Les Christins and other fine Christmastime wines

Perrin & sons Les Christin Vacqueyras 2003 wine spectator annual addition to top 100'Tis the season to indulge in special wines and this weekend my friends and I enjoyed something beyond the everyday bottle which usually sustains us for most of the year.

December is definitely feeling festive, and as if on cue, freezy and snowy weather started at the beginning of the month, right on the dot. Now I've been opening my fridge door like I would open the little flaps on an advent calendar. A little goodie is waiting for me each time.

I've got a fair deal of special wines that need drinking (scroll down to the very bottom to see my list). It's occurred to me that using bottles of wine to count down the days of December sounds like a good way to get the stuff uncorked. It also warms you on winter nights and gains you drinking buddies, which is also good.


First up, just in time for Montreal's first snowfall, was something from my wine fridge -- Perrin et Fils Les Christins Vacqueyras 2003. I chose it not because it was nearing a past-peak date but because it was a recent Wine Spectator Top 100 pick.

That was a surprise to me. I bought Les Christins based on its reputable name and bargain price: Perrin of Château de Beaucastel and a 25% discount. It was merely a bonus that it came in at number 98 on the 2005 list. In fact I almost didn't buy it because of its year: 2003, a vintage which all but ruined my everyday favourites from the Rhône by robbing my dinners of an important acidity -- the kind that is a perfect counterbalance to food. My worries here were unnecessary, but more on that later.

In any case, when I discovered that the 2003 Les Christins made the list I soon found out the 2004 Les Christins did as well. Yes, it's true, which means that this cuvée is one of the few to make onto consecutive Top 100 lists (though the 2004 is outshining its preceding "heatwave" vintage of 2003 by reaching number 83 on this year's list). So obviously I wanted to taste it for myself.

Also spurring me on to uncork was Alice Feiring who wrote recently that she would consider drinking only a dozen of the WS 100. If you're not familiar with Alice, you should know that her statement is not exaggeration or sensationalism. She knows what wine she likes -- what type, what's added to it, and especially the method in which it is made. A couple Rhônes from the 2006 list made Alice's list but this one was not one of them.

roast chicken whole organic produce from local montreal marketMe, I'm much more impressionable. But then I'm situated differently than Alice. No vendages for me, or at least not yet. And I drink and appreciate wine from a fairly different stratum too. So this Perrin pleased me, infinitely more than the 2003 Perrin Nature or the 2003 Perrin Réserve. Its structure had much more integrity. And as for enjoying it with food, it turned out this majority Grenache blend held its own with local grain-fed organic chicken (shown roasted at right) which was served with a delicious sauce made of its own juices, red wine and berry preserves. (The lovely Perrin blog suggests a recipe quite similar to roasted chicken -- rabbit 'rouzigue').

Perhaps because it's not that much more expensive than the Réserve and Nature bottles, Wine Spectator has been singling out Perrin's Les Christins. But why spectulate on Wine Spectator? A while back the website for the magazine opened up its vast tasting note database, and me, knowing how many special wines I had on the hand that needed monitoring, made myself a little list.


So here, starting with the Les Christins, are helpful descriptive notes (plus the less useful scores -- but it's all courtesy of the kind folks at Wine Spectator so who can complain) for a bunch of wines I'm considering opening this holiday season. Hmmm... Twenty wines. Twenty Advent Calendars windows left to open. If I uncork one a day I'll wake up and find that it's Christmas. With a hangover too.

Perrin & Fils
Vacqueyras Les Christins 2003

A gorgeous nose of dark fruit confiture and spice cake flavors is followed by a powerful palate of dark fruit, smoke, tar and minerals. Richly layered and densely structured, but with an elegant side as well. Best from 2006 through 2009. 4,165 cases made. –James Molesworth

Score: 91 | Price: $19

Country: France
Region: Southern Rhône

Issue: Aug 5, 2005

Barone Ricasoli
Chianti Classico Brolio 2002

Tasty black fruit, mineral and vanilla character. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a tangy mineral finish. Good quality for a 2002 CC. The estate didn't make its top CC, Castello di Brolio, this year, so part of it went into this. Best after 2004. 42,000 cases made.

Score: 87 | Price: $22

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: Oct 31, 2004

Umbria Cervaro della Sala 2002

Meursault gets a suntan. This is a minerally, rich and fruity Chardonnay similar to the great appellation of Burgundy, but then there is a dried fruit, very flashy Italian style to it. Full-bodied, with good acidity and a long, exotic fruit aftertaste. Drink now. 15,830 cases made. –JS

Score: 91 | Price: $42

Country: Italy
Region: Umbria

Issue: Jun 15, 2004

Léon Beyer
Riesling Alsace Les Écaillers 2000

A dry style, showing some maturity with petrol, lanolin, apple and peach aromas and flavors. It has a good structure and full body, followed by a long finish. Should accompany roast pork or chicken nicely. Drink now through 2008. 1,500 cases made. –BS

