Spring Whites & Some Rainy Weather: The Verdict

Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, & Sancerre

So here I am, all excited to ring in spring with some nice, crisp, French whites and what does the weather do? It rains all week here in San Francisco. Sigh. I guess it’s just the April showers coming a month early. At least the weather didn’t put a damper on our wine tasting! (Ha, what would?)

So, without further bemoaning the weather, let’s get to the verdict on the French whites we put to the test last week. (Here‘s a quick refresher on what was up to bat.)

Chateau Ballan-Larquette Bordeaux Blanc ’09

We were a little split on this Bordeaux. Chris like its soft smell (“kind of like Dove soap”) and its pleasant, slightly minerally taste. I thought it was overwhelmingly sharp — almost as if someone had poured champagne bubbles in a white wine. The minerality went straight down the back of my throat. Not a promising way to start the experiment.

Retail: $14.99, Linda: $8, Chris: $15 = PROBABLY NOT

Andre Vatan Sancerre ’08

Next up was the Sancerre. Good thing I didn’t know it was a Sancerre ahead of time or I probably would have tried to stack the deck in its favor — that’s how much I love Sancerre. Anyway, I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed by it. It had a bad nose but a good taste. It’s a solid, simple white that’s pretty easy to drink. Chris also thought it had a peculiar smell to it and it was a little “popcorn-esque” in its taste. Maybe pairing it with a nice seafood dinner would have helped it stand up a bit more.

Retail: $19.99, Linda: $15, Chris $15 = CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

Hugel Gentil ’08

I found this white to be pretty similar in taste to the Bordeaux. And, as you might have guessed, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one either. It was also very sharp and minerally and, all in all, not something I was looking forward to drinking. But it was a decent wine, and comparatively better than the Bordeaux, so I gave it a couple extra points. Chris liked its nose (“well-balanced” “some peach and sweet fruit”) but didn’t like its taste and all the acidity that came with it.

Retail: $11.99, Linda: $13, Chris: $15 = FURTHER REVIEW

Louis Jadot Macon-Villages ’09

Here’s where we finally came to a clear winner. This is a nice, smooth wine with a slight bite (not sharp though, still well-balanced). It’s a little bit more mouthy than the others, but definitely quite enjoyable in all it’s floral-ness. Pairing it with food would have really brought out the flavors. But, even alone it was delicious. And the real test? We both went back for seconds after the tasting was over.

The kicker is that the main varietal in this white wine is Chardonnay.  We usually stay far away from “New World” Chardonnay that lavishes your taste buds with oak, vanilla, and butter.  It goes to show that a lot can be done in the wine-making process that can change the character of a grape.  From the time in barrels, to the type of barrels, to the growing conditions, winemakers have a lot of options creating wine.  Moral of the story – don’t judge a wine by it’s varietal…but maybe judge by varietal plus style.

Retail: $13.99, Linda: $17, Chris: $20 = DING, DING!

All in all, the French whites were a nice way to kick off what should have been the start to spring. Do I wish we could have sat outside in nice weather and big hats shielding us from the sun? Yes. Do we live in an apartment without a patio in San Francisco where’s there rarely sun? Yes. Some things — like my naiive determined love of Sancerre — aren’t always meant to be.

Blind Tastings, France

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