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Savoie: The Anomalous Hold Out of Eastern France

SavoieWinesStGermain

One of the joys of being a sales rep for a Euro-centric distribution company (read: the greatest joy) is having access to all kinds of wine that ordinary people wouldn’t give two buns about. In my particular case, I get to choose a selection of wines to take out as samples each week, and this week I decided to throw in a couple wines from the Savoie region of France. Because seriously, when do you ever get to drink wines from the Savoie?

When I say so, that’s when!

In all seriousness though, I know absolutely nothing about the Savoie. Most people don’t, in spite of their reluctance to admit it. Most of those self-styled Sommeliers love to boast about the Cotes d’Or but rarely dare to venture any further South into France. With the Savoie, you’re not just venturing South, you’re venturing EAST! The most exotic of all cardinal directions!

Savoie Truffle

The Savoie (pronounced sa-vwah) is an oft overlooked region in the relative-far-east of France, butting right up against the French alps, more or less bordering Italy and Switzerland. The region is, as one should expect of a place near the alps, MOUNTAINOUS, and the wines produced there reflect these alpine conditions in a fairly direct way: dry, mineral rich, with unusual character and limited fruit. Classically, we’re talking about wines (primarily white) that exhibit lighter bodies, lots of acidity, and curious notes of pepper and herbs. To further complexify the situation (the word complicate wasn’t complex enough to convey this concept), the region almost exclusively employs varietals that you’ve never even heard of, that you never really see anywhere else in the world. Chasselas, Jacquère, Altesse for whites and Mondeuse for reds? I mean, that last one sounds like an exhuberent French exclamation, not a sub-species of Vitis Vinifera. Sure, you’ve got some Chardonnay, Marssanne, and Gamay to keep things a little familiar, but on the whole the Savoie isn’t interested in playing your familiarity game. They do wines their way and it’s worked out fine for them for the last couple centuries. So stand down!

What all of this basically translates to is: for the majority of wine drinkers, the Savoie is not a wine region you really need to concern yourself with. For us wine nerds, however, what could be more enticing? “A wine region that NORMAL drinkers don’t need to concern themselves with?” Sign me up!

Because you don’t walk into a De Beers outlet when you’re looking for diamonds in the rough!

So anyway, for samples this week I took out the two wines I thought would be most interesting/enticing to my customers: a white and a red that come in around $18-$22 retail each, respectively.

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Reviews, Riesling, Varietal, Wine Reviews

Wine Review: Anew Riesling

AnewAdjust

The primary tenet of capitalism is the notion that competition inevitably drives prices down while motivating innovation, thus benefiting both consumers and producers. Of course, the realities of our economic system mean that “competition” is often just “brand expansion” in disguise.

Enter Anew, a new take on Riesling from the makers of the Riesling you probably know best: Chateau Ste. Michelle (not that their name appears anywhere on the bottle). Evidently unsatisfied with the market share they already command, Chateau Ste. Michelle has launched this new brand with the specific intent of catering to the every day needs of the modern female, ages 23-45. It accomplishes this with a stylish, distinctly shaped bottle and a minimalist lotus logo supporting a confident, empowering title.

It also accomplishes this by being slightly sweeter than your standard Ste. Michelle Riesling, because, as we all know, women like sweet things. The wine itself is 88% Riesling, with 10% Gewurztraminer and 2% Muscat Canelli thrown in for some extra spice and floral tones. Indeed, there’s a decidedly “Moscato-y” element to the nose, with bright, ripe white peach, yellow apples, and fragrant orange blossom and jasmine.  Fruit and flowers are the dominant scents, with very little minerality to get in the way of that pure, feminine goodness. While the wine is a little sweeter than the standard Ste. Michelle Riesling, Anew still falls under the category of “off-dry:” the residual sugar is noticeable, but not enough to serve for dessert. As the nose suggests, there are lots of ripe apples and peach to greet you on that first sip, and while the wine doesn’t have quite as much acid as I prefer in a Riesling, the acid is definitely there, lending a bit of structure to what otherwise might have been a wine laid flabby by all that sugar.

All in all, the wine is basically what most people tend to expect a Riesling to be: semi-sweet, appley, and light bodied. For some, this is a good thing, and guess what: you’re the person this wine was made for. For the rest of you dry white drinkers, you already knew to stay away the moment you saw the bottle.

Of course, the real question is: at $11-15 a bottle, is Anew a better choice than Ste. Michelle’s standard Riesling, which is fully half the price? Given that Ste. Michelle’s Riesling is already a solid value in terms of flavor, complexity, and price, it’s hard to justify switching over to Anew for any reason other than “the bottle looks cool.” If you’re a Moscato fan who wants to tone down the sweetness, or if you like your Rieslings nice and floral, it’s worth checking out for curiosity’s sake. I just wouldn’t recommend sticking around for long. It’s just simple economics.

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Reviews, Wine Reviews

Wine Review: Coppola Director’s Cut Merlot

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Not bad from the guy who directed Captain Eo…

Francis Ford Coppola isn’t exactly new to the world of wine (let’s be honest: he’s made more quality vintages in the last decade than movies), yet I am often met with skepticism when I suggest a Coppola wine to a customer. Their suspicions are understandable: it’s not usually a good sign when famous people choose to redirect their careers into ventures unrelated to what they’re known for, like when Eddie Murphy recorded that music album, or when Ronald Reagan decided to dabble in politics. However, not all celebrities should be condemned to the creative legacies they built during–and were consequently unable to sustain beyond–the 1970’s, and in the case of Coppola, some of them are even able to make a tasty wine here and there.

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