Goodbye to a great wine (and hello to another): René-Noël Legrand Les Terrages 2001 (and Renzo Masi Erta e China 2003)
René-Noël Legrand makes a Cabernet in the Loire Valley called Les Terrages. If you can find it, especially the 2001 or 2002 vintages, don't hesitate to purchase as many bottles as you can. If you like to eat when you drink wine you are guaranteed to fall in love with it.
I first fell under its spell over a year ago. Now all I've got is a memory and this post since I now have no bottles left. At one point, I stocked more of this wine that any other. I once rode a bus 75 minutes each way to haul away nine bottles of the stuff from distant liquor outposts. I was likely listening to PJ Harvey while doing it.
After five years, the René-Noël Legrand Saumur-Champigny Les Terrages 2001 is beginning to reveal hints of earth and wet slate that I didn't pick up before. In fact, in 2006, this bottle is showing a perfect balance between what I call fruit and 'shrooms.
It has a violet nose which comes across on the palate as well. The wine is a classic expression of Cabernet Franc: slightly vegetal but spicy, making it less austere than a comparable Bordeaux interpretation.
Locally, this wine has disappeared. For a while only the hotter and less appealing 2003 vintage remained. Presently nothing at all is available from René-Noël Legrand at the SAQ. Which is too bad because I think it is a strong candidate for most food-friendly wine that I've ever had.
Varrains, France. 12.5%
Don't go starving when you can't find a wonderful bistro-designed wine like Les Terrages. Go for the Renzo Masi Erta e China, which in its 2003 version is a stunningly full-bodied Tuscan red. Like the above hard-to-find wine, this Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is not available in Ontario or Quebec. But you can taste this private import by the glass or by the bottle at Brunoise. That's what we did last night during a fantastic evening of food and wine surprises.
I have not been a fan of The New York Times's Frank Bruni since he glorified the drive-thru window on his blog, so I was happy to find out that Brunoise does not mean possessing Frank Bruni qualities. Rather the term is a method of food preparation, usually for soups, involving diced carrots, celery and sometimes zucchini.
And it's a really great name for this restaurant since, like its culinary namesake, Brunoise seasons its food with other food. What I mean is that instead of the usual herbs and spices (the only herb I identified over four courses was a smattering of chives in the amuse-gueules), you get highly flavoured and brilliantly prepared savoury bits: fruit, nuts, cheese, vegetable purées and reductions, all knowingly integrated into each dish. This amplifies the mostly French fare in a really nice way. Check out their menu.
It's not quite Asian but Brunoise style certainly packs a lot of umami.