Tag Archives: France

Domaine Labbé Abymes

Cost: Average price $13

Where buy now: Sunfish Cellars and Stinson Wines & Spirits for $11.99, North Loop Wines & Spirits

Grapes: Jacquére

Region: Savoy, France

Vintage: 2010

Domaine Labbé Abymes

I’ll admit, French wines confuse the hell out of me. The label is all kittywampus. What am I reading? The wine type, the region it’s from, where it’s produced- WTF (and that “F” doesn’t stand for “French”)? The French government regulates what grapes can be grown where. Therefore, wineries don’t usually print the wine varietal on the label. This assumes that when you see where the wine is produced, you’ll automatically know what kind of wine it is.

Très difficult. Sacre bleu! If French wine wasn’t so delicious I’d just write the whole country off. So, I’m going to attempt to give you my down and dirty guideline to understanding a French wine label, Savvy Lush style.

The biggest words on the wine label are going to be the producer/winemaker and the appellation/region. You’ll also see the vintage and extra stuff like the wine’s ranking. There are four grades:

AOC or AOP – Appellation Controlée

VDQS – Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (demarcated wine of superior quality)

Vins de pays – Country wines

Vins de table – Table wines

Watch this video, if for nothing else, the dude’s rad mustache. If you’re like me, you need a visual aide. Hope this helps. http://www.ehow.com/video_6377667_read-french-wine-label.html/Read French Wine Label

Let’s look at this wine’s label. Up at the top you’ll read “Vin de Savoie”. This denotes the origin- it’s made in Savoie/Savoy region of France. The next notable item is “Abymes”. This is the name of the vineyard [or the maker’s name] for this particular wine. In this case, it just so also happens to be a village in the Savoy region. See how confusing this all can be? Below that is “Domaine Labbé”, which denotes the wine maker/winery.

Whew! Now that today’s lesson on label reading is done, let’s cover the “sciencey” details. This wine hails from the Eastern side of France tucked in the Alps bordering Switzerland. The wines produced are in small batches that rarely leave the region. Have you heard of the Jacquére grape? Didn’t think so. Most of this wine is consumed by locals and vacationers as this spot is huge with both Winter tourists (skiing) and Summer tourists (hiking).

The Domaine Labbé vineyard is unique in that it doesn’t sit high up the mountain side, rather it sits low on the valley floor. It gets a lot of sunshine and fresh Alpine air.

From The Vineyard’s website:

“Labbe and his team control yields by strategically de-budding vines in the spring. This labor intensive practice is rare to find at this price point. Grass grows in the rows between the vines to fertilize and oxygenate the soil – this practice also forces the vines’ root systems to go deeper for nourishment and soak up the terroir of the subsoil. Vinification practices preserve both varietal typicity and freshness – the cellar temperature is controlled, and indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation. Labbe uses only non-reactive tanks and foudres for aging.”

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the Alps, you know they are breathtaking. If you haven’t, put it on the “bucket list”. One of the first words that comes to mind is “pure”. This directly relates to the water and air: fresh, clean, open, free. Before I get all Julie Andrews on your ass, I still haven’t described the wine!

It truly smells and tastes like the mountains from which it came. Graceful, fresh aromas emerge from the pale lemon green liquid (I smelled light citrus, pineapple and soft apple). Ethereal floral hints also mingle with the citrus fruits. This dry white wine tastes of fresh citrus and floral natures, and is balanced by minerality and crisp acidity. It’s a wonderful cross between Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay.

Now, what does one eat while enjoying this Alpine wonder-tonic? Oysters, shellfish and sushi if you swing that way. Cheese fondue is native to this region. Therefore, if you’re fonduing, pour the Abymes alongside it. If fondue isn’t your bag, a grilled cheese with gruyere, caramelized onions and a quick smear of mustard would be heavenly.

