Friday, April 25, 2008

Report from - Lichine / Wine Guy Imports Lunch and Tasting ... April 22, 2008

When I mention “rosé” to most people it conjures up sweet, pink wines best consumed ice cold … when you say “rosé” to Sacha Alexis Lichine he thinks of something completely different – and he’d like you to share in his vision.

In 1994, Sacha began looking at a property in Provence (France) that had 70-year-old Grenache vines – it is his belief that serious wine can only be made using serious grapes – and Grenache, of that age, are very serious grapes indeed. In 2006, Sacha opened Chateau D’Esclans in Provence with the intension of making the world’s best rosés – and he just might be on to something here.

This afternoon we tasted the four wines from the inaugural (2006) vintage of these extremely pale pink wines – and when I say pale pink I am not kidding. Imagine putting a drop or two of red wine into a glass of white, think orangey-pink; it’s amazing that the colour of these wines can defy proper description … let’s see what I can do about taste and smell.

First off, the range in price might just blow your mind, from $20 to $99 USD. Now, I hear you saying with some degree of incredulity, “For a rosé?” But trust me, once you’ve tasted them you’d know why. Of the four, three sparked my interest: Whispering Angel ($19 USD) made from Grenache, Vermintino (Rolle), with dashes of Cinseault and Syrah – this is a pool side pleaser, apples and raspberries on the nose with citrus, a touch of apple and great acidity in the mouth – light, refreshing and a lingering finish that hangs out long after the liquid is swallowed. Les Clans ($70 USD) – strawberry juice, sour-spiced apples with some spicy lavender on the nose; tastes were spicy, herby, sour apple with big acidity. Finally, Garrus ($99 USD), here’s the wine serious wine drinkers would fall over themselves for. Blind, there would be no way to tell this rosé wine from a red. Nose: spices, herbs, cinnamon and vanilla. Taste: minerality abounds with spicy-tannins and cinnamon. I loved the smells, especially the strong spiced-vanilla and in the mouth it then lingered with cinnamon, herbs and spice … this is a rosé to lie down another 3-4 years. Extraordinary. Sacha explained that the secret is to keep the berries nice and cool through the entire process to preserve the freshness and fruit quality, this makes for a long fermentation process, but the results are outstanding.

After the rosés Sacha brought some of his value priced Languedoc-Roussillon wines to the table. These wines retail in the US for between 8 and 10 dollars so they’ll easily be $20 at the LiC-BO … but if you do any traveling to our southern neighbour look for these two blends: Le Poule Blanche (2006) a mix of Chardonnay (46%)/Sauvignon Blanc (36%)/ Viognier (18%) – fruity yet oaky: apricot, peach, apple, vanilla – very mainstream, very fresh, good length, a pure quaffer from the Pays D’oc and under screwcap, which Sacha loves. The other wine to look for is Le Coq Rouge (2006) – another 8 – 10 dollar blend; 33% Cabernet Sauvignon / 40% Syrah / 23% Merlot / 4% Grenache – this wine defies description other than saying spicy red fruit and downright delicious – sippability all BBQ-season long … and another wine under screwcap.

After the formal tasting we headed downstairs for a tasting of another 120 wines that Stephen Belyea (Wine Guy Imports) has on his portfolio. Too many good wines to give you the whole list of what I liked, so here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

Italy: Bixio Ripasso 2004
Beautiful sweet nose that’s all red fruit and plumy – robust in the mouth with big black cherries, plums and chocolate.

France: Andre Jacquart Brut Experience ($49.99)
This bubbly was toasty and tasty – apple, vanilla, peach, cinnamon and spices – and its butterscotch finish really capped this one for me.

France: Domaine Puig-Parahy Georges 2005 ($17.99)
This wine tastes miles above it’s price tag, big rich, jammy, fruity with big thick tannins – this one can be shelved for 5-years +.

France: Domaine Puig-Parahy Vins Doux Naturel
A naturally sweet dessert wine that’s simply heaven on the tongue – great cherry profile.

Australia: Gum Bear Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.95)
Proving that people pleasing wine don’t need to be expensive … this Aussie Sauv is all it should be: rich black fruit with a dabble of chocolate.

Finally, the day started with the most intriguing beverage – Beer made in a Champagne-style, served in a Champagne bottle and aged on lees in French Champagne cellars: Deus Brut des Flanders 2006 (~$30.00) … the great sweet floral and fruity aromas find their way onto your tongue with a pleasing dry finish – a must try.

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