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Finding Our Roots in France:
Three MORE French Grape Varieties

Hey everybody!

I had so much fun exploring the origin of three grapes last month that I'd like to do it again this month. In fact, we've only seen the tip of the iceberg as for the origin of some of the world's most popular grapes. This month, I'll once again offer three wines from the area where the grape is thought to have originated along with a new-world counterpart. It's awesome to know where one's roots lie, but it's also great to see where one is heading. Come taste them Saturday with me to see whether you prefer the motherland of these grapes or if your tastes lean more toward the modern take.

Maison Matisco Macon-Villages 2014

Maison Matisco Macon-Villages 2014
$14.99 Regular Price: $18.99 Save 21%!
Burgundy, France | 100% Chardonnay

If you've been following these emails for quite a while, you might recall the feature I did which included the parentage of Chardonnay. In case you haven't been keeping up for the last three years, in 1999 DNA testing concluded that Chardonnay was a cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc(pronounced Goo-ay). Gouais Blanc was not considered of any sort of prestige and is barely even grown today, but that didn't stop many of its offspring from becoming some of the most loved grapes in the world. But we'll talk more about that later.
As for its origins, the first mention of "Beaunois", which was a synonym for Chardonnay(along with a few other grapes), was in 1583 in the Saône-et-Loire department in France. However, there's no guarantee that this mention was, in fact, of Chardonnay, since a number of other grapes were called the same name. The earliest reliable mention of Chardonnay appeared in 1685-90 in a place now called La Roche-Vineuse where 'chardonnet' was said to make the best wine. The village of La Roche-Vineuse is located just 5.5 miles north-west of Macon in the Burgundy region of France. Therefore, I figured what better way to explore the origins of the Chardonnay grape than this Macon-Villages, sourced from that very area.

This Chardonnay pours a very bright straw color. The nose shows notes of pears, lemon curd, and vanilla. The palate is very dry, bright with acidity, shows crisp pear and green apple notes with a chalky mineral finish.

Buehler Vineyards Chardonnay 2014

Buehler Vineyards Chardonnay 2014
$15.99 Regular Price: $18.99 Save 15%!
Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California | Chardonnay

As our comparison wine, we'll trek over to the Russian River Valley in California. Although both wines were made using malolactic fermentation and lees aging, the moderate use of new French oak on this wine(along with the obvious geographical differences) should provide a lovely contrast between the two wines.

This Chardonnay from Buehler Vineyards pours a bright golden hue. The nose has notes of honeycomb, butterscotch, vanilla, and white tea. The palate is rich with a soft acidity throughout. Apples, butter, and vanilla round out the flavors of this wine. This stuff is downright gulpable!

Joseph Drouhin Brouilly 2014

Joseph Drouhin Brouilly 2014
Domaine des Hospices de Belleville
$19.99 Regular Price $23.99 Save 16%!
Beaujolais, Burgundy, France | 100% Gamay

Next, we'll take a look at Gamay, which is actually a sibling of our previous grape, Chardonnay. That means Gamay has the same parents(Pinot and Gouais Blanc) as Chard. This grape originates from the Burgundy region of France as well -the first time the name Gamay was recorded was in Dijon on July 31 1395. It was named in an official ban by the Duke of Burgundy. The ban states that the wine will give folks illness and that wherever you find Gamay(Gaamez in the writing), to cut it down or have it cut down. Luckily, several hundred years later, we've discovered that not only is this wine not toxic, it's a very underappreciated grape from the Burgundy region. We've had a lot of serious wines come to us made of Gamay, so I'm excited to be able to showcase not one, but two fabulous wines this month.

This 100% Gamay pours a vivid ruby. The nose is floral, herbal, and full of red fruit with just a hint of smoked meat. The palate has a fine texture with well integrated tannin and acid. Though it could keep for a few more years, I'd enjoy this one now with pork chops or roasted turkey.

Arnot-Roberts 'RPM' Gamay 2015

Arnot-Roberts 'RPM' Gamay Noir 2015
$25.49 Regular Price: $29.99 Save 15%!
El Dorado, California | Gamay Noir

Our second comparison wine is a Gamay Noir from the American Viticultural Area El Dorado in California. The grapes used in this wine grow at elevations of 2600-3400 feet and native yeasts are used in the fermentation of this wine. Some carbonic maceration is employed as well. The result? A bright and beautiful wine that is truly one of a kind. There are only a handful of Gamay producers in California, so this wine is really quite special. Only 9 barrels of this vintage were produced, so once it's gone, it's gone.

The RPM Gamay pours a vivid transparent magenta. The nose is filled with crushed rose petal, violet, baked cherries, and just a hint of cinnamon spice and anise. The palate is vibrant with acidity. The medium minus body of this wine allows the fabulous flavors and gorgeous acidity to show through. Enjoy with soft cheeses or a cranberry walnut salad.

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2012

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2012
$13.59 Regular Price $15.99 Save 15%!
Rhone, France | 50% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre

Our third grape is a little less concrete in its origin than the previous two, but most evidence seems to link Syrah to the Rhone region in France. It is first mentioned by Faujas de Saint-Fond in 1781 as "Sira de[from] l'Hermitage". In 1998, DNA testing showed that Syrah is a cross between Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. Both of these varieties were cultivated in the Isère department of France which is located in the French Rhône-Alps region.

I know this wine is only 50% Syrah, but it is the dominant grape in this Rhône blend and it showcases the possible place of origin of the grape. Pouring a bright crimson, the E Guigal Cotes du Rhone is comprised of 50% Syrah, 45% Grenache, and 5% Mourvedre. The nose is soft and pleasant with raspberry, cherry, and well rounded herbal notes. The palate is bright with blood orange, red fruit, savory herbs, and a bit of smoke. Enjoy this with a roast.

Peter Lehmann 'Portrait' Shiraz 2014

Peter Lehmann 'Portrait' Shiraz 2014
$14.44 Regular Price $16.99 Save 15%!
Barossa, Australia | 100% Shiraz

For our Syrah comparison, we'll head to Australia to taste a Shiraz(aka Syrah) from Peter Lehmann. Peter Lehmann was known as the 'Barron of Barossa' because when the producers of this region were facing financial hardships, Peter assisted and now has access to some of the best grapes from over 120 growers in the area.

This Shiraz is made from a blend of over 60 growers' hard work to showcase the impressive wines of Barossa. It pours a deep crimson. The nose is expressive with loads of blueberry, blackberry, and purple plum. The palate is ripe with the aforementioned fruits and complimented by black pepper, pipe tobacco, and just a hint of vanilla. 
So there you have the history of three grapes originally from France. Come try them tomorrow with me at our six pack tasting!


-Jana Banana Curtiss
Grape Geek
Cork and Barrel
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