Seasonal Savory Flatbread @ Sunfish Cellars

I drank it at Sunfish Cellars with their seasonal savory flatbread pizza. This consisted of an exquisite garlic sauce topped with cured meats, pepperoncini, red pepper flakes and mozzarella. I implore you to visit and tell Erica you want the Abymes and savory pizza combo. She’ll know exactly what you mean.

I hope I’ve begun to help demystify the elusive French wine label. Since two truths have been held for centuries, there’s little chance of them changing. First, French wine is delicious and worth exploring. Second, the French are going to do things their way so you best follow along lest you miss out on an abundance of life’s pleasures.

Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux Blanc

Cost: Average price $14

Where buy now: North Loop Wines & Spirits for $12.99

Grapes: 60% Sémillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc

Region: France

Vintage: 2011

Chateau Haut Rian

You know that point in the evening when you have a great buzz going and you start attacking your liquor cabinet or wine rack for your next fix?

How many times have you been super excited about some top shelf liquor or expensive wine that you love and you insist, your guests must love, too.

Of course, that comes after hours of drinking. It makes complete sense since your inhibitions are down and you “love everybody” to gush on about your favorite libation for all to try.

Then, you awake around Noon to find that bottle is not only empty but so is your soul until you can get that throbbing headache to go away. How could you have done it? Opened that bottle you were saving for some other occasion and now it’s gone. Worse yet, you don’t even remember tasting it. It was just another drop, some more of that drug to keep your buzz high.

Well, I’m happy to report that I didn’t let that happen at a soiree I hosted over Labor Day weekend. Oh – I got to that point of the night where I’m perusing anything and everything to keep us drunk and get us drunker but i didn’t pull out the super-duper expensive stuff.

Instead, I opted for this modest Bordeaux Blanc. I knew if I pulled a white wine out late in the evening, I wouldn’t be as tempted to drink it all. Don’t ask what that logic is or was, I just know it’s good to know yourself, your limits, your boundaries. . .this is one of mine.

I was introduced to this wine at North Loop Wines & Spirits by Brandon. The French wine guru if I ever did meet one. This guy is dangerous. He told me good and bad news at my last visit. Good news, he’s moving to France for a year and half to study for his Masters. Bad news, I’m going to miss his wealth of knowledge. Good news, because it will be better for my pocketbook. Ah – so bittersweet.

I could listen to him talk all day. I was writing copious notes as the French language rolled off his tongue. I was trying to keep up and repeat the French words but sadly, I didn’t sound like a fair French maiden. I sounded like I had a glandular problem choking on my own saliva. That back throated, nasally inflection turns out to sound like shit when you’re stuttering your way through the words.

I digress, I definitely exceeded my budget on this visit. But, he told me about this wine which was a nice Bordeaux Blanc right in my wheel-house at $12.99.This wine is a delightful white that is 60% Sémillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. It’s golden green hue emotes scents of light citrus, floral notes, a touch of grass and minerals. The taste is fresh and balanced. You taste citrus, melon and mineral concentrations. The Sémillon produces a great balance of flavor and heavier texture to the crisp acidity and grassiness of the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s delicious and mild.

This wine will stand up on it’s own. Perfect for a lazy Sunday or in the evening as you watch the sunset. You can parlay that after work glass into dinner. This pairs well with rotisserie chicken, fish, oysters, salad, goat cheese, grilled vegetables, a bagel and cream cheese (for you breakfast for dinner kinda folk). It’s just so versatile. Pop it and drink it.

I’m glad I brought this out around 1 am, enough for that last sip before passing out. I was so happy to see a ⅔ full bottle in the fridge when I awoke the next day, not that I wanted one lick of wine but I was content knowing when I was ready, that bottle would be there.

