Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wine Review: M. Chapoutier Belleruche

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations is by far my favorite travel show. So, last week, when I watched Bourdain's episode in Provence France, I took note of the wines. Bourdain, though not a huge wine guy, does love the fermented grape product of Côtes du Rhône. I pondered for a moment before it hit me... I've never had a French wine! It thus became my mission to sample something from this ancient grape producing region.

Belleruche, by M. Chapoutier is an elegant, big red wine. In the past several years, Belleruche has been crafted from a variety of grapes, but as best I can tell, the 2007 I sampled is a blend of primarily grenache noir, with some (perhaps 10%) syrah grapes. Robert Parker, a.k.a. "the man with the 2 million dollar nose," gave this vintage 89 out of 100 points, which would qualify as an excellent wine. By his rating system, anything between 90 and 95 is "outstanding," and 96 to 100 "extraordinary."
Anyway, when I saw this 89 point wine for $11.99 I quickly snatched up a bottle and brought it home!

The Côtes du Rhône (literally Banks of the Rhone) of Southern France has been producing wine since before the Roman state occupied Europe. These are some really freaking old vineyards! European Kings so loved the wines of this region that government began to regulate wine quality as early as 1750. It is a romantic and beautiful part of the world. Just look at these vineyards! If you don't want to take up residence in that fantastic villa and spend the rest of your days relaxing in the sun and enjoying the indigenous food and drink - there is probably something wrong with you.

Enough with the region... I should get to the wine.

I will be blunt, it was very good, but it was just not my favorite wine. It does have an elegant bottle, and what I believe is actually braille on the label - an interesting feature I've not seen before. The actual product is a rich dark cherry red, and crystal clear when held to the light.

The aromas are moderate by my standards, and relatively youthful. Let this wine air for a while in a decanter and it should improve. Cellar it for three years and it may be fantastic. There is a distinct scent of cherry but little more in the nose aside from the grape.

In the mouth, there are easily detectable notes of cherry. A moderate cassis tartness tingles the taste buds. This, like many of the wines you will read of here, is certainly dry and acidic, but I felt this was a good taste of fruit without being sweet at all. It definitely has some body to its flavor as well. The flavors linger for about 5 seconds and dissipate with a slight warmth.

And so all this leads me to a question: Is it acceptable to enjoy a French wine with a cheeseburger? I certainly did. This bottle accompanied a juicy homemade burger topped with swiss, mayo and ketchup. Nothing fancy... But you really can't go wrong pairing a red wine with red meat.


This is a very good wine to be sure, but it lacked some of the complexity I look for. I would have no problem serving it in my home, but I probably wouldn't give it as a gift. Then again, I'm not an expert - I'm just a guy that enjoys red wine. And if I've learned anything in my life it is that each palate is different. So don't hesitate to try this one out. You may disagree with me.

4 of 5 glasses

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