellent review suggestion — I hope this is one of many that roll in going forward!  If you have a wine in mind that you’ve always loved, or on which you’ve always wanted a second opinion, and if it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, drop me a line or a tweet and you might see it up on here sooner rather than later.

Proof positive:  the people will not lead you astray.

Proof positive: the people will not lead you astray.

I found this wine at Highlander Wine & Spirits in town for $23.95 retail.  The review request I received was for the Perrin Gigondas or Vacqueyras, but I went for the Vacqueyras partly because it was immediately available and partly because everyone always seems to opt for the Gigondas in this situation, making Vacqueyras the perpetual ugly stepsister in the CNDP Alternative category.  I think it’s high time that changed.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.  In France’s Southern Rhone Valley, it’s pretty much established that Chateauneuf-de-Pape is wine royalty.  It’s the most famous and most critically acclaimed region in the area, and its red blends focused around Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (among others) have been copied worldwide, but all of this attention also makes it the most expensive, by a wide margin.  Consumers are slowly coming around to the fact that other Southern Rhone regions, practically adjacent to King Chateauneuf, are almost its equal in quality at vastly superior pricing; this value renaissance has been helped in part by a surge of top-end production in these overshadowed areas.

The two best known Chateauneuf-de-Pape understudy regions are probably Gigondas and Vacqueyras, both located just northeast of the heart of CNDP (Vacqueyras is just 5 kilometres away), both using the same principal grapes, both the source of a number of monstrous values.  I’ve noticed Gigondas start to get a lot of critical attention in recent years, to the point where calling it underrated is starting to ring a bit hollow.  But Vacqueyras has largely stayed in the background, despite being Gigondas’ immediate neighbour and quality equal.  The region has a great story to tell, and wines like this one will help tell it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine Review: 2011 Les Halos de Jupiter Cotes du Rhone

11 02 2014

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

You can take the emptiness of the bottle as a sign of how good this wine is.

You can take the emptiness of the bottle as a sign of how good this wine is.

It had all the hallmarks of a crappy week:  utterly frigid weather, lack of sleep due to a teething baby, tons of stuff to do at the office.  But everything changed yesterday afternoon when I had an unexpected visitor at work:  a courageous rep from The Wine Syndicate who braved the cold to drop off a box of 5 killer-looking wines for me to try.  One of them in particular caught my eye, a French red from the Southern Rhone with a decidedly un-French approach to branding.  It was the first vin de France I had ever seen with a planetary body on the label, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I was opening it that night.  As it turns out, I lucked out, because this is a comfort wine to the nth degree, the ideal way to warm up after plunging through gruesome winter on the way home.

Les Halos de Jupiter is a negociant operation (where grapes are sourced largely or entirely from vineyards not owned by the winery) overseen by French master consultant Philippe Cambie, who provides his expert touch to a number of famous Rhone labels and has taken this on as his own personal side project.  The obvious first question on my (and everyone’s) mind:  what’s with the name?  The label explains that Jupiter (in Roman mythology, the same as Zeus in Greek mythology) is the king of gods and humans, the head of the patriarchal family of deities.  It’s also the biggest planet in our solar system, and Halo is the closest of its rings.  Cambie believes that Grenache is the king of all grapes and the “natural leader of Rhone varietals”; it’s the Jupiter of viticulture, and its Halos are the various subregions of the Rhone Valley that best allow it to express itself.  If this were an SAT questionthe best SAT question ever, its answer would be Halos:Jupiter :: Rhone regions:Grenache.  Cambie’s Halos span the most prestigious areas of the Southern Rhone, from Chateauneuf-de-Pape to Gigondas and Vacqueyras, but they also extend to areas where hidden values can be found.  Cotes du Rhone is a catch-all appellation that basically covers all of the areas of the Rhone that aren’t scooped up by a sexier subregion, but this particular wine is a single vineyard offering grown at elevation just outside of the quality region of Rasteau, yielding top-end old vines Grenache without the CNDP price premium. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Domaines Andre Aubert “Le Devoy”

23 07 2012

There are two compelling reasons why you should track down and drink this wine:

  1. It is a tremendously good value wine that offers depth, intrigue and tons of flavour at a bargain price.
  2. It may give you superpowers.  Or radiation poisoning.  Or both.  It’s tough to predict.

You see, Andre Aubert’s Le Devoy comes from the bucolic Grignan-Les-Adhemar region in France’s Southern Rhone valley.  Before Grignan-Les-Adhemar adopted its almost-impossibly-French appellation name in 2010, it was previously known as the AOC region of Coteaux de Tricastin, named for the French city of Tricastin found within its borders.  Unfortunately for Tricastin, on top of vineyards, it was also home to a series of 4 nuclear reactors, and unfortunately for the nuclear reactors, in 2008 this happened:

Shortly after this questionable incident, a number of employees at the Tricastin plant were exposed to radioactive particles that escaped from a reactor pipe that was supposed to be shut down.  Then a 3 year-old previously-unnoticed nuclear waste leak led to another spill.  Not surprisingly, these terrifying events did little to draw the public towards bottles of wine with “Tricastin” plastered all over their labels, so the growers there petitioned France’s governing wine body to let them change the name of their region, and Grignan-Les-Adhemar (which translates to “Land of the Geiger Counters”) was born.  I have never before heard of a French wine appellation changing its name, especially just so that it could escape from bad PR, but as a result, Le Devoy will now forever be known to me as “nuclear wine”.