Chateau Mirambeau Bordeaux Rouge Reserve

Cost: Average price $14.99

Where buy now: Sentyrz: $11.99 sale, Solo Vino, Ken & Norm’s, Eden Prairie Muni & see below

Grapes: 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc

Region: France

Vintage: 2009

Chateau Mirambeau Bordeaux Rouge Reserve

I’m a big fan of local wine distributors, The Wine Company. You may see their trucks driving around town (featuring the innuendo tagline, “We spit so you don’t have to.” Nice.) There are other great distributors out there, but I chose to focus this week’s review to highlight them.

I like the way they bridge the gap between retailer and consumer. They have a great blog page http://www.thewinecompany.net/blog/The Wine Company and friendly staff to boot. They’ve made it easy for folks like you and me, outsiders, to join the wine realm. We can all reap the benefits from this added education.

“Wine Co.” (as they’re commonly known) sent out info about the Chateau Mirambeau Bordeaux Rouge. I was intrigued since they said they don’t import a lot of Bordeaux, and especially not at a price point of $15 or less [the Savvy Lush price point!].

I jumped at the chance to give it a whirl, which brought me to a NE Minneapolis staple: Sentyrz. Don’t get me started waxing poetic about this great little gem. Okay, well, perhaps just a little. Sentyrz (pronounced “SEN terz”) is an old-school grocery where you can buy Boars Head meats, blood sausage and Bell jars. Here’s the key that got the Savvy Lush’s attention: Sentryz was one of the few (perhaps only?) grocery store grandfathered in after prohibition. That’s right: they sell booze! Read more:http://www.sentyrzmarket.com/Sentyrz

Once inside, don’t let the store’s appearance be a deterrent. It’s small, a little crowded, but well worth the trip. The alcohol prices are smokin’, and be sure to ask for Peter, their wine buyer. A product of Surdyk’s, he comes to Sentyrz with lots of knowledge, and is in the shop Tuesday-Saturday. He’s a sweet fella’ who’ll help you find the right bottle. I asked him about the Chateau Mirambau and he said they just got it in and are so excited, they put it on sale right away. Normally $13.99, he has the bottle priced for $11.99.

Let’s get to the wine, shall we?

This is mainly Merlot, but with some Cabernet and Cabernet Franc mixed in. In my opinion, this is a great food wine. I say that because, although delicious, you’ll benefit more from a great food pairing. This Rouge is medium bodied and has a rich purplish, red hue with a hint of brown, due to the aging. The aroma of smoky cherry and plum flavors are dominant with some mild cedar underneath. The taste is dry, not fruit forward but you’ll pick up some smoke and plum. Wine Co. states that only “20% of the wine sees oak” which is good- any more and it wouldn’t be quite as balanced.

OK, so you have this dry, red wine with hints of smoke, plum and wood. What do you eat with it? Plenty! Start with roasted vegetables: zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms and onions. I throw it all in a large Ziplock bag with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt & pepper and let sit for an hour and then throw in a grill pan. Even those who don’t like vegetables will be licking their plates clean. How about some lamb? Costco has great prices on lamb, and either grilled or roasted lamb would be excellent. A little salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil is all you need. Need dessert? Try a dark flourless chocolate cake like this one: http://eatlikethat.blogspot.com/2012/03/flourless-chocolate-cake-with-blood.html/Eat Like That

Whatever pairing,I recommend opening the wine and letting it sit about 15 minutes or so to let it breathe. If you have the restraint, have a glass now and then save the rest for the next day. This wine tastes better on day two, it really opens up and softens overnight. I couldn’t believe the difference!

There are other places to find the Bordeaux Rouge in the TC area. According to Wine Co., look for it at the following locations: Eden Prairie #1 municipal, Solo Vino (St. Paul), Ken and Norm’s (South Mpls), MGM West Bloomington, Saint Anthony Village #2, Yarmo (St. Paul), and Glen Lake (Minnetonka).

Me? I love putting my wine on a conveyer belt, so I’ll keep stopping into Sentyrz. Also, I can get quality, reasonably priced meat, cheese, beer AND wine at the same place. Heaven, at last I found you! (Well, here in Protestant Minnesota, at least.)