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Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: A French red that's fine for summer


Part 1: Back in the day, I used to pick bottles of wine off the shelf based on the label, and sometimes the price, foolishly thinking that a $35 bottle of wine had to be better than a $20 bottle.

Now I know better. There is no absolute correlation between price and quality, and often the high end can be disappointing. Bordeaux prices skyrocketed with the stellar 2005 vintage, for example. The next year, the wine wasn’t as good, but the price stayed the same. Stay tuned:

Part 2: Now, as many of you who read this regularly know, I am a psychologist by training, and I have taught courses in abnormal psychology. I discovered early on that I could talk ’til I was blue in the face about some of the more serious forms of mental illness, but they were so far beyond the experience of most of the students that it was hard to understand. Then I started showing them movie clips. And one of my favorite movies to show them was “The Lion in Winter,” with Peter O’Toole as Henry II, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some younger, unknown actors who would later attain stardom, like Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton.

The connection? I think of this because the wine I want to tell you about comes from Chinon, France, scene of Henry II’s 1183 Christmas get-together with his family (he graciously let his wife out of the Tower for the occasion, and called his sons back from various wars for the holiday — Richard the Lionheart, and his younger brother John — of Magna Carta fame).

They survived that Christmas, barely, after feasting mostly on each other, more or less, and Chinon survived them. And continued making wine. Chinon lies in the Touraine district of the Loire Valley. The region is best known for its white wines, being in the north of France, but its reds command respect as well.

 

One of the region’s main grapes is Cabernet Franc, sometimes called Breton. The wines tend to be lighter, even the reds are medium bodied. Cabernet Franc is meant to refresh, and is a red that one can enjoy even during the hot summer months. Thus, when I spotted one at Harvest Market last week, I pulled it off the shelf, never having come across it before, but reasonably hopeful that I was in for something interesting. And so it was:

 

 

Le Grand Bougeteau 2012, Chinon AOC, Val de Loire, France, $17.99. This bottle is 100 percent Cabernet Franc, a grape that used to be used largely as a part of the Bordeaux blend, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, all of which are now more familiar to wine drinkers as single varietals. It comes in a Pinot Noir-style bottle, and the wine is red, with a rim that starts purple and then goes to ruby shades and finally clear, telling us that it’s still young. The nose is clean and of medium intensity, with both red and black fruit.

On the palate, it’s dry, with medium acidity, medium tannin and body that is just below medium. The flavor intensity is also in the medium range, and these components are harmoniously integrated. The flavors lean more toward black fruit, with hints of currant, blackberry that become more prominent as it gets some air, very ripe strawberry. Good balance, length and complexity. Pair with light grilled meats. 84 points.

Now, not to let the beer lovers down, I wanted to close with another summer beer:

 

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA, Brewed with Farm Distilled Hop Oil. From California and North Carolina. The distilling is supposed to intensify the hops character of the beer, that is, in the citrus and floral end of the flavor spectrum. Let’s take a look: White frothy head over light golden beer, it does in deed have a very rich hops nose, citrus coming through most intensely. There is also a grassy character to the nose.

It’s a medium bodied beer, dry, with very good bitterness (that’s the hops talking). The grassy notes come through on the flavor profile, along with some floral notes. Balanced alcohol at 6.2%, there’s a full texture that nevertheless has a summer lightness, and the flavors are medium-plus in intensity.

 

The finish goes on for a very long time, inviting another sip. If you’re a hops lover, this is one that’s definitely worth a try. Pair with salads or seafood, or drink it by itself on a warm summer eve.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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