But it’s good!  Really!  You should buy it! Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Bin 905 Chateau de Beaucastel Tasting @ Divino, Part II

7 05 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

In full swing — there were probably 150 glasses on the table.

For Part I of this mammoth tasting write-up, click here.

After the first half-dozen wines of Bin 905’s Chateau de Beaucastel vertical tasting, spanning six vastly different bottles from 1989 to 1999, we took a 15 minute break to chew on some cheese and cleanse our palates.  After the first 1700 words of my tasting review covering those six bottles, I took a 7 day break to get mentally prepared to delve into another topsy-turvy whirlwind of a decade of Beaucastels.  The second half of the tasting covered six wines from the 2000s and included one of my least favourite wines of the tasting…but also my wine of the night.  First up, tasked with trying to make me forget about the likely-corked 1999, was the Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape from 2000. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Bin 905 Chateau de Beaucastel Tasting @ Divino, Part I

30 04 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

Divino's Stone Cellar, a.k.a. Tasting Central.

I had fully intended that this monthly post would showcase a different player in the Calgary wine scene every month, highlighting the incredible depth of industry talent we have at our disposal locally.  And yet here I am, in CIA post #4, writing about another tasting put on by Bin 905, hosts of the Jim Barry Armagh tasting I covered back in February.  I know we have a remarkable array of wine stores out there, and I know many of them are doing great things with their event schedules, but I can’t say that I feel bad about the Bin 905 duplication because the tasting I went to on Saturday was just that cool.  Held at Divino restaurant’s Stone Cellar, it was a 12-bottle vertical tasting of one of the best and most historic producers of the famed Chateauneuf-de-Pape region in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, Chateau de Beaucastel.  A vertical tasting provides a unique opportunity to track the progress of a wine as it ages and lets you see the impact that a given year has on the style and flavour of a bottle, since you taste the same producer’s wine over a number of vintages; in this case, we tried Beaucastels from the mid-90s through the late-oos (whatever you call that decade), as well as one particularly special bottle from the tremendous vintage of 1989.  The initial tasting program featured far fewer bottles, but Bin 905 had the ingenious idea of offering people a free seat at the tasting if they brought a bottle of Beaucastel from a year that wasn’t yet in the lineup.  Thanks to a number of philanthropic volunteers, we all got treated to the most complete vertical tasting I’ve ever been a part of…which isn’t saying much, since I’ve only been a part of two, but it was still impressive.

Chateau de Beaucastel is a legendary producer in Chateauneuf-de-Pape:  along with a handful of others, it represents the creme de la creme of the region’s growers and winemakers.  CNDP stands out as a wine region because it permits 13 different grape varieties (combined red and white) to be included in its wines, a number that is dramatically higher than most other European wine-growing areas.  Beaucastel in turn stands out as a producer because, in almost all of its bottlings of red CNDP, it incorporates all 13 varietals into the mix, even the whites.  Like most other wineries from Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Beaucastel’s blends rely mostly on the big three red Southern Rhone grapes — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre — but Beaucastel again takes a particularly individual approach to its winemaking by incorporating much more Mourvedre (usually around 30%) and much less Syrah (usually around 10%) in its blends as compared to most of its brethren.  The result is a deeper, thicker, more complex wine that ages very well and that spawns a host of secondary flavours after a few years in the bottle.  I had only ever had Chateau de Beaucastel from a recently-released vintage, and it was so knotted and closed upon opening that I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about until about 2 hours later, when I came back to the wine to find an absolute labyrinth of tastes and smells just starting to stretch their legs.  At the time I thought:  how great would it be to try one of these after it has had a proper chance to age?  It turns out I went one better, sitting down to this amazing event that brought a dozen bottles of Beaucastel from 5 to 23 years old into my grasp. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf-de-Pape

9 02 2012

Try to fit THAT in your wine rack -- I dare you.

Tonight’s review was supposed to be posted last night, but some insomniac infant adventures from the night before made me more or less comatose by dinnertime, so I had to take a PnP rain check.  However, all is quiet in the house now, so fresh off a better night’s rest and a ton of caffeine, it’s go time…although I’m still tired, so I’d better write quick.  This blatantly asymmetrical bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape was a generous Christmas gift from a good friend of mine (thanks Josh!) and a wine that I couldn’t bring myself to wait to open.  Considering the last time I opened a weirdly-shaped bottle of CNDP, it was a wholly depressing experience, I was fervently hoping for better luck this time…I’d hate to be permanently pulled out of the sway of a good marketing gimmick.  Fingers crossed!

Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas

10 04 2011

All the CNDP quality, half the price.

There hasn’t been a lot of French wine so far on PnP, not because I’m not a fan, but because I haven’t had a lot of it lately.  But tonight that all changes with authority, as this Gigondas put on quite a show at Sunday night dinner.  Gigondas is a wine region that’s a good bet for killer value wines:  it’s located in the Southern Rhone in the southeast corner of France, very near the much more famous Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and it makes wines that closely resemble those of its more exclusive neighbour.  It has a very similar climate (warm and Mediterranean) as CNDP and uses very similar grapes in its wines (in its reds, predominantly Grenache  with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault the main others in the blend) as CNDP, but since it’s not called “Chateauneuf-de-Pape”, its wines (many of which rival CNDP in quality) are much, much cheaper.  Once you stop paying for the region name on the label, more of your buying dollar goes to pay for the quality of the wine itself.  Case in point:  this Gigondas was only slightly more expensive than this horrible train wreck of a CDNP, but was about a zillion times better made. Read the rest of this entry »








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