Score: 90 | Price: $30

Country: France
Region: Alsace

Issue: Jul 31, 2004

Alsace Willm
Gewürztraminer Alsace 2004

Rich and appealing, this offers honey, vanilla and tropical fruit notes in a soft, open structure. Good finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. –BS

Score: 85 | Price: $12

Country: France
Region: Alsace

Issue: Oct 15, 2005

Mumm Cuvée Napa
Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV

A smooth, creamy, delicate style, with light cherry and Pinot Noir flavors that echo orange peel and smoky citrus notes. Drink now through 2005. 175,000 cases made. –JL

Score: 87 | Price: $16

Country: California
Region: Napa

Chardonnay Penedès Gran Viña Sol 2004

This oaky white has a rich texture and flavors of sweet vanilla, toast and melon. But it's a bit ponderous. Contains 15 percent Parellada. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported. –TM

Score: 83 | Price: $15

Country: Spain
Region: Spain

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Christian Moreau Père & Fils
Chablis 2002

Mineral aromas mark this white, whose richness provides a supple coating for the firm underlying structure. It hints at apple and honey before coming back to the mineral theme. Nice length. Drink now. –BS

Score: 87 | Price: $17

Country: France
Region: Burgundy

Issue: Aug 31, 2004

Château St.-Martin de la Garrigue
Coteaux du Languedoc White 2004

Medium-bodied, with grapefruit, ripe apple and rose petal flavors, and ripe spicy notes as well. Forward and fresh-tasting, with mineral elements on the finish. Drink now through 2007. 195 cases imported. –KM

Score: 88 | Price: $14

Country: France
Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Shiraz South Eastern Australia Diamond Label 2004

Ripe and sprightly, with pleasant blackberry and herb flavors. Drink now. 485,000 cases imported. –HS

Score: 85 | Price: $12

Country: Australia
Region: Australia

Issue: Sep 30, 2006

Familia Rutini
Malbec Tupungato Trumpeter 2004

Elegant, floral style with red berry fruit, vanilla and violet notes. Creamy, toasty finish. Drink now. 55,000 cases made. –JM

Score: 86 | Price: $9

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Merlot California Valley Oaks 2003

Straightforward, with berry, currant, toasty oak and pleasant spicy notes. Drink now. 461,000 cases made.

Score: 83 | Price: $9

Country: California
Region: Other California

Issue: Oct 15, 2005

Fattoria dei Barbi
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997

Superaromatic, with leather, blackberry and cedar aromas. Very Sangiovese. Full-bodied, yet silky and caressing, with a long and enjoyable finish. Lovely. Best after 2003. 3,330 cases made. –JS

Score: 92 | Price: $95

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: May 31, 2003

Coldstream Hills
Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2002

Light and crisp, with a leathery edge to the low-volume raspberry and floral flavors. Drink now. 18,000 cases made. –HS

Score: 83 | Price: $18

Country: Australia
Region: Australia

Issue: Web Only (2003)

De Martino
Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Legado Reserva 2003

There's solid black cherry and currant fruit here, but sweetish oak turns a bit cloying in the end. Drink now. 3,000 cases made. –JM

Score: 83 | Price: $15

Country: Chile
Region: Maipo

Issue: Web Only (2005)

Herdade Grande
Alentejo 2003

Fruity, with plum pudding flavors and a finish of hot cinnamon. Drink now. 16,000 cases made. –KM

Score: 83 | Price: $11

Country: Portugal
Region: Portugal

Issue: Web Only (2006)

Verona Capitel San Rocco Ripasso 2003

A flamboyant red, with ripe currant, earth and freshly tanned leather character. Medium- to full-bodied, with fine tannins and a persistent dried fruit and mineral finish. Best after 2006. 4,300 cases made. –JC

Score: 88 | Price: $22

Country: Italy
Region: Veneto

Issue: Aug 31, 2006

Chianti Classico 2003

Smoky and meaty blackberry character, with tight minerals and lightly toasted oak. Medium-bodied, with fine, well-integrated tannins and a balanced finish. Best after 2005. 16,670 cases made.

Score: 87 | Price: $25

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: Oct 31, 2005

Cantina del Taburno
Falanghina Taburno 2005

A bit dull, with apple and lemons. Medium-to-light body. Fresh finish. Drink now. 54,165 cases made. –JS

Score: 84 | Price: $16

Country: Italy
Region: Campania

Issue: Web Only (2006)

Château Lagrézette
Malbec Cahors 2002

Ripe and powerful, with a mature aroma of game and spice, with flavors of dried cherry, plum, nutmeg and boysenberry. Firm, peppery finish. Well-honed and balanced, with plenty of structure. Drink now through 2011. 10,928 cases made. –KM

Score: 89 | Price: $20

Country: France
Region: Southwest France

Issue: May 15, 2006

1 comment:

Joe said...

A bunch of my faves! Did you ever blog these, or are you backdating again...? ;)