We've all been there. You're walking through the wine store and it's full of bottles with labels that you don't recognize. So many obscure French words with no information about what grape the wine is actually made from. It's enough to glaze your vision over completely. They all start to blend together. Heck, it happens to me and I work at K&L! I'm paid to know this stuff, but there is still a large amount of wine in this store that I know nothing about. That's why I'm starting a new series called "What the F is this?" that will consist of me buying these bottles, drinking them, passing out on the couch, then waking up the next morning to tell you about them.
I decided to start with Loire Valley reds. In my opinion, no other section is as overlooked by wine enthusiasts, mainly because they have little knowledge about the region. Many casual drinkers know about the whites - Sancerre, Vouvray, and Muscadet. Chinon? Not so much. Cote Roannaise? Even I'm in the dark when it comes to this region. Let's find out a bit more. Luckily, our Loire buyer Eric Story has provided us with some good notes:
The little known AC of Côte Roannaise was established in 1994 and sits about 50 kilometers west of Lyon in the Loire Valley. The granitic soils of this southern appellation are well suited to Gamay.
Interesting. So we're dealing with a fairly new appellation here. That's why I've probably never heard of it.
And the wine maker for this 2011 Cote Roannaise offering?
The family-owned Domaine Robert Sérol is now being run by the fifth generation. The domaine's namesake, Robert, was the first in the family to bottle the wines, and he can be still found wandering the property today, though it is his son Stéphane who has been managing their 20 hectares since 2000. The Vieilles Vignes comes from six different parcels and undergoes whole cluster, semi-carbonic fermentation, which results in a wine comparable to some of the best Cru Beaujolais. Floral and mineral, with tangy cherry and plum fruit, spice accents and a forest floor underpinning, this supple red is balanced and lovely. A great ambassador for this emerging region.
My tasting experience was as follows. I paired this with spiced lentils and arugula hoping for a lighter-styled bistro wine. That's exactly what I got. Supple red fruit, juicy, but not overly fruity. The tannins are silky soft, but it's not a polished wine. It tastes natural and old world, despite its utter drinkability. Lighter in body, but still plenty of texture on the palate. A solid, solid wine. At 12%, I was able to drink half the bottle with ease, yet still wake up early for a six mile run. No ill effects from over-intoxication. Another bonus!
If you like pinot noir or any Cru Beaujolais, this is a fantastic and inexpensive substitute. The 2011 Robert Sérol "Les Vieilles Vignes" Côte Roannaise Rouge will run you $13.99. At that price, there's nothing in the Burgundy department that can match it. California pinot noir definitely can't match the quality for under $20.
In summary, if you're looking for a solid bistro style food wine without the earthy or tannic flavors that some rustic French wines tend to have, this is for you. This is straight drankin' wine. Simple, delicious, and honest.
That's it for this